I had a very sweet time with the leadership and pastoral interns at Immanuel Baptist Church this past Friday. A large part of what I was asked to do was talk about hospital visitation and caring for the sick and dying. This was a very engaging group and we had a very fruitful time. However, I realize there exists a tension when you teach about caring for the sick and dying in a very young church where there are not many who are dying. Yes, there are always those of a younger generation who get sick, some die from cancer, some die very suddenly in a tragic accident, some have young children die, but typically when a pastor is caring for the sick and dying in his congregation, it is most commonly those of the older generation.
Therefore, the elders at Immanuel Baptist Church wisely asked me to inform these young men how they can engage in caring for folks in their church through hospital visitation, as they are a predominantly younger church. I informed them that each of them could stay very busy with fruitful visitation in hospitals if they visited the parents of every baby born into their congregation. I encouraged them to seize the few moments when going to the hospital to see someone is something they can celebrate. In many cases, the birth of a new baby is one of those occasions. At the times they are not, well even more reason to go and minister there.
Here are 10 practical tools to consider for those interested in engaging in this most important ministry in a young, growing congregation. I commended these to the young men at Immanuel and I commend them to each of you also:
1) Be mindful of the stress and lack of sleep of new parents.
2) Be sensitive to the mother’s recovery.
3) Introduce yourself to family in the room.
4) Clean your hands.
5) Hold the baby (if comfortable doing so).
6) Enjoy it!
7) Read Psalm 139:13-16.
8) Pray for the parents.
9) Plead for the soul of that child.
10) Be aware of how long you stay (typically less than 20 minutes).
Here is a previous post that explains further a few of these practical tools that you might find helpful. This kind of ministry can be a great way to get your “feet wet” in going to hospitals, getting comfortable in them, and preparing for those harder hospital visits that are certain to await every pastor going into an older, established church.