The Ministry of Your Presence

When I was a young minister, I often felt awkward making hospital visits because I didn’t know what to say. I asked my senior pastor’s advice and he said, “Don, you don’t need to say much. The most important thing is the ministry of your presence. Just being there is enough.”

Never underestimate the power of being present with someone, particularly when they realize you don’t have to be there.

Two members of my staff spend many weekends watching their kids play sports, sometimes 8-10 hours a day. Sometimes in the rain or cold. Their presence is a profound act of love and devotion.

In his must-read book, How to Know a Person, political writer David Brooks shares this story: “I recently read about a professor named Nancy Abernathy who was teaching first-year med students when her husband, at age fifty, died of a heart attack while cross-country skiing. With some difficulty, she managed to make it through the semester and carried on with her teaching. One day she mentioned to the class that she was dreading teaching the same course the next year, because each year, during one of the first sessions of the course, she asks everybody to bring in family photos so they can get to know one another. She wasn’t sure if she could share a photo of her late husband during that session without weeping.

“The course ended. Summer came and went, and fall arrived and, with it, the day she dreaded. The professor entered the lecture hall, full of trepidation, and sensed something strange. The room was too full. Sitting there, along with her current class, were the second-year students, the ones who had taken her class the year before. They had come simply to lend their presence during this hard session. They knew what she needed, and didn’t need to offer anything more.” 

“This is compassion,” Abernathy later remarked. “A simple human connection between the one who suffers and one who would heal.” (Brooks, pgs 52-53)

I want to do more of this. I want to sense when someone feels the pain of being alone and alleviate their discomfort with my presence. Not to teach or coach, but simply to be with them.

12 Replies to “The Ministry of Your Presence”

    1. Thanks, Steve. I have fond memories of our working together years ago. I hope you are doing well. News around our house…our daughter Sarah, who lives with us, gave birth to a daughter six months and were’ helping raise her. It’s wonderful.

  1. Don, this story reminds me of many who may grieve the loss of a loved one. One thing about grief is that I once read the best definition of grief that I have ever known:

    Grief never ends, but it changes.
    It is a passage, not a place to stay.
    Grief is not a sign of weakness nor a lack of faith,
    It is the price of love!

    Thanks for all you do. God’s blessings now and always!!!

    1. Billy, thanks for taking the time to respond. I love that definition of grief; it says a lot. Take care, Don.

  2. Don, this is something Jill Briscoe has taught for years, and I’ve tried to follow: The ministry of presence.

    Too often today in the name of efficiency we don’t pick up the phone or sit with a person–we send a text or email. People are lonely, and the most important thing we can do is to be present–and sometimes silently present.

    What does that look like? Sit with someone at a hospital while they wait for a loved one during surgery, stop in and see someone who doesn’t get out often, offer a ride (or better take someone shopping), be a listening ear over Facetime or the phone to someone across the country. We all can do this, not all the time, but when we can.

    1. Debbie, I can tell by your response that you are a good friend to many people. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. Take care, Don.

  3. This is a profound story that explains the power of PRESENCE. It looks small and un asked for act of humanity yet so life penatrating. PRESENCE cannot be substituted.

    I love this story. It speaks volumes of love and care.

    1. Leonard, thanks for taking the time to respond. It is a wonderful truth…that simply our presence can positively impact people. Take care. Don

  4. Good one Don – So true – Many years ago my wife of 58 years and I went thru “Stephen Ministry” training and participated in the program for several years – On of the main principles of Stephen Ministries is simply the act of “being there” for the person in “need”
    Rod Taylor

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