Nine Questions to Ask Before Visiting Someone in the Hospital

For the last two years, hospital visitation has been a challenge. That’s beginning to change, and it’s time to rethink the strategy for hospital visits.

When I started pastoring, I didn’t think much about the strategy of a hospital visit. I just went. In most cases, a simple ministry of presence is the key. However, there are some strategic questions to ask before visiting someone in the hospital. Perhaps these questions will help you be more effective when ministering to people in the hospital.

1. What is the hospital and room number? I learned the hard way in my first couple of years of ministry. Someone would be in the hospital. A family member or friend would tell me, “I think they are in Riverview.” After a thirty-minute drive to Riverview, I would discover the person was across town in the other hospital. I now confirm the hospital and room number.

2. Can I bring someone with me? When possible, use a hospital visit to equip another person. Some people are spiritually gifted to care for others. Most people need training. Bringing someone with you is also good for accountability.

3. How connected is the family to my church? I’m glad to visit random people from the community who are in the hospital, but I must give the priority of time to my church members.

4. Was my presence requested? If a family wants me to visit, then I have a higher level of urgency to go see them. I can’t visit everyone, but I try to be there when people desire my presence.

5. How serious is the patient’s condition? The more serious the condition, the quicker I try to get to the hospital. Also, there is no way I could be present for every outpatient procedure. However, I try to call people once they are home to check on them.

6. How long do I plan to spend? I plan for about 15-30 minutes with each person. At times, I will stay longer. You should have a flexible plan, since more time than you realize may be required. However, the goal is not to prove your love with a long visit. The goal is to make sure people receive the needed amount of care and prayer.

7. Is anyone in the family not a believer? I’m always on the lookout for gospel opportunities. When I know a family member is not a believer, and they are at the hospital with a loved one, then the priority is to share the gospel with them as tactfully and lovingly as possible.

8. Is my phone on silent? I created a habit of stopping as soon as I enter the hospital. I check my phone for any urgent messages. Then I put the device on silent. When I’m ministering to hurting people in a crisis, I don’t want my phone buzzing and ringing.

9. Is the family willing to pray with me? I always ask to lead a prayer with the family. The reasons are both theological and practical. Theologically, I believe God still does miracles and can heal. Practically, I want to help people with the spiritual discipline of prayer, even in acute moments of pain.

I doubt many church leaders think strategically about hospital visits. It’s probably for the best. Our default posture with hurting people should be care, not strategy. However, these nine strategic questions should help with making hospital visits more effective.

Posted on January 12, 2022


As President of Church Answers, Sam Rainer wears many hats. From podcast co-host to full-time Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Church, Sam’s heart for ministry and revitalization are evident in all he does.
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18 Comments

  • Kevin Baker says on

    I had a major surgery about ten years ago. I did feel like visiting with people for several days And the presence of tubes, ivy’s and monitors was a big distraction. This changed my visiting strategy. I drop in say hello, say a prayer and get out as quick as I can. From personal experience a short visit is better than a long one.

  • Today with the pandemic raging you should consider video chat. Also, ask if the family wants any visitors.

  • Nice tips I have used down through the years. I actually thought during this time your article would include checking hospital policy about visits due to the pandemic. Have gone to hospital and turned away because of COVID restriction. Also thought you would include wearing mask and should you hold hands or not with the family. Maybe a part 2 with COVID insights would be nice.

  • Robin A Owen says on

    I have been a pastor for 23 years, and also have had several major health issues that have required weeks in hospitals and a couple dozen surgeries. I appreciate this article, having been on both sides of the hospital visiting experience. Because of that, I never assume I know what will best support a patient and their family – I ask them how I can best support them. Prayer in person or by phone before a planned surgery, sitting with family during a procedure, visiting a day or two later during recovery – every person and family is different.

  • I realized I have to ask myself, “Why am I going?” too. Is it to make them feel better…or me? When I was in seminary I was in a group for healthy pastors where we challenged each other in different situations and scenarios. One was when I went to visit a guy in jail and they asked why I went. And my obvious answer what Jesus told us to visit those in prison. And then, it was because the guys asked me to. But the further I dug I discovered I wanted to go was because I had a rough board meeting the night before and I wanted someone to appreciate me. And a person in jail or a hospital usually did. I think I still need to visit some of the people but asking these questions internally first allow me to visit better…or correctly.

  • Your first point is important. I’ll offer a broader anecdote though. If you are going to visit at a hospital that has multiple buildings (each with a different name and numbering system) make sure you go to the right building. In our area, there is a large complex that has a General Hospital, a Heart Hospital, and a Children’s Hospital all marginally interconnected. I showed up for a patient who was having heart failure at Room # in the Heart Hospital in my clerical attire (collar) expecting an elderly woman. When I opened the door, there was a younger couple sitting there and they had a slightly panicked look when I stuck my head in. Oops! The unit clerk stated “I think she’s in the other building.”

    Imagine my chagrin.

  • Another thing regarding visits to the hospital. Some hospitals in some states still have procedures in place. Recently, my husband, Pastor John and I went to visit someone in the hospital that had recently had surgery. We were told at the front door that I could be her 1 visitor for the day. I responded that I would let my husband go in then, since he was her pastor. They then said the minister could go in once a day and the person could have one visitor once a day. Since it was late in the afternoon, we both decided to go in (separately of course) since I figured if anyone else was going to visit they would have probably come by now. Just something to think about.

  • Kimberly Brumm says on

    Thank you. I would add, make sure you know the name of the patient. I drove an hour to the hospital and did not realize the child had a different last name than the parents. Upon first request at the reception desk “We don’t have anyone here by that name.” Out to the parking ramp, (I leave my phone in the car while visiting), call back to church to find out the correct name of youth. Walk back in to the hospital to ask “Yes, they are in…” Easily got walking steps in for that day.

  • Great article! One thing I would add is to also SHARE THE WORD. Sharing scripture with church members is an opportunity to help them cling to the Lord through their trial, provide an example of turning to the Lord in difficulty, and for unbelievers they may be open for the gospel depending on their condition, or at least see that the Bible addresses them in difficult times. I cannot think of a single time in many years of ministry that someone said “No” when I asked them “Can I share some scripture with you?” before praying with them. The doctors may have the medicines to dispense, but the Pastors have the Word of God to prescribe. Here is a link to a logos verse list that may be a start of useful scriptures in times of trial for people.