How can you start your own nursing home ministry? What steps do you need to take? Here is how you can begin your own personal nursing home ministry.
Pure Religion is….
James 1:27 “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”
We all probably know what keeping ourselves unspotted from the world means but what about the “pure religion” part? In the first place, keeping ourselves unstained or unspotted can mean many things. Thankfully Jesus’ righteousness is imputed toward us, on our account, in our behalf (Rom 3:26) and is made possible only because “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21) but this means that we are not to be part of the world…in the world, yes, but not part of it.
So how does God the Father view pure religion? It may not be what we think it is. It is not about acting pious, having good behavior, having perfect church attendance or always saying the right thing. No, love is active, deed-oriented, action-induced, and results-driven. And this is where the nursing home comes in. At one Bible study I asked the residents, “How many you are today orphans and widows?” Every single one of the hands went up except an elderly man. He said that he was a widower. I could say that James might include that pure religion is visiting the orphans, widows, and widowers and still be right. Just think of this…everyone in almost every single nursing home or assisted living center are orphans, widows or widowers because their parents have long since died and most living there have outlived their spouses. Even for those who still have their spouses, their parents are likely deceased. In the facility that I go to, about 4 in 10 residents there have no family to visit them and no friends who come to see them which means that they are exceedingly lonely. Nationally, the last I heard was that 60% of residents have no family and no visitors whatsoever.
Being Jesus’ Hands and Feet
Society seems to think of these precious people as castoffs or as having no more use in society but there could be nothing further from the truth. Some of these men and women are not old at all because some are there due to disabilities. What I have discovered is that these men and are very lonely and they are seeking out meaningful conversations with anyone who will give them the time but the fact is, nearly everyone says that they are just too busy. That’s their loss because they have so much of their life to share and so much wisdom to offer but no one to share it with. What a waste. So many of these men and women are lonely and I can see why Paul’s words mean so much where he wrote that we should “weep with those who weep” (Rom 12:15. This is a positive way that we can “contribute to the needs of the saints” (Rom 12:13) and we can be “the one who does acts of mercy” (Rom 12:8).
To give of your time and yourself is to be a living sacrifice (Rom 12:1). My problem with being a living sacrifice is that I keep crawling off the altar. Talk is cheap but deeds are what true love is all about. The Apostle John said that we should “not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18). Love is a verb…it’s what you do, not what you say. I am not saying that words are not important but actions always speak a lot louder than words. My children may not hear my words if my actions drown them out.
You can start your very own nursing home ministry and I can tell you from experience, fewer things are more rewarding. Start with making an appointment with the nursing home administrator. Then talk to the Activity Director and see what he or she thinks. You may have to fill out an application and undergo a background check but not every place requires this. Plan a time that you know you can be there or just try and find time when you can. These are the first steps in beginning such a ministry. I just dove right into it with no experience but now I look forward to my visits there. I always look for new residents and new staff but I also take time to speak with family members. I search for and seek out those who are frequently sitting alone. Today, I love the look of their faces when I come into the facility as their faces just light up. They adore having someone who cares for them, who talks with them, who listens to them, and prays for them. A large number of nursing home residents love to hear the Bible read to them but most of all they just want someone to listen so I tend to be quick to listen and slow to speak but I have learned to speak louder than normal so that they can hear me. I have the same problem with hearing loss so I can appreciate when someone speaks to me loudly and clearly. I also single out the staff and tell them “Thank you” for what they do and the effort that they put into their jobs. It is not an easy job at all.
Come for Dinner
Most nursing homes have an open menu for visitors in the dining area and the price is generally reasonable and from my experience, the food is great. The residents love it when you sit down and eat with them…or just sit with them over a hot cup of coffee. I have been unofficially adopted many times because these precious saints don’t often hear or see their children anymore. They crave someone to sit with them, talk with them, or sit in the TV room and watch an old black and white with them. Personally, I enjoy the older movies anyway.
I hope you can catch this vision of practicing pure religion by visiting the orphans and widows and this includes shut-ins who can no longer attend church. That’s why I bring church to them! I genuinely care for them, talk to them, listen to them, ask them if they need anything, and pray with them if they want. Over time, you will begin to love them just as I have so my suggestion is to just dive right into this ministry by making an appointment with the resident administrator. You can’t learn to swim by just sticking your toe in the water or reading a book on it…you have to jump in. I can promise you that you will get a lot of enjoyment out of this. You’re doing it for them of course but what I came to discover is that you will be richly rewarded too. Certainly many residents will also enjoy it but don’t expect everyone to just warm up to you immediately. There are a few there who still think I’m a young “whipper snapper” (even over 60!) but I don’t mind. I love hearing the words, “Hello young man” because relatively speaking, I am. Familiarity takes time and effort but if you are serious about visiting the orphans, widows, and widowers, then you’ll find yourself practicing pure religion and this is most certainly pleasing to God the Father (James 1:27).
Another Reading on Patheos to Check Out: What Did Jesus Really Look Like: A Look at the Bible Facts
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Blind Chance or Intelligent Design available on Amazon