How do you care for a widow in a nursing home?

A nursing home can be viewed as this middle category between hospital and home and can serve a widow in a couple of different scenarios. It can be that place where they go to die. Alternatively, though weakness or sickness are present, death might not be imminent and they need a place for more extended care. Another use of a nursing home, which is the more common one, is to have a place where widows can go when they no longer can care for themselves in their home. Oftentimes, one spouse takes care of the other as old age approaches. Once that caregiver is gone, it leaves the other spouse trying to do what they so desperately want to do, but can no longer do—care for themselves alone.

A nursing home provides that twenty-four hour care for someone, yet tries to empower a person still to live as independently within that facility as is safe and responsible.

This “home away from home” set up that nursing homes provide creates particular challenges for the visitor to find that balance that makes a widow feel cared for. If someone is in a nursing home because they are close to death, then the hospital principle cited earlier would apply to your visit. However, if a nursing home is creating a more controlled living space for a relatively healthy but frail widow, then it should be treated more like a cautious home visit. Since you want to be more sensitive to the struggles of loneliness than the discomfort of physical pain and suffering, visitors should feel a freedom to stay a bit longer—twenty to thirty minutes. Since the nursing home is commonly viewed as the transition point between hospital and home, it is good to be considerate of both taking an interest in their living space as well as any health concerns that may be present.

Regardless the location, the spiritual, emotional and physical condition of the widow is most important.

The condition of the widow should dictate how long to stay and how long not to stay. It should determine what will make this widow feel loved and cared for, or what might exasperate her. As God gives you wisdom in these case by case moments, know that God can use you, even for a moment, to remove the eerie silence and minister grace to these precious ladies.

Additional Resources:

Posted in Caring for Widows

Brian Croft – Interviewed about shepherding dying churches.

BCR book coverJeff Robinson from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary interviewed Brian Croft about his new book, Biblical Church Revitalization: Solutions for dying and divided churches, and the difficult work that is trying to revitalize a dying church.

Read the full interview here

Posted in Book Recommendation, Training for Ministry

How does a pastor deal with awkward silence with visiting folks?

This is a question that came to me by a young and introverted pastor who is struggling to know how to make conversation with elderly folks when he goes to visit them.  I wish more and more young pastors knew their weaknesses and desired to grow like this young brother.  Because I think this is a growing struggle among young pastors especially, here was my response to this brother for your consideration:

I am grateful for your question and that you desire to grow in this area.  I know being an introvert makes this harder.  First of all, learn to be comfortable with silence.  Whether trying to talk to an elderly person in their home or standing up in front of your church after you have asked a challenging question to them while leading a discussion, silence can be good.  If you can learn to be not so uncomfortable with silence, it will help you think through what to say next and speak with more clarity.  Secondly, all it takes when going to visit the elderly is a greater effort to learn the things they like and enjoy.  Talk to their closest friends in the church or their family and find out what they are interested in and ask them about those interests.  I have an elderly widower, WW II vet, in his 80′s with failing health who still has an amazing mind and loves history and politics.  I love history and tolerate politics, but always go with questions in both those areas to ask him as he is an extreme introvert, which makes it hard sometimes to get him to talk.  Yet, I always love my visits with him.  It is amazing how people will come out of their shell when they talk about what they know, love, and most importantly they think you are interested in hearing.  I hope that helps.  Remember, when you visit the elderly for no specific reason, other than to spend time with them, that already makes a huge statement of love and care for them.  Don’t forget that.  You may be worried about the moments of awkward silence when they may simply be loving that you are sitting in their living room.

Pastors, take your cue from this young, teachable brother.  The awkward silence and uncomfortable feelings you have when trying to visit your folks in your church is not a justifiable reason to stop and neglect them.  Stretch yourself.  Keep at it.  When we stand before God to give an account of the souls entrusted to our care (Heb. 13:17) awkwardness and uncomfortable silence will be an unwise excuse to use before our Chief Shepherd.
Posted in Caring for Widows, Hospital Visitation, Oversight of Souls

How do you respond to encouraging words about your sermon?

“Great job…good sermon…that really spoke to me.”  The list of phrases a pastor may hear as church members exit the church goes on.  Inevitably, whether the sermon was good or not, these quick comments will be spoken to us with varying levels of sincerity and it is important that we know how to respond in a God-honoring way.  Here are 4 suggestions:

1)  Say “Thank You”

It is sad when a pastor tries to wear a false humility to hide either his insecurities or inability to know how to receive a kind word.  It usually shows up in a pastor’s response after a kind, encouraging comment in this way, “Uh…no it wasn’t a good sermon.  I missed it here, stumbled over my words here…”  Just stop it and say “thank you for your kind words.”

2)  Be grateful for the encouragement

Regardless the comment, if it was meant to encourage you, thank them for their encouraging words.  Be grateful that however small, simple, or even shallow the comment, someone took the time to share their thoughts with you.  Be grateful and receive it that way.

3)  Be humble that the Lord would dare use you

What should humble us more than a hearer taking time to encourage us about our sermon, is the fact that God would choose to use broken vessels like us week after week, Sunday after Sunday to feed God’s people with God’s word.  That should amaze us with every kind word extended to us.  When it ceases to amaze us, then we should start worrying.

4)  Give God all the glory

The great temptation when complimented about a sermon is to think the fruit of our labors ultimately is about us and because of us.  When a kind word is extended to us about our sermon, make sure God is credited and praised.  Not superficially, but sincerely.  We can give God glory with our lips in response, but inside be ate up with pride.

Suggested Responses:

In light of these suggestions, here are a few ways I think it is appropriate to respond to a kind word extended to us after a sermon:

“Thank you for your kind words, isn’t God good the way he speaks to each of us through his word.”

“Thank you for your encouragement, I am grateful to God he used his word in that way.”

“I am grateful you took the time to share the way God’s word has affected you.  This passage effected me in similar ways.  God is so gracious.”

Pastors, receive the kind words offered to you. Be encouraged by it.  It will help you through the discouragement that often comes on Monday.  And stay humble, for in 6 days you get to do it all over again.

Posted in Preaching

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