I read the sad story recently of a church that fired its pastor because “he didn’t visit the members enough.” Granted, I don’t know all the details about the situation, but I am not optimistic about the church’s future.
“Visitation of the members” became a common job description of pastors about a century ago.
It’s a bad sign.
While I am not advocating that pastors never visit people, I am concerned that such expectations are well beyond those with serious and emergency needs.
The truth is: Your pastor shouldn’t visit much. Here are 15 reasons why.
- It’s unbiblical. Ephesians 4:12 says that pastors are to train the saints or believers to do the work of the ministry. It does not say pastors are to do all the work of ministry.
- It deprives members of their roles and opportunities. The second part of Ephesians 4:12 clearly informs us that ministry is for all those in the church. When the pastor does all or most of the ministry, the members are deprived of a God-given opportunity.
- It fosters a country club mentality. “We pay the pastor’s salary. The pastor works for us to do the work and serve us.” Tithes and offerings become country club dues to get served.
- It turns a church inwardly. The members are asking what the pastor is doing for them, rather than asking how they can serve others through the church.
- It takes away from sermon preparation. Those same members who complain that a pastor didn’t put enough time into the sermon are the same ones who expect the pastor to visit them.
- It takes away from the pastor’s outward focus. If pastors spend all or most of their time visiting, how can they be expected to get into the community and share the gospel?
- It takes away vital leadership from the pastor. How can we expect pastors to lead if we give them no time to lead since they are visiting members?
- It fosters unhealthy comparisons among the members. “The pastor visited the Smiths twice this month, but he only visited me once.”
- It is never enough. When churches expect their pastors to do most of the visitation, they have an entitlement mentality. Such a mentality can never be satisfied.
- It leads to pastoral burnout. It is impossible for pastors to maintain the pace that is expected of all the members cumulatively, especially in the area of visitation.
- It leads to high pastoral turnover. Burnout leads to pastoral turnover. Short-term pastorates are not healthy for churches.
- It puts a lid on Great Commission growth of the church. One of the great growth barriers of churches is the expectation that one person do most of the ministry, especially visitation. Such dependence on one person leads to a cap on growth.
- It leads pastors to get their affirmation from the wrong source. They become people-pleasers instead of God-pleasers.
- It causes biblical church members to leave. Many of the best church members will leave because they know the church is not supposed to operate in this manner. The church thus becomes weaker.
- It is a sign that the church is dying. The two most common comments of a dying church: “We never done it that way before,” and “Why didn’t the pastor visit me?”
The pervasive mentality in many churches is the pastor is the chief visitor in the church.
It’s a key sign of sickness.
It’s a clear step toward death.
Let me hear from you.
Posted on August 31, 2016
With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
More from Thom
Okay, I have a question about whether it is biblical or not. Did the first century church have a paid position at all? I think that having a person in a paid position over the church changes the relationship from what they had, which was just a group of believers.
Here’s where the problems at my church come up, because we have a couple of people who never believe that the pastor does enough and if he asks a deacon to go with him to do something, then the deacon’s wives say “Well, our husbands have to work full time jobs and THEN go visit and that’s not fair, because he makes a good living and what does he do all day? ”
This bothers me because I know praying for the congregation, preparing 3 sermons a week, outreach, planning and all his other duties are what we pay him for and that’s enough.
We are without a pastor now (I know this is not surprising) and I wonder if I should give the new guy a head’s up about how he will be criticized and from whom? Would you want to know about these 2-3 people who will do this?
Our past pastor was very concerned that his visits were noted and he made sure to do a visit with my family even when I felt that it wasn’t necessary and told him so.
It is hard to answer your question without more contextual information. Most churches have naysayers, but not all churches have bullies.
I think we have a couple of bullies in our church. My plan right now is to just invite the new pastor over for dinner sometimes and let him know that our family will have his back. I kind of feel like pointing out who the bullies are would be wrong although if it were me, I might want to know.
What would really be nice is if spiritual leaders in your church who are aware of this bullying would confront these people and let them know that that behavior is sinful and will no longer be tolerated. Bullies are usually cowards who have never had anyone stand up to them and speak truth. This would be a great opportunity to implement church discipline. If more churches would do this we would not be wearing out so many pastors in our churches!
My wife had recently submitted a prayer request concerning a medical decision to our church. What impressed me the most, is that our pastor visited us prayed for her and anointed her with oil.
Usually those pastors that do not visit much do visit, but just their favorites.
There are indeed times where the pastor should visit. I hope others in the church visited her as well.
I’m just curious about the anointing with oil. Did the person request it or did the pastor recommend it?
The pastor had this small bottle of oil that he got from the Holy Land. He anointed her according to the passage in James. He just did it as part of his prayer.
BTW My wife has had remarkable improvement. She had been diagnosed with a carotid tumor. It has shrunk a great deal.
I know very few pastors who just visit their “favorites”. I visit all my parishioners who are in need of a pastoral visit. Doesn’t matter who they are. And, as Thom is trying so hard to get across, I train my Elders and Deacons to visit members also.
Kelly you are a rare breed these days. The church I began in had a young pastor who visited us when we expressed a need. But that was 40 years ago. I see very little of this now.
I admire you for your dedication.
Great post. I had just finished reading Acts 6 and 7 and was astounded again by the strategic leadership of the apostles in appointing and equipping deacons.
You are so right, Mike. That passage is right at the beginning of the early church. God obviously wanted us to get it right from the onset. Thank you.
Another reason is that it is potentially destructive to the pastor’s marriage and family because he is away from them so much. I visited so much (and, yes, during that time we had significant growth) that I became increasingly disconnected from my own family and missed a lot of evenings with them. I think that families (particularly young families) are organic and relational and need the husband/father’s freedom to be available more than just a set one-night-weekly “visit”. Because my attempt to keep one night for the family resulted in what started to feel like a scheduled event that, sadly, ended up getting downgraded in priority as visiting demands increased. When I started the lonely fight to recover my family and marriage I took increasing criticism and endured a lot of judgmentalism from members who felt entitled and small groups that expected me to just drop in from time to time for what I call “pastoral validation” because I didn’t visit them. (I dislike the craving people have for “pastoral validation” of their personal groups and ministries, but that’s another topic). But my critics didn’t know I was in a struggle to save my family and marriage. I created my own problem through the years because my style of leadership and discipleship is “over coffee” and as the church grew this is what it expected from me and what I expected of myself and so I always felt like I was failing. There were times when I was with different people for breakfast, lunch, supper, and evening. I’d go the whole day without seeing my wife or kids. Multiple days in a row. And because my job was so interpersonal I’d be people-saturated by the time I got home and want to lock myself away into the office. But my wife and children are people too.
