Pastoring Dementia Patients

I was with some local pastors this morning, thinking through dementia and dementia care in our churches. The following points came out of our discussion. Hope they help.

1. Don’t be scared by dementia. Like all illnesses, dementia is well within God’s sovereign purposes. Dementia is an illness, a disordering of the mind, just as other illnesses attack the body. Scrambled thoughts and words, as well as behaviour, can be very scary when we see them in a dementia patient. God isn’t scared by it, though, and we need to learn not to be, either.

2. Dementia doesn’t defeat the Gospel. “If you believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, you will be saved” (Ro. 10.9). Dementia patients have a heart belief, given and guarded by the Holy Spirit, during their illness. Dementia cannot take that, and grace is able to work within even the prison of dementia.

3. Christian dementia patients are members of the Body of Christ. So we must treat them accordingly. They need love, prayer, fellowship, the Word, and as they’re able to receive it, the Lord’s Supper.

4. Visiting dementia patients is essential. Church members and attenders who are struggling with this illness need no less care and effort from pastors and other members, and they obviously now need far more. Whether they’re at home or in residential care, they need to be visited.

5. Be realistic about visits. They might not remember you. They might be agitated, or totally blank. A dementia visit is not like any other. But don’t ever feel you have a reason not to visit, for however short a length your visit might be.

6. Be practical, and flexible. A visit might just be five minutes. Five minutes with a person who has ceased remembering you is fine. Who says they need to know who you are for your visit to count; or that it doesn’t count if you’re not spending 40 minutes with them?

7. Have a purpose for each visit. What do you want to achieve? Have you planned how you can support or encourage the patient? Think it through beforehand.

8. Be human. You are a person, serving another person. So be human. This sufferer needs to hear a tender voice, and feel the physical touch of warmth. Chat, share news, and do the normal things that normal people do together. Remember birthdays and happy anniversaries.

9. Absurd is OK. Some of the best preparation I had for pastoral work was reading the works of Samuel Beckett. On countless visits with all sorts of people it’s felt at times like the Theatre of the Absurd! And it often will do with demential sufferers. That’s fine. Learn to laugh, where you can. All sorts of bizarre and crazy things will be said and happen as you serve dementia patients. You are allowed to laugh, as appropriate.

10. Remember that when the mind is going, the memory is often working in some form. So try to tap into what you know are helpful memories. When patients cannot think or talk lucidly, they can always remember. Sing a hymn, speak of happy shared times of grace. Do what the Lord might use to press His goodness home into this heart.

11. Always read the Scriptures. It may be one verse, or it may be a short passage. Try to find out Scriptures which are meaningful to the sufferer, and read them, and comment on them.

12. Pray. Pray with confidence, believing that God hears you, when you’re with and apart from the patient. Pray familiar prayers, including the Lord’s Prayer. Ask the patient if they would like to pray, however advanced the disease is. That might be their trigger to pray, even out loud – to your massive surprise and encouragement!

13. Remember the family. Even if the patient isn’t distressed, friends, family and church family probably are. Remember them, in your prayers, and in how you talk about the individual. Be sensitive to their aching hearts, and worries.

14. Celebrate the grace and be honest about the difficulties with the church family. Talk about the patient with them. Don’t allow them to forget the patient, or think that you have. Don’t allow them to think that dementia is God’s mistake. Celebrate God’s faithfulness so far. Encourage their faith that God really does supply grace, and really does do all things well.

15. Tell everyone that heaven is best. Frightened people, patients and carers, need the truth of heaven as the reward of faith. Talk often about heaven.

‘His Love Endures Forever’ – Study Group Questions (4)

Our final study group questions on Garry Williams’ ‘His Love Endures Forever’, chapters 10-12:
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Chapter 10
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How should we think and feel about the various aspects of God’s omniscience outlined on pp.142-147?
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‘Nor is God a long-suffering partner in the relationship’ (p.149). How is this so, in the light of pp.147-151?
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God ‘sees straight through our cultivated veneer of righteousness’ (p.153). When do you think you first began to realise that, and what steps do you try to take each day to remember that, and live accordingly?
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Chapter 11
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What false steps might we take if we think that ‘turn the other cheek’ is God’s own ethic when He faces sin (pp.166-7)?
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How does the truth of divine vengeance keep us worshipping, and keep our sanity (pp.158-159; compare pp.164-165)?
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Why is it important that we appreciate our union with Christ as we think about atonement (pp.161-163)?
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Chapter 12
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Why does the world, and the church, find it so difficult to accept Luther’s statement (p.168)?
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How does the image of Ezekiel 16 help us to appreciate God’s love (p.170-171)?
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Do you agree with the comments on the tag ‘God hates the sin but loves the sinner’ (pp.172-174)?
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Conclusion
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How has this book helped you to re-evaluate God’s love for you, and your love for Him?
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‘His Love Endures Forever’ – Study Group Questions (3)

More study group questions on Garry Williams’ ‘His Love Endures Forever’, chapters 7-9:

 

Chapter 7

A God who loves as an act of His sovereign will: how does this fit our natural framework of thinking about God and His love (p.101)?

How does remembering that God creates and sustains those He loves help us think about His saving love?

Attributing our salvation to our own free will….is theologically wrong and spiritually disastrous’ (p.105). Comment!

Why does the sovereignty of God in salvation offend, and what’s the remedy for that offence (pp. 109-110)?

 

Chapter 8

‘Love moves on’ (p.115). Does God’s; why / why not?

Why do we need to appreciate Divine Eternality alongside Trinity is we are to begin to grasp the nature of Divine Love (pp.116-118)?

What is the good news for us of God’s unchanging nature (pp. 118-121)?

