As shepherds of God’s flock we take our example from Christ himself: “I am the Good Shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me.” We need to “know” the folks in our assembly.
Visitation provides an opportunity to demonstrate that the elders are aware and that they care–that each person in the local body of Christ is valuable. Of the most common types is hospital visitation. With careful consideration and a few pointers, this can become an effective ministry for shepherding the flock of God.
When to Visit
- Visit during visiting hours unless given permission by nursing staff and patient.
- Visit in the afternoons and evenings. Mornings are usually busy with breakfast, getting presentable, testing, therapy, etc.
- Honor all requests for NO visitors, unless specifically given permission by the patient or family members.
- It may be helpful to let the patient know you are coming or ask permission from a close relative to visit (some patients are very conscious about their appearance).
- Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays are lonelier days for the patient—people don’t visit as much then. So visit on these days if possible.
- Stand in a place that is easy for the patient to see you. Be close enough to make talking and listening easier.
- Be cheerful, optimistic.
- Ask how many visitors have been in today already. If you are number 18, stay only two minutes at most!
- Make visits brief unless invited to stay longer; 10-15 minutes may be enough. Long visits can be exhausting to someone who is ill.
- Talk about newsy items, happenings at the assembly.
- Be ready to perform any service consistent with propriety and hospital rules (for example, writing a letter, making a call).
- Don’t sit on the bed or do anything that might disturb or upset the patient.
- Don’t bring up your troubles or trials. Don’t be negative (about the patient’s appearance, nursing staff, etc.).
- Never break a confidence. If his/her condition is sensitive or something he/she is embarrassed about, ask how specific you should be when sharing this prayer concern with others.
- Some medical experts believe comatose patients can sometimes hear what is being said, even if they cannot communicate. Be careful what you say. But you can still talk to, read, and pray out loud for the patient.
- Ask if anyone has read Scripture or prayed with him/her today.
- Select an appropriate passage ahead of time or read one the patient requests. Keep it short—resist the urge to preach!
- When praying, you might show warmth and comfort by holding the patient’s hand or “laying on hands.” However, exercise caution when doing this so that the touching is not inappropriate.
- Pray for God’s strength, encouragement and cheer.
- If God has given you a strong burden or sense of faith, pray for healing. Be careful of “claiming” God’s healing, as we have no such “claims” on God! But we do have a God who hears prayer and may be pleased to heal.
- While you are praying for the patient, you might also pray for the other patients in the room. Often they will hear you and thank you afterwards, which may lead to further opportunity for you to be used of God.
Hospital visitation can be an effective way to “know” the people God has entrusted to your care.