How to Minister to the Dying / Personal Loss of a Loved One

Ministry to any person, let alone a person who is terminally ill or who has lost a loved one, requires extra sensitivity to the person or people involved in the relationship. In order to remain sensitive, it requires the following:

1. Yielding to the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit guides all discussion, the proper words, when they are uttered, will be timely and well received.

A word spoken at the right time is like gold apples on a silver tray. (Proverbs 25:11 HCSB)

“Although there are many dos and don’ts regarding visiting the sick, I will mention only one here. Don’t engage in theological speculation. We don’t need to explain why a person got cancer. We don’t know the answer and anything we say about that is likely to be unhelpful. Point people to the promises of God. Let the Word of God do its work.” [1]

2. A humble approach. The Spirit will always have His way when you humble yourself before Him and before others. It is not that you are doing anything special–it’s actually God ministering to the person or group in your humility.

1 Therefore I, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, accepting one another in love. (Ephesians 4:1-2 HCSB)

3 Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. 4 Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:3-5 HCSB)

3. Being a great listener. Sometimes the best thing is just being there and providing comfort from your presence. Words can be helpful but sometimes they are unnecessary and even inappropriate, especially when saying things that may be truthful but come across as trite or insensitive. It’s better to just extend grace, and sometimes silence, with your presence (James 1:19a).

In ministering to a person whose death is imminent, there are many verses that can be used in the midst of ministry at the appropriate time:
• Psalm 23, 27, 46, 91, 103
• Matthew 11:28-30
• John 11:25-26, 14:1-6
• Romans 8:31-39
• 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
• Revelation 7:9-17, 21-22

“God alone can lead us through death to eternal life. Death casts a frightening shadow over us because we are entirely helpless in its presence. We can struggle with other enemies—pain, suffering, disease, injury—but strength and courage cannot overcome death. It has the final word. Only one person can walk with us through death’s dark valley and bring us safely to the other side—the God of life, our shepherd. Because life is uncertain, we should follow this shepherd who offers us eternal comfort.” [2]

For the person who does not know Jesus Christ, a very good verse to share along with the gospel of Jesus Christ is Hebrews 9:27-28:

27 And just as it is appointed for people to die once—and after this, judgment— 28 so also the Messiah, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him. (Hebrews 9:27-28 HCSB)

Salvation is the key. Even if it means a deathbed conversion, it will always be my prayer that God will reach out for these persons in this situation.

For the person that is losing or has lost a loved one, words are also less important than providing comfort with your presence. If you overthink situations like this, you will wind up saying something that may be awkward or impolite. Avoid any communication that points to the reason for something like this happening as being “God’s will.” Even if it is true, such comments are inappropriate at a time of mourning and insensitive.

It’s better to say very little, for your presence alone shows that you care about the other person. It means so much more than any words you can say. A person in need should only see the reflection of Jesus Christ in your presence.

15 But as the One who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct; 16 for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy. (1 Peter 1:15-16 HCSB)


1 Weblog – Ray Pritchard (n.d.). Giving Hope to Those Facing Death. Copyright © 2014, Retrieved June 10, 2014 from

2 Neil S. Wilson, Ed. (2000). Death. pg. 133. The Handbook of Bible Application, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream IL

Copyright © Melvin Gaines

Categories Christian Studies, Christianity, OpinionTags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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