Timely Tips on Tuesday: How to Do a Hospital Ministry

On Friday, my hurrying-out-the-door day (see my “Panic Pot Roast” post), my friend, Lynn, and I went to visit our friend in the hospital.  Lynn and I have kind of developed a little “Hospital Ministry,” you might call it.  We kind of “fell into” it.  Of course, the Lord gave me lots of experience, what with visits to the hospital to see my brother and sister, who both had kidney disease and experienced transplants when I was growing up.  I didn’t do very well with those experiences, though, perhaps not so surprisingly.  But God didn’t give up on me.  I gave birth to my two children in the hospital–two GOOD experiences. I was blessed by the care given my 2-year-old at Children’s Hospital when he had to have hernia surgery. And later when he had to have his broken arm reset I again saw the benefit of skilled, caring hospital staff.  When my friend’s toddler had cancer and was in the hospital for a long-term stay, I visited her and saw the hospital from a different vantage point, watching her:  being a wife and mom while virtually “living” at the hospital.  I had a deep appreciation for the caring nurses who worked in this setting day after day, and who sometimes grew very close to their little patients and the patients’ families, only to have to sometimes watch these beloved little ones die.  I was grateful that there were people like them in the world.


I’ve also had surgery to have my appendix removed.  And, of course, I had many visits to the hospital during my cancer surgery and treatments.  That’s when I really began to think of the hospital as a location for ministry.  The hospital is unique, and perfect in many ways for fruitful spiritual endeavor.  Those going through trials, experiencing and surrounded by pain, either as medical staff or as a patient (or family of one), are more open to spiritual things.  Hospital staff who see and have to deal with death on a regular basis are thinking about it, and can be persuaded to think about what comes afterwards.  These circumstances cause hearts to be open to the gospel, to the love of Christ shared with them, and the doors to their hearts may be more open to receiving Christ as Savior.


One day Lynn invited me to join her in visiting a mutual friend in the hospital.  Thus began our little “hospital ministry.” 


On our visits we have been known to bring along a vast array of items, including:


a teapot, real teacups, a small tablecloth, tea, refreshments (homemade and otherwise), a serving tray and plates, pretty napkins, flowers, a vase, and, a boombox with beautiful, edifying music.

We have hosted a Tea Party!

We have brought lunch and had a picnic.
We have spent a couple of hours with the patient, and finished our time by praying with them. All of these visits greatly encouraged each one, and us!  When we brought a whole Tea Party, we were able to carry everything easily by using a small suitcase on wheels. I must say, this worked amazingly well and was great fun! We moved the couch that was in the room closer to her bed.   We used the kitchen area down the hall for the tea water (the nurses thought it was great and gave full permission and support:)!


We have found ministering together to be a lot easier than going alone.  (Up until now, all our visits have been to female patients, so tweak these ideas if you visit male ones.)  Lynn’s and my gifts complement each other:  she’s an observant server, a retired nurse who understands a lot of the medical “stuff” that I don’t, and she’s a great listener. She always sees and is sensitive to the person’s needs, and is very practical in “doing” things for people (like going to get the pitcher of water refilled, or warm blankets for the patient, and coffee for us) while we’re there.  I’m more outgoing and talkative and am able to keep the conversation going, I feel more comfortable in hospitals, and I like to put together “gift packages” (although she likes to bring things, too).  We both have driven, depending on the location.  (Some hospitals have valet parking! Sometimes it’s even been free!!)  She initiates the visit by calling the person, and invites me to come along.  I’m a willing participant, and enthusiastic.  It’s always a fun outing–an adventure–for us when we go together.


We have visited a number of people together.  We don’t always bring a full Tea Party, but we do bring the Love of Christ and joy!