Another problem was that it would also make some people feel like they were “best friends” with me and they’d be hurt when I started to miss regular visits with them because I needed to follow up on other people.
Now, in my fourth church plant ministry (the third of which I am the lead pastor), my leadership/discipleship style is more adjustable and prepared for growth and regular visits and “coffee time” are not completely discarded, but they are not a key feature of my personal conception of what my job is and how I need to lead.
I hope all the readers take in your comment with seriousness and prayer. Your transparency is an incredible statement of why this issue must not be ignored in churches. Thank you.
Thank you Thom and Bob, I am learning these principles. Family is my first ministry responsibility. Your wisdom helps me to minister to my congregation and my wife and two young daughters.
I love it!
Hey you guys, and help me understand – I swear I’m not trying to be stupid. One of the greatest kids that ever came out of my youth ministry is now a youth pastor and has a wife and kids and he used to say all the time that his first responsibility was to his wife and kids but I thought that what the Lord wanted us to do for him was first. I swear I’m not trying to be stupid help me understand.
We are indeed to do what the Lord wants us to do for him first. So how does a pastor know what God wants him to do first? He obviously has to hear from God. And God speaks clearly in 1 Timothy 3:4-5 that the first priority of a pastor is his family. If not,he forfeits the entire church.
Wish these comments had a “like” button! Thanks for sharing your experience and wisdom.
That’s a great idea!
John from “help me understand” here. Thanks for the reply. I guess I was trying to put it all together with the verses where Jesus calls disciples and they walk away from everything and Immediately and follow him and do what he wants them to do from that point forward – Ministrywise that is. Many pastors get married and start families after they become staff members so maybe that is a variation of the original disciples calling. I hate to say this but I do remember in the movie footloose the pastor lamented that if he could not control his own daughter how could the church take him seriously as a leader to them.
I would encourage you to take your family with you in doing ministry, especially when visiting. In my morning prayer time I pray for the Church Family. As I’m aware of needs I visit, sometimes I feel the Holy Spirit leading me to those that need a visit. Some need more visits than others and I am trying to get our members involved in visitation ministry. It’s catching on with our new disciples.
Good comments, Bob. Never apologize for keeping your family first. If you fail in the ministry, you can always try again, but you only get one shot at raising your family.
Thom, you are so right, and yes, a pastor should set aside some time each week to visit the members. That is where some messages can originate to feed the sheep who need that “food.” I breakdown my time to half sermon prep each week, which includes 3 sermons. The other times are between visits, local association work, and outside focus work. No, it doesn’t work as neatly as described, but this local congregation seems fine with it. I think one of the unstated points of the article is that we should strike a balance between fulfilling people’s expectations and teaching them to change expectations to meet God’s will for the local congregations, which is your main point.
Thank you, John.
“…them to change expectations to meet God’s will for the local congregations, …”
I promise I’m not trying to be silly when I say this but:
BOOM! Aaaaaannnnnd mike drop…
I really do wonder sometimes why do some of the congregation members keep coming to the building anyway. We are in inner-city church here in Memphis and our pastor has been laying out a clear vision for reaching our neighborhood but people are not “doing the vision” for lack of a better way to say it and so we have not increased in very many salvation’s or reaching the adults in our neighborhood for Jesus. Our children’s ministry and youth ministries do OK but whole families have not been reached like they should have been by now – he’s been our pastor for over six years. My friends and I have come to the realization that if people will not follow, then a leader cannot lead. He’s been doing spot on understandable homerun hitting messages straight out of scripture that have some of my friends and I practically coming out of our pews fist pumping the air – that would be weird – but it seems like there are only a couple of dozen of us or so who get it and are trying to keep our church viable in our neighborhood.
John, I promise you that your pastor appreciates you.
Jonathan Edwards and A.W. Pink would agree. By the way, what was the name of the deacons/leaders who got rid of them? In the books that are now famous those people who thought they were oh so power are forgotten while the men who stayed in their studies have books still being read today.
Care is the pastoral work of the congregation. It is part of the ministry of members to members. Furthermore, in Acts 6, the office of deacon was established to tend to the needs of the people so that the apostles could attend to spreading the word. The result was that the number of disciples increased and even priests converted to the faith. I believe this, not an uncaring spirit, is the essence of the article.
Of course there are times when visiting is a crucial part of the job but it should not detract from a preacher’s primary task.
May your numbers increase, Kimani! You nailed it.
Great reply Kamani
Great post Thom! Though I have a feeling it will get a lot of hate:)
You are so right, Jeremy. It’s already coming!
Learned many yrs ago “if you cater to the whiners you will lose the winners. But if you cater to the winners you will lose the whiners”
Keeping a balance between servant hood and shepherding!
From what I’ve seen and my experience having chronic illness for many years, I’ve been to many churches in the past 16 years and no pastors or lay people comfort or visit EVER, let alone lend a hand. Many broken promises of that, but nothing else. Lip-service and 1 minute prayers is all people do. There is no LOVE. The only people who are cared about when they are sick are the pastors themselves and those who have big money to give them, and THEIR families, but the “least of these” are ignored and you greedy pastors want them to give what little they have and work in your churches for free, but when the “least of these:” need you to be there for them, you just treat us like a burden and like you are too good to help.
To the other extreme it sets them on a pedestal over the others, can you just find a balance? A Church should work together for a common good. If Pastor is too important or too busy to have some time for it’s Parishioners, then what?
I am all for balance. That is why I suggested the pastor do the visiting for some of the critical pastoral needs.
“Cultural understanding of the church”? That pastors act like shepherds and visit their members? That’s fundamental to being pastor. This description sound like a CEO instead of a pastor. Visiting members takes time away from sermon preoperative? No! Visiting your members IS sermon preparation. You can’t preach if you aren’t in their lives. You will just be talking from your office. It is I’m visiting that you know the hearts and minds and fears and hopes and questions of your congregation. The CEO mindset of the megachurch is the danger today, not the humble pastor who loves his people and spends time with them, especially those who are sick or in distress. Stop the church growth seminars and take CPE. Fall back in love with your people.
