Heritage Mission: Loving the Lonely in Care Facilities

by Rev. Dr. Michael Niebauer on August 04, 2023

Even to your old age I am he, even when you turn grey I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.

Isaiah 46:4

I am pleased to announce the launch of Heritage Mission, a new initiative training leaders to start new churches in nursing homes and assisted care facilities. These facilities are a significant and largely unreached mission field in the United States. Millions of Americans live in these facilities, and around 7 out of every 10 Americans will spend a least a portion of their lives in one. Many of these residents receive few visitors from outside of their home. It is estimated that 60% of nursing home residents never receive a single visitor. While larger and denominationally affiliated facilities often employ chaplains to oversee spiritual care, an overwhelming number of smaller homes lack the financial resources to provide any Christian ministries.

Over the past decade I have helped start four congregations in nursing home and assisted care facilities in Chicago and Central Pennsylvania, all of them with little to no Christian presence. Over time I have developed a simple way to equip clergy and lay leaders to start new churches in these homes by facilitating a brief morning prayer service and ministering to and alongside of residents. These congregations have proven to be a strong training ground for lay leaders and an easy way for churches to greatly expand their missional reach. Through the years I have seen a number of people become Christians just months before dying, and have seen those who had long ago turned away from Christ turn back to Him in their waning years. I have seen residents hear the Gospel preached to them for the first time in decades. Most of the churches I have started have been the only church community available to residents.

My goal over the next three to five years is to start 15 of these churches throughout the country. This initiative will have three key components:

Training and Networking. As I develop contacts interested in starting nursing home congregations, I will conduct local trainings for interested clergy and lay leaders, showcasing the pressing need for new ministries and the unique joys of ministering amidst some of our country’s most vulnerable.

Resource Development. I am developing a list of resources and training materials to aid in the growth of nursing home churches. These will include practical resources, such as templates for weekly bulletins, newsletters, and lists of suggested worship songs. It will also involve pastoral resources such as guides for evangelism and best practices for preaching.

Ongoing Coaching. I will provide ongoing teaching, training, and pastoral support for leaders of these new churches through monthly coaching calls.

Over the past few months, I've consistently felt the Lord's calling to help raise up more nursing home congregations. Each time I visit one of our nursing home churches, I am overwhelmed by the deep needs of the residents, the incredible opportunities to share the Gospel, and the dearth of people ministering in these homes. I have become convinced over the past few years that this is a mission field in which the harvest is plenty, but the harvesters are few.

My hope is that as many people as possible would recognize the pressing needs and incredible missional opportunities that exist in care facilities around the country and, most likely, in their own neighborhood. I invite anyone from Christ Our Hope to consider partnering with me in this mission.

If you would like to see a new worship congregation started in a nearby care facility, please reach out to me. This invitation is open to clergy and laity alike. I am also available to lead in person trainings for those who can gather a team of potential leaders.

I have been blessed to receive an MPP Grant and a Matthew 25 Grant to help kickstart this new mission. My goal, however, is to offer my training, resources, and coaching for free to those who cannot afford it. As such this mission will require the generous support of individual donors. You can find a link to give below.

Finally, I invite your prayers. Pray for those residents of care facilities that have no one to visit them, no one to preach the Gospel to them, and no one to worship alongside of them. Pray that that the Lord of the harvest would send a generation of leaders to reach this most vulnerable population.

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