An important part of children's ministry is visiting kids when they are in the hospital.
Normally it's for minor surgery like tonsils, but there are times when it will be something far more serious or even life threatening.
Over the years, I've visited dozens of kids in the hospital. Here are some tips I've picked up along the way.
Call ahead and arrange your visit through the parents. Ask when the best time to come is. Ask how you can best pray for and comfort their child. Ask what you should and should not say. Ask if there are any allergies, restrictions or other need to knows.
Silence your cell phone. This is a common courtesy for other patients and hospital staff.
Knock if the patient's door is closed. The door may be closed because they are changing or going to the bathroom, etc.
Bring a gift for the child. Find out what the child likes. Also keep in mind that time drags in the hospital for everyone...especially children who are usually active. Ask if there is a gift that would help them pass the time such as a game, activity book, movie, etc. Include a personal, handwritten note with the gift. Be aware that many hospitals ask you not to bring latex balloons or foods like peanuts that could be a hazard.
Know what NOT to say. A must for every children's ministry leader's library is Comforting Children in Crisis by Group Publishing. This book not only tells you what to say to children and families in these situations, but what NOT to say as well.
Encourage the child. Bring plenty of smiles with you. Being in the hospital is not a fun experience for anyone...especially children. Brighten their day.
Listen more than you talk. Remember, it's not about you...it's all about the child and family. Let them do most of the talking. They won't remember most of what you say...but they will remember that you were there for them.
Share a Bible promise with the child and parents. Share a verse that has comforted or helped you. The book I referenced above also includes verses you can share on your visit.
Pray with the child and parents. Pray for healing, peace and comfort.
Minister to the parents. Having a child in the hospital can be a stressful, draining experience...especially if it's a serious condition or extended stay. Encourage the parents. Ask them if you can bring them anything...a meal...drinks...supplies...etc. If you have another person who can stay in the room with you, ask the parents if they want to take a short break, go for a walk, get a coffee, etc. while you stay with their child for a few minutes.
Don't over extend your welcome. Keep the visit 10-15 minutes.
Respect the medical staff. If a doctor or nurse comes in the room, pause and let them do their job.
Follow up. The visit doesn't end when you walk out the door. Follow-up with the family.
Your turn. What other tips do you have for visiting children in the hospital? Share with us in the comment section below.