First, I did not say never visit. Second, I would love to hear your ideas how much visiting is enough. If a pastor visits 200 members one hour each month, that pastor is visiting 8 hours a day every day of the year except Sundays. This article is not about a CEO or church growth mindset. That argument is well worn. It is about a biblical mindset. I choose the latter.
Nailed it Brother Thom. How have we got where we are in our local churches? The pastors/elders want to do the job of a deacon and deacons want to wield the power in the church instead of serving it.
That is an incredible observation. Thank you.
Thanks to you both! I feel drawn both ways. Does anyone have an example of someone who seems to get the balance right?
There are many good ideas in the comments, Dale.
I think balance is the key. While I’m sure I don’t have it balanced just right, I’ll share what I do: I visit 2 people in the nursing home weekly-1 I have led to Christ and has no family and the other is a church member. I greet others in the home briefly and show a presence. That is about 2 hours a week. On average, I visit or have over 1 family about once a week. I disciple 3 church leaders every other week and have 2 individuals I disciple/counsel weekly. I’m an introvert and would increase it to visiting 2 a week if I was more extroverted. I visit everyone in the church 1-2 times a year and invest in current and future leaders through discipleship.
Besides if a pastor gets his sermons from visiting the people then he’s sure to offend someone and the Lord too as He is the only person the pastor should be getting his message from.
Hold on. If a pastor only draws from the Word of God then he is just reciting the Gospel word for word. Yes, a Pastor shall draw from the Word of God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) but it is the Pastor to deliver the message and as needed tailor the message to the audience or preaching the Word of God in the right situational context of the congregation and sometimes that means deviating from the Lectionary prescribed readings. This is where things can be a little tricky and delicate but preaching is a form of public speaking. Good delivery in any public speaking especially sermons takes into consideration the audience. However, care must be taken. We can run into ethics issues and numerous other issues if not properly addressed.
Sorry for the belated response to a comment from 2016.
Matthew 28:20 tells me that the church is to be taught to “observe all of the teachings of Christ. The CHURCH is told, in the previous verse (19) to GO OUT AND MAKE DISCIPLES and bring them into the church to be immersed. The church, in Acts 6, was told to appoint qualified men to handle duties like taking care of widows, etc. so that the apostles were able to give themselves to continually be in prayer and to the ministry of the Word. Having pastored churchs for many years, I know how much time it takes to study, pray and prepare a message. I was also expected to teach other classes during the week as well. That was more preparation and prayer. Hospital visits, I understand. Marital problem visits and sessions, I understand. Deaths and illnesses within them membership and families of the membership are visits of necessity. That is the work of a pastor. Don’t forget. A pastor is not allowed to neglect the needs of his family. He has the responsibility to provide for his family in all areas so that his family is in order, or he’s not qualified to be a pastor.
I think Bob understand what Christ is teaching Needed visits. Not social calls!
I believe visitation is important in the life of the pastor. This is leading by example.
Also thanks Bill for the honest comment.
The best way to lead by example is to be biblical, to equip the saints to do the work of ministry.
The best way to do that is to take 1 or 2 members with them each time until they are trained and motivated to do it on their own.
I tell my elders that if I go out and visit someone who is homebound, for instance, and spend an hour with them once a month, that’s ONE visit. If the elders take that person Communion, that’s TWO. 100% increase in the amount of time that homebound person is not sitting alone looking at their four walls. If I visit, and the elders take her Communion, AND another elder or other church person also stops by, that’s THREE.
I think Bill goes to one of those dying churches that Thom described. Of course the same people who complain a pastor never visits enough are the people who complain if he’s not in the office. “I came by to see the pastor and he’s never at his office. What does he do all day anyway???”. Great post , Thom. Don’t let the haters get you down.
This post timely follows the “church bully” post. The church bullies are all about them, all about being visited, being catered to, having their preferences met with worship/carpet color/sunday school room etc. There’s not enough pastors out there who stand up to these people.
Thank you so much, Glenn. While the haters do bother me a bit, I know pastors and staff face much more than I do. I love them and I love the church.
“Of course the same people who complain a pastor never visits enough are the people who complain if he’s not in the office. ‘I came by to see the pastor and he’s never at his office. What does he do all day anyway???’.”
Nailed it! Well said, brother!
I am retired, but I pastored United Methodist churches for 45 years. Once when I was visiting in the hospital, I will never forget some good people I met from a Baptist Church in Coldwater Mississippi. After we introduced ourselves, they asked why I was the one doing the visiting. I don’t remember my response, but I remember theirs. “If you are doing the church’s visiting, then what do the people in your church do?” What a dedicated group of lay people they were, and may their tribe increase.
I’ve noticed a lot of criticism in many of the posts from people who seem to feel the purpose of the church (ministers included) is to bless the members. Whoever came up with that idea?
When a friend retired and was asked what he looked forward to most in retirement, he responded, “Not having to change diapers on adults.” There are expectations that every minister needs to live up to, but that is a 2-way street. I feel we need to lighten up and balance the work of the ministry..
One more thought. A neighbor who left the church said to me, “I quit because I saw the bulk of the church’s time being spent sitting around talking to itself.” WOW! That is a lesson in itself! It is certainly true of my denomination right now.
Bill, I totally agree with you. Jesus set the example
By going out and doing and visiting the sick etc and our “new” churches are leaning further away from this. Thanks for your comments!!
Jesus set the example by appointing disciples who would soon lead churches to unleash the laity of the church. Jesus left us the Holy Spirit who empowers everyone to do the work of ministry. You cannot support biblically the hired-hand model of pastoral ministry. It is for churches obsessed with being served instead of serving.
Got to disagree with your laity comment. God makes no distinction in the body. If He does show me where? We need to reclaim the priesthood of all believers.
I didn’t make a distinction, John. The laity includes all the saints or believers.
“It is for churches obsessed with being served instead of serving.”
Man, is that ever one of my pet peeves! Many churches could be turned around overnight if laypeople would get serious about serving, instead of expecting their pastor / staff to do everything.
“Many churches could be turned around overnight if laypeople would get serious about serving, instead of expecting their pastor / staff to do everything.”
I agree with you 100%. However, there are many Pastors (and “their” staff) who desire to be CEO’s rather than Pastor. The “staff-led” model of Church “organization” has been a huge determent to the Church as a whole and, in my view of Scripture, very unBiblical. We hire people to do what laity is commanded to do. We elect Elders and Deacons who have no idea of what Paul outlined (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) to Timothy. Elders go to meetings, work on budgets and “oversee” staff but do little, if anything, regarding the spiritual oversight they are Biblically called to do (which includes the spiritual oversight of the Minister of Word and Sacrament). Most of the members of our congregation have no idea who their Elder is (we divide our families by alphabet, families with last names beginning with A-G as an example, and “assign” an elder to each group). Why is it that members don’t know what Elder they are assigned to? Well, in our church two of the three pastors want it that way. It is all about control. And so, Elders are not encouraged to visit the sick, shut-ins, or bring Communion to those who cannot attend (don’t want them to possibly hear a “complaint”). They hired someone to do that. Deacons rarely call on the widows to see if their needs are being met (in the true definition of one of their Biblical roles). Why? They aren’t shown or even taught what their role is. The example is dictated by the CEO to them and by extension to the congregation.
So, what happens? If a member goes into the hospital the hired visitation “Pastor” (I dislike this term as it is being used in today’s Church because an ordained minister of Word and Sacrament is an Elder and an Elder is a pastor…but that’s another subject) had better be there to visit pre-surgery, visit again during the hospital stay and visit at least once after they are home again. As an Elder (one who was trying to visit those I was assigned to care for) I actually had a member who was ill tell me when I went to care for him that I didn’t need to visit because I wasn’t a real Pastor and that I was only a member of the congregation just like he was. That is an indication of the skewed view many in the Body (most of our members at least) have of the role of all Christians to encourage, pray, visit, care for each other. In short, being the hands and feet of Jesus to our brothers and sisters. And honestly, it is easier to put a few more dollars in the collection plate to pay the salary of someone who we have hired to do what each is called to do rather than actually getting our hands “dirty”.
In short, do I believe that the minister of Word and Sacrament called to shepherd the flock should visit members in certain instances (death, severe illness, sensitive issues)? In my opinion the answer is yes. However, I believe equally, if not more, that laity needs to be strongly reminded of their role to each other in the Church of Jesus Christ.
There is a double-edged sword. The expectations of the members (owing to how they are taught and modeled) and the CEO mentality of so many in “leadership” in the Church. I pray we not only read about God’s model of true sacrificial love but then go and do what we taught by Him.
Thank you Thom for your insight.
Thank you as well, Jim.
Jesus did not spend his time visiting the sick. He spent His time teaching. In many cases the sick came to him…or in the case of the centurion whose servant was sick…a representative did. In cases where Jesus did visit…as in Peter’s mother-in-law…she was a family member of his disciples. Hospital visitation is one thing. Stopping by to have coffee and socialize with people who could be out visiting themselves is quite another.
Good post Bill, Pastor’s today don’t want to be shepherds. It’s all about keeping the congregation at arms length and I don’t stomach that very well at all. The call to the gospel ministry is not about compensation packages and boundaries., Jesus walked among the people daily. I have the greatest respect for bivocational Pastors who visit the sick in hospitals. This notion that the Pastor doesn’t visit hospitals is not biblical.
Who said that pastors shouldn’t visit the hospital, Russ?
Also, I resent the way you did a blanket condemnation of all pastors. While there will always be a few bad exceptions, the overwhelming number are godly, gracious, servant-minded, and humble.
I don’t usually block comments, but I will block such venom in the future. I don’t stomach that very well at all.
Thom, I sincere apologize that it came across that way. I did not realize it was coming out that way. I in no way intended a blanket condemnation.
Thank you for your gracious response, Russ. I certainly do accept your kind words.
I sense you don’t agree with full time pastors?
This is addressed to Russ.
“Visiting your people is sermon preparation…” I think I understand what you mean, but this is a dangerous comment to make. Sermon preparation requires time, mediation, discipline, prayer, & so on… The congregation doesn’t need to hear about our visits, rather about King Jesus from the Scriptures. I’m a pastor & I spend large amounts of time visiting. It’s not a sustainable method. However, to patiently & graciously develop leaders/elders who can do the work of the ministry is a sustainable method. If we are preaching the Word & not preaching visits we will see this develop. We should love the people & the most loving thing I can do for my people is preach the Word.
So agree with your statement. Pastor must know and care what is going on in the life of God’s Church. Development of a good in reach program is very important but should never isolate the Pastor from Father’s flock. It is a tough job but we have supernatural help.
Bill- I agree whole heartedly with your comment. You expressed my sentiment after reading the article. Too much visiting? Is that like too much love? or too much grace?? The younger generation pastors seem to embrace the corporate idea, that it’s a 9-5 job in the ministry. Its not a job, it’s a calling, and the calling is about relationships with Christ, fellow believers, and reaching the lost.
Please read the comments from the broken pastors who lost or almost lost their families because they spent so much time visiting church members who did not have urgent needs. Then think again if there is such a thing a “too much visiting.”
As a PK, I can agree! Our family cut short vacations, interrupted holidays and saw little of my dad many times growing up because he was headed out to visit members who needed him. The cool thing about Dad, he would take us with him sometimes. I remember making hospital visits with him. Those are sweet memories for me. (Perhaps why I’m a hospice nurse, now). But it did take it’s toil on Dad’s health. I can see both sides of this discussion. Thanks for bringing up the topic. Good healthy discussions are good things!
Never too much visiting? That is the second most ridiculous thing I’ve heard on this site. It is exactly this same “it’s never enough” mindset from the church that ruins so many pastors.
So Chris, are you ok with a pastor visiting 40 hours a week? How about 60 hours a week? Or 80 hours a week? For that matter why even set aside time for sleeping? After all you can’t visit too much!
Amen brother you u have the right idea.the pastor didn’t have to do all the work but we are in this together.with love for the brothers that’s what it’s all about
Bill, that expresses my sediments very well. The corporate CEO model is just about captured the pastorate today. As the large mega church trend continues, there will be less and less pastoral visitation, and may well become extinct in Baptist life. Sad day.
Should be “Sentiments” not “sediments”. Sorry I could not edit my comments.
” Visiting your members IS sermon preparation.”
No, I don’t think that is correct. Visiting members may be a source of sermon illustrations. Of course, if you use those illustrations, your tenure in the church may become rather short lived.
Sermon prep is sermon prep and it begins alone before God asking for understanding of the Scripture, study of the Scripture, writing, writing, and more writing, and a clean heart at the time of delivery. That’s sermon prep. Actually, that is a good start at sermon prep.
Truly, I just do not see visitation as sermon prep.
