Sam Kleinschmidt, a member at Crown of Life, a multi-site congregation in California, perhaps didn’t know what to expect when he agreed to serve as power of attorney for an elderly member. But that decision started a chain of events—and a new ministry for the entire congregation. “It’s amazing the opportunities that God puts at our doorstep. All we have to do is walk through,” says Kleinschmidt.
After agreeing to help his fellow member, Kleinschmidt discovered an online class from Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn., about geriatric ministry and thought it would be good for him to learn more.
As part of the class, he volunteered at a local care facility where he visited eight men once a week. “In one’s mind it seems extremely difficult, but in reality, it’s amazingly simple,” says Kleinschmidt. “You’re just being a friend.”
Serving at the facility and shadowing his pastors as they visited Crown of Life’s shut-ins got Kleinschmidt fired up to reach out even more—and to get others to help. He began working with his pastor, Steve Koelpin, to start an elder care ministry at Crown of Life’s four campuses.
In March, Crown of Life sponsored a training session for interested members. Kleinschmidt taught them what he learned about ministering to the elderly, with the goal of setting up a schedule so that every shut-in gets visited on a weekly basis by someone from Crown of Life.
“From a workload perspective, it’s awesome to empower people like Sam and enable them to be part of this unique and special ministry, because [pastors] are going to need that help,” says Koelpin, pastor at Crown of Life’s Yucaipa site. “But I also think it means a lot to [our shut-ins] to have other laypeople visit and share the Word of God with them. There’s an added element of enjoyment and a feeling of being appreciated and mattering when it’s not just the pastor visiting.”
Neither Koelpin nor Kleinschmidt want to stop there. Their next step is to ask members to volunteer at care facilities located near each of the congregation’s four campuses. “I want people to be comfortable and experiment for themselves with going to a facility and volunteering like I did,” says Kleinschmidt. “People [in the care facilities] really need the friendship and God’s Word so desperately.”
Koelpin prays these connections could lead into a relationship with the care centers and open up opportunities to hold Bible classes for residents in the future.
Says Kleinschmidt, “It’s pretty eye-opening and pretty wonderful to see the blessings that we can get from this.”
Learn more about the course Kleinschmidt took. He was able to take the “Geriatric and Care Facility Ministry” course for free because of a grant from Martin Luther Elder Care Ministries. This organization will pay for any WELS member who wants to take the course, which is part of the Chaplain Certification program. It will be offered this fall through Martin Luther College. Interested members can sign up now at mlecm.org or this summer through Martin Luther College.
Volume 107, Number 04
Issue: April 2020