Building relationships at American House Jenison.
A discussion about trust with your pastor is not out of the ordinary. What’s unusual is when a friendly, bespectacled chaplain hops on a table to demonstrate his point. Meet Pastor Dave, a self-described kid at heart and former youth minister, who serves his wisdom with a side of fun. For just over two years, the residents of American House Jenison have enjoyed Dave’s refreshing spiritual guidance, great listening ear, and even his assistance with lunch. . . but we’ll get to that in a minute.
Back in 2020, Dave returned home to West Michigan after a 20-year stint as a youth minister in Rockford, Illinois. His old friend and colleague, Pastor Stephen, was moving on from his position as chaplain of American House Jenison, and Dave jumped at the opportunity to step into the role.
Pastor Dave now spends his days leading Bible study and discussions with seniors who appreciate his unique and lively approach to spiritual insight. In addition to jumping on tables, Dave has left Bible study messages on the activity room easel for others to see throughout the day. Residents from the sessions are happy to pass along the wisdom of those messages to anyone who asks. “They become the teachers,” said Dave. “I do what I can to help them embrace the information and provide opportunities for them to be affirmed, noticed, cared for and listened to.”
For Dave, it’s all about building relationships and trust. While he finds a lot of similarities between his days as a youth minister and his job as chaplain, there are obvious differences. “They cannot physically do what we did as teenagers,” said Dave. “But that just allows me to be a little more creative, to find ways that we can connect.”
Whether residents attend their local church or not, many rely on Dave’s support and counsel. Independent Living residents have had a long-standing Sunday afternoon service led by Ken, who is coming up on his 100th birthday. Dave joins this service once a quarter to lead communion. In addition to these visits, Dave is immersed in the community Monday through Friday, meeting with people and leading Bible study. It’s all about care through connection for Pastor Dave. “I want to notice you, I want to listen to you, I want to care for you. I gain a lot in that, and I hope someone else gains by my presence.”
And what better way to reach people than at mealtime? To the delight of the residents, Dave is on hand during lunch service. “Helping out in the dining room allows me to serve and be at almost every table, and be present and care for them in a really practical way.” He feels it is a gift to be in the community alongside people and use his creativity to help expand their lives. For Pastor Dave, it’s simple, “Jesus said he didn’t come to be served but to serve and to give. And that’s what I’m about.”
At American House, our team members are the foundation of our caring culture, committed to making the health and happiness of our residents their top priority. Beyond the food they serve, the activities they create and the care they offer, are the many smiles and words of encouragement they give our residents, their families and friends. It’s about moments, it's about joy, and everyone gains from those connections.
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