CB Scott, you hit the nail on the head. There are major differences between a chaplain, whose role is primarily visitation, and a pastor, whose role includes preaching, prayer, weddings, funerals, and some times shoveling snow, cutting grass, raking leaves, unclogging toilets, etc.
While there is overlap between a chaplain and a pastor, they are not one and the same.
I have been a faithful Christian and church member for 59 years. I was also a preacher’s kid , so I’ve seen this situation from both sides. Ministers have a difficult road . Pleasing the congregation has to come second to pleasing God but if you love the people you will want to be there for them in times of need. I have never needed or wanted the pastor to just visit me for the sake of visiting. Sickness, family problems, deaths these are the times you need your church and your pastor. I have been part of several churches, all baptist, and have found in my experience that you can have a great Shepard pastor or a great speaking preacher. Never had both in one man. I’ll take the great Shepard pastor every time. I also believe the members, deacons, and assistant pastors have just as much responsibility to visit and minister to the other church members. I have had a pastor that would not visit a deacon that was dying that lived a quarter of a mile from his house and another that called a family that had experienced a sudden death and asked if they wanted him to come. I do not believe these pastors really loved the people.
Drawing a distinction between a Shepherd and a Preacher is the third most ridiculous thing I’ve heard on this site.
What is the most important job of a shepherd? FEED THE SHEEP! Nothing else you do matters if the sheep are not fed. It’s just like being a parent. You can spend all the time in the world with your kids- play with them, comfort them, protect them- but if you’re not feeding them then none of the rest of it matters.
As Christians our food is the Word of God which is why the apostles viewed the ministry of the Word as more important than waiting on widows.
Bill, I agree. Why do pastors think visits have to be one on one and take enormous amounts of time.
Have socials at church, or group visits.
If all we focus on is getting people saved but ignoring them afterwards, not sure that is pleasing to God.
Your post is the only one I’ve read that makes any sense.
Thank you for sharing!
In fairness, some visits DO take a very large amount of time. I learned early on not to visit certain members unless I had a lot of time available for the visit. True, many of these members are talkative because they’re lonely. I get that, but some of them seem to understand that the pastor often has a busy schedule and does not have time for long visits.
To a large point I agree, in all placements I try and get around to every member twice in those 2 years and get to know your flock. Love is the key issue, learn to love your congregation they will then accept even harder words from the pulpit.
Ok, I’m a little late to the party but…
“Visiting IS sermon prep” is the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard on this site. Call me stupid, but I thought our sermon prep as pastors should come from…oh I don’t know, maybe the BIBLE!
I guess the apostles had it all wrong when they decided the ministry of the Word was more important than waiting on widows. You should have been there to set them straight, Bill.
Thanks Thom, this is such a timely word.
Thank you as well, Joey.
Most churches, especially Baptist denominations, and I am one, puts the Pastor in the position of CEO. There should be elders, and a Pastor could be one if he qualified, and deacons. These men should be responsible for the spiritual affairs of the Church and not the Pastor. The elders should handle the spiritual affairs, the deacons should handle the physical affairs and be in training from the elders to become elders in their future years. The Pastor should be free to preach the word and not be involved in running the Church affairs. I believe that is what Paul taught in his teachings. Pastors primary responsibility should be preaching the word. All members should be equally responsible for visitation and spreading the gospel.
I respectfully disagree with some of what you said, Dan, and maybe that’s because I pastor in a different denomination than you do. In the Presbyterian Church (USA), pastors, elders, and deacons serve equally alongside each other with slightly different roles.
I attend most committee meetings, and I find that’s the way I can train elders and deacons to lead the church. Most of my church members have a very limited view of what the church does outside of Sunday mornings and committee meetings. I see it as my job to remind them of the work of other areas of the church so they begin to see the bigger picture.
Visitations do take away from my sermon preparations, but I have faith that God is there where my sermon may leave off, and I trust that my conversation with whomever I’ve visited is of equal importance for the work of the church as my sermon is.
There are times a pastor needs to visit terminal and catastrophic illness. I am not talking social visit . If the pastor doesn’t visit and has no office hours where is the connection? Giving a sermon Sunday morning and attending Presbytery meetings is not ministering to your flock !
You must not have read the entirety of the blog post before you commented.
Thank you Judy.
Sadly, the churches with this mentality are more prevalent than ones who have a biblical mentality. I pastored one of these churches you describe, and I could not win. If only church members had a biblical understanding rather than a cultural understanding of the church, the church would not be experiencing the decline it currently experiences.
Matthew, you are so right. The problem with the mentality is no one seems to be able to draw the line on the sufficient amount of visiting.
Isn’t it the difference between a Shepherd and a Rancher. Jesus said, John 10:27 (NKJV)
27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.
Shepherds lead but Ranchers drive. Sheep willing follow the Shepherd. Cows have to be proded and will leave the Rancher to do what they want to do at the first opportunity. Sheperds spend time with sheep and cultivate a relationship that includes intimate fellowship. It is the same way as with the individual Christian and God. Time spent together increases intimacy and unity. It is the same principle as the equal yoke in marriage. Two forces moving in the same direction giving aid to each other as they share the load. Ranchers accept loses as part of the cost but, Shepherds tend to each one of the sheep with tender care. I hope to have the heart of a Sheperd.
Wayne, Lufkin, Texas
spot on! very well articulated! thanks for sharing!
I think your article is a crock.
I am 42 years old, my mother has attended the same church faithfully since I was 6. My dad also atteneded that church for 2-3 years before he got too sick to leave the house, which was about a year ago. Guess how many people from the church–that my mother devoted most of her life to– has came to visit? Called? Brought by a meal? Offered a helping hand of any kind? Not a darn one! No “pastor”, no “elder”, no shepherd, no rancher, no sheep, nor a cow anywhere in sight.
My dad is now bedridden in the last stages of Alzheimer’s. He doesn’t have long to live.
I may not “go to church” but I’m a good person and offer a helping hand and a kind word whdn I see someone struggling. My 9 year old has more decency than the so-called pastor and the good people of his congregation. As far as I’m concerned if they make it to Heaven, I’ll have no problem getting in. If not, I’ll save them seat down below.
BTW…just a FYI..my mom’s sorry pastor has a hard time holding down a job and the only community service I’ve heard of him doing is fishing.
