NURSING HOME MINISTRY: Where Hidden Treasures Are Found by Bill Goodrich and Tom McCormick

Book Review
  • Approximate Time Commitment: 9 minutes

Evangelism is needed in nursing homes, but not high pressure evangelism. Leave room for the Holy Spirit to work.  This review was written by Hank Griffith of South Suburban Evangelical Free Church in Apple Valley, Minnesota.

Partner: Grow2Serve

Resource Description

Avon Park, Ohio: God Cares Ministry, 2003

-This ministry should be seen as a mission field. Some foreign missionaries have spent their entire lives working with a group of people less than the size of a nursing home. The residents, the staff, the families, and God need you in this ministry. Is nursing home ministry my calling (Is. 6:8)?

-Biblical basis of nursing home ministry: Acts 6:1-7; James 1:27; I Cor. 12:21-25; I John 4:7-21; Jeremiah 22:16; II Cor. 4:16; also the meaning verses on honoring the aged.

-Serving in a nursing home brings culture shock, which is the sense of cultural disorientation one experiences while living in a society different from his own. It carries with it emotional anxiety from being in strange surroundings, disorientation from not being able to predict what other people are going to do, and discomfort from not knowing how to handle unfamiliar situations.

-To love and be loved gives a person purpose and hope for tomorrow. When these are missing, many find no reason for living.

-Personal relationships with the residents are what transform a ministry-care team from doing a ministry to being a ministry. What is needed to sustain a person: (1) Caring friendships provide the compassion, encouragement, and support. (2) Faith in the Lord (3)Enduring hope (4)Internal peace (5) Genuine purpose.

– To have an effective ministry don’t forget these principles: (1) Nursing home ministry is different from other ministries because of the residents’ mental and physical frailties. (2) We must respect care centers policies and procedures. (3) We must leave our denomination at home at our church as the residents are from different churches. Focus on the key points that Christians have in common, not on denominational distinctive. (4) We must love the people we serve and pray for them.

-Evangelism is needed in nursing homes, but not high pressure evangelism. Leave room for the Holy Spirit to work. Engage in caring conversations. Be sensitive to what they say in conversations. Use literature, but don’t just leave literature in each room.

-Especially on the first visit ask them questions about their family, religion, growing up, work, memories, life. On the second visit be on the alert for any changes.

-Use appropriate touch. Talk at eye level. Listen with your heart and respond with love.

– Six tips for a good listener: choose to listen, prayerfully listen, listen with empathy, ask questions or respond with interest, rephrase what you think your friend is saying to clarify their heart’s message, prayerfully discern an instructive response. Sometimes people are not looking for answers, but a listening ear. Honest words like “That must really hurt” or “You have been through a lot” can be useful, but avoid saying, “I know how you feel.”

-People “don’t care what you know until they know that you care”.

-People will remember the fruit of your heart more than the words of your mouth. If your fruit is love, joy, peace, etc., your words will be much more effective.

-In evangelism in a nursing home we must be patient and prayerful. It may take repeated visits (Mt. 11:28-30.)

-When you give a message at a nursing home, you should have one clear point and speak only 10 -15 minutes. Challenge the residents to a commitment to Christ. Know when to stop. Seal the message with prayer. Help the residents gain a fresh perspective on one of the characteristics of the Lord such as His love, faithfulness, willingness to forgive, help, and guide, etc. Be careful not to share everything you studied about the subject. Bathe the message in prayer.

-Suggested model for a traditional service: introduction, call to worship, invocation, songs, Scripture, message, prayer, closing song, closing with a brief scriptural benediction (Jude 1:24-25, Heb. 13: 20-21, 2 Cor. 13:14, Num. 6:24-26) or, sing the doxology at the end. Stories and poems during the service on the subject of the message are also helpful.

-We often shy away from people with dementia and feel afraid of them, not knowing what to say or assuming they can’t understand what we say, etc. However, there is much evidence that we can provide quality spiritual care for them through love and God’s Word. The author gives examples of how to lead them to Christ by talking patiently with them, e.g. woman who wanted to leave to go home, but author told her of our true home. He told her of Jesus’ love and care for her. More can be done with them than we realize. We need to listen to people with dementia with our eyes and our expressions. Prayerful discern what to say to them. Express empathy. Don’t make light of his troubles. Don’t be in a hurry to get away. Genuine interest and caring says more than your words. Both hymns and Scripture can be a comfort – focus on the familiar. Remember the power of the Word of God. Have this attitude: “Not many of you were wise by human standards… “ (I Cor. 1:26-29.) We minister by faith and not by sight.

-For this ministry you must tap into divine power through the following means: the name of Jesus, the Word, prayer, faith, hope, love, weakness, and the Holy Spirit.

– Always speak respectfully the staff. Don’t command them to do things for the resident who has a need. Just inform them of the need.

-As missionaries to people in nursing homes, we will have opportunities to visit and minister to residents who are dying or to family members who have lost loved ones. Through the guidance of the Holy Spirit our visits can bring great comfort.

-How to help with grieving people: Be a friend. Listen. Learn. Pray. Don’t be afraid to reminisce with them by asking questions. Let them move through their grief at their own rate. Be careful you don’t say things like, “I know how you feel” or “It must be God’s will.” Don’t make them feel badly about crying.

-Ministering to the dying: try to assess their situation, respectfully share the Word of God (Ps. 23, 25, 51, 90, 103; Rom. 8; John 14), speak with hope and faith, be patient.  … When not sure what to say, you can say, “I am concerned that you will be departing soon. One of the biggest concerns I have when people are facing their last days on earth is whether they are prepared to meet the Lord Jesus. I wish we were able to speak more about it, but since you cannot speak, I thought I would read a few Scripture verses and pray for you.”  When the family is present, respectfully introduce yourself and discern if you are welcome at that time. Affirm them. Read Scriptures and sing some hymns. Pray before you leave all holding hands.



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