parish nursing

Parish nursing is a form of nursing with deep roots in the Christian faith. It is focused on healing the mind, body, and spirit. It’s about the whole person’s wellness rather than just care after diagnosing and treating a physical symptom.  

Although parish nursing holds great significance for many congregations throughout the United States, it’s a mission-based occupation that is often not fully understood by everyone. To clear up some of the confusion, here are a few frequently asked questions about the occupation, its application, and its mission.

What is a parish nurse?

A parish nurse is a registered nurse who works for a congregation to provide for a variety of needs. They provide medical, emotional, and spiritual ones. They are individuals who are passionate about their congregation and have expertise in holistic wellness. Parish nurses can be volunteers, part-time employees, and full-time employees—depending on the church’s needs. Oftentimes parish nurses also work at a local healthcare facility.   

What does a parish nurse do?

In some rural communities, a parish nurse can be the quickest route to health care for congregation members. However, rather than tending to medical needs firsthand, a parish nurse works with the patient to recommend and plan for the best route of care. The care has special emphasis given to emotional and spiritual care. Oftentimes a parish nurse can be found doing a variety of tasks. Driving elderly people to and from appointments, providing a listening ear for a lonely individual, recommending a nutrition plan for a sick person, and more.  

Why do parish nurses exist?

Alongside the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, we see parish nursing as a vocation tied directly to the Great Commission. It mirrors the same concern that Christ had for the people He encountered. Complete holistic care for mind, body, and spirit. Because parish nurses focus on the wellness of the whole person, they’re able to bear witness to the Gospel message. They help individuals experience God as they tend to their emotional, social, spiritual, and physical needs.

How do I become a parish nurse?

In order to become a parish nurse, you must first obtain your nursing degree. You will also need a license to practice in your state. After completing your degree and license, you can then receive parish nurse training. This allows you to officially function as one in your congregation.

But nurses aren’t the only ones who should consider learning more about parish nursing. In fact, any healthcare professional with a desire to help patients experience true healing in every part of their mind, body, and spirit can benefit from parish nursing training.

Here at Concordia, we provide this training through traditional education. We also have a conference that is offered every summer. The Christian Caregiving Conference is open to any health care provider, parish nurse, and clergy member. Come and spend four days on our Mequon campus to learn all the basics of Christian caregiving. This conference is even available for credit by audit for nurses who are seeking continuing education opportunities for their RN license renewals.

What if I don’t have a medical background? Can I still get involved?

Absolutely! Parish nurses often function best when supported by a group from the congregation. Locate your parish nurse and ask what needs he/she might have. It could be something as simple as providing transportation for a member or helping to coordinate a prayer ministry. Either way, your parish nurse will be grateful for the help.

If your congregation doesn’t yet have a parish nurse, consult with your ministry leaders on the possibility of adding one. By starting this conversation, you could help to provide much-needed assistance to the most vulnerable in your community.

If you’re interested in parish nursing or our annual Christian Caregiving Conference, please contact Carol Lueders Bolwerk at

This blog was originally published on January 11, 2019. It has been updated to reflect current information.