Mailbag

The Mailbag: Nursing Home Ministry Questions

I recently received some questions about nursing home ministry, so I thought I’d put all the answers I’ve given in the past in one post so they’d be handy.

Originally published January 22, 2018:
The Mailbag:
Men attending women’s Bible study class at nursing home

A female relative of mine teaches a women’s Bible study at a Catholic nursing home (my relative is a Protestant Christian). Sometimes, a male resident or two – none of whom are saved – will wander in and attend her class. Occasionally, one of them attempts to correct her according to Catholic doctrine. Even though she’s not technically teaching “in the church” (1 Timothy 2:12) she’s uncomfortable with men attending the class, as well as with having to biblically correct their unscriptural Catholic doctrine. On the other hand, she shares the gospel every time she teaches, and she doesn’t want to turn away anyone who might receive the good news and be saved. What should she do?

I love it when Christians think deeply about issues like this. It is encouraging to interact with godly people who want to be obedient to Christ, and it pushes me to desire to obey Him better myself.

Foreword:

Just to lay a quick foundation for my answer to this question, it needs to be understood that people who currently believe and practice Catholic doctrine as it is written in Catholic documents are not saved. There are numerous unbiblical beliefs Catholics hold to (which I will not go into right now because that’s beyond the scope of this article) but for the purposes of understanding my answer, in a nutshell, the Catholic religion does not teach salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (in fact, Catholicism anathematizes {condemns to Hell} anyone who teaches this), works must be included in the salvation process. If you believe your own good works play any part in earning your salvation, you are not saved. Salvation is all of Christ, and Christ alone.

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I am assuming that whoever invited this teacher to teach a Bible study in the nursing home knows that she is Protestant and will be teaching Protestant (biblical) doctrine. I am also assuming that the person who invited her to teach is OK with this. I would not advise someone to give the appearance of teaching in compliance with Catholic doctrine and then surreptitiously “sneaking in” Protestant doctrine. That’s deceitful and dishonest, and it would be understandable for the Catholic residents to be correcting her.

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If you’re unclear as to why having men in her Bible study class is a dilemma for the female teacher, I’d encourage you to read these two articles before moving on to my answer:

Jill in the Pulpit

Rock Your Role FAQs (this article expands on my brief comments below)

Here are my thoughts on the issue:

1. If the people attending the study are Catholic, then the female teacher is evangelizing the lost outside of the church, not discipling (teaching) Believers who are the church, unless some of those attending the study have gotten saved (the question indicates none of the male “drop ins” are saved). Evangelism falls under the “do” of the Great Commission, not the “don’t” of 1 Timothy 2:12. (see #11)

2. We always have to keep the definition of “church” in mind when we’re talking about women teaching or holding authority over men “in the church.” The gathered body of Believers is the church, not the building in which they meet. The mere fact that a group meets in a nursing home, house, park, community center, or other edifice that isn’t a church building doesn’t automatically mean a woman is free to teach men (see #7). It doesn’t automatically mean she can’t teach them either.

3. If the male attendees are being disruptive and introducing false doctrine, the teacher is well within her biblical rights and wisdom to say that this a women’s only group and exclude the men. (The same would apply to excluding any women who behave the same way.)

4. If, at some point, genuinely regenerated men begin attending the class because they want to be taught the Bible, praise God! The best case scenario would be for the teacher to go to her pastor, explain the dilemma, and have him ask one of the associate pastors, elders, or another appropriate male church member to volunteer to teach the men.


Originally published February 18, 2019
The Mailbag: Potpourri (Prayer quilts, Discouraged husband, Jesus Calling at the CPC…)

I need some direction. I’ve been teaching/sharing God’s Word at a nursing home for over two years on Sunday mornings. We have mostly women, but there are two men who join us. I was asked by the nursing home to lead our little church because they haven’t been able to find any men willing to do it. That’s my dilemma, I know Paul said he wouldn’t allow a woman to teach men, I don’t know how to handle this. I myself am not part of any other church, so I don’t have a pastor to help. I’ve reached out to some churches, but no one is getting back to me. Since we can’t find a man willing to lead, am I okay to keep doing what I’m doing? 

That is quite the dilemma! Let me see if I can help.

You started your e-mail by saying, “I need some direction,” so I hope you’ll be open to some direction that’s in a bit of a different direction than the one you’re asking about.

It’s wonderful that you’re wanting to help out at the nursing home and teach God’s Word. We need more women in mercy ministries like this, and I’m sure you’re a joy and a blessing to the ladies. But I’m afraid there’s a bigger issue you need to deal with than whether or not to be teaching at the nursing home.

You need to find a doctrinally sound church, become a member of it, and attend and serve it faithfully. Church membership, fellowship, and service are not optional for Christians (Basic Training: 7 Reasons Church is Not Optional and Non-Negotiable for Christians).

The Bible knows nothing of unchurched Christians, and serving at the nursing home is not a reason not to be joined to a local church. You could always serve at the nursing home on Sunday afternoons after worshiping at your own church, or serve on another day. If you’re asking around at churches for someone to volunteer on Sunday mornings, this is why you’re not getting much of a response – you’re contacting churches. Pastors and their church members are supposed to be in church on Sunday mornings, not somewhere else.

I know you might be thinking that your group of ladies at the nursing home is your church because you called it “our little church”. It might be an awesome group of ladies with super close fellowship, but what you have there is a women’s Bible study class, not a church. It doesn’t have a pastor, elders, or deacons. It doesn’t have a membership, so there’s no mechanism for church discipline. Nobody is giving offerings or serving the Body. You’re not performing the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper (I hope). This is not a church.

Have you ever been on an airplane and noticed that when the flight attendant gives the safety instructions, she always tells you to put on your own oxygen mask first before assisting others with theirs? It’s good advice in this situation too. Right now, you’re disobeying Scripture by not being joined to a local church, so you’re setting a sinful example for your ladies while simultaneously teaching them that they need to obey God’s Word. Put your mask on first. Repent and join a local church. You also need to be sitting under good preaching and teaching at your own church so you’ll have something to give these ladies and to keep your own theology on track so you can make sure what you’re teaching them doesn’t veer off into false doctrine. Put your mask on first. You can’t help other people breathe if you’re passing out from lack of oxygen. Finally, joining a local church will fix the problem you mentioned of, “I don’t have a pastor to help.” If you’ll put your mask on first by finding a good church to join, you will have a pastor, elders, deacons, and lots of other men to help.

When we do things God’s way, in God’s order, most of the secondary things, like your dilemma about the men at the nursing home, tend to fall into place. Tell you what. You find a good church to join – maybe one of the ones you contacted for help (check out the “Searching for a new church?” tab at the top of this page if you need it) – get plugged in, and ask your pastor for some help with this. If he can’t or won’t help you, write me back, and we’ll go from there, OK? I’ll bet you won’t need to.


Originally published July 5, 2021
The Mailbag: Asked and Answered

Is it appropriate for a woman chaplain to teach men, evangelizing and then answering questions using the Bible to present truth in nursing home one on one or in a coed worship service at the nursing home?

I think I must have a number of followers who visit and care for those in nursing homes, because I’ve received several questions over the years about nursing home ministry. Can I just take a moment to say – thank you so much. What a blessing and an encouragement you must be to those precious ladies and gentlemen.

Let’s unravel your question just a bit because there are several issues at play:

First of all, should a woman even be a chaplain? I don’t want to give an across the board “no” because “chaplain” is such a catch-all term these days, and different organizations (hospitals, prisons, the military, nursing homes, etc.) probably all have different job descriptions for their chaplains which may or may not require a woman in that position to violate Scripture.

But if I were asked, “Should women be chaplains?” and I had to give a yes or no answer, my answer would be no, for the simple reason that most lost people (or even Christians) aren’t going to differentiate a chaplain from a pastor. To them, a chaplain is just a pastor who works in a hospital (or wherever) instead of a church. And it’s unbiblical for women to be pastors, so you don’t want to give the evil appearance of someone living in unrepentant sin. Even if you’re not technically violating Scripture in your position, you appear to be.

OK, for your next several questions, it’s immaterial whether or not these things take place in a nursing home:

Is it OK for women to evangelize (share the plan of salvation with a lost person) and answer biblical questions one on one with a man? Yes. Carefully and with wisdom: Rock Your Role FAQs #11

Is it OK for a woman to evangelize (share the plan of salvation with lost people) a co-ed group? Not if she’s essentially preaching a sermon and functioning as a preacher, which is what I’m inferring by your use of the term “worship service”. Rock Your Role FAQs #11

If it’s something more akin to you hanging out with 5 or 6 friends, some male and some female, and you start sharing the gospel with them, that’s different. That’s really more like a one on one situation.

Is it OK for a woman to preach/teach in or lead a co-ed worship service? No, regardless of the venue or her title. Rock Your Role FAQs #7 Rock Your Role: Jill in the Pulpit


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

6 thoughts on “The Mailbag: Nursing Home Ministry Questions”

  1. I was visiting with a friend’s mom at a Catholic nursing home and also visited those in the rooms around as well (I asked them first if they’d like me to sing some hymns and read the Bible). I brought my hymnbook and would sing and others in the hall heard. I shared Christ with several, one with tears streaming down her face as she held her rosary, telling her that it is not Mary that will get her to heaven nor her works. I shared truth with a nun who died a few days later. But then I shared Christ with a fairly young but bedridden school teacher/nun, the next week I was asked if I was “the one who sings hymns to people.” I said yes. Then I was asked if I was the “one who read the Bible.” I said yes. Then I was told it was Catholic and not to come back. So many trapped in Catholicism at the absolute end of their lives with no access to truth EVEN when many of them there are not even Catholic. People should be warned about putting their loved ones in a Catholic nursing homes.

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      1. The article on Jennie Allen is here. Lauren Chandler is here. I haven’t done a stand alone article on Jada Edwards, but I mentioned her briefly here. Hope this helps, and I hope your pastor will be convinced not to use these materials. :0)

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