since the year 2000. And if you're involved in such a ministry, I'd like to share some thoughts with you on how to most effectively serve our Savior in facilities that are, in theory at least, spiritually neutral.
If you are a Christian who wants to focus exclusively on comforting the elderly without
evangelizing anyone, then I don’t imagine any of this will be of interest to you. But if you’re here to spread the Gospel, advance the kingdom and rejoice
with those who are already His, I hope you’ll find these thoughts useful.
First things first
The most important step is to pray for the people we’re witnessing to … for the wisdom to recognize opportunities … for guidance in what to say and do to reach these people ... and for a responsive and obedient heart.
Sometimes we volunteers will pray together – what a wonderful and encouraging way to re-energize our efforts!
Bringing Jesus up
Some volunteers like to build a relationship before embarking on the spiritual – and
that’s fine. Others prefer to cut to the chase as early as possible.
There are many ways of doing it, of course – just as there are in the outside world. Let's look at a few possibilities.
Use a resident’s comment to interject a favorite Bible passage. One of my favorites is “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).
Once in a while you’ll get a great surprise. Not long ago, I started reciting this passage to a new resident who was losing her eyesight. I faltered as I so often do, and was amazed when she completed it for me, word by perfect word. What joy to stumble across a sister in Christ in this way!
That’s admittedly unusual. But at the very least, such quotes will make it easier to bring God into the conversation at hand – addressing topics ranging from why He allows suffering to what we must do to be saved to how this life is a blink of an eye and the best is yet to come for His children.
Talk about Christ in your own life. That might mean describing an experience that would have destroyed the “old”you, but was a cause for rejoicing for the you of today, transformed as you have been by Jesus Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit.
It might mean bringing up a great message you heard in church last week, or a lecture you’re going to this Saturday or a secular TV program that angered you by denying the existence of God or the divinity of Christ.
Ask for permission. A fellow volunteer suggests simply asking residents for permission to share your testimony. "May I tell you about the difference Jesus Christ has made in my life, and why?”
Offer to pray for him or her. What a segue this can be into the power of prayer – and at some point, into the attributes and character of our sovereign God, as He has revealed Himself in the Bible.
Search out and address an area of particular interest. God has something to say about virtually every aspect of our lives, right? Spend some time finding out what’s important to a particular resident, and then bring Him into it.
For instance, do you visit someone who’s distraught over her fading beauty? Maybe you could gently move the conversation to the spiritual by commenting on how your own passion for makeup and hairstyles was squelched by Jesus telling us to consider the lilies of the field – and how much better life is now that your focus is on enhancing your eternal eyes.
Or perhaps you’re visiting a younger unbeliever who’s convinced that science has made God unnecessary. But you know there’s tons of evidence that “In the beginning, God.” If you’re not already immersed in the subject, check out some of the suggestions in my library.
Issue an invitation to an upcoming event. Some facilities are gracious about allowing
Christians to host Christ-glorifying activities. "My" nursing home, for example, welcomes a full menu of monthly non-denominational services and works hard to bring as many residents as possible into each one.
If the same can be said of "your" facility, be sure to invite the residents you call on to attend any or all of these events – and feel free to come to them yourself, for fellowship, edification, and a chance to strengthen your bonds with the residents.
NEXT: Sharing the Gospel