I just saw your comment. I am sorry about the actions of your mothers church. I am also sorry that no one has engaged your response. What you are describing is mans mistakes not Gods. You give your life to Christ not man. No one will make it into heaven unless they accept Christ as their savior. I plead with you not to let the actions of inactive Christians cause you to lose sight of the love of Christ. Jesus said he was the way, the truth and the light. No amount of good works can get us into heaven. Please don’t trust in your goodness to take care of your eternity. I am not perfect. I fail and let people down. But I serve a perfect savior and I try to let him shine through me. I’m also sorry about your father. I pray he has comfort in his time.
He doesn’t mention God being the mistake… He made it clear its the members of the church. You are such a phony it saddens me that people like you are leafing so many and not for God but for their own betterment.
Mad in KY,
I wanted to respond to the main point of your post, and hopefully help clarify what the article was stating and to give you the larger context within which it is written. I do not believe that the article is really arguing that pastors should never do hospital visits or visit the sick. At least that is not how I am reading it. I read it this way: Christians (and not just the pastor) are supposed to minister to each other. Most (at least it seems like most) Christians are under the false understanding that the pastor is to function like a chaplain–and do all of the visitation. This is neither realistic, nor healthy for the church to function this way. The reason I, a pastor, came to this article, and came to your post, is that I felt quite stung by criticism about not visiting people enough. The person in question, was undoubtedly injured in a minor fall. She was in fact however visited by a member of our church, and her husband is a spiritually and physically healthy member of our church. She was out for two Sundays. Most of the visits I do are to hospitals 2 1/2 miles away from my rural town (the closest one is an hour away). I make those visits because I realize that those are not realistic for my church members to make it to. When I have weeks in which I make a visit like that, I usually end up working at least 6 and usually 7 days a week because that is basically an entire day for a hospital visit. I am not complaining, but the point I make is this: as the article stated in #9, no matter what, it is still never enough. That person, who I do care about, also complained that I had visited someone who had A HEART ATTACK at a hospital an hour away, but not them. That said, I do think it is awful that no one visited your mom and dad, and the hope of most pastors–and this article–is that by enlisting more members of the church to visit the sick, people like your folks won’t be overlooked. Most pastors are not like the one describe. But I can tell you that when our town had a major flood, I was out serving to help clean up–and ran into lots of my church members who helped out as well. And yet, a member who rarely attends church put on Facebook that no one from our church helped out. (I also visited him in the hospital 2 1/2 hours away) The truth was, no one helped out where she served because she didn’t really communicate where it was or what it was they were doing or needed help with. But, most pastors do not serve to get noticed. The way I handled the complaint was by deleting their Facebook post off of OUR CHURCH FACEBOOK page (because, though I was quite angry, I knew he was making himself look bad and he did not know it) and then calling them to talk about it and tell them that I was serving, and that I had run into lots of others from our church who were serving. It was like talking to a brick wall. He felt entitled to have us show up where he and his wife were running the show. Yet, I have seen them at our church about 4 times in 3 years. So, I read the article not to get out of work, but because I am approaching burnout and I am royally irritated that no matter what I do it is never good enough. I will get over it, because this is not the first time I have had a complaint like this, but I know there has to be a better way.
t hat should say 2 1/2 hours away–not 2 1/2 miles away
Why does God have to be blamed Ellen? It makes me think you’re one of those that felt guilty because maybe you don’t visit your friends when they are ill, or need help?
That does not change the fact that the pastor’s calling is not visitation. You are a perfect example of those in churches who haven’t a clue what a pastor’s biblical role is in the church.
I think that you may have the wrong idea about the true purpose of the Church….possibly you could get into the Word and understand that salvation is not based on works, but only grace and forgiveness……..perhaps the pastor is not preaching the word in that particular gathering.
You are right! My mother is dying and her church has not so much as visited her. I’m finding myself looking on google to see if there is a clergy that could spare even a half hour a week and no luck! None of them do that!
i can feel for you Linda as my wife has been suffering since last year with cancer and is under therapy till date and hardly our pastor has visited us at least in this condition a pastor should either visit or officially appoint a team to take care of the sick visitations by senior or parish members if not each and every healthy member. Even i am unable to regularly attend church due to being with her all the time but now feel the church today is not what it used to be in my childhood and youth when our pastor used to visit if anyone missed one or two sundays. I feel church today is like any other organization with leaders/managers just trying to score points in a race for vertical growth and being in good books of the supervising Synod or Diocese.
I feel the same way
I sprained my ankle real bad and couldn’t get off couch for few weeks
Do you think the pastor or his wife made one visit ?? Not even a phone call or a text to say “ We missed you at church, praying for you or nothing
But she don’t seem to have any problem sending me a text when they need money or donations
I think I need to find me another church
What do you think
I have sort of the same situation. My wife fights depression and none of the church elders or pastor really support her. One actually did come once and said “write down things that bother you and visit a psychologist”. My wife was needing Biblical encouragement
One went through a check list, “do you have sin, do you pray, do you fast” and basically then that was it. Never heard back. My wife said after the phone call she fell like she was in a job interview.
I see the Word about a shepherd leaving the 99 to rescue the one.
In this day and age, a simple text or email say “ hey thinking of you” or “praying for you” would suffice.
I agree with Mad in Kentucky! I just had the disgusting experience of going to a church With an almost nonexistent congregation. The whole church was run by a single family. It was kind of like a Von Trapp kind of thing where they all got up there and saying and played instruments. None of them had jobs outside of the church. I don’t know where their income was coming from since there weren’t enough people there to make enough contributions to sustain that whole family. And yet, despite all the apparent free time the pastor must’ve had Since he had no secular job, he couldn’t give me and my fiancé the time of day to get to know us as we were making overture after overture to reach out and begin a rapport. In fact, after texting him a few times with scriptures I was studying, he asked me to send them to his email instead. So one day on my one day off during the week, since I work in the big, scary world at large, I took the time to send him a detailed email pouring my heart out to him about my biggest concerns regarding my relationship with my fiancé and our contemplation of the lifelong covenant of marriage.. You know what his response was? He said that Monday was also his day off and he would get back with me later, perhaps after the next service, “if there was time. “ Needless to say I responded and told him to not bother. I am just so disenchanted and disgusted. I think these full-time ministry types are so out of touch and their hearts get too easily lifted above their brethren.
I go to church to hear God’s word. I think alot of problems in our churches come from the fact that there are few that are truly saved. If we give God His time then we will be compelled to serve others. I believe it’s called being obedient.
