A Guide to The Lay Ministry Program of WO W O O DFO F RD R S S CHUR H C UR H C United Church of Christ By Rev. James Fletcher, Elder Chaplain 28

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1 A Guide to The Lay Ministry Program of WOODFORDS CHURCH United Church of Christ By Rev. James Fletcher, Elder Chaplain

2 Woodfords Church is grateful that you are considering becoming involved in our Lay Ministry Pastoral Visitation Program. The intention of this booklet is to provide you with the information you may need to answer God s call to this ministry. 2

3 INTRODUCTION Q A A L P V What is Lay Pastoral Visitation Ministry? It s a program of our church which provides care, attention, and spiritual support to persons in our church, especially the elderly and persons with special needs. This support is provided by trained laity (non-professional clergy) under the leadership of an ordained professional clergyperson who is a member of Woodford s staff. I m a busy person. What is the time commitment for this ministry? Typically, lay ministry involves the following time commitments: A once-per-month support group meeting with other lay ministers. These meetings involve hearing and discussing verbatims (narratives of visits), training in speci ic skills, and problem-solving with other lay ministers. The program offers two identical support groups. Each lay minister chooses the one which best meets his/her schedule. Here are the choices: 1 st Monday of each month at 12:30 pm or the 4 th Sunday of each month at 8:45 am. Both groups meet at the church. The groups do not meet in July. Three or four Saturday morning training events per year. These typically deal with topics of concern arising from pastoral visits. In addition to sharpening skills, these training events give credits toward ordination to lay ministry. (More on ordination follows) At least one monthly visit to the lay minister s assigned person. Typically, this person is elderly and is in his/her home or an elder care facility. It might also be a younger person with special needs. One of our lay ministers makes hospital calls. How do I become trained for lay visitation? There are three parts to the lay pastoral visitation training: A thorough understanding of this manual. It is the Bible for lay training. It is available on-line or in hard copy. Just go to our church s webpage and link on manual If you d like to talk to someone about this ministry, don t hesitate to contact Rev. James Fletcher, the Elder Chaplain and Lay Ministry Coordinator. You may reach him by or by calling the 3

4 church of ice and leaving a message. Attendance at the above- mentioned Saturday morning training events. Attendance gives credits toward ordination. Ordination is a rite which takes place during a Sunday morning worship service. By this rite, a person is set aside or ordained to do a very special task. This ancient rite of laying on of hands and prayer has very speci ic advantages to pastoral visitation: (a) It gives the lay visitor pastoral authority to administer the Sacrament of Communion to the person he/she visits. (b) It gives the visitor the af irmation of the congregation that he/she is trained and quali ied for pastoral visitation. Ordination is granted after completion of at least three Saturday morning training events, a basic understanding of pastoral visitation as presented in the training section of this manual, a one year s internship that involves actual calling in a home or nursing home, and involvement in one of the lay pastors support groups. The internship requirement is a new addition to the program. The premise is that the best way to learn to swim is to jump right in the water. Internship also allows the lay visitor to see if pastoral visitation is a good match for his/her gifts and graces. An appointment with Elder Chaplain and Lay Minister Coordinator, Rev. James Fletcher, for the purpose of reviewing the person s understanding of lay pastoral visitation and the person s understanding of his/her call to this ministry. A basic criminal background check. Because pastoral ministry is based on trust and because our church needs to be certain our elders and special needs members are protected, a background check is required. This is done at no cost to you. Do I HAVE to be ordained to do pastoral visitation? No. Neither Jesus nor Paul the Apostle were ordained and they were great at pastoral ministry. However, it is strongly suggested that you move toward ordination for the reasons previously suggested. Do I HAVE to attend the monthly support group? Yes! The give and take with other pastoral visitors is vital. The additional training helps you be more effective. Obviously, there will be times when your schedule will not permit 4

