HIV and the Church


START an HIV Ministry

How to START

START a Ministry


You might be saying, “This is great! I love the idea of caring for people who are infected or affected by HIV&AIDS – but I don’t know how to get started.” Let me share with you the five steps we took to start the HIV&AIDS Initiative at Saddleback – they’re the same five steps you can take to START as well:

  • S- Senior leadership support (pastors, elders/deacons)

    Without their support the ministry won’t flourish. HIV will not likely be on the radar screen of the church leadership and they will need to understand why it is important to begin this ministry. Meet with the leadership of your church to discuss your heart and passion to start a HIV&AIDS ministry in your church. Share information about the number of people in need and talk about the reasons the church is the best plan for caring for people who are positive. Dream together about the strategy and next steps that need to happen to start the ministry.

  • T –Talk about Scriptural foundations for this ministry with the congregation.

    Study the verses that reveal God’s compassion for the sick. Study Jesus’ ministry here on earth – you’ll see that he spent 1/3 of his time healing sick people! Obviously Jesus cared about the physical needs as well as spiritual needs. Look at the New Testament writers’ instructions to the church as far as taking care of the weak, the sick, the poor.

    A ministry to people with HIV is not just a nice thing to do – something to add on if your church is large enough or affluent enough – or if you have “space” to do so. HIV remains the largest humanitarian crisis since the Black Plague and the church has a responsibility to become engaged. But human emotion is insufficient as a rationale for beginning an HIV&AIDS ministry; it must rest upon a Scriptural foundation. We’ve included a section that highlights passages for congregational study. Write a purpose statement that clearly explains why this ministry exists and how it fits within the scope of your church’s overall vision.

  • A –Assemble a team of volunteers who will meet on a regular basis to increase HIV awareness, knowledge, and skill.

    Most people know very little about HIV&AIDS; one of the powerful ways these volunteers can impact your church is by bringing correct information to the congregation on a regular basis. Encourage people living with HIV to share their story, first in the safety of these volunteers, but then in front of the entire congregation. Empower these volunteers to build an effective ministry.

  • R – Research the needs in your area.

    Meet with the HIV&AIDS agencies in your community and determine ways to promote caring for people who are positive in your church, establish ways to work together and come alongside these workers and families in your community.

  • T – take action.

    Begin an HIV support group for those infected and affected in your church or local community and add CARE teams as soon as you can so that your church members can take an active role in ministering to people living with HIV. You can download our Support Group Training and CARE Team training. Most important part of taking action: Implement the CHURCH strategy - the six ways EVERY church can make a lasting difference in the lives of people infected and affected by HIV & AIDS.

We are convinced that caring for people with HIV&AIDS is an integral ministry for every church. Starting a ministry isn’t difficult – it just requires commitment from the church leadership, a strong Scriptural understanding of God’s compassion for the sick, a group of enthusiastic, trained volunteers, up-to-date information, and a willingness to put feet to your faith through concrete action. I’m praying for you! Let us know how we can help you START an HIV& AIDS ministry in your church!

START Scriptural Study

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CHURCH Strategy

The CHURCH Message

CHURCH Curriculum

The HIV&AIDS Initiative of Saddleback Church inspires and equips churches around the world to care for those infected and affected by HIV&AIDS, both locally and globally. Through the “CHURCH” strategy, local churches are encouraged to take a leading role in ending AIDS by engaging in prevention, treatment, care and support.

C – Care for and Support the Sick

Churches are commanded by God to care about the sick. It is their calling! It doesn’t require money or special training to love. Local congregations are the only caring organization found in almost every community around the world.

H – Handle HIV Testing and Counseling

Everyone should know their HIV status and be tested at least once in their lifetime. Those at higher risk should be tested more frequently. There are two reasons to know your HIV status: if you’re negative, stay negative; if you’re positive, you can access care and treatment and avoid transmitting the virus to others.

U – Unleash a Volunteer Labor Force

There will never be enough healthcare professionals in the world to teach prevention, administer treatment, and offer care to those who need it. Churches have the largest volunteer labor force on the planet—more than two billion members. What an impact we can make if this enormous untapped pool of talent, energy, and compassion can be mobilized to support those infected and affected by HIV&AIDS!

R – Remove the Stigma

Churches must embrace people who are HIV positive by replacing rejection and alienation with mercy and acceptance. It is not a sin to be sick. We should not ask, “How did you become infected?” but, “How can we help you?”

