Nine Questions to Ask before Visiting Someone in the Hospital
Visiting people in the hospital is difficult. It’s tough when church members struggle in physical weakness. However, some of my most fruitful ministry has occurred in hospital rooms. When I started pastoring, I didn’t think much about the strategy of a hospital visit. I just went. In most cases, a simple ministry of presence is the key. However, there are some strategic questions to ask before visiting someone in the hospital. Perhaps these questions will help you experience more fruit when ministering to people in the hospital.
- What is the hospital and room number? I learned the hard way in my first couple years of ministry. Someone would be in the hospital. A family member or friend would tell me, “I think they are in Riverview.” After a thirty-minute drive to Riverview, I would discover the person was across town in the other hospital. I now confirm the hospital and room number.
- Can I bring someone with me? When possible, use a hospital visit to equip another person. Some people are spiritually gifted to care for others. Most people need training. Bringing someone with you is also good for accountability.
- How connected is the family to my church? I’m glad to visit random people from the community who are in the hospital, but I must give the priority of time to my church members.
- Was my presence requested? If a family wants me to visit, then I have a higher level of urgency to go see them. I can’t visit everyone, but I try to be there when people desire my presence.
- How serious is the patient’s condition? The more serious the condition, the quicker I try to get to the hospital. Also, there is no way I could be present for every outpatient procedure. However, I try to call people once they are home to check on them.
- How long do I plan to spend? I plan for about 15-30 minutes with each person. At times, I will stay much longer. You should have a flexible plan, since more time than you realize may be required. However, the goal is not to prove your love with a long visit. The goal is to make sure people receive the needed amount of care and prayer.
- Is anyone in the family not a believer? I’m always on the lookout for gospel opportunities. When I know a family member is not a believer, and they are at the hospital with a loved one, then the priority is to share the gospel with them as tactfully and lovingly as possible.
- Is my phone on silent? I’ve created a habit of stopping as soon as I enter the hospital. I check my phone for any urgent messages. Then I put the device on silent (not vibrate—that’s just as annoying as a ring). When I’m ministering to hurting people in a crisis, I don’t want my phone buzzing and ringing.
- Is the family willing to pray with me? I always ask to lead a prayer with the family. The reasons are both theological and practical. Theologically, I believe God still does miracles and can heal. Practically, I want to help people with the spiritual discipline of prayer, even in acute moments of pain.
I doubt many church leaders think strategically about hospital visits. It’s probably for the best. Our default posture with hurting people should be care, not strategy. However, these nine strategic questions should help with producing more fruit in your hospital visits.