How to do Nursing Home Ministry (plus advice for musicians)

With eight years of experience in sharing music at Nursing Homes I will share with you some of the important things I have learned along the way to be more effective at serving those in nursing homes. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Love People Well!

“Love the person you are with in the moment.”

This ought to be everyones mission statement! This is certianly the heart of Jesus and is his master plan to change the world! Every act of love sends out ripple effects into the world that will effect and transform hearts and lives. Make it your aim to live with an open generous loving heart. That’s what we are here for. Change the world, one person at a time, one act of love at a time.

There is a true story about someone who decided to pay for the persons coffee behind them in the drive thru at a busy coffee shop. The person who received a free coffee then decided to pay for the persons coffee behind them. This went on in an unbroken stream for six hours!

Need some inspiration on loving people well and seeing each person with the heart of Jesus? Watch this testimony of Todd White:

Respect Your Elders

Sometimes I wonder what to call them. Is the term “elderly” respectful enough? “Nursing home residents” seems so impersonal and cold. My point is that there is a great evil in our culture in that we dishonor and disrespect our elders. They are often deemed as worthy of our pity and many have come to think they have outlasted their usefulness. This is evil and attitudes like this stain the soul of the one who thinks them.

Our elders deserve our respect. Honor them well.

Give Them Your Very Best

Loving people well means giving them our very best. If you are a preacher, prepare a message that you’d be willing to give on television or to a million people. Make it count. Pour your heart out.

The Bible says that in whatever you do do it as unto the Lord. How would you serve Jesus Christ himself?

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Advice for Musicians:

This is not about you. They didn’t come to see you. You came to serve them. Forget about your ego and all the songs that do not serve them well.

Song choice is everything!

Your original material does not serve them well. Limit the amount of original songs, or songs that they will not have heard before, to a few to none. Focus your song choices around songs that everyone will be familiar with and that will move their soul.

Choose hymns off of “most popular hymns of all time” lists. Like this one: Hymns for Nursing Home Ministry. Amazing Grace (the most loved and popular hymn) and How Great Thou Art and Old Rugged Cross are songs you must do often! Please don’t play every song the same! Find excellent and beautiful arrangements of each and every song! Take the time to make each song shine. Instead of just playing through the chords I took the time to learn this beautiful arrangement of Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus. I am so glad I did:

With “secular” songs, focus most of your choices around the most popular hits from the most popular artists from the decades that your audience will have been into listening to music (50’s and 60’s). However, don’t shy away from other decades as well. Songs that were popular when they were children will likely bring back special memories (“You are My Sunshine” is the most popular and well loved song). And who wouldn’t be familiar with songs like “The Rose” made famous by Bett Midler topping the charts for 5 weeks in 1980?

Make sure every song you choose has a positive message and have plenty of upbeat tunes!

Musicians, play your very best. Sing every note with passion and commitment.

The Importance of Story

Share some carefully thought out anecdotes and amusing stories that will bring a laugh or a smile. Meaningful stories about some of the artists of the songs you play that everyone would know go over quite well. I specialize in Johnny Cash and play his hit songs and then move into his Gospel music. I tell stories about his walk with God and his salvation story. I have read a few of his biographies to find material to share about him.

Keep track of amusing or funny things that happen in your life or family that you could share. Make it real. Be yourself, but come out of your self and be present to them as well.

Bring the fun!

I mentioned upbeat songs earlier for a reason. Many in ministry fail to understand God is fun! Their “ministry ends up being so dull and unappealing. Don’t just do hymns or spiritual songs all the time. As I am praying during a concert the Lord might lead me to do 20 minutes of secular favorites. I honestly believe this is what Jesus would do to serve the people well.

Is the whole reason you want to do nursing home ministry to serve God out of guilt or fear? Check your motives. If you are not serving out of the overflow of joy and love from and for God, then don’t bother going to “serve” those in nursing homes. If you are depressed, get well first. They don’t need you coming to be a downer. Bring the joy of the Lord.

And finally, (and this cannot be stressed enough):

Pray Always!

Paul encourages us to pray without ceasing. What this means is to keep the conversation going, recognizing and acknowledging God’s presence with you. He is here for you. Be there for him. If you trust in Christ, you have been reconciled into a beautiful friendship with God. Don’t let anything disrupt that fellowship!

I pray before and during every ministry concert I do. I pray to be led by the Spirit, to keep in step with the Spirit. I ask him what songs would be appropriate to share. I rely on him to provide the flow. He’ll tell me when it is dragging and needs an upbeat song or a change of direction. When I speak about the Lord I pray for the ability to communicate Jesus and his love well and to present the Gospel in a way it will be received well. (Be careful not to talk too much. If you are there to play music, then play music! You aren’t there to preach a sermon – unless you are – so be sensitive and respectful to those who came to hear music.)

I hope this helps! Visit our facebook page to tell me how this has blessed you, or contact me through this website.

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