Some of your comments are the very reason pastors get burn out. Living up to your expectations is brutal. The last statement was the truth. We are to remain faithful. And as God leads we pastors follow, like sheep. And yes, that pastor with Monday off… needs a day off. It did not make him less caring. Sheesh!
I totally agree with you. The church now days could at least send someone over to check on people who have been sick or have had surgery. Thee is also texting, emailing, calling one which is acceptable now days. I just had a total knee replacement and although I had a texted message, “praying for you a quick recovery” from a pastor that I have paid tithes to but have not yet joined it was nice to know that at least I was thought of in the moment. I never got a message or phone call asking how I was doing. I was having a difficult time and offered no help. Needless to say, i will not be attending that church in the future.
Pastors visiting the sick is not Biblical? That is RIDICULOUS.. “I was sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’ And they too will reply, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ Then the King will answer, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me.’ Then the King will answer, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me.’ And they will go away into eternal punishment, Matthew 5: 44-46. That Scripture applies to EVERYONE. You are supposed to lead by EXAMPLE, so what you don’t do, the Congregation wont do either. I know about this firsthand. What DO you pastors these days do all day anyway to earn your pay if not the most important things like this?
AMEN TO MJ ROGERS!!!
There is some truth in the fact that ” a pastor” can’t do all the work of visiting by himself. The reason most churches have this problem is the unbiblical stance they have of not ordaining elders “plural.” Scripture instructs the churches to ordain elders, plural, not singular. Baptist have followed the early tradition of having church patriarchs or church fathers. This escalated into popery and is completely unscriptural.
So let me make sure that I get this right. If you are given a title then you will do the work of the ministry? I was under the impression that we were all called to do the work of the ministry, title or not.
This issue is not elders (plural), but members doing the ministry God has called them to. Eph. 4- “equipping the saints (that’s YOU) for their work of ministry” (that includes visiting and caring for one another.
Great reply, I concur.
Yep. That was a great reply.
I’ve been in church for five decades. I’ve suffered with chronic illness all my life. Still I’ve never once called for visitation. I have occasionally been visited by genuinely concerned pastors but I’ve never requested a visit or felt put out by the lack of one. My mother was a church musician who worked closely with the church’s pastors for 42 yrs. She never requested a visit either, not even on her deathbed. I’m not certain, but I think I am more put out by pastors who complain about having to visit than by those who don’t visit. I’ve often listened to said complaints and wondered “who are these unreasonable, ungodly, unbiblical people of whom pastors complain?” I know the work is challenging and I have a healthy respect for it as several of my friends and family are in ministry. But I often feel like there’s just no pleasing ministers. If people call upon them the people are being bothersome and interfering with the “important things”. If people don’t call upon them they feel overlooked. As for freeing them to just preach – I don’t know of one pastor (friends and family included) who is willing to relinquish control of church administration so that they can “just preach”. With all due respect, its ALL talk. When churches try to limit the work of the pastor to preaching then the pastors complain that the people are “hard hearted, stiff necked and don’t really want to be led”. And as for having the laity visit instead of the pastor – it’s a good idea in theory but not necessarily in practice. I understand the scripture reference but the fact is that not everyone is equipped to visit, nor can they be trained to. They often dont know what to say to sick, grieving or otherwise distressed people. They don’t maintain confidences; and they can potentially do more harm than good. I know first hand as I have over the course of my journey been compromised by lay visitors. Frankly, people prefer pastoral visits in hopes that they will deliver what is essentially a more professional end product. Of course that can’t happen if the pastor feels put out by having to make the visit or if the pastor thinks visitation is somehow a lesser calling which should be delegated to lesser servants.
As a hospice chaplain, who is expected to share visitation with pastors and other representatives of the parish, I appreciate your response. Many folk who need visits won’t ask because they don’t feel worthy, don’t want to burden, haven’t been able to attend due to declining health, don’t know the pastor because they haven’t been since he/she came to the church, etc. For the dying and infirm, especially shut ins, visitation is tremendously important. I end up doing funerals because the church and family have become disconnected, and sometimes the pastor feels slighted because they expected to do a member’s funeral.
I too am a hospice chaplain and see many of the same scenarios you mentioned! Pastors can get busy visiting, which can consume his tome, but those terminally ill and shut-in need to see their pastor from time to time!
Yes. That’s the essence of my article.
I am a hospice volunteer in an inpatient unit. The hospice chaplain is a true blessing, but when a patient’s own pastor visits I personally feel that the patient ( if they are aware of the visit) and their loved ones are very grateful.
My husband, as a pastor, and myself always do visitation together. We usually visit those in the hospital, hospice, or bereaved. Do we know what to say? Not always. Do we stay long? No. But we feel very strongly that these visits are crucial.
We very rarely visit in homes, but will occasionally take someone for coffee, or have them over to our home as a way of encouragement. If some man wants to just meet with my husband, of course I will not go. I think the main thing is to have a specific reason to visit.
As a hospice nurse, I have seen this too. One of my patients who just passed away asked one of our chaplains to do her funeral before she died. He is a great chaplain and was honored to be asked. Thank God for giving chaplains in the hospice world! We appreciate you!!!
As a pastor I look at ministry as trying to keep three balls in the air: worship, pastoral care and administration. I feel called to give leadership in every one of these areas, and by leadership, I mean teaching others to do these same things well. I’m convinced that lay people can be taught to give good pastoral care, and as a pastor it’s my job to teach them, and, of course, it’s always my job to give pastoral care.
If that member is in need shouldn’t the congregation come together to aid? Or are the donations given just for what the pastor wants??
I couldn’t disagree more with the premise that pastors don’t need to visit those in their care. When out of church for a prolonged period of time, there is nothing as encouraging as a personal visit from the one you look to for wise counsel and pastoral care. True shepherds do not ignore their sheep who get cast in the field and expect fellow sheep to put them upright. They themselves take the time and care to do that out of love for their sheep. Having been out of church for almost four months it has hurt my heart that my own pastor has never called me personally to speak with me or tried to come see me and pray. He has the time for other activities he posts on his Facebook regularly. Our church is not a mega church. I know I am not alone in wishing today there was fewer pastors overly concerned with being relevant (especially with non-believers and fellow pastors) and more focus on hands-on caring for those the Lord has put in their care……including those who cannot be on the front lines, but who still have much to offer with just a little encouragement.
Lisa, thank you for sharing your experiences in response to this post. Your comments are so helpful and insightful (not to mention challenging) to me as a Pastor.
Very well said. I totally agree
Thank you, Lisa. I couldn’t agree more. Your response is spot on!
