Gail felt terribly alone after moving into the nursing home. She wanted to go back home, but she realized that she could not. She wanted to die. She was confused and afraid. She prayed timidly and despairingly and with a touch of anger. “Why, God? What did I do wrong? Are you there?” After several months in this condition, an unexpected knock came at Gail’s door…
Knocking on Gail’s door was not easy for Jim, who had resisted the thought of visiting the nursing home. To him, a nursing home represented sadness, darkness, and death – a hopeless environment for which there was no fix, no remedy. Yet, because Jim loved the Lord and had offered himself to do His will—anywhere, any way, and at any cost, Gail’s loving Creator could direct Jim’s heart into the home and to her door.
Getting Started with Elder Care
Jim took the process of getting started very seriously; therefore, he started with the following steps:
- He read a nursing home ministry handbook.
- Took an online training course.
- Interviewed with an Activity Director at this nearby nursing home.
- Prayed through his apprehensive feelings of uncertainty.
As Jim prayed, he gained confidence that God loved these unseen neighbors and that He wanted to touch them. More and more, it seemed like the Lord was asking Jim to be His vessel. Jim’s day came – a day when God would fulfill his prayers and Gail’s, too.
Caring for the Elderly
The first few minutes came with a bit of awkwardness. Jim was prepared with an opening line but was greeted first by Gail, who asked, “Can you help me to the bathroom?” “Uh, no,” he replied. “Then what do you want?” asked Gail. It was by God’s grace that the next words came out of Jim’s mouth. “Uh, I just want a friend to talk to.” Gail was intrigued, but skeptical. “How much is that going to cost me?” she sarcastically quizzed. “Just a bit of time and perhaps some patience with a shy man that you have never met before”, replied Jim. Gail smiled. “Sold!”
About three years later, Jim sat by Gail’s bedside, talking and praying with her as her life in this world was about to end. It had been an amazing journey of caring friendship that extended to others throughout the nursing home who, like Gail, were eager to know and grow closer to Jesus. The friendship also expanded to friends from Jim’s church who came for visits and even to provide a weekly Bible study. To Jim’s surprise, God used him to significantly influence a small community of people who needed hope in their last season of life in this world.
What is Caring for the Elderly?
Stories like this are more common than one might think. Today, there is a great need for Christians – like Jim – who are willing to spend an hour or so sharing God’s love and promises with our lonely neighbors. Nursing homes house a group of people who cannot go to church. Instead, the Church must go to them. Most are very open to the Gospel and discipleship when presented with respect to their age and present situation.
Since 1994, God Cares Ministry has been training and equipping Christians to help residents of senior care homes find hope and peace in Jesus. It is not difficult to start visiting a nursing home, but there are a few important principles to understand.
What does the Bible say about caring for the elderly?
Why do we care for the elderly–because God cares for them. The Bible gives us insight into God’s heart.
- Psalm 71:9: “Do not cast me off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength is spent.”
- 1 Peter 5:1: “So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed.”
- Leviticus 19:32: “You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.”
- 1 Timothy 5:1-2: Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.
- Isaiah 46:4: Even to your old age I am He, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.
Caring for the Elderly Steps:
Caring for the Elderly: Start with Activity Director or Life Enrichment Coordinator
Your first contact in a nursing home should be with the Activity Director (or Life Enrichment Coordinator). This person is responsible for helping connect volunteers with residents through one-to-one visits or planned activities. Ask if there are any residents who would like a friendly visit. It is best to meet the AD in person and to approach this time like a job interview, but also realize that a caring visitor is greatly desired in almost any nursing home.
Caring for the Elderly: Be a Friend
Do not visit residents only to evangelize. Instead, go as a caring friend. Evangelism is often seen as coercion or pressure-selling by care home staff. Residents are lonely and longing for a friend who values them. As trust is established through a caring relationship, your friend will welcome conversations to help them find hope and peace in Jesus.
Caring for the Elderly: A Place for the Whole Church
Invite your church to adopt the nursing home. The church can establish an outreach that extends Christ’s love beyond their own building’s walls. A small team of nursing home missionaries can reach over 50 residents in just a few months.
Visiting residents in a nursing home has been a life-changing experience for many Christians. We often get involved with visitation thinking, “Maybe I can bless a few lonely folks,” but soon find that we receive more blessings from the residents than we feel we can give them! Indeed, there are many hidden treasures behind the nursing home doors – just waiting to be discovered and enjoyed for eternity.
God Cares Ministry provides Bible-based and Christ-centered training, and ministry resources to enable Christians to get started in a life-giving outreach at a nursing home in their community.If you have a desire to help our lonely neighbors take the hand of Jesus, visit www.GodCaresMinistry.com to learn how you can become part of a growing network of nursing home missionaries.