Need For More Volunteers

Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. Hebrews 13:3 ESV

If you have followed this blog, you know that I am involved in nursing home, not prison ministry. But the similarities between our two outreaches are many. Both our people live in a facility and have lost the ability to do a great many things. I am not sure what happened in the correctional system during Covid, but our nursing homes were in lockdown and with this latest wave those just when we thought things were getting back to normal, lockdowns have reappeared (surprise!) Some residents have been kept in their rooms, so as not to spread the virus, the rest have lost out on any kinds of group activities, including eating in the dining room. But one thing has not changed and that is the commandment of God to remember them. Now of course, remembering may simply mean, praying for them, sending cards or making phone calls. If you are already doing these things – BRAVO!

Years ago, we used to sing the Bill Gaither song, “I’m so Glad I’m a Part of the Family of God!” We all love the idea behind that song, because we all need to feel that we belong and that there are others around us who care about us. One dear sister who recently became a resident, showed what feeling loved meant. She beamed as she held up a small grocery bag, half filled with a few personal items. “Look what my friend picked up at the store for me!” she proudly stated. What was inside the bag was important, but more important was having one friend who she could trust to do some shopping. There is a desperate need for more people to be that friend to our brothers and sisters in long term care. You may say, “Well I would love to do nursing home ministry, but I am too busy with my family, job or my own health issues to do that right now.” In answer let me encourage you: I do visit several facilities each month and bring some music and I pray for people, but I am stretched thin. I can’t do all the shopping and the visiting, make the phone calls or send the cards. But people just like you can! Did you know that according to one study, more than 60% of those in nursing homes do not receive a single visit from a friend a family member or even a pastor over the period of an entire year?

So, for those who are wondering where to start? Today I am posting the first of a two-part series on answering that question. While I recorded this five years ago, the principles still apply today. Stay tuned tomorrow for part two!

Back to Basics in Nursing Home Ministry

 Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly – 1 Peter 5:2 ESV

After a three week pause due to both my wife and I contracting this last form of Covid, I was delighted to get back visiting a couple of the facilities this week. The memory care wing of one home was open for business as usual, but the dining room where we normally meet at another was still closed due to their own outbreak. Thankfully with the aid of an n-95 mask and the kind guidance of one of the nurses I was shepherded to various individual rooms to visit. The experience was exhausting but rewarding and it brought me back to those first few years, when I either visited very small facilities or in private rooms of people in larger homes. It reminded me why nursing home ministry is important what really matters. Whether you are just getting started or are considering beginning again in nursing home ministry, the Apostle Peter gives us all some great guidance for how we ought to serve.

Shepherding – The people God sends us to, whether they are in a church congregation, a prison or a nursing home are first of all His flock. They are God’s sheep so how we value folks and the way we treat them begins with remembering who they belong to. Whether God is sending us to only a few or even just one makes no difference in the way we care for, pray for, and minister to God’s people.

Willingly – The key difference between under compulsion and willingly is what are the rewards and benefits. Showing up for work and punching the clock at the factory, the office or the store on Monday morning isn’t because we don’t have anywhere else to go. A day at the beach, fishing or out on the golf course would be a lot more fun, but we have these tiny things called bills to pay at the end of the month. So out the door we trudge, day after day and that is a good thing. But it isn’t what God has in mind when it comes to ministering to His people. There are some positions that should and do pay a decent salary in God’s kingdom work, but even for those in full time ministry, the paycheck cannot be the proper incentive for serving God’s flock. Whatever our position, we will give our best for God’s service when we do it out of the love God has put in our hearts for His children.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Eagerly – is the difference between – we can’t wait to get finished, and we can’t wait to get started in God’s service. Now, I love football and am so excited that the college football season is beginning this week. Watching the players run out onto the field at the beginning of each game is usually quite a show. The players run out onto the field with great fanfare and celebration. They are jumping and giving high fives and smiling to the crowd. They just can’t wait for the game to start! Is that the way we are heading towards the pulpit, the chapel service or the hospital visit? Of course, the needs we are called to meet are not always happy high-five ones, but the intensity and love of serving God’s people should be as equally motivating. We cannot wait to begin to encourage, pray for, sing to or even simply listen to people whom God has entrusted to our care. Now that’s back to basics and it is a blessing to be reminded that no matter our area of service, the crown of life God has promised us remains the same.

To learn more about how you can get involved in nursing home ministry you might consider checking out our new book on walking with God’s lambs.

What’s the Message?

When I pick up my phone in the morning, the first thing I check is if there are any messages. Sadly about 90% of what comes in is spam. Those not only get deleted, but I also block that person from sending any more. Those messages are “spam” because of one major detail: I have no relationship to that person. Wherever, our calling is, whether at church, at the prison or at nursing home, it is important to remember that our most important message is not delivered by the words we say (or sing). What matters to the people we are called to serve is the relationship that we have built with them. How much of ourselves have we personally invested in the individuals in the places where we go? This was made crystal clear to me when I was able to return to nursing home ministry after three weeks recovering from Covid. When I stepped into the room at memory care yesterday morning, the most precious thing was to see the faces of my friends again. Of course, I sang their favorite songs and shared a few short encouraging words, but what mattered most was that we were together again singing for Jesus. We were connected, not only to Him but to each other. When Jesus was getting ready to finish His earthly ministry, His disciples were understandably confused, sad and curious all at the same time. They wanted to know where He was going, what He expected them to do and where they should go next. Jesus answered with a deceivingly simple sentence –

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. John 14:6 NKJV

His entire message about God’s kingdom, eternal life, forgiveness of sins and the love of God was summed up in the relationship He had built with His disciples. That is why at the table He had given them the cup saying, “This is the New Covenant in my blood.” A new covenant is a new relationship. At the time the disciples had been so busy arguing about which of them was the most important, that they missed the message. Jesus was about to give His life for them, and He called them friends. Our Christianity, our calling and God’s expectations for us are all focused on one thing and one thing only: our relationship to Jesus Christ. Wherever God calls us, the people we serve receive the most important message from us when we call them friends, because of Jesus. He is what connects us to each other and the only way we can ever be truly connected to God. That is why, saying or singing everything perfectly isn’t what matters most. What counts is if we are doing it for friends. Where are we called to serve? Why are we there? If the first reason that we give is our friendship with Jesus, then building a genuine loving friendship with those we serve will be the most natural thing on earth.

There's not a friend like the lowly Jesus
No not one
No not one
None else could heal all our soul's diseases
No not one - No not one!

Closer Than a Brother

A man who has friends must himself be friendly,
But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24 NKJV

My new book, Walking with Lambs is a story about friends and how friendships shape our lives. This week the print version came out and filled with color photographs to put faces with the names of these special people who have walked with me through thirty-five years of nursing home ministry. Today’s verse reminds us that God has a friend for us who is closer than any brother here on earth. In the middle of the muddle of 21st century life, we sometimes need to stop and remind ourselves that He alone is our closest friend. He sticks with us through hard times and sickness, through aging and isolation. There are no doors that can keep Him out nor walls that He cannot pass through. That is the wonderful message we have to bring to our friends who are in long term care. Jesus has given His life so that we could be called His friends. That makes the ground level at the foot of the cross. Passing through the doors of a nursing home, helps us to realize that we are all weak, fragile and in need of help. Though their own family may never visit, and no friends come to call, we have the privilege to come and by God’s grace learn how to be a friend, who, like Jesus, will stick closer than a brother!

If you would like to know more about Walking With Lambs you can find the listing here: