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Effective Nursing Home Ministry

What constitutes an effective nursing home ministry? We have been in this type of ministry for several years now. Here, we will share with you what we do under God’s leadership to minister to nursing home residents.

The first thing any ministry must have is that its ministers be dedicated and consistent. Nursing home residents don’t have too many things that are consistent. Therefore you must set a schedule, and then adhere to it. For us, we minister at the nursing homes we do the same time and day of each month. For you, it may be more frequent. But, it is vitally important that you set a time to be there then BE THERE at that time. You will be more effective because the residents will count on you being there, and they will look forward to their time together with you. And, spend time in study and practice for what you are going to do.

Next, choose what type of ministry you are going to do. For us, we lead a regular worship service. We sing for about 35 minutes, then preach or teach a short lesson, no longer than 15 minutes, give a time of reflection and invitation, and then sing a few upbeat favorites to close the service. Never should any service last over an hour.

A word about invitations in the nursing home setting: they are different. The residents can’t “come forward” as they would in a regular service. So therefore you have to go to them. You must watch carefully for a sign from them signifying they need help with a decision. You must listen carefully. And, if the decision warrants, such as a decision to be saved, help them share that with the other residents!

Third, make sure you can be heard, but not too loud. We have carried our complete sound system into the nursing homes we go to, but only because we have been blessed at both places to have a large room for the service. And remember residents have different hearing problems. Some cannot understand music or singing with a lot of bass, some cannot understand the highs. You may have to tailor your sound for them, even though it may not sound “right” for you!

Probably second on the important list is be sincere and love them. Let them know it in word and in deed. Talk to them. Linger a little after the service. Go get certain ones before the service and take them back where they want to go. Sometimes, you will be the only visitor they see that day. Tragically, you could be the only one they have seen in many days. Include them in the service. If someone wants to sing a song or testify, take a microphone to them and help them do it!

Always remember that God has placed you there to help them. Just because they don’t respond in the way you think they should does not mean they haven’t been ministered to.

And one thing I have to point out. There is NO ROOM for hidden agendas in nursing home ministry. Nursing home ministry has to be all about THEM, and nothing about you! If you are having problems, LEAVE THEM AT THE DOOR WHEN YOU WALK IN! If you are having conflicts within a ministry group, SETTLE THEM, period. The number one agenda has to be to bring hope to the residents in the nursing home, and to point them to the only source of that hope, Jesus Christ!

I am reminded of a story that I heard that changed the way I look at nursing home residents forever! A singer had entered a nursing home to do a worship service. He was told that he could be around any of the residents but one, because she would grab him and not let go! He began the service, and after a few songs, was in the middle of the residents singing. This one little lady, who had not said anything that made sense in a long time, reached out for him and he took her hand. Guess who? Right, the lady who would “grab and not let go”. He stopped singing. She began to sing in a very soft voice “Amazing Grace”. She sang all 4 verses perfectly, and he sang with her. When she finished, she took the singer’s hand, placed it on the tray in her lap, and simply “petted” it.

Don’t be scared of the residents. They were someone’s mother or father. God loves them, and He has entrusted you to help make their day just a little brighter. You may very well be the ONLY visitor they have that day, week, or even month. And, you WILL be blessed for your efforts!

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