5 attendance. That s okay, but each pastoral visitor should make the support group a real priority. You will have a year s schedule of meetings so you can plan well in advance for these important meetings. Do I need my own transportation? Generally, having your own vehicle is best because the person you will visit might be distant from your home. However, it should be said that two of our lay visitors use public transportation to make calls. Not having your own transportation does not exclude you from this program. How does the program match my interests and skills with the one to be visited? Great care is taken to make sure your gifts and graces match the person you will visit. You will be consulted in the process of assigning a person to you. If the match doesn t work, changes can be made. How do I begin the process of becoming a lay minister? Review this booklet either on-line or in hard copy to see if you can make a commitment to lay pastoral visitation. Spend some time in prayer and discernment to see if pastoral lay visitation is right for you. Contact the Lay Ministry Coordinator, Rev. James Fletcher. How do I know I have the gift of pastoral visitation? Generally, if you are a people person and if you have good listening skills you can do pastoral ministry. The gifts of patience, faithfulness and the ability to hold con idences are also crucial skills. However, a sense of call to this ministry is probably most important. A call is just exactly what it implies it is a strong sense that God is calling you to do this particular ministry. Of course, any background you have in elder care is a plus. Isn t this just another volunteer program? No! Lay Pastoral Visitation is more like responding to the call of Christ to discipleship. Volunteering is, obviously, voluntary. A call is not! You don t have a choice. When God calls, you HAVE to respond. 5

6 Okay, how are we doing so far? If you feel you have a sense of what is Lay Pastoral Visitation, if you feel called to this ministry, and if you d like to respond to this call, the next part of this booklet is the actual training manual designed to get you on your way to responding to God s call. If you feel pastoral calling isn t for you, and if you feel no call to pastoral visitation, you can stop here. Thanks for considering this vital church ministry. PART ONE B S Active Listening: Active listening is the basic skill for pastoral visitation. It trumps all else! Active listening is the art of listening with your whole heart. As Christians, we might say it is the art of listening as Jesus would listen to us. As you make your calls, here are some basic skills for listening with your total self: Get comfortable with silence. We Americans are such talkers! We are not comfortable with long periods of silence. Lay pastors have to learn to overcome that discomfort. So much is communicated WITHOUT words. The way the person is dressed, the eye contact (or not), the sighs, the searching for words, etc. speak volumes. Silence does NOT mean lack of communication. Non-committal acknowledgement of the visited person s conversation. I see, Tell me more. Oh, Mmm are ways of keeping conversation going that let the person know you are still interested and that you are HEARING him/her. Paraphrasing. Using phrases such as: I wonder if I m hearing you correctly? Or: Are you saying. This helps the one visited know that you are listening and absorbing what is being said. Looking for the feelings beneath the facts. Everything we humans say carries feelings. Example: The one visited may 6

7 state this fact: My daughter is moving out of state. The statement is NOT merely a fact. Behind the statement there are feelings I ll miss her. I m scared. Or maybe:: Whew! What a relief. She bugs me no end! Getting at what is the feeling is the real goal of pastoral care. It is the spiritual level where real communication takes place. Even seemingly trivial conversation may carry tons of feelings. Make sure that a conversation about the weather is not a ploy to avoid talking about deeper needs. EXERCISE I. Read the story of the Rich Young Ruler found in Mark 10: What are the facts of the story? What are the feelings? How did Jesus get to the feelings beneath the facts? Think of a story from your life in which you had to delve below the facts to get to the feelings involved. EXERCISE II. Write a brief prayer to use before each visit in which you ask God to help you listen with your whole being. Keep it simple. PART TWO D L : D D Chances are you will be calling on elderly persons. You will need to get comfortable with dealing with the subject of death and dying. Our culture is in such denial that we ind it hard to deal with the prime reality of life. The Bible doesn t share our qualms. It is shamelessly direct about dealing with death. No one ever passed away or passed on in the Bible. Everybody died. It is frank, almost blunt, about facing the reality of death head on! In your calling, you may be asked to walk through the valley of the shadow of death with the person visited. This can happen only if you are comfortable with talking about it and only if you are comfortable thinking about your own death. One of the most dif icult parts of our Woodfords pastoral ministry program occurs when the person whom you visit dies. As a pastoral visitor, you will be called on to walk with the person to the ending of his/her life, and even beyond. A tradition at Woodfords is 7

8 that of having the pastoral visitor take part in the funeral for the person he/she visits. Some considerations in helping a person face his/her death: Nix the pom-poms. Your task as a pastoral visitor is not to cheer up the person. Death is by de inition the ultimate isolating event. If you are NOT willing to let the person talk about it, the person becomes further isolated. Sometimes simply listening is all the person wants. In our culture, few are willing to talk openly about death, let alone listen to the person dying. Often, it comes as a great relief to the person dying to ind someone who is not in a state of denial. Of course, your task is not to make the situation worse or more painful, but it is to listen and learn from the dying person. In other words, your task is to follow the lead of the person dying. She/he will tell you what is needed at the time. If he/she is not ready to talk about it, wait for another time. Keep the attention centered on the person. Watch the body language. Listen for clues from the person as to where he/she d like the conversation to go. Avoid talking about your own issues. This isn t about you. Make sure what you hear is what is meant. Ask questions for clari ication. Don t correct the person. Don t divert the conversation, particularly when it is uncomfortable for you. For example, saying something like: Oh, let s not talk about that now may totally isolate the person from EVER talking about it to ANYONE. Don t avoid the subject! Don t block feelings or minimize them. Let the person express his/her feelings. Often they are those of deep sadness and loss. Remember, this person is losing EVERYONE, you are losing only this person. Don t sti le tears by your own discomfort with them. The shortest verse in the Bible is Jesus wept. Our best help in talking to someone facing death is to gently and lovingly walk with them. Sometimes this walk will be in silence. That s okay. Sometimes we will talk as we walk. That s okay, too. 8

9 Let faith concerns arise naturally. Often we re too quick to jump in with religious cliche s or Bible quotations. Faith is the best resource for grief, but only when it arises from within the person who is grieving. And for heaven s sake (literally!) if you don t know the answer to the main faith question, Why?, just say you don t know. Remember that, according to the Psalmist, God walks with us through the valley of the shadow of death.not ahead or behind.but with us. Be willing to do the same. God s Spirit doesn t supply answers, it provides presence. Presence is better! EXERCISE: Think about a grief situation of your own. Who were the most helpful comforters? Those who offered lots of advice or those who were simply with you in your walk? Now think about yourself in the role of comforter. Were you an active listener? How did you deal with the person grieving? Finally, think about your own death. How comfortable are you about talking about it? Some considerations in helping the one visited face the loss of a loved one. The reality of lay pastoral visitation is that sooner or later, you will have to deal with grief. The person visited may have lost a spouse of many years, an adult child or a close friend. How will you deal with this person s loss and grief? See all of the previous. Don t bargain or offer alternatives to the loss. I have a dear friend who lost her son, a prominent lawyer in a small northern Maine city. She was, of course, grief-stricken beyond words. Sadly, her dearest friend, in trying to help told her that she should be thankful that she had other children. My friend told me that this comment was almost as painful as her son s death. It was like putting a dagger in my heart, she said. Her friend was essentially denying her right to grieve, and in my friend s mind, not af irming the worth of her son. In short, deal directly with the loss in question. Don t try to minimize it or change the subject. Grief doesn t yield to bargaining. It will have its pound of lesh. Grief is a journey. Often three steps backward are taken to one forward step. 9

10 Make sure you are up to the commitment it takes to journey through grief. There will be setbacks. There is no one size its all way of dealing with loss. Loss is a normal part of the human condition. Sooner or later, we ALL suffer loss. Don t try to impose the way you dealt with your loss on the person you are visiting. We all differ and we deal with grief differently. Grief is not a smooth upward curve. Plateaus, ups and downs, and detours are often involved. Wellintentioned advice or reading materials for dealing with grief are not always helpful. And when they don t work, they ADD to the grief by offering a layer of guilt. By the way, grief work is called that for a reason! It s really hard work and it doesn t yield to pat cliche s. But, our faith teaches us that eventually it yields to compassion. The word compassion means to be in the womb with. It s the same feeling a mother has for the child in her womb. That s the kind of care we are called to offer those who grieve. Offer the comfort of faith, but offer it, don t push it. Prayer, meditation, Scripture are all powerful tools for grief work, but not when offered like unpleasant medicine. Offer faith as a source of comfort by your example of compassion and your willingness to be present to the person. It is important to follow the lead of the person who is grieving. He/she will let you know how faith may help. Look for signs of denial. Often people deal with grief by NOT dealing with it. By diverting or putting it out of our minds or tossing it into the prison of our unconscious, we pretend it goes away. Grief doesn t work that way. It s very stubborn and if not dealt with, will surface in very unpleasant and unhealthy ways. Help the person see how talking about it is very healing. Remember that loss and grief are normal. Grief is so painful that often the grieving one feels as though he/ she is going mad. Here s the general rule about grief.if the person was normal before the event that caused the grief, the person will be normal after. Although it may take time to recover, recovery will occur. That is not to say that grief will not 10

11 CHANGE the person. It will, but persons who are relatively stable, learn how to deal with this change. Grief does not have a shelf life. It isn t peanut butter. There is no expiry date. Not everyone goes at the same pace when going through grief. Our culture wants us to move on and we often assign a shelf life to grief. Constantly telling a person to move on, makes the sense of loss all the more painful. Obviously, we need to move on from grief, but constantly reminding the person of that, ironically, makes it last longer. ASSIGNMENT: Using your active listening skills, think about how you would deal with this situation: Helen is in an elder care facility. You are visiting her on your regular visit. Today, you notice that she s depressed. You wrestle it out of her that she s just lost her daughter and her next words are, And I DON T want to talk about it! What do you do or say next? Can you think why denial of grief almost always leads to depression? How will you help Helen come to terms with her grief? L H C As a lay pastor visitor, you will encounter another kind of loss in the person visited the loss of health or mental or physical capacity. It might be eyesight, mobility, hearing, mental agility, etc. Some considerations in visiting people facing the loss of health or capacity: You are not there to offer medical advice. Leave medical advice, including how you dealt with your own aches and pains at the door. This isn t about you and you aren t a physician. Look for the issues below the medical issue. Here s where you come in. The person with a health issue is facing both a medical and a spiritual issue. Lack of hearing, for instance, can lead to isolation and loneliness. Loss of mobility can lead to loss of 11

12 independence and self-worth. Loss of mental facility can be utterly devastating. One of the symptoms of early onset Alzheimer s, for example, is that the patient KNOWS something is wrong, but doesn t have the capacity to name this loss. It s a double whammy! When you visit the person, seek to ind the issue beyond the medical one. Usually, it s bubbling just beneath the surface of casual talk. Realize that the family is also sick. Sickness is systematic. It involves the whole social system. It can devastate a family. Realize that the family s anxieties and stresses about the patient s illness are read like a book by the patient. Be prepared to deal with anger, fear, worry, etc. by family members. An illness can quite literally make a whole family sick. Keep your eyes, ears and heart open to family issues. Remember your active listening skills. RED FLAG: Don t take potential criticism of YOU personally. This often happens. Just because you raise issues doesn t make you their cause! As with all loss, don t minimize it. To the person who is sick, this can only add to his/her stress by belittling it. Don t maximize it. As you serve as pastor to the person who is suffering loss, help him/her look to alternative ways of af irmation. For example, an elderly man who has suffered the loss of his driving license due to his poor responses may be directed toward thinking about using alternative ways of af irming his independence such as car-pooling, regional transport, using friends and family may have some bene its. Remember, that hope is a great gift of the Spirit. EXERCISE: Think about how you d handle this situation: The person you visit has just learned she has some memory loss. Immediately, the person s adult son wants Power of Attorney. Mother doesn t know what she s doing and needs help. Besides, she s lousy at inances, he tells you. But the older daughter is the family member who has been most attentive to her mother. She is a fully capable family member and seems more the logical choice. A family feud ensues. What is your role as pastor? (By-the-way, 12

