Here is a pattern that has been helpful for me to follow. I begin by asking the person about themselves and about their condition and the kind of treatment they are getting. Then I ask about their family, specifically about who has been caring for them during this time. Then in some way I try to turn the conversation to topics of a spiritual nature. A helpful way to this is to ask how you can pray for them. The Holy Spirit will often open an opportunity through this question and allow you to talk about eternal issues. Ask them who they are struggling. How are they relating to God through all of this? The most important theological question to ask, if appropriate, is, "Are you ready to die and stand before God?" We ask questions so we can better learn about their situation and how they are handling it. This helps us to better know how to care for them both physically and spiritually. Good, thoughtful questions should lead us to talk about God and the hope we have - a hope that is only found in Christ. This is a hope we share together, both those who are sick and those who are healthy. Our questions should be sensitive to circumstances, but they should be God honoring and gospel driven in content. (30-31)
As a pastor I find myself in many rooms, hospitals, and houses visiting the sick and even dying. It is one of the major responsibilities of every pastor and one we should all take seriously. From my perspective, pastoral ministry is preaching done one-on-one; an opportunity to show in real life why Sunday's sermon mattered to them.
The ministry of visiting the sick is a constant reminder we live in a broken, fallen world. As such I am always in need of refining my skills on how to better serve those in our church and community as I seek to minister the gospel to them. Therefore I recently turned to Brian Croft's book Visit the Sick: Ministering God's Grace in Times of Illness.
Croft offers a simple and insightful guide for pastors in the art of visiting the sick providing both a theological and practical guide on how to do it well. I must confess that I have not really considered the theology behind a visiting ministry. I presume many pastors, including myself, visit because there is an expectation they should visit and because it contributes to the health of the congregation. Visiting allows the pastor to develop and build relationships. Croft offers a robust, though brief, theology of pastoral visiting.
In regards to practical advice on visiting, I suspect this is why most will tolle lege. Croft does not disappoint here. He recommends helpful passages for various circumstances to read. Such resources are a must for all pastors to have. He also walks the reader through how to visit, what to watch for, when to know you should leave, how to enter a room, how to engage the sick, the family, etc. An example of this is available above.
Overall, Croft offers a helpful book that is valuable tool for all pastors. I have been in ministry for over a decade and gained some real insight into visiting and have sought to put much of it into practice. I highly recommend it. It is brief (could be read in one sitting) and easy to read.