Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Dogs, Kids, and a Superstar Ministry

For many years now I have encouraged ordinary people to consider the extraordinary value of ministry to senior citizens, especially those who deal with illness, loneliness, boredom, and fear. I also explain that it is a very do-able ministry -- no outstanding skills or training is needed to serve people in very effective ways. Indeed, I tell them, "Everyone can be a star in nursing home ministry. Just show up. And, if you bring along a kid or a dog, you can be a superstar!"

Yesterday Claire and I were honored to see, in a rather unusual setting for us, how true the above statements are. We were at Brookestone Village yesterday, a nursing home and rehabilitation center on south 144th Street. Now that's not what's unusual because we are actually there once a month. It's one of our 11 regular facilities where we present our "When Swing Was King" program. No, what was different was that we were there for a Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon, one of the events that we're often invited to by the senior care facilities where we serve, but to which we almost never can fit in to our schedule. Even yesterday we had to leave early because we had a "When Swing Was King" show at another place.

But what was so cool yesterday was to see just some of the various ways people minister to seniors at that facility. There were, for instance, several who help out with providing religious services and Bible studies. (Sad to relate, however, there was only one fellow among these folks who represented an evangelical church.) There was a teacher of cosmetology who told how she brings in students to paint nails and style hair. There are volunteers who help with bingo, with organizing the jigsaw puzzles, with various kinds of crafts. There was a man who brings in his puppy to visit with residents. And there were several residents themselves on hand for the luncheon who help out with in-house services and such projects as making mats for the Open Door Mission.

And there are so many other things that one can do. Visiting. Transporting wheelchair-bound residents to events. Providing company while the resident goes through therapy. Helping with parties, meals, bingo games, playing cards, worship services, special holiday events, crafts, shopping excursions, etc.

How about providing musical entertainment, maybe a bit of magic? Of course. Helping with sing-along events. Bringing in photos of old cars. Dancing. Short skits. Reading aloud. Sharing hobbies. Bringing your kids in costume for trick or treat. Coming along with us to visit when we present "When Swing Was King" shows. And, as I mentioned at the start, bringing along Muffin or Rover for a little visit too.

Really, the possibilities are endless.

But, of course, you've got to take the steps to get involved. Again, no special education or talents are needed to do nursing home ministry. But you do need eyes that are perceptive enough to see the needs there...a heart willing to sacrifice a bit of time...and hands that can bring the touch of Christlike compassion to lonely, hurting people.

So, what do you say? Might there not be a superstar role waiting for you to play in ministry to seniors?