“I’ll Be Home For Christmas” was recorded by Bing Crosby in 1943 as a tribute to soldiers overseas during World War II, and has become a holiday classic. Nursing home residents are a bit like soldiers, but most of them will never be home for Christmas. The statistics say that 60% of nursing home residents in the U.S. do not receive a single visit from a family member in an entire year. There is no more important time to plan a special program than at the holidays. Christmas, Thanksgiving, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day each are opportunities to show God’s love through visiting people who are alone. Small gifts are wonderful, but the greatest gift we have to offer is our presence.
For those unfamiliar with nursing home ministry early October may seem a bit early to begin planing a Christmas program. But after having worked for 20 years of Christmas I have learned that the earlier we start the better. Usually we have a group of from 6-10 volunteers (mostly young people) who start out eager to help. What happens along the way is a combination of teen issues (boyfriend /girlfriend) or school and family changes that impact our ability to prepare. All in all I sometimes feel like we are just duct taping a few kings crowns together and turning up microphones for shy voices that the residents can barely hear. Thank God that Jesus takes our 5 loaves and 2 fish of talent and desire and multiplies it in a way that touches hearts and lives each year. Over the next week I will be posting a few practical ideas and guidelines that may assist you in your own community to get ready for Christmas once again.
In this computer age no one uses pencil and paper but I encourage you to at least try both. Physically writing things down helps to slow our thoughts down enough to consider in detail the people and the plan that will help make your program effective.
Make a List
- Meet with the recreation/activities director of your chosen local nursing home and find an open date on their calendar that works for you. Typically these calendars fill up more than a month in advance. We are written in for December 6 because the 13th was already taken!
- Ask for volunteers from your circle at church and friends and find out how many people you can expect to help. Will this work for the program you have in mind?
- Can the children (or youth) at your church be invited to participate?
- Think about small gifts for the residents. Have you asked the staff what gifts to give?
Pray for God’s creative ideas. Pray together with your team. Get started and trust that the Christmas message is full of hope for people who have been forgotten. Christmas began in the heart of God!
And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. Luke 1:37
Ministering weekly for the last 23 years in Allied Skilled Nursing I have often wished there were more resources available for the residents. The reality of being partially disconnected from the local community and even their local church I see first hand the struggles and needs of people who have become my friends and extended family. Today I am making available a 31 day devotional called 31 Days of Hope for free this week in ebook form. If you are a family member a resident or a nurse this I pray thia month of readings will be a lifeline of hope that will draw you closer to God who is the truly Good Shepherd who has given us eternal hope in every dark place of life!https://www.amazon.com/dp/B075RRB5ZR
Nursing home ministry is not just something nice or a little extra side line for the church to investigate. Nursing home ministry is in fact an expression of the very heart of the Jesus Christ. In Matthew 25 Jesus talks about how we treat him in places like prisons, sick beds, orphanages and other places of abandonment and suffering. When we as His church consistently remember the importance of a true commitment to include such places in our outreach we may not get much notice in this world; but we will make the headlines in heaven! If we choose to allocate our church budget and sacrificially give of our time in order to value those whom Jesus values we will never regret it in eternity. Here in this small book is the compilation of more than 25 years of experience given as a guide, an encouragement and a call to action for those who are willing to hear.
When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me Matthew 25:38-40
Nursing Home Ministry – The Heart of Jesus Christ
Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. Luke 10:31-34 NKJV
The man who fell among thieves is a lot like that of the residents in any nursing home. The thieves that caught him by surprise go by various names, such as age, physical disability or disease. People fall into a system where they lose control of their finances, their health and their personal freedom. Three people came by the man that day. The first was a priest. He had chosen to dedicate himself to God’s work and was recognized as a leader in his community. But in spite of his opportunity to show God’s mercy, that day he failed. The second man was a follower of the first, so he simply took the same path – the path of least resistance. Last in line came the Samaritan. He was the man from whom no one expected any help. But when the Samaritan passed by, he saw the need, rolled up his sleeves and got involved. He became a neighbor when he became a part of the injured man’s world.
Nursing homes are filled with suffering and that is easy and convenient to hide from. We hide because we are afraid of the answers we do not have. But we can roll up our sleeves like the Samaritan and understand not the “why” of suffering but the “How can I show the love of God.
“God permits what He hates to accomplish that which He loves” Joni Eareckson Tad