What are 10 practical tools to hospital visitation?

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 extent 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.


Posted in Hospital Visitation, Oversight of Souls
10 comments on “What are 10 practical tools to hospital visitation?
  1. Matt Brogli says:

    Thank you so much for this. As a new pastor with a largely elderly church, this is very helpful. Thank you for your continued ministry to us all!

  2. Scott says:

    How long should I stay for a hospital visit? Sometimes, there is silence and I then after prayer I excuse myself. Also, what about waiting with family while their loved one is in surgery (2 or more hours)? I assume that you stay as long as possible, if it is life threatening, but what about outpatient surgery?

    • briancroft says:

      A typical hospital stay should be 5-10 minutes. I know that sounds short, but if you are dealing with a person really sick, or not feeling well, that is plenty of time. Use the time well. For typical operations, I do not come and stay with the family for hours. Don’t have time to do that, but will try to either come by during procedure, or see the patient afterwards. The more serious the situation, the more time I give is a good, general rule. Good question.

  3. Daryl McDonald says:

    I have also found these tidbits helpful in my visits: 1). Don’t sit down (especially on the bed!) By not sitting down you make it easy to limit your visit to the suggested 5-10 min without make it seem like you are rushing. 2). Never ask how the are feeling. They are in the Hospital. Allow them to tell you how they are feeling. 3). Never wake them up! You never know what they had to go through to get to sleep! They have been poked, prodded and awaken in the middle of the night to take a sleeping pill. Leaving a note or a visitation card is often a good practice. 4). Never talk about others who are sick (especially if their illness may not be as serious as someone else). 5). Remember you are a guest of the HOSPITAL STAFF as well! Respect them and the medical expertise they provide. If you are kind and considerate of them, they will be kind and considerate of you.

  4. If you truly believe in the almighty then nothing is tough. Preparing your heart and praying are the two very crucial things. Thanks!

  5. Aaron Walker says:

    In my hospital visits I also bring a roll of quarters with me…many times it (financially) is an inconvenient time for the family, so at least they can hit the vending machines.

  6. Having been a pastor for 30 years I find the tools mentioned above very informative and practical. I would however add, never wake a person up that is sleeping. Most of us understand that a hospital stay is filled with doctors visits, vital signs, blood work, etc. and rest is a difficult thing to get much of. In addition I would suggest staying for a short period just long enough to express concern and commitment and to also read Scripture and pray. Thanks again for your timely advice. I remember well being a new pastor and wondering how I should conduct myself in various situations. Keep the advice coming.

  7. Greg Drummond says:

    A little something I have learned:
    When it comes to prayer instead of saying “Let’s pray”, “Let me pray for you”, or “I want to pray for you”… you should ASK, “Can I pray for you?” or “Is it alright if I pray with you?”
    In the hospital people have a lot of control and decison making taken away from them. By asking them to pray you are giving some of that control back, in addition to directing them into the presence of Christ.

  8. Simon says:

    I find your advices very much inspiring and spiritually uplifting, As a pastor with a church in rural areas, this piece of advice will certainly add on my hospital visit schedule, and thank you so much.

  9. D. Jeffries says:

    Regardless of what size church the members enjoy seeing their Pastor when they become ill. Also lets not forget about those who are home bound and shut-in they need our ministry was well.

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