I came across this little list the other day and thought it might prove helpful for young pastors in particular. Much of this I learned from tagging along with my father-in-law to hospital visits during our summer vacations. But this is the kind of stuff every Christian can do.
Your Demeanour - - You should be humbly confident.
- the sick are already struggling to not be anxious, they don’t need you to add to their anxiety
- “pray yourself up” before meeting with them; yours is a spiritual work
- enter the room slowly, but with a smile that is full of love
- don’t let your eyes rivet on tubes and monitors... look into the eyes of the sick or the family that attends them
- hospitals are not modest or clean - just deal with it
- have some idea of what you are going to say before getting there --> a plan breeds confidence (I like to have a Psalm in mind that I have read over in advance)
Your Speech - - You should get to Christ and the Gospel.
- there is lots of time to talk about physical conditions, but not everyone has someone in their lives to remind them of Christ
- remember to speak in a calm, conversational, not-too-loud voice (this is where nervousness can kill you - getting too loud or stuttering, etc)
- have a specific passage of Scripture to read and comment on
- I like to use whatever the Lord has blessed me with recently in my own devotional time
- you do not need to read all of a passage
- admonish through the Word (e.g. “Here the Psalmist says that God’s voice can still a war or move a city... how glad I am that our Saviour is that strong. He is still that strong and will be for you.”)
- keep your admonishment simple, and clear... no need to “preach the whole counsel” today; avoid obscure thoughts or things that do not relate to suffering
- don’t shy from asking simple questions that remind them of Jesus
- don't shy away from asking difficult questions. The very ill often want to speak of death, their salvation, heaven, their assurance, etc. Often some of the sweetest fellowship happens when you ask a saint if they are prepared to die.
Your Timing - - You should serve the sick, not your schedule (whenever possible).
- ask family and/or medical staff when the sick one is at their best
- if you visit in hospital, avoid shift changes (frustrates nurses) and mornings (when much lab work, etc completed)
- if visiting in hospital, it is great to tell duty nurse who you are (“I am an elder/deacon from Grace Fellowship Church, their home church”) and who you plan to visit
- usually 5-10 minutes per visit is good for those recovering from surgery or suffering from serious ailments (you have to be careful here to not appear rushed like you have other things you would rather be doing, and not to overstay a welcome. People are usually quite tired when very sick and long visits only wear them out - you become counter-productive)
- you may stay longer for new births, etc... again, offer to leave within 10 minutes and stay if they beg you to do so
- the dying: you will get to know when things are drawing near to the end; I always pray that I might be there as they pass, if not, be ready to stay for long seasons to minister to the family and to be with them afterwards
- prior to surgery is a great time to pray with someone
- day of surgery, give plenty of recovery time
Your Prayer - - To the point, to the cross and for their good.
- keep it simple
- keep it short; don’t be offended if a person duped up on morphine falls asleep!
- pray the Gospel
- pray the Truth you have taught/admonished with
- intercede for what they need most: Christ
- pray believingly
Your Person - - A live body visiting is better.
- emails are okay
- a card is better
- a live visit is best
- being there communicates love: you have taken time out of your busy life to come and see them
- it will cost you gas, time, parking, etc. (If you do a lot of hospital visits, we will gladly reimburse your parking!)
- make sure you don’t stink (body, breath, etc)- odours take on a new life to many sick folks
- take a Bible with you
- usually holding a hand is a nice gesture; some kind of human touch tells the sick they are not disgusting
- do not sit on bed of sick unless invited
- try to stand still, not wiggle around or move quickly (just think how you feel when you have a flu)
- dress appropriately (I have a theory that if you are dressed “better” you will get more help from hospital staff and also subtly communicate more confidence to the sick)
Your Optimism - - The Lord can do things
- the Lord can use you in the lives of staff, family members, other patients
- the Lord may use you to greatly encourage a fellow saint
- the Lord may answer your prayer and heal someone. Why not risk praying.
A Few Other Things
- read up on their medical condition
- be careful of what you ask female patients
- a little gift of flowers is always nice