I never was a fan of Valentines Day primarily because I rarely had a “valentine” to spend it with. In the chance I was “dating” it never seemed to coincide with the Hallmark Holiday. Now after having a “valentine” who doesn’t like Valentines Day, my sentiment hasn’t changed. I’m still not a fan.
One person at the nursing home yesterday felt the same way and refused a flower and card and from one of our youth. Fortunately she was an anomaly. Redeemer’s youth spent some time at the nursing home, seizing an opportunity and excuse to take the focus off youth dating and on to loving others.
Here are some thoughts:
1.) You don’t have to like it to do it every so often, but don’t forget Jesus likes it when you do
Visiting nursing homes is not my favorite thing to do. It doesn’t crack my top 10 ministry favorites. I’ll be up front about that. Nevertheless, I’m convinced it is one place Jesus would have stopped by had he come 2000 years later. He spent time with the poor, lame, sick, smelly, outcast, lonely. So if we follow Jesus, following in His footsteps is probably a good place to start. Regardless if that’s our preference. Going several times a year is really not all that hard to do.
2.) Have a mercy target
If you don’t aim for something specific, you’ll surely miss. For instance, “I want to minister to the community,” is a popular sentiment. It really is. Visiting nursing homes takes a lot of guess work out of what to do or where to go. You just show up and you’re more often than not a celebrity. If you choose a different route to display mercy, make sure you choose something specific and go for it. More often than not, we can say, “I want to show mercy, just not that way.” That is fine provided you choose A way. Most of the time, for me, the emphasis is more on “not that way” than on actually showing mercy. Mercy then remains a sentiment we soon drop.You don’t need to feel bad if you don’t like going to nursing homes. But you should ask Jesus where He’s up for sending you.
3.) Visiting nursing homes is not the only way to BEGIN to look after widows and orphans (James 1:27) but it is a START.
Just going may not change the culture, but it does bring hope to a number of people when you inquire about the residents, give hugs, and pray for/with folks.
4.) If we want to produce merciful disciples, mercy has to be both TAUGHT and CAUGHT.
If a church teaches mercy, it has to take advantage of local mercy opportunities. There are many ways in which believers can show mercy, this is but ONE of them. The best way to teach mercy is to model mercy.
5.) Youth may just end up liking it.
After we debriefed, it became clear through their stories that many of them actually liked it. They actually enjoyed it. My wife Amy has to be pried away from talking to folks at a nursing home. Some of the kids weren’t much different. You never know if something will click unless you give people a variety of opportunities (raking leaves in Fall, nursing home, food drive at Xmas, Bible clubs in apt complex). One youth said before the trip, “I like old people.” Many others came to the same conclusion after given the opportunity and almost all wanted to return. Providing a variety of opportunities may allow for youth to find their mercy niche. But we should never assume they won’t like it. I was surprised yesterday for sure.
6.) Youth often only fly when pushed out of the nest.
My wife is a better youth worker than I am. I divided our group into 3 different teams. When my wife noticed (after one room!) in her team that the youth would be content with just staying in the background, she said, “Ok, you two go, ask these questions, take these cards, and start visiting folks.” She divided her team into two other teams of two and sent them out. Sounds a bit like something Jesus would do I guess….(Mark 6:7) They were pushed out of the nest and had to learn how to fly. And some fairly introverted youth did just that. But they would have “flown”only if pushed. I let my two youth hide behind myself and the other leader, and so deprived them of a great “Jesus help me” opportunity. I’ll be ready for next time around.
We did learn a few things for next time. Don’t bring chocolate and keep my 16 month old son Cade away from the cafeteria. He became very angry that he wasn’t allowed to eat the peas on resident’s plate.