Hospital Visitation



Effective Hospital Visitation

By Emmanuel L. Williams

Hospital visitation is an important aspect church ministry. With approximately 38 millions Americans being admitted to hospitals annually, pastors can anticipate that some of their members will be among them. With this in mind, our church has put together a team of volunteers to make those hospital visit.

Here is how you can increase the effectiveness of a hospital visit.

Biblical basis

When we think of ministry, we often think of the words of Jesus in the Great Commission, “Go and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19). Jesus, however, also said something about caring for the sick. In relating the final judgment of the nations, Jesus said of the righteous, “I was sick and you looked after me” (Matthew 25:36). Furthermore, when He sent out His disciples for ministry, Jesus commissioned and empowered them to “heal every disease and sickness” (Matthew 10:1). In each of the Gospels the healing ministry of Jesus clearly illustrates His concern and compassion for the sick.

Jesus’ example of caring for the sick was followed by the Early Church and has been practiced up to the present. Within the Pentecostal church the importance of meeting the physical needs of the sick is evident by the belief in and practice of divine healing. We earnestly believe that deliverance from sickness is provided for in the Atonement and is the privilege of all believers. Therefore, our understanding of the Christian responsibility for caring for the sick traces its origin not only to the earthly ministry of the Good Shepherd and His apostles, but is found in the doctrine and practices of the Assemblies of God.

COMPASSION AND PASTORAL CARE

The ministry of caring for the sick is a time-honored practice of the church and an act of agape love exemplified by Jesus’ compassion for those who were suffering. If we desire to increase the effectiveness of our hospital visits, we must seek to exemplify the same traits of compassion, agape love, and empathy that characterized the ministry of the Jesus.

EMOTIONAL AND SPIRITUAL PREPARATION

A fourth area that is needed in making meaningful hospital visits is the minister’s emotional and spiritual preparation. It is important that you know yourself to be an effective caregiver in the hospital setting.3 Included in knowing yourself is knowledge of your role as a minister, your emotions, mortality, and faith. For example, in respecting a patient’s point of view, it is important that we avoid clinging to the status given to us by patients, but show our willingness to come alongside the patient and to have a relationship that is to and for the person.

As pastoral caregivers we should anticipate that some of our visits with patients and relatives will be exhausting and draining. It is essential therefore, that we know our emotional limits and avoid allowing our irrational emotions to gain control. In situations involving death and dying, it is vital that we have resolved our own issues concerning death and grief and are able to cope with these issues in a manner that will help the bereaved.

It is critical that we are grounded in our faith so we can respond to questions about healing, suffering, and forgiveness that are raised by patients and relatives. Although the hospital room is not the place for theological arguments, there is a need for pastors to respond to these issues based on their knowledge of God, the Bible, and their church’s doctrine.

THE VISIT

Having examined some ways to increase effectiveness in hospital visitation, here are some helpful hints for pastoral visits to hospital patients.

Dos

Shape the tone and substance of your conversation from cues, verbal and nonverbal, offered by the patient. Listen attentively and be empathetic. Take notice of what is not said as much as what is said. Let the patient know he or she can talk about sensitive subjects. Offer to leave the room if medical personnel enter to perform a procedure unless requested to stay. Share Scripture and ask patients if they have special needs as you prepare to pray. A gentle touch on the hand or cheek lets a patient know you care. If you have not previously met the patient, ask permission.

Don’ts

  • Don’t be insulted by a patient’s words and attitudes or register shock at a patient’s appearance.
  • Don’t offer false optimism about a patient’s recovery or participate in criticism about the doctor, hospital, or treatment.
  • Don’t touch equipment even if requested by the patient, or sit on the patient’s bed.
  • Don’t tell the patient unpleasant news including your troubles.
  • Don’t whisper when talking to relatives or medical staff in the patient’s room.
  • Don’t break hospital rules or violate confidentiality issues.
  • Don’t awaken a sleeping patient unless the nurse approves.
  • Don’t help patients get out of bed or give food or drink without the nurse’s approval.
  • Don’t assume a comatose patient cannot hear.

While the above lists of dos and don’ts are not inclusive, they contain the primary hints that will enhance the quality of our hospital visitation. For more helpful hints, consult the resources mentioned in the endnotes.

Through the application of the above ideas and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, our ministry to the sick can become more effective.

 If you or a loved one is in the hospital and would appreciate a visit and prayer from the pastoral staff, contact Pastor Mark Papendick and he will make sure that one of the pastors visits to offer their presence and spiritual support for the health issues you are facing

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vallejo@graceunconditional.com