13 inances are the most common cause of family dysfunction. Sadly, struggles over inances are NOT rare.) L C As a pastoral visitor, you will probably have to deal with the loss of a relationship. For example: When the family struggles with putting mom in an elder care facility, almost by de inition there will be a loss in normal family relationships. The person you visit may lose a favorite son-in-law through divorce. Elderly persons have a particularly dif icult time dealing with change and disruption. The person you visit may ind that since he s been in an elder care facility, he doesn t see his old friends any more. The ties with his former golf buddies have been broken. What s different about relationship loss is that the person in question is still around, he/she is just no longer connected with the one visited. As a pastoral visitor, how do you deal with living loss? Some considerations for dealing with loss due to changes in relationships and connections: Look for changes in your relationship with the one visited. Is the person more withdrawn? Is it like pulling teeth to get something out of your person? Is there lack of eye contact? Explore with the person visited whether there has been any change in relationships with family or friends. Sometimes the elderly who have suffered loss of relationship with family put you on notice that they won t suffer any more pain. Perhaps a relationship has been building with you and the person is afraid that you, too, will leave them. (Incidentally, this underscores the absolutely vital need for being faithful in your visits). Look for signs of stress. Con lict and loss in relationship often lead to physical changes such as lack of appetite, malaise, drinking, over-reliance on drugs, and indifference. When relationships change, stress almost always follows. If your person is in an elder care facility, ask the staff if there have been changes. 13

14 Depression. In its classic de inition, depression is self-loathing. It is turning despair inward on oneself. The person you visit may say: I feel tired all the time, or I don t feel good about myself or I feel lonely and afraid. OR We used to be the best friends, but I haven t seen him since I came to this place. Self-blame is usually an ingredient in depression. Since depression is a tough one to heal, make sure you cultivate a relationship with the person s nurse/primary care-giver, and even his/her physician. Depression often calls for medication AND talk therapy. Make sure you are on the team. Create a schedule for regular visits. The loss of a relationship puts everything out of whack. As much as your own schedule allows, keep your visits regular so that the person trusts that your relationship will not also be lost. Contact the family with your concerns. If it seems workable, contact the family or close friends to create a plan to help the one visited keep the valuable ties he/ she has. Offer the comfort of faith. Our faith speaks clearly of the faithfulness of God s relationship to us. If it seems appropriate, direct the person visited to the powerful resource of faith. Communion, for example, which talks about our brokenness and God s grace can be a wonderful resource for healing. ASSIGNMENT: Think of a time in your life when you lost a relationship, maybe through no fault of your own. Describe this feeling using metaphors and images. (Someone once told me it was like that COPD commercial: It felt like an elephant on my chest. ) What images come to mind about your loss? Now put yourself in the shoes of the person you visit. How do you suppose they feel? Make sure that, somewhere along the line, you ve asked them! 14

15 L M A Often the loss you encounter with the elderly is a loss of connection through memory loss and illness. As our society ages, our ability to remain mentally agile is becoming more of a challenge. Most of the principles of dealing with physical loss apply to loss of mental ability. ASSIGNMENT: Take a look at the discussion of the various kinds of loss. Which apply to the loss of one s mental strength? Do you understand why Alzheimer s victims are often angry? Why would anger be connected with memory loss? Some considerations in dealing with loss of connection and memory. If you know the diagnosis, read up on it. Be aware that not all memory loss is Alzheimer s. There are many causes for connection loss. If you KNOW the diagnosis, go to the of icial website and read up on it. Remember, individuals are different. Not all dementias have the same symptoms. Individuals differ. While it is helpful to have general knowledge about the particular dementia, remember that not all symptoms apply equally. We re all different and we react differently. Don t minimize the issue. Often, the person you visit might be very alarmed at growing memory loss. This isn t the time to say, Well, I forget sometimes, too. Don t worry. Find ways to let the individual express his/her fear and concern without contributing to it. Tell me how it feels when you forget your grandchildren s names? Have you had a chance to talk to your doctor about this. Don t gloss over this concern. Use familiar faith resources. One of the most amazing experiences of my life was that of doing a Christmas service in a dementia unit of a nursing home. Nobody could remember my name or why I was there. Nearly everyone remembered the Lord s Prayer and the traditional 15