For those of you with small children, please note:  When I had small children, I wasn’t able to do this as much (there are seasons, you know!)  However, one idea is that maybe you’re someone who doesn’t feel called to this ministry, but could, on occasion, watch the children of someone else who does.  If you do feel called to this and would like to do “hospital ministry,” consider these ideas:

  • First and foremost, let the Lord lead you to whom to visit and when.
  • Find a friend whose gifts complement yours, if you don’t want to go alone.
  • Bring along little gifts such as:

hand lotion, healthy snacks, chocolate, flowers in a vase, a journal, a daily devotional, reading material, teaching tapes, a soothing CD to listen to, a boombox for them to use while there, a real cup and assorted teas, notecards (put them in a cloth-lined basket or a large gift bag).  Stock up ahead on inexpensive items.

  • Write a note of encouragement, including Scripture verses for them to read and meditate on later.
  • Give the gift of touch:  hold their hand, offer a neck rub, put your hand on the shoulder or touch their hand when praying.
  • Do bring the Lord Jesus:  pray before visiting, talk about Him while there, quote appropriate Scripture (bring your Bible), give Biblical encouragement and pray with them before leaving.
  • Be relaxed, pleasant and cheerful, (but not obnoxiously or insensitively loud), be caring and considerate.
  • Give them an opportunity to talk about the health issues which cause their stay and their fears and feelings.
  • Be friendly and a good testimony to anyone who pops their head in the door, especially hospital staff.
  • Don’t overstay, or tire out the patient, and be sensitive if family arrives, to cut your visit short; but relax and stay for awhile, if possible.

Remember, you are ambassadors for Christ, and do your work in the Spirit and love of Christ!
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5 Replies to “Timely Tips on Tuesday: How to Do a Hospital Ministry”

  1. (God bless) you, too, Sharon! I will pray for you on Fridays! Do you go every Friday? What a wonderful ministry! What kind of things do you do? Do you go alone? My daughter, Kelsey, goes to an Alzheimer's unit, but also sometimes to the assisted living facility which is part of the whole big complex. She and the other gal(s) play the piano and sing, another on violin, they do sing-a-longs, love on them, and talk (also encouraging the spouses visiting the Alzheimer's unit). You know, some have been going daily for YEARS, and their spouse doesn't even know them or speak. That is faithful love. Kelsey loves the Alz. ministry, but isn't able to do it as often as she'd like.
    What a wonderful ministry you have. Let me know some of the things you do! I'm glad you saw a way to use some of these ideas! You're right, people need a special touch of love. Touch is such a profound ministry! I've realized that some of these people (in nursing homes, etc.) don't have anyone hug or touch them for very long periods of time–how terribly lonely they must be! (Can you tell my love language is physical touch?) Oh, and I do so love your verse.
    Blessings,
    Wendy

  2. What a great ministry! You and Lynn do a wonderful work. And I love all the practical advice you give. I'm going to see if I can tweak some of your ideas and use them when I do my Friday ministry at the assisted living facility (Freedom Village).

    People so need a special touch when they're hurting, or scared, or lonely – all emotions that can happen in a hospital or an elderly person's facility. But, as you pointed out, this can put them in a frame of mind where they're very receptive to the Word.

    God Bless you in this kind and thoughtful ministry. I always claim this verse when I go on Fridays to Freedom Village:

    “And the King will say, 'I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!'”

    GOD BLESS!

  3. Jenifer,
    Those are wonderful ideas! I know you will bless them all so much. Continue to pray for wisdom so you're following the Lord's leading and timing; He will definitely lead and use you! Praise the Lord!
    Wendy

  4. What a wonderful ministy!!!! Just this week I visited a friend of the family. Her children, not one of them came to see her and she was in the hospital for at least 4 days. No guest or visitors. So sad!!! I felt terribly guilty seeing her empty room and was thinking about bringing her flowers or something to cheer her up. This is perfect timing!!! Also, it brought to mind another idea. My mother has serious heart problems. She goes in the hospital at least once every six months (has since I was in my early 20's). The nurses are always so kind to her. Perhaps a thank you basket for the heart floor nurses with some encouraging words to them! Thank you for sharing!

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