How can we use this doctrine in our conversation with fellow strugglers in the Christian life (pp. 122-124)?

 

Chapter 9

How might John Owen be a good guide when it comes to thinking about God’s Impassibility (pp.31-132)?

How does the bricks illustration help us to think about God’s affections (pp. 133-4)?
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‘God is infinitely more passionate than we are’ (p.135). Can you say how this is so, and how does it make you think and feel about God?

4 Today!

Tomorrow is Hope’s fourth birthday party. We started as the Allen family, were quickly joined by a core of those who had been praying for more Gospel work in the town, and have steadily found our feet.

keep-calm-its-our-4th-birthday-todayOver our short life we’ve seen people saved, a church underway, trained two guys now in full-time ministry, are supporting an individual training for cross-cultural work,  are partnering in a local church revitalisation, and are working to see other plants established in Yorkshire. And still, we’ve barely scratched the surface of the surface of the needs of our town. There is so much to do to bring the Gospel to the lost in Huddersfield and beyond. As we meet tomorrow, we’ll be celebrating God’s grace as well as committing ourselves to ongoing growth and mission in the years to come.

 

Here is a round-up of some of our favourite blessings in the last year:

 

Growth in our numbers and membership. We have been over one hundred people worshiping on a Sunday morning, 58 members, and

Professions of faith, including three Hope baptisms in the last year

Church Vision Day and Church Away Weekend at Blackley

Growth in our student work, including the start of Student Plus

Establishment of Internationals’ Work

Engagement of Chris and Tania, and the prospect of their wedding next month

Chris and Lelya’s and Ant and Mel’s weddings last summer

The first full year of the Theology Reading Group

A very happy and blessed year of the Gospel Partnership with Providence Baptist Chapel, Slaithwaite, including last year’s and the forthcoming Holiday Clubs

The Joy and Blessing of Corporate Worship Sunday by Sunday at BJH. Development in our sung praise, with great musicians

The Ministry of the Word, on Sunday mornings, and evenings, through Burning Issues, on Wednesdays and in other situations

Craft Club and Men’s and Women’s Breakfasts

The launch of our Seniors’ Meeting

A year of street outreach in the middle of town, with plans to extend it

Upholding of the Elders through a very busy year

A full year of Graham Thomson serving in the Assistant Pastorate, and Eldership

Mark and Simeon’s year as Apprentices, and confirmation of a second year

Our first Diaconate has had a year of committed service

The Blessing of shared times of prayer, including new prayer triplets

Sunday youth group, with its committed team of leaders, and their Word Alive Trip

Generous donations from outside givers towards Gospel ministry at Hope

The Lord meeting our financial needs, and guiding Graham Powell in his treasury work

The happy and safe arrivals of Isabella Ward, and Isaac Stead

Provision of Brian Jackson House

Friendships and fellowship in the church

Support, prayers and help of many of the Lord’s people, throughout the UK, as well as beyond

 

‘His Love Endures Forever’ – Study Group Questions (2)

More study group questions on Garry Williams’ ‘His Love Endures Forever’, chapters 4-6:

 

Chapter 4

Why was Heloise against marriage (pp.55-6), and is this in line with or against modern attitudes to love and marriage?

What was Heloise’s sin, and our temptation, in this obsessive human love (pp.57-60)?

How do you respond to the objection that God’s love is selfish (pp.62-64)?

How is our despair a pointer to disproportionate love (p.66)?

‘Loving something out of its proper place is not really loving it, since it involves trying to force it to be what it is not’ (p.66). Comment!

 

 Chapter 5

Male headship is woven into the created order (p.76). How do we see the right use as well as sinful abuse of male responsibilities for families played out in modern society? Take into account the observations of pp.70-76.

Why is sonship so vital for us to understand, both for explaining our present world, and for understanding the goal of redemption (p.77-79)?

How should God’s omnipresence develop our appreciation of His Fatherhood (pp.80-83)?

‘If Christ is our Brother, we should expect the Cross’ (p.87). What does this mean, and how does it help us to be obedient sons and daughters of God?

 

Chapter 6

In what right sense do humans need a partner (pp.91-92)?

What does a richly diverse creation tell us about God? Does He need His world (pp.93-5)?

‘His love is uncaused by anything we might give to Him’ (p.97). How does that statement challenge and encourage your discipleship?

‘His Love Endures Forever’ Study Group Questions (1)

Today our reading group at Hope is starting Garry Williams’ excellent ‘His Love Endures Forever’, and we’ll work through these questions for the Intro through to Chapter 3. Feel free to use / modify!

 

Introduction

How does the template of our human love both help and hinder us as we think about Divine Love (pp.11-13)?

 

Chapter 1

What are the two basic problems we have in conceiving anything of God (pp.17-20)? Why don’t people really engage with these facts?

What are the two problems which our sin creates as we seek to understand the love of God (p.24)?

Try Garry’s question (p.26): ‘what does the culture you live in tell you it means to be loving?’

 

Chapter 2

How do the twin gifts of Son and Spirit correspond to our two great problems (pp.28-32)?

What is an ‘analogical’ reading of creation, and how does it help us to appreciate God and His love (pp.35-37)?

What is ‘divine simplicity’ (pp.39-40), and how will getting this doctrine wrong create problems as we understand God’s love?

‘I ask that You would forgive me for the ways in which I have fashioned You in my image’ (p.43). How might we meaningfully pray that prayer?

 

Chapter 3

‘It is God’s love that defines love, not any abstracted definition, let alone our human love’ (p.45). Comment, please!

How is the Trinity the ultimate reference point for any discussion of love (pp.46-9)?

Is the cross the start of God’s love, more of God’s love, or something else (p.52)?