Nursing Home Ministry
By Daniel Hwacheong Yoo
The following article from Rev. Daniel Hwacheong Yoo is a helpful encouragement for local churches to be engaged in ministry to those in nursing homes and assisted living arrangements. One additional practice that many churches have used is to keep a record of when people were visited, who made the visits, and if Communion was brought to the people visited. Those who are unable to attend worship appreciate when the Table is extended to them as valuable members in the larger community of believers.
Nursing home ministry* is a necessary service churches should provide for the elderly of the community. Churches need to be proactive because taking care of the weak and elderly is part of our biblical mandate, and it is another way to evangelize and spread God's vision. A well-organized nursing home ministry program will bring positive effects to the church, and it is a ministry that can happen in any region, no matter how big or small the church.
1. Let people know that caring for the elderly is a biblical mandate.
Some Christians pay little attention to nursing home ministries because they don't understand why a small community church should be involved in this kind of work. However, the Bible teaches us to bring relief to anyone who is weak or is at a social disadvantage. Sermons and seminars should address nursing home ministries to educate people about the congregation’s duty toward helping the sick and elderly.
2. Begin nursing home ministry with those who are willing now.
There are bound to be at least one or two people who are already interested in providing a nursing home ministry. Educate and guide them so that they can serve in the ministry efforts. Don't think that you can't begin this ministry because "there aren't enough people." If the ministry consists of one pastor and two church members, that is enough.
When people experience what it's like to volunteer with a nursing home ministry, they often feel motivated to continue participating. Those who serve in the nursing home ministry usually become the spokespeople for the ministry, letting others know of the importance of this service, leading to increased volunteers. In ministries like nursing home ministries, people need to experience the ministry themselves. They need to experience God's grace in this mission field and solidify their Christian identity.
3. Organize the nursing home ministry and find a passionate leader.
In any organization or group, a leader is essential. Don't have the pastor take charge in this ministry, but instead train and educate a passionate church member to lead the nursing home ministry. The efforts and passion of one church member can inspire other church members to join the cause. The pastor must ensure that the leader of the nursing home ministry cares for his or her spiritual life too. It is important for the leader and the pastor to communicate about the ministry's plans and programs. Leaders are essential in any organization, but in nursing home ministries, they are especially significant because they organize and plan everything so that volunteers can serve efficiently.
4. Make the nursing home ministry a place where volunteers can use their talents.
Generally, in nursing home ministry, a group visits a nursing home together, shares words of hope and healing, and provides food for the elders. (This may or may not be tradition in your ministry setting.) However, to attract more people into the nursing home ministry, the church should try to create a more diverse program with different activities. Churches should allow volunteers to use their various talents. Elevate the service by bringing in instruments or dancing. (Traditional ethnic dancing has especially brought great joy to many older people.) Preparing different performances for the nursing home residents will make them feel loved. In addition, the volunteers will also experience God's grace and love. Including the talents of many volunteers can make this ministry a multigenerational opportunity.
5. Review what was accomplished after each visit.
Nursing home ministries can maintain themselves and grow through constant attention from the church community. After each visit, it is important for the volunteers to review and share what happened so that everyone at the church can be a part of the nursing home ministry. This communication may be done through emails or group chats (or texting, Facebook groups, Facebook Messenger or Kakao Talk**), where people share their experiences after each visit and inspire one another to serve. Posting ministry reports will give attention to the ministry itself.
The local church needs to see nursing home ministry as part of its mission. This ministry will strengthen the church's identity and create a sense of community and belonging. This ministry is meaningful because those who participate are obeying God's word, growing spiritually, and experiencing God's grace in the mission field. Nursing home ministries are for everyone. People do not serve in nursing home ministries because they are experts, but they become experts in serving. It should be a church's greatest hope for all its church members to become experts in doing God's work.
An Age of Opportunity: Intentional Ministry by, with, and for Older Adults by Richard Gentzler Jr. (Discipleship Resources, 2018)
Ministry with the Forgotten: Dementia Through a Spiritual Lens by Bishop Ken Carder (Abingdon Press, 2019)
*Due to COVID-19, it has become challenging to visit nursing homes in-person. However, we should always be prepared to jump back into action when needed or when it is safe to visit in person again.
** Kakao Talk is a popular messaging app for the Korean population.
Rev. Daniel Yoo is the pastor of Dong San United Methodist Church in Houston, Texas. [email protected]