Ministry to people facing illness

When someone is sick, offering ministry is a natural response for Christians. We must be sensitive to effective ways to minister and need to be sensitive to some basic Dos and Don'ts when ministering to someone who is ill.

When someone is sick, offering ministry is a natural response for Christians. Yet sometimes our best efforts fall short of making someone feel better. Ministry is the overflow of Christ in our lives, but we must be sensitive to effective ways to minister.

All people who want to minister to others need to be sensitive to some basic Dos and Don'ts when ministering to someone who is ill. Consider these tips.

What to Do

  • Adhere to institutional visiting hours or reasonable hours for visiting in a home.
  • In emergencies, check in with the nurses' station. Identify yourself and follow instructions from medical personnel.
  • Make home visits by appointment whenever possible.
  • Keep visits brief as a rule. Limit most visits to 15 minutes unless asked to extend the visit or you sense a special need that requires more time.
  • Be sensitive to patients' comfort. Sit or stand at a comfortable vision level for the patient.
  • Keep all concerns that are discussed confidential. (You may need to discuss information received with your pastor.)
  • Remember that looking and listening are skills everyone needs to learn and practice.
  • Wisely use Scriptures and prayer, but be sensitive about what Scriptures you use.
  • Present a friendly and caring appearance.
  • Call the person by name and touch in appropriate ways, particularly if the person she extends a hand.
  • Be very careful around equipment in the room. Turn off your cell phone whenever you enter a hospital.
  • Ask appropriate questions, such as: "Do you feel like talking?"
  • Respect and adhere to special instructions on the door.

What Not to Do

  • Don't enter a closed door without knocking.
  • Don't bring flowers or food unless you have cleared this with family members and/or medical personnel.
  • Don't sit on the bed.
  • Don't ever tell the person being visited how sick another person you know is or about how you suffered with the same illness or problem.
  • Don't visit when you are sick.
  • Don't criticize family members, hospital services, or doctors.
  • Don't share bad news of any kind.
  • Don't tell someone that he or she looks good just to try to make the person feel good.
  • Don't move medical equipment just to get close to someone. That equipment is placed there for a reason.
  • Don't wake someone just to make a visit. If the person is asleep, leave a message, card or note to let the person know you were there.

Keep this simple rule of thumb in mind: If you have any questions about whether to visit or what to do, ask either the person who is ill, a caregiver or your pastor. Make your good intentions lead to good results.

Get tips for how to minister to families in a variety of crises and challenges with help from How to Minister to Families in Your Church.