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10 Tips for Ministering to the Hospitalized

Yesterday, I taught a class at SBTS on hospital visitation. I reminded them how pastoral visitation has become a lost art in the younger generation of pastors and that fear is among the many reasons for the neglect of this ministry.

Pastoral visitation, in hospitals especially, raises that fear even more.

There is fear of being exposed to sickness.

There is fear of what to say, what to do, how to do it? What if I see something that makes me faint?

If that is you, allow these 10 practical tools to equip you for this task and help minimize any fear that may have kept you from this most noble and important task.

1. Ask Questions.

Prepare before going what questions you want to ask. Ask questions that would inform you of their sickness and treatment that might lead to more spiritual conversations.

2. Read Scripture.

When you don’t know what to say or do, it is always good and helpful to pull your Bible out and read Scripture. Make sure you take one to the hospital with you.

3. Pray the Gospel.

When the Gospel is prayed, the Gospel is heard. This is always a good way to pray for both the believer and unbeliever in the room. God, Man, Christ, Response.

4. Affirm God’s character and promises.

First, affirm who God is to the sick, then extend to them the promises of that God.

5. Trust God’s plan.

God will work when you step out in faith and go. God will work in you and through you and will give you the words to say at the right time.

6. Leave a note.

If you don’t get to see the person you came to visit, leave a note for them. It lets them know you came and provides something to encourage them long after you are gone.

7. Listen well.

Resist the temptation to solve problems. Sympathize, don’t rationalize. Just listen, don’t solve.

8. Touch with discernment.

Physical touch can be a very effective way to break down walls of insecurity the patient feels, but do so wisely and appropriately.

9. Look them in the eye.

Good eye contact communicates interest, care, and a comfortable spirit, something a sick person needs to feel from their visitor.

10. Prepare your heart.

Prepare for what you might experience and that you are going out of love, not duty. Sick people in the hospital have a great deal of intuition about whether you really want to be there, or not.

For further reading: Visit the Sick.   

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Brian Croft is senior pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky. He is also the author of "Visit the Sick: Ministering God’s Grace in Times of Illness (foreword by Mark Dever) and "Test, Train, Affirm, and Send Into Ministry: Recovering the Local Church’s Responsibility to the External Call" (foreword by R. Albert Mohler Jr.). Brian blogs regularly at Practical Shepherding.