Health Ministry/Parish Nursing

“We love because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

For many centuries, churches have served as “Hands of God” and were places of preaching, teaching and administering the sacraments. As early as Biblical times, Diakonal ministry (meaning service) combined the care of the body and soul in the context of community. Through the ages, churches were used as hospitals, providing human services and outreach to the poor, the sick and the underserved. Having a Parish Nurse Ministry or Health Ministry is a natural expression of following Jesus, the greatest physician, and His command to “love one another,” by caring for His people.

Parish nursing, also called Faith Community Nursing, offers the opportunity to use one’s God-given gifts; combining faith, knowledge and previous experience to serve the whole person within the church and community. It is the intentional care of the whole person, body, mind, spirit (also including emotions and relationships) that makes parish nursing a specialty branch of nursing. The greatest blessing comes from sharing the Gospel and prayer as we minister to the health and wellness of God’s people.

Who is the Parish Nurse?

A registered nurse with a current valid license in her or his state of practice (Texas, in the Texas District) can become a parish nurse or faith community nurse, preferably completing an approved 3-4 day parish nurse training course. (See links below.)

The parish nurse can be paid staff or volunteer; can work within their own congregation or hired by several congregations; can work for an organization such as a hospital or university or church body. In the Texas District, the majority are volunteers.

Within the church, she or he often works with a Health Cabinet, or Health Ministry Team, always under the guidance of the pastor, pastoral team and/or deaconess.

Who is the Health Minister?

A health minister is a person with a health/wellness background but no current RN license; examples being retired RN with no longer current license, LVN, EMT, dietician, etc.; any person with medical or health and wellness background and experience in the faith community. It is also very helpful for the health minister to take the parish nurse training course.

What are some roles of Parish Nurses?

The roles are varied and numerous according to the training, experience, and interests of the nurse and the needs of the congregation, but generally fall into the following categories, all with a focus on the whole person, integrating faith and healing and sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ:

      • HEALTH EDUCATOR provides needed information and resources to individuals or groups, offering health and wellness, and safety education opportunities through health screenings, workshops, newsletter articles, posters, etc. to congregation and community.
      • HEALTH COUNSELOR/ADVISOR listens and assesses physical, emotional and spiritual needs and encourages wellness.
      • INTEGRATOR, a source of knowledge of community services and integrates the need of the individual with available services.
      • COORDINATOR and TRAINER of volunteers in care ministries.
      • DEVELOPS, facilitates and/or encourages various support groups.
      • VISITS sick and homebound, and assists in meeting perceived and expressed needs.
      • MENTOR, encourages staff and others in healthy habits.

Parish nurses must adhere to The SCOPE and STANDARDS of Practice FOR FAITH COMMUNITY NURSING (“applies to ethical, legal, privacy guidelines and policies to the collection, maintenance, uses and dissemination of data and information”), available through ANA and Health Ministries Association.

For questions, comments and further information on health ministry/parish nursing in the Texas District, contact Rev. Dr. David Bahn.

Additional links for Parish Nursing education, health information, and resources:

The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod

Concordia University, Wisconsin, Parish Nurse 

International Parish Nurse Resource Center and

Wheat Ridge Ministries 

For Credentialing, certification: ANCC, American Nursing Credentialing Center