Cheer in the Care Center
A tiny church with no musicians develops a successful care center outreach program.
It’s so boring here on weekends,” Merlyn complained. “Nothing ever happens then.”
When my friend Karole told me about Merlyn’s remark, my heart went out to her. Merlyn lives in the nursing home in Kahoka, Missouri, the town where I attend church. How many others in that care center felt the same way? How many of them didn’t even have a friend like Karole to come and visit now and then?
“I know people who have a nursing home ministry in other towns, and it can be a real blessing,” Karole confided. “Do you think the Kahoka Church would be interested in doing a monthly program for the residents of the care center?”
We were interested, but we had a problem: Our church is very small. We rarely have more than ten people attending services on Sabbath—and we don’t have any musicians in regular attendance. Although we felt willing, we did not know what to do or where to start. The thought of starting such a ministry without musicians and with so few volunteers felt daunting!
Karole promised to ask around for ideas, and in her research she discovered the Sonshine Society, a non-profit, non-denominational organization that promotes care center ministry by recruiting workers and providing training and materials. Among the many resources offered are two different large print hymnals with accompanying soundtracks on CD. The recordings include both instruments and voices, and the songs are played a bit slower and in a lower key than most conventional church music, making it is easier for residents to sing along.
The Sonshine materials were just what we needed to get started. Now, we look forward to our program every month. We start with prayer and a short Bible reading. Next we have our song service: usually about ten songs interspersed with inspirational stories and poems. The residents really enjoy singing along.
Before closing with prayer, we ask for special prayer requests. Afterward, we enjoy visiting with each person. We generally have 20 or more attendees, which is about one third of the residents. It is such an encouragement to see their faces light up when we arrive. One Sabbath as we came in, a sweet lady clapped her hands. “Oh, you are here! I knew this was the day the singers came.” We love our afternoons at the care center!
The Sonshine Society reports that at least two million people currently live in care centers, and projections show that over 50 million current United States residents will spend their final days in a nursing home. As we take the closing message of the gospel to “every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people,” we should not neglect those hidden away from society in their hour of greatest need. Revelation 14:6. Most nursing home residents have had to reduce their material possessions to what fits into three dresser drawers. Sometimes this happens in a matter of days. They now know what “temporal” means and are ready to listen to things eternal.
If our small group can do care center ministry, anyone can! Already our example has inspired the other two churches in our district to start their own care center ministries. We’re so glad! We encourage you to get started in this ministry as well. We found out that it’s easy—and the audience is so appreciative. What’s more, we know that our ministry makes Jesus’ heart glad, for He told us, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me.” Matthew 25:40.
Beverly served as bookkeeper for Mission Projects International for 15 years. She helps proofread Mission Projects magazine and looks for ways to minister in her daily life.
YOU CAN, TOO!
The Sonshine Society aims to see a consistent Christian witness in every care facility in North America. You can order their reasonably-priced materials by phone at (425) 353-4732; or download the order form at www.sonshinesociety.org and mail it to PO Box 327, Lynnwood, WA 98046-0327.
Once your care center ministry is established, consider acknowledging birthdays and holidays with a card, a gift or a special song. For example, at Christmastime last year the Kahoka group gave each attendee a gift bag with small comforts such as lotion and chap stick; and they always acknowledge birthdays with a song and a card. As appropriate, spiritual literature could also be shared.