Editor’s note: Today, we continue the series titled “Ask Karen.” CTA’s volunteer expert, Karen Kogler, will answer one of the most pressing volunteer-related questions facing church leaders in 2017. If you have a question you’d like to ask Karen, just post it in the comments section!

Question: Our pastor has a lot on his plate right now, so I told him I would recruit some volunteers to help with hospital and nursing-home visits. What kind of volunteers work well in this kind of a role? Which personality qualities are best?

Answer: Imagine you’re in the hospital for an extended stay. What would you want from a visitor? I’d want someone with sensitivity, empathy, and a good listening ear; someone whose faith could handle it if I’m angry with God about my suffering; someone who could share appropriate words from Scripture, who could pray for me and share the Gospel. I’d look for the same traits in a nursing-home visitor.

Your church will probably have additional requirements for these volunteers, too. They’ll be working independently, with vulnerable people, doing the type of work often done by the pastor. At a minimum, they need to be very reliable and respectful of confidentiality.

You may consider having potential visitation volunteers accompany the pastor on the visits at first. This can serve as both an audition and a sort of “on-the-job” training. Volunteers can begin by observing and then start assuming more responsibilities in the visits until they are comfortable and the pastor has a good idea of their strengths and abilities.

Going along on a visit is also beneficial when you or the pastor sense someone has the right gifts for this ministry, but the volunteer is unsure. Coming along as observer may help the volunteer decide if God is calling him or her to this type of ministry.

Now, if I may take a moment on my soapbox, let me recommend all pastors take a volunteer with them on all nursing-home and hospital visits.

As I’ve watched my parents age and become frail, I’ve noticed a rapid increase in residential care facilities in our community. We’re living longer, our overall population is older, dementia is increasingly common, and adult children are less likely to live near their parents. Residents of these facilities need visitors who can accept them as they are, engage in appropriate ways, be a highlight in their day, and, most important of all, share Jesus with them.

This also applies to the frail seniors still living at home, being cared for by their spouse, adult children, or a hired caregiver. In fact, it’s the stretched-too-thin caregivers that likely need visitors the most.

No pastor can visit all these people. But the body of Christ—trained and sent—can.


Do you have a question for Karen? Post it in the comments section and you may see it appear in the next edition of “Ask Karen.”


You are welcome to copy this article for one-time use when you include this credit line and receive no monetary benefit from it: © 2017 CTA, Inc. Used with permission.

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