16 Christmas carols. The brain is an astounding thing. It s amazing how these long-term memories cling! Interestingly, participating in the Sacrament of Communion can trigger memory. I ve often had Alzheimer s patients say parts of the familiar liturgy with me. Involve the family, close friends and professionals. Working in tandem with the family is crucial with memory loss patients. Together you might come up with a game plan for setting up a connections. You might consider organizing a meeting with the family. Sometimes professionals (doctors, psychiatrists, social workers, etc.) who work with your person are open to your sitting in on their rounds. Check irst, of course. This would provide good insight into the person s health. At the very least, ind time to compare notes with close family and friends. Part Three THE MINISTRY OF TOUCH, PRESENCE, HEALING Appropriate Touch Touch is crucial to ministry. Many, many stories of Jesus healing involve touch. There have been studies made on the longevity of orphans who were cuddled and constantly touched. You guessed it. The orphans with human contact thrive, while those without touch have a tough time ighting off disease and tend to die much younger. Denis Butcher, in his course on Developing Caring Communities tells the story of a short movie entitled, Minnie Remembers. Minnie is an elderly woman, who is sitting in a rocking chair reminiscing about her life. Flashbacks recall her being touched by her husband, by her grandchildren, by her neighbor and by her children. The ilm ends with these painful words of Minnie: Now I just sit here in my chair. No one ever touches me anymore. They come to pay a visit and then leave; but they never really touch me. 16

17 There has been enough written about inappropriate touch to make it unnecessary to dwell too much on it. The general rule for touch is use common sense! Get permission to hug. Do it appropriately. We have been so concerned with inappropriate touch that we are now committing the sin of omission. I tend to err on the side of touch. I think I m in good company. Jesus did, too. Some considerations for appropriate/inappropriate touch. Not everyone likes to be touched. Some elders are germaphobic; (The Howie Mandel syndrome). Some have experienced inappropriate touch and are leery of touch. Many autistic persons respond negatively to touch. Some persons want to claim their personal space. Make sure you know your person well enough to give hugs. Wait for the person to initiate the touch. Persons often give clues about the need for personal touch, for example, the person says something like: I miss all hugs and passing of the peace at church. Even better, ask the person about his/her feelings about the Passing of the Peace in the church service. This will give clues to the person s feelings about touch. When in doubt, ask. Do you need a hug today? I usually hold hands when I offer prayer, is that okay? Ask irst! Cancer and illness considerations. There is something about this disease that still makes the person with cancer seem contagious. Like so many fears, this one, of course, is totally irrational. Be careful of the person s fragility, especially in the treatment process. And that goes for the elderly in general. Sometimes we are unaware of our own strength. Over stimulation. Especially during loss and severe change, often persons develop a need for more personal space. Sometimes they just need to be alone. 17

18 Be aware of your feelings. As the old adage puts it, know thyself. You ll be able to tell whether this hug is a lot more about YOUR needs than the person s need. It s okay to have it be partly about your need. Just be aware of it. EXERCISE: Think of a time in your life when someone s touch was therapeutic. Describe the experience with metaphors or images. It felt like a cool, refreshing breeze on a hot day. Now, using metaphors or images, describe and experience of being inappropriately touched: It felt like being squeezed by a boa constrictor or being slimed by a slug. Now, compare and contrast the two images and how the two types of touch felt. This will really help you intuit the difference between appropriate and inappropriate touch. Inappropriate Touch Inappropriate touch is not the opposite of appropriate touch. We often invade a person s space or bungle a hug with perfectly good motives. It s called being human. Inappropriate touch has more the feeling of power over or control over someone, like the pedophile who says I did it innocently ; I just felt he needed a hug ; or the rapist who claims, she was asking for it. No sane person asks for abuse! These are extreme examples of power over. When we deal with elders, we need to be aware that they often feel very vulnerable and sometimes distrustful. I remember visiting an elder woman once who told me that she always washed her face after her daughter left because she always kisses me and I KNOW she doesn t mean it. Be aware of your surroundings. Be aware of the effects of touch. Some considerations for dealing with inappropriate touch. Look for signs of withdrawal. Probably you don t touch if touch makes the person recoil or draw back. Sometimes the person has made a barrier between him/herself and touch bed covers, tables, furniture placed between you and him/her might be a giveaway. Look for body language. Sometimes this barrier is invisible as when the body language changes when you get too close. Keep your intuitive ears and eyes open. 18

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