C – Champion Healthy Behavior

HIV&AIDS is complex and yet largely preventable. Churches have the moral authority to promote healthy sexual behavior and to offer the spiritual motivation for abstinence, fidelity and drug-free living. Many churches offer Celebrate Recovery, a Christian 12-Step program, to those struggling with co-dependency, alcohol, drug and sexual addiction. Churches can offer a holistic approach that encompasses all aspects of HIV prevention and addiction recovery.

H – Help with HIV Medications

While it is unexpected to visualize a role for local churches in helping with HIV treatment, the church can be an integral part of helping HIV-positive individuals live longer. HIV treatment offers hope for a normal lifespan but requires specialized pre-treatment preparation and ongoing treatment support that the faith community can provide.

HIV Ministry Training

Support groups –

Care Teams –

Essentials for Pastors

Essentials for Pastors

By Manda Gibson

Bill Bruneau says pastors need to remember three essential character traits when starting HIV&AIDS ministries through their churches – humility, patience, and love.

Bruneau, pastor of Penn Friends Community Church in Cassapolis, Mich., has been working to start an HIV&AIDS ministry through his church since he heard Rick and Kay Warren speak about the crisis at the 2005 Purpose Driven Church Conference and, then, at the 2005 Purpose Driven HIV&AIDS Conference.

Starting with humility

One of the first steps he took was to contact and visit his local public health nurse. “I went in there as a student, not to tell them what I knew,” Bruneau said. “That’s critical to developing a partnership.”

A pastor, Bruneau said, should ask HIV&AIDS workers: Is there anything I can do to help?

When Bruneau first visited the public health nurse, she was suspicious of a pastor wanting to make a difference in the HIV&AIDS pandemic. In the past, public health officials had found churches – like most organizations – had hidden agendas, Bruneau said.

So the nurse and her husband visited Penn Friends Community Church unannounced one Sunday to discover that agenda. “I was teaching on the P.E.A.C.E. Plan, particularly on the pandemic of HIV&AIDS,” Bruneau said.

As the nurse left the sanctuary that morning, she told Bruneau, “We will work together.”

Working patiently

Bruneau and his fellow church leaders still are trying to fully gain the trust of local HIV&AIDS organizations. This is a slow process that takes patience, Bruneau says. For now, they’re not doing hands-on work with people suffering with HIV&AIDS. But they’re helping in other ways as they continue to gain trust.

Recently Bruneau helped the public health nurse spread the word among churches about HIV&AIDS testing, held at the health department and county jail. Together, they developed an information packet for pastors.

The packet announced and explained an upcoming testing opportunity; it also listed local HIV&AIDS statistics and state HIV&AIDS services. Bruneau wrote a letter, emphasizing Christians’ responsibility to minister as Jesus would and challenging pastors to champion the HIV&AIDS issue in their churches. He also offered to speak personally with pastors or whole congregations.

Bruneau hoped the packets would encourage pastors to tell their congregations about the testing. A pastor’s encouragement often is the most effective way to encourage someone to be tested, said Bruneau.

In addition to mailing 152 packets, Bruneau met with eight pastors prior to the testing. “I wanted to get a sense of whether they were aware of the problem,” he said. “They were not.”

When he presented HIV&AIDS statistics about their own community, their jaws dropped.

In addition to sharing about the testing opportunity, Bruneau encouraged pastors to offer counseling for people who test positive for HIV. All eight pastors pledged their support to spreading the word about testing and invited Bruneau to tell their churches about HIV&AIDS.

Bruneau is planning to follow up with phone calls to many of the 152 churches that received information packets. Additionally, the public health nurse has told him that when people test positive for HIV and want in-depth counseling, she will refer them to Penn Friends Community Church.

Doing everything with love

Bruneau says the skepticism he’s encountered from HIV&AIDS organizations is deserved because of the many years that he didn’t care for those with HIV&AIDS.

“I had a cousin who died of AIDS. He was part of the gay community, and because of that, I had little or nothing to do with him,” Bruneau said.

For years Bruneau didn’t think about his cousin’s death, but recently God reminded him of it. “I could have loved my cousin, and I didn’t. Maybe that’s why I’m so passionate about this now,” he said.

“I’ve accepted forgiveness, but I know there’s a responsibility not to let that happen again.”

Love also will help you introduce your church to the idea of HIV&AIDS ministry, Bruneau said.

When God first convicted him about the HIV&AIDS crisis, he felt such urgency that he immediately began sharing with his whole congregation. “My passion got the best of me,” he said.

Instead, Bruneau wishes he first had shared with Penn Friends leaders and then asked their advice about how to share his new conviction with the congregation.

