Recently I have been noticing the absence of “caregiver” in the protocol of many ministry leaders today. I believe this is a huge mistake.
Replacing the important caregiver role with other leadership responsibilities is short-sighted. Whether you are a pastor, ministry director for a faith-based organization, or elder in a church, if you do not value the role of a caregiver, you are missing a big opportunity.
In churches both small and large the staff role of “visitation pastor” (someone who visits the sick and dying) is being eliminated, with no further thought given to who might care for those suffering. Many pastors may telephone a patient the night before an upcoming surgery. Some might even have the secretary send a card. May I say THAT IS NOT ENOUGH!
Jesus spent time with sick and dying people. He particularized them. He gave attention to them. He often healed them. Unless you are a leader who has more followers than Jesus, then do what He did.
Jesus knew one of the best ways to invest his time was to give to people who most needed His help. A residual effect of this was the spreading of the Good News of Jesus by those who were helped.
As I look back on five decades of pastoral ministry, the most strategic use of my time has been to be with people in their time of hurt and need. It has trumped my best sermons and planning meetings – hands down!
If you are a leader and are too busy to give time to those who are sick, hurting and dying, you are simply too busy.
If you are a Senior Pastor and still have someone on your staff who carries the “old fashioned” title of “visitation pastor,” I challenge you to spend some of your time with the sick and dying yourself. It will help prevent you from getting out of touch with real people and will help you to be like Jesus.
Even at the height of Chuck Swindoll’s church ministry, he continued to do visits in hospitals – not because he had to but because he knew it was necessary to “keep it real” (his words).
How long has it been since you have gotten to a hospital early before one of your people is wheeled off to surgery just to hold their hand, read Scripture, and pray with them?
When was the last time you sat in the family waiting area with the spouse of a patient who was having surgery – staying with them until the surgeon came out to give the results?
Has it been a while since you dropped in on a precious man/woman who now lives in an assisted living facility but used to have such a vital role serving in your organization?
Yesterday I turned 70. Today my 44-year-old daughter is in a Chicago hospital receiving her first round of treatment for Stage 4 cancer. Thankfully, the care and attention she and our family has received from the staff and people of Immanuel Church has been over-the-top life giving. It’s made an astounding difference!
And it made me wish everyone in every church would receive that kind of prioritization.
Someday, before you know it, it may be you being wheeled from your room to the operating room for surgery. And you will understand this need.
One of the very best opportunities to love on people and thus to be like Jesus is to be present at those portals of opportunity. Don’t blow away these moments by being too busy with other ministry-related tasks.
So . . . sometime before Easter, I challenge you to leave work, turn off your phone, and forget about that new ministry plan. Block out whatever you need to go and be Jesus for someone who is waiting and open to you and to Jesus.
This is always a strategic moment for ministry.
She might not ask you to come.
He might not expect you to show up.
But your simple presence may be exactly what they need for the next part of their journey. Their spirit will be lifted. And you will leave knowing that you have done the “Jesus thing” to do. That will bring a fresh smile to your soul.