Before You Walk In

“Hi, I’m Jon. I’m one of the chaplains here.”

And you are here because you are curious or scared about visiting someone in the hospital. You may be a pastor or other member of church staff. You may be a new chaplain. You may be considering how to improve your pastoral care.


I want to help you have conversations with people who are in the hospital. But I have a confession before we start: I am an introvert. Walking into groups and starting conversations is hard. I struggle to know what to say first, how to keep the conversation moving. Which is a curious statement coming from a person who has spent a career as a college professor, college administrator, pastor, and now hospital chaplain. I spend a lot of time interacting with people I don’t know.

I’ve discovered that I like to have frameworks for conversations with people I don’t know. The framework doesn’t have to be complicated. “This is my friend Jon” gives me a connection. “Here’s the challenge you are facing, and I have some answers” gets us past the small talk.

When I became a hospital chaplain, I discovered that there are many times that chaplains have to walk into rooms without a framework. In sales, this is a “cold call.” And so I began to create frameworks. I wrote scripts that would explain why I was in the room. I found scripture that would frame my day.

And that’s the story of this book. It’s a collection of essays and lists that may be helpful to other people who have the opportunity to walk into hospital rooms and have conversations.

I’m helped by my Ph.D. in rhetoric. Not because it made me a great speaker. Far from it. But because I learned how to evaluate situations and suggest the kinds of discourse that could be helpful.

Think of this book as devotional primer. It’s a primer because it’s just a starting point, reflections on some of the basics. You will quickly have your own experiences, your own refinements, your own conversational scripts. It’s devotional because I’m trying to root my practice in reflections on God and people and their intersection. You may, as I do, find it helpful to read some of these to re-calibrate your heart and practice.

I invite you to read it. Before you walk in.


Before You Walk In Copyright © 2021 by Jon Charles Swanson. All Rights Reserved.

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