“It has to be done very carefully and with a great deal of love,” Bruneau said.

Despite a shaky start, he knows his congregation supports his heart for HIV&AIDS, and some are getting involved alongside him. “I’m not expecting the entire congregation to jump up and down and wear red wristbands that say, Stop AIDS, like I do,” Bruneau said. “But our church is basically 100 percent supportive of everything I do. The folks are open to doing whatever it takes to reaching people for Christ and making an impact on community.”

Bruneau knows that HIV&AIDS isn’t just a passing interest for him. He brings it up every chance he gets – whether that’s during a local Optimists Club meeting or during a casual conversation with another pastor. “I would not be surprised if the remainder of my ministry was focused on HIV and P.E.A.C.E.,” he said.

For pastors wanting their churches to get involved in HIV&AIDS ministry, Bruneau suggests that they attend the Saddleback Church Radicalis Conference, and take key lay leaders and staff members with them. “Nothing will take the place of doing that firsthand,” he said.

7 Ingredients for Caring for the Sick by Pastor Rick Warren

7 Ingredients for Caring for the Sick by Pastor Rick Warren

The Christian approach to pain, suffering, and sickness is compassion, mercy, tenderness, and caring. Matthew records, When He saw the crowds, He felt compassion for them, because they were weary and worn out, like sheep without a shepherd. (Matthew 9:36 HCSB)

He didn’t write off their illness as an illusion.
He didn’t blame them for their illness.
He didn’t discourage them or tell them to give up.
He had compassion. If you’re going to be like Jesus, you have to learn to be compassionate toward people when they’re sick.

We cannot delay. We cannot procrastinate. If we’re going to be people of compassion, we can’t wait any longer.

There are seven ingredients in caring for the sick.

Before you can care, you’ve got to be aware. You have to pay attention. You have to put up your antenna. You have to start looking at people and listening to people and looking for the clues that say, “I’m in pain.”

God intentionally allows sick people in your life to give you the opportunity to learn to love. Those people are not accidentally in your life. Who’s our model for this? God. The Bible says in Psalm 106:44 God saw their misery and heard their cry.

I was sick inside with sin. I needed God, so He showed up in my life. He offered his presence. That’s exactly what God asks us to do for each other. He wants us to give our presence to each other in moments of need.

Acceptance means removing the embarrassment that someone might experience being sick. I don’t know why, but we get embarrassed about our sicknesses. We get embarrassed about our illnesses. We don’t want people to know. But it’s not a sin to be sick. It’s not a lack of faith. It’s just part of being human.

One of the illnesses that we need to de-stigmatize is HIV/AIDS. It’s considered a sexually transmitted disease, so people wind up feeling an extra sense of judgment and rejection when they suffer with it. Too many people have been fired, shunned, and banned from being part of an organization because of HIV/AIDS. But Jesus welcomed those stigmatized by illness into his life, and we should as well.

We need to give people living with sickness the gift of hope. People can handle almost anything in life if they have hope. One of the ways you can give people hope is through a word of encouragement.

Other ways might come through physical expressions of affection like a touch, a hug, or a pat on the back to show your a concern. That gives people hope.

Provide medicine
Medicines are a gift from God. We’re to use them. Presumption is when we ignore what God has provided. Medicines are a gift from God and you should use them without shame or without hesitance.

The Good Samaritan went out of his way to help the guy who was mugged on the side of the road and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. He was using the best medicines he had available at that moment. He pours some alcohol on the wounds, which disinfects them. Then he pours oil on the wounds to soothe them.

Prevention is part of caring for the sick. How do you prevent sickness? You teach health habits.

Around the world, millions of people need to learn basic health habits that all of us take for granted. Much of the world doesn’t know that you can stay a lot healthier by just washing your hands. Another thing would simply be to boil water to get the germs out of it. A small provision such as bed nets – a mosquito net placed over one’s bed so the mosquitoes can’t bite them – would save millions of people from being sick.

Prayer is asking God to heal people who are sick. All healing comes from God, no matter the method He uses. He can use doctors. He can use medicine. He can use natural techniques. He can work a miracle.

God heals people many different ways. Doctors will tell you they cannot heal. They can perform procedures, but the healing has to be God doing it in your life. God uses doctors; God uses medicine; and God uses miracles.

Here’s the question… Will you do anything about this and the sick people in your life? There are sick people around you.

The Bible calls Jesus the Great Physician. He is the cure to the ailments in your life. When it comes to guilt, worry, depression, fear, bitterness, boredom, loneliness, etc., he is the great physician who heals physically, spiritually, and emotionally.