Introduction to A Nursing Home Ministry Handbook for Staff

Often, the staff of nursing homes, assisted living facilities, retirement homes and other long-term care settings are pressed into coordinating (and even performing) Christian religious activities, coordinating Christian volunteers and overseeing individual ministry needs of Christian residents. In the past 28+ years of full-time nursing home ministry, this writer has witnessed a desire that prevails among activity directors to genuinely meet these ministry needs of their Christian population. For these conscientious care facility staff members we provide this work as a reference and a resource to aid them.

We understand that personal religious preferences among staff vary. We also understand that, to some activity staff, the Christian perspective is not their “cup of tea.” And we all agree, that regardless of this, the needs of their Christian residents remain constant and it is for these residents’ spiritual benefit that we attempt this handbook. Therefore, the purpose of our effort here is not to proselytize. Rather, we are attempting to aid facility staff members to provide spiritual reinforcement that will actually edify, build up, and strengthen those Christian residents who bring with them to the care center all the ministry needs shared by all members of the greater Christian community.

As sincere, fervent Christians ourselves, we cannot ignore the gap that often exists between the vital Christian encouragement these residents received from their faith community when living in more independent circumstances and the authentic Christian encouragement they receive after moving into long-term care. We are sure that many care facility staff members ache with this knowledge…hence, this handbook to help them minister to these residents!

Within the scope of Christianity there is a maze of nuance and diversity. In this work we attempt to shed some light on these divisions with a view to their common ground. We will briefly look at the differences of Christian traditions, liturgy, theology and worship practices, and discuss the basic spiritual needs that each of these seek to address. There will be special attention given to the impact of aging and infirmity in this discussion.

We will look at some practical ideas for recruiting Christian volunteers (and ministers). Then, having obtained members from the Christian community around the facility to minister there, we will provide the facility staff pointers to help those volunteers to relate to their Christian LTC population.

To cap our efforts in this handbook, we will take the spiritual needs noted above and translate them into practical goals for Christian religious activities. Given these goals, we will share several tools, materials and resources available for Christian nursing home ministry which can be implemented by volunteers or the activity staff.

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