Is God Calling You to Spiritual Caregiving?
Compelled by the Gospel, PPL equips Presbyterians to champion human life at every stage
By Mrs. Amy Scherschligt
PPL Board Member
It’s hard not to notice the graying of our population. In less than two decades, the graying of America will be inescapable. Older adults are projected to outnumber kids for the first time in U.S. history. (Census.gov) Many care facilities are being built to meet this demand in my community, and likely in yours, too. For seniors living in them, life can be lonely. Some studies show that up to 60 percent of do not have regular visitors.
“For these precious souls, life in a nursing home can be a sad, lonely existence. Their basic needs are being met — food, shelter, medical care, and so on — but their thirst for love and fellowship goes unquenched.”(1) Some of them are what have been termed “elder orphans” — men and women who have no surviving spouse or family members to visit them at the facility. This gives new meaning to James 1:27 “Real, true religion from God the Father’s perspective is about caring for the orphans and widows who suffer needlessly.” (The Voice)
Nursing home ministry is a wonderful opportunity for your church to go on a “search and rescue“ mission for those lonely souls. Some will know Christ, some have fallen away and others may have never received Him by faith. “As Christ loved us, so we are to love one another in Him.” (John 13:34).
For many years Family Chaplain Jim Roper of Sacramento, CA has led weekly worship and devotionals in a half dozen care homes. It has given him many opportunities to build relationships and share the Gospel.
“We are members of one another in Christ; we belong to one another to the same extent we belong to Christ,” said Jim. “And we are to minister to one another to the same extent we receive Christ's ministry. This is a clearly defined call, unlike our call to love others in the world, that is, non-believers, including our enemies. Our "one another" relationship is uniquely ‘in Christ.’”
Jesus prayed about that purpose in John 17:22-23 "The glory which You have given Me I have given to them [the church-believers], that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me."
“Thus, when we show love to the elderly who are not in Christ we are fulfilling the Great Commission. But when we show love to the elderly who are ‘in Christ,’ “ Jim continued, “our oneness-relationship that Jesus prayed for becomes realized. We are then practicing the "one-ness" that exists in the Trinity. At that point those we love "become" our loved ones.”
Presbyterians Protecting Life values God’s gospel, championing life at every stage and equipping God’s people to live out their Biblical life-affirming worldview. Spiritual Caregiving in senior care facilities is a loving and practical way to carry out this value. It is a way to build relationships and give Christ’s compassion to a vulnerable people group. This can be through regular one-on-one visits to listen and engage in meaningful interaction. You might start a book club, bring arts and crafts to make or take along your small pet for a visit. Or it can be by leading a small group Bible or leading worship services to anyone in the facility.
PPL’s Administrative Director Marie Bowen suggests it can be as simple as bringing your children to them for a visit.
“The very presence of young children and teens is like an infusion of joy,” she told me. “A church that forges a bond between families of children/teens and their local assisted living places ....is a huge blessing to these elderly individuals.”
Is God calling you to love and serve our graying population living in care homes? We’d love to hear from you and help you along the way. In the meantime, here are some places to start:
Pray and ask God to guide you every step of the way
Ask for your pastor’s blessing and insight
Invite church members to come to an exploratory meeting
Form a Life Team
Read Second Forgetting: Remembering the Power of the Gospel during Alzheimer’s Disease by Benjamin Mast, 2014