Ministry Spotlight: Bill & Cathy Goodrich, God Cares Ministry

Welcome to Real Life. In today's Ministry Spotlight, join my conversation with . . .

Bill and Cathy Goodrich
God Cares Ministry

And now, in my old age, don’t set me aside.
Don’t abandon me when my strength is failing.
(Psalm 71:9 NLT)

In 1984, at the age of twenty-six,
I felt the desire to visit with residents living in a nearby nursing home
to bring happiness to those who were lonely.[1]
“Why did God create us? What is his purpose for us?” Chaplain Bill asked. He holds a weekly church service for residents in a skilled nursing facility where he’s ministered since 1989. “Our purpose is to enter into a loving, nurturing relationship with God. He did not create us to do something. He created us to receive something—to live forever with a heavenly Father who loves us.”

Bill, why do you minister to the elderly, why nursing homes? 

“Where is the greatest need?” we asked. My late wife and I were involved in many ministries. “If we weren’t at the soup kitchen, someone else would be. If we weren’t leading worship at home group, someone else would. But if we weren’t at the nursing home, no one would take our place,” we reasoned.

This ministry is much more than one chaplain visiting nursing homes. You also provide training for churches with nursing home ministries. Tell us more.

“We can’t reach everyone,” we realized. In the 90s, we were in four homes. The church wasn’t seeing this mission field. We had a strong desire to make ourselves available to local churches. We began creating discipleship resources for ministering to the elderly.

We reached out to pastors. But there was very little interest. They’re already overwhelmed with the needs of their congregations.

We’re looking for one person with a desire to encourage the elderly. Then, we work with them under the leadership of their pastor, to develop a nursing home ministry. We walk them through a process: how to choose a nursing home, get started, and recruit a team. We provide training. Once they’re trained, we pull back. It’s their ministry.

How wide is your reach? How many people and churches are currently associated with God Cares Ministry? 

In Northeast Ohio, we’ve assisted over 150 churches. In 2012, we began reaching beyond Ohio. Currently, we’ve assisted 250 churches who are reaching over 8000 residents. We praise God for this. But with over two million in nursing homes, we’re reaching less than one percent. The need is great.

“What you saw at this nursing home is only a small portion. God Cares is much more about training and equipping others to go. Bill’s making disciples through the training and resources he provides,” Cathy Goodrich added.

What is your greatest challenge in ministering to the elderly? 

Almost 2,000 pass away every day in long term care homes. Often, no one is there to help them take Jesus’ hand. “Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches (nursing homes in my case)” (2 Corinthians 11:28 NIV). The most difficult thing for my heart is that the church hasn’t embraced this mission field yet.

So, I only need about 156,000 more people! It’s not really that big of a deal (smile).

Personally, my greatest challenge is I don’t have enough time to spend with residents. I love being around them.

Share a success story. 

Over a year ago, a nursing home asked me to visit Joe.[2] He is Jewish and had a million questions about religion. But he was very antagonistic and argumentative. I told him I wasn’t there to argue. “No, no,” he said, “I really want to talk about these things.” So, I continued visiting.

“You’ve been brain-washed,” he once told me.

“Actually, my brain was full of garbage. I chose to have my brain washed by Jesus,” I replied. Eventually, I told him, “Joe, you won’t understand until you open your heart to Jesus.” He thought that was the silliest thing in the world. I gave him a 3x5 card. On the front, I wrote a prayer of salvation. On the back, I wrote:

On this day I, _________________, prayed and invited Jesus into my heart. 

“After you pray, write your name in the blank,” I explained. “This is how you get started, Joe.”

“So, it’s like magic. Pray and you get everything,” he joked.

“No. It’s not magic. You must pray sincerely—from your heart.”

“I know what you guys are like. If I pray, you’ll stop visiting because you got what you wanted,” Joe said on another visit.

“I will always want to be your friend. I won’t stop visiting.”

A couple months later, when I came, he said, “Look at that,” pointing to the prayer card. I picked it up. “Turn it over,” he commanded. Joe had written his name in the blank. He didn’t change overnight. But over the next few months, he began softening.

Last Saturday, I visited. “Why are you here? It’s not Tuesday,” Joe asked.

“I haven’t seen you in a couple weeks. I missed you,” I told him. Joe was visibly moved. He’s near death. Before I left, I asked him to pray with me. He prayed openly and vulnerably.

I would guess since 1984, I’ve helped over 1,000 residents take Jesus’ hand. Many of our volunteers have helped several hundreds. It’s a unique mission field. You give the love of Jesus, and receive more than you can give. We call it, “The Miracle of the Ministry.”

How can we get involved? What type of volunteers are you looking for? Donations? 

People who love the elderly, love Jesus, and want to be a blessing. That’s all it takes. Once you walk through the door, it transforms you. I went in with zero confidence. I was very young, very shy. I couldn’t look people in the face. God transformed me.

“Some volunteers begin by thinking, ‘Well, I can turn pages in a song book.’ A year later they are up front teaching the residents. So many feel they don’t have anything to contribute in the church. They can’t sing, play an instrument, or teach kids. But anyone can do this. They begin loving the people, and often say, ‘I get more out of my visits than the residents do.’ It’s amazing,” Cathy said.

Nursing home ministry does take some understanding though. How to get permission to go into a home. How to develop relationships with residents. How to help them take Jesus’ hand. Certain essentials we can teach in one day. We provide all you need. We’re here to help you get started.

If you have questions, or need more information: Contact God Cares Ministry 

Volunteers Delores and Arlene

Of course, like any non-profit, we rely on donations. Call (440-930-2173) or donate through the website: Donate 

“Pure religion and undefiled before our God and Father is this,
to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction,
and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”
James 1:27 ASV
What is your vision for the future of God Cares Ministry? 

Our goal is for every church to adopt one care facility. It’s not hard. There are 70,000 long-term care homes and over 300,000 churches. All it takes is one person in a church with a desire to minister to the elderly. Contact us. We’ll help with the rest.

We’re finishing the creation of relevant Bible study lessons that volunteers can share with those in nursing homes. Jesus wants the residents to know him. And these lessons will help them know his promises and his love.

How can we pray for God Cares Ministry? 

Dear Lord of the Harvest,
Please send workers for the fields are ripe.[3]
May your kingdom come and your will be done in the lives of senior adults.
Make the church aware of this forgotten mission field.
In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

The need is great. Please consider sharing this blog to get the word out. Thank you! 

Handout Bill gave residents at the church service

[2] Name changed to protect his identity.
[3] Matthew 9:38


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