Much of our focus for this year-long, every-member mission trip has been outside the walls of the church, but I don’t mind admitting that much of the time, perhaps even most of the time, the members of First Baptist Church bring heaven to earth for those who are inside the walls.
For example: at last month’s deacons’ meeting I led a training session on how to make a hospital visit, thinking especially about those times our own members are in the hospital. I emphasized that the word deacon literally means “minister,” and then I led them through these ten steps:
Making a hospital visit: suggestions for deacons
1. Park in the visitor’s parking lot. Go in the front entrance. Ask about the person at the information desk. Get a room number and follow directions to the floor.
2. Ask at the nurse’s station about visiting Mr. Jones in Room 555. If they ask about your relationship to the patient say, “I’m his minister” (the literal meaning of the word deacon).
3. Sanitize your hands before going in. If the doctor or nurse is in the room, wait in the hallway while they do their work.
4. When you enter the room, say, “Hello, Mr. Jones. I’m a deacon at First Baptist Church. I’ve come by for a visit.”
5. Be considerate. Don’t bounce on the bed. Don’t come in with the smell of gas on your hands or strong perfume that may be unsettling. Don’t say to the person, “My uncle died of what you have” (that suggestion from Bob Higgins).
6. Limit your visit to 5-10 minutes. The person is not there to entertain visitors, but to try to get well. A five minute visit will feel longer if you take off your topcoat, pull up a chair and sit down.
7. Try not to ask, “So, how are you?” Instead let them lead the conversation. If they need to talk about something, they will. If they don’t, they’ll talk about the food in the hospital.
8. Say, “I’d like to pray with you before I go. Is there anything in particular I could pray for?” Hold a hand if you can and then gather up the things they have mentioned and offer them up to God in a short, simple prayer. Leave a moment of silence after the “Amen.” Let them be the first to speak.
9. When you have finished the visit stand up and say something like, “I’ve enjoyed the visit. I hope to see you in church soon.” If that’s not appropriate, simply say a sincere goodbye and leave.
10. Sanitize your hands on your way out of the hospital.
The training session was well received, in fact, Lynn Turner and I got this email message from Clark Norton, one of our newest deacons, the next day.
Jim and Lynn,
Sign me up and give me some tough cookies! I live just down the street from St Francis in Midlothian but I’ll go anywhere.
Thanks again for inviting us to serve more.
Now, that’s the spirit, isn’t it? There’s a deacon who knows what the word means and who can’t wait to do some ministry. After all, if deacons aren’t going to do ministry, why ordain them?
May your tribe increase, Clark, and maybe on one of those hospital visits you will not only visit our members, but ask at the nurse’s station if there is anybody else on the floor who could use some cheering up.
Then you really will be bringing the KOH2RVA!