“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
Life in a nursing home is like living in a challenging neighborhood. Sometimes neighbors named depression, frustration or pain keep us up all night or make the days seem long and tiresome. But no matter where we live God gives hope and strength when we place our hope in Him. These 31 Days of Hope are written to lift you up and help you to refocus on the unfailing love of God. This is day three in our series. b If you have a family member or loved one in long term care then pass today’s reading on like a small bouquet to brighten their day. God bless you with His Hope!
Day 3 Invisible Unshakable Hope
Remember your word to your servant, in which you have made me hope Psalm 119:49 ESV
A few years ago I became quick upset with my doctor after going through some minor surgery. On the appointed day of the procedure the nurse came in, the anesthesiologist put me under but I never saw the doctor. I was incensed that he would take my money, do his work and then leave without talking to me! But what my mind had told me was not the truth. My wife assured me that the doctor had come in and spoken with both of us after the operation. My problem was that I was still so affected by the anesthesia that my memory was playing tricks on me! Sometimes it works in that same way when we have gone through a spiritual crisis. But our heavenly doctor has not forgotten us. The one who has brought us through the operation will be with us in the recovery room! Our God is the invisible unshakable Hope that carries us through every storm!
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
Jesus didn’t spend a lot of time preaching to crowds in the synagogues. he was more comfortable among lepers, tired fishermen or curious sinners. Nursing home ministry isn’t something extra it is in fact a part of the heart of Jesus Christ! Anyone can do nursing home ministry – even you and me!