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Why every staff pastor should make hospital visits

I’m a student pastor and I do hospital visits every week. It’s not that I have a large contingent of sick students, but I’ve realized hospital visits need to be part of every pastor’s ministry—even if you’re not in the lead seat.

It’s no secret the life of a staff pastor can be busy and demanding. With countless responsibilities, from preparing sermons and lessons to counseling church members and overseeing ministry programs, it may be tempting to assume hospital visits are someone else’s job. The sick only want to see the lead pastor anyway, right?

The Bible, however, makes a strong case for every pastor to visit the sick, regardless of his role within the church. James underscores the importance of pastoral care for the sick in James 5:14-15, stating, “Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up.” James expects all the elders—plural—of the church to be involved with the care for the sick.

Moreover, visiting the sick offers practical and spiritual benefits for staff pastors:

It creates community with church members.

When staff pastors visit the sick, it helps create a more unified and compassionate church community. This shared responsibility for pastoral care strengthens the bonds between church members and pastors, fostering a genuine sense of love and support between the leadership and membership. When your student pastor visits a senior adult, your worship pastor visits a child, or your education pastor visits a student, you see relationships form that might have never formed outside a hospital. Some of my favorite relationships with senior adults in our church started because I was able to visit them in the hospital.

It helps you grow in your pastoral skill set.

Visiting the sick offers an opportunity for non-lead pastors to develop essential pastoral skills, such as active listening, empathy, and offering biblical counsel. These skills are invaluable for any pastor, regardless of their specific ministry role. Staff pastors, while called to administrate specific roles, are pastors of the whole church. Developing these skills will help a pastor in any aspect of his ministry.

It allows you to assist other pastors.

Often, one or two pastors make a majority of a church’s hospital visits. In seasons when there are a lot of visits to make, you can serve a friend and co-laborer by helping share that load. This can serve to foster good pastoral relationships on staff and free your brother up to flourish in other elements of his ministry.

Additionally, here are four tips for hospital visits:

Set up a hospital rotation.

If you’re on a church with a larger staff, it may be helpful to schedule a hospital rotation. Our staff assigns a different pastor to cover each day of the week. This allows us to make sure every member gets visited and no one is missed.

Pray and prepare.

Spend time in prayer before making each visit, asking for God’s guidance and wisdom. Be ready to listen and offer encouragement from God’s Word. Think through ways to address theological questions that may come up such as “Why me?” or “Will God heal me?” This will allow you to provide helpful counsel without being caught off guard.

Be present and listen.

During your visit, focus on being fully present with the patient. Listen to their concerns, fears, and hopes and offer genuine empathy and understanding. Don’t make the visit seem like you’re checking off a box, but instead, show the patient you genuinely care about them.

Don’t forget the gospel.

There is no better news when you’ve found out your body is breaking down than being reminded God will one day raise our bodies up. While we pray for people and counsel them in difficult situations in the hospital, never forget the best news we can give them is not getting better in this life, but a glorious resurrection purchased by Christ that is coming for all who believe in Him. Make sure to always share this good news with visiting a lost person.

This article originally appeared at the SB Texan

    About the Author

  • Will Standridge