In a previous blog I mentioned the importance of lay people serving alongside their pastors in offering pastoral care to church members by making hospital visits to members in the congregation. While this kind of teamwork is important in churches of all sizes, it is even more vital in smaller churches where the pastors may work second jobs in addition to serving their churches. In smaller churches where pastors are likely to have additional jobs, it is unlikely that those pastors will have the time to make all the hospital visits that are needed, which is why teamwork with lay people is so important.
Though I have written about this issue before, I realize that different people learn in different ways. Therefore, I thought it would be fun to give two brief scenarios of hospital visits. They are both obviously oversimplified and a real visit would probably entail more, but I am simply trying to use these scenarios to help make some points about effective hospital visits. One scenario below demonstrates how an effective visit might look. The other demonstrates now NOT to make hospital visits. Though the two scenarios below are made up, they are based on parts of actual visits I have observed over the years. Enjoy reading it and I hope they make the points in a way that is fun to learn and easy to understand.
A deacon or lay person making an effective hospital visit might have a conversation something like this.
Visitor: Hello, Brother Smith. I wanted to stop in and say hello for a minute and pray with you. Is that okay?
Patient: Yes, please do. I have been so lonely and worried while I’ve been in the hospital and I really need the prayer.
Visitor: We have been praying for you at church.
Patient: Thank you. I received the lovely flowers from the Sunday School class, which really made my day.
Visitor: Is there anything we can do at the house for you while you are in the hospital? I can send one of the teenage boys by to cut the grass and my wife can collect the mail and newspapers for you if you would like us to.
Patient: The grass was pretty high when the ambulance brought me to the hospital. If one of the boys cut the grass, it would be wonderful. My cousin is collecting the mail and papers for me, but thanks for offering.
Visitor: Would you like me to read you a scripture before I pray for you?
Patient: Yes, that would be a blessing.
Visitor: Do you have a favorite scripture you want me to read?
Patient: I always feel comforted when I hear Psalm 23; how about that one?
Visitor: Okay, and then I’ll say a prayer for you and let you rest.
Patient: Thanks so much for coming by.
A deacon or lay person making an ineffective hospital visit might have a conversation like this.
Visitor: Hello, Brother Smith. I wanted to stop in and see if you were going to make it. I heard you were real bad off.
Patient: Ah, yes, it has been a rough few days.
Visitor: From what the ladies said at church, the doctors do not give you much hope.
Patient: Well, they have said that my chances are not as good as they had hoped.
Visitor: You know my cousin Tom had the same thing and he suffered for months and months before he finally died. But he was a Christian so we knew he went to heaven, so it was okay.
Patient: Well, I am a Christian; I came to know the Lord ten years ago, so I guess I will be okay if I do not make it.
Visitor: Well, I hope you are a Christian. But if you have ever doubted it, now would be the time to make it right. Can I share the Romans Road with you?
Patient: Well, I guess, but I am kind of tired; maybe you can come back later.
Visitor: Don’t you want to hear the Gospel? It’s what you need most of all, especially if you are doubting your faith.
Patient: I do not doubt my faith, but I am worried about how my wife and kids will get by if I die.
Visitor: I am sure they can get welfare; the state will not let them starve.
Patient: Ah . . . . , well . . . ., I guess that’s reassuring. Thanks so much for coming by. I think I need to rest now.
Visitor: Okay, well, it was good to see you, and I will tell everyone all about your situation so they will know just how bad it is. That way they can pray better about it.
For further reflection: What made the first scenario more effective than the second one? Read through the second scenario again. How many things are wrong with that visit? What could have been done differently to make the second scenario more effective?
The above is an excerpt from the book, Developing Leadership Teams in the Bivocational Church, by Dr. Terry W. Dorsett. The book contains six easy to use lessons to teach lay people to work as a team with their pastor. Though the book is designed specifically for bivocational pastors, many fully funded pastors and many lay people are finding it equally helpful.