Thank you Lisa. Balance is the key and perfection is not attainable. Different pastors have different gifts and strengths and of course weaknesses. One balance point can be the equipping of deacons to become an extension of the pastoral ministry to include visitation. Your point about complaining pastors is, well, let’s say, revealing. Complaining pastors should be oxymoronic.
In all fairness, it’s not so much of an oxymoron. I get that pastors are people too and as with all people there are aspects of your work you love and aspects you hate. Many doctors love treating patients but hate chart work. Many attorneys love arguing cases but hate researching them, or visa versa. It’s not all that unusual that pastors would prefer preaching to visiting or even that they would complain about the things they hate. I think the bigger issue is that the complaining routinely reaches the people. I would imagine that my doctor complains about me from time to time, and I am all but certain that my attorneydoes because I tend to get into a panic over the things he handles for me and give him a hard time. BUT, as difficult as I may be he doesn’t actually complain about me to me. You can complain, but you can’t complain to your audience. And lastly (at the risk of seeming to contradict myself) I think there needs to be greater levels of honest dialogue between pastors and congregations about expectations. Preachers tend to talk to other preachers so the only perspectives they hear are those of the preacher. Meanwhile churchgoers talk to other churchgoers so the only perspectives we hear are those of the churchgoer. There’s right on both sides and a truckload of scripture to support either so no understanding is ever reached in those separate forums. There needs to be more Crosstalk (pun intended) but not from the pulpit because that puts the people at full disadvantage. By the way, I forgot to say so upon jumping headlong into the dialogue, but I appreciate this post and the opportunity to dialogue with other believers – even though I’m one of “us” and not one of “yall”.
I agree with you….most preachers today are paid a salary….that salary is for preaching, teaching, and visiting, along with other responsibilities agreed upon when they were hired. What some preachers forget it that they are usually visiting “on the clock” while member visits are on their own time. I see several preacher comments here that say a preacher isn’t supposed to neglect his family….if he visits while at work, it shouldn’t interfere with his family. Or, if he visits on Sunday, when he’s usually getting paid for a full day’s work??? It is very difficult for working members to juggle a family/work schedule which includes regular visitation. I know there are a lot of members who do make visits, but there are also a lot who work 8 or more hours a day (not counting travel time), don’t get home until 6 PM or later and barely have time to eat and visit a couple of hours with their families before bedtime. Are they supposed to neglect their families?? How many preachers make regular visits outside of their “working hours”. I just think it’s part of job. And I agree with Lisa, if a preacher complains about visiting his members, that’s the bigger problem. Don’t get me wrong, I think everyone should visit, but I think preachers have more time during the day to do so. And if they are complaining, maybe they are in the wrong profession.
Sue, I hadn’t thought of it that way, but you raise a very valid point and make a solid argument about members who work outside of the church, have very little time after work and their obligations to their families. I get off work at 6, get home at 7:30 if I am lucky enough to make every connection, decompress for an hour and don’t even get around to making dinner until 8:30. This brings me back to preachers (and churchgoers) only seeing things from their own perspectives. When I was a young adult I dated a preacher and people were always admonishing me that it was sooo hard to be a preacher’s wife. When I asked my mother if she thought it was harder to be married to a preacher she said, “Harder than what – being married to your father?” My preacher friend and I still laugh about that. It all comes down to perspective!
I honestly do not hate the time I spend visiting my parishioners, as has been suggested here. My visitation priority always goes with members in hospice and in the hospital first (I always visit when a member is in hospice or the hospital), and then home-bound and care facility next. I feel like it is an honor to be with people in times of pain and loss, as well as healing.
But it is a demanding part of ministry because it is “emotional labor” and I have a much older congregation. I have officiated at 75 funerals in the six years I have been at my church. Add the hospital and hospice and home visits which precede each of these deaths, and it adds up.
And I am always aware that my parishioners are volunteering their time at church on top of working jobs and raising families, and that this is my “paid job” as well as a my calling.
I think we clergy talk among ourselves about the things that drain us in ministry because it is a safe place to vent and to get support. But I sure do not expect sympathy from non-clergy types. We all do this. Find our “safe tribes” to commiserate with and let off steam.
I do very little home visits unless I am asked to visit or if the member is in hospice at home. If my members are healthy enough to come to worship, I don’t see the pastoral need to visit at homes.
And a gentle reminder that pastors are “she(s)” also! 🙂
As a pastor that is now full-time and was bi-vocational I want to clear some things. You are right when you talk about people that work and get home late. I am a pastor of a church with an average attendance of 175. I am the only pastor of this church. I am expected to work 50 hours a week. The idea behind the 50 hours is a normal work week of 40 plus 10 hours of time that would be expected the church members to do volunteer work at the church. I do as much visiting as time allows. There are times when I have worked three weeks in a row without a day off. There are times when I have sat down to dinner then I was called away before I could finish. I have some members that complain that I don’t visit enough and I have some that are surprised that I came to see them. I thing to remember about pastors is that they are never off the clock. I have had vacations interrupted. Another perspective from this pastor is when we deal with peoples pain day in and day out it takes a toll on the emotional well being of that pastor. In my time as pastor I have laid to rest an infant, a 5 year old, and one day I had 2 funerals. One because of an auto accident and the other a drug overdose. So remember before there is a certain expectation of a pastor, walk in their shoes for awhile.
I’ve read quite a number of the comments, and wonder about some of them.
I am a missionary in Tanzania, a country in East Africa. I and my wife teach in a Bible College here.
First of all, Christianity is a 24/7 commitment. It does not run on an 8 hour day. For us as missionaries, there is no such thing as running on the clock. We often have people at our door before 7:30am, and I sometimes get calls in the middle of the night to take someone to the hospital. We are expected to host people coming through. Presently we have guests for a two week period.
Yes, pastors are busy. I am one. But visitation is a PART of pastoral ministry. And the pastor must balance his ministry: family, preaching, visiting. But , Christian church people are also ministers. See Eph 4:11-16. So people that complain their pastor doesn’t visit enough are just being babies. They need to grow up and get involved.
Finally, people from North America need to get out in the real world. Come to the third world, and spend a couple of months or years. It will change your perspective on a lot of things.
Usually when I do hospital. Is it’s it is a 7 day weeks. I Have 3 young boys. I like to do hospital visits because I know how much it means to people…but in truth it should not mean more than a visit from a church member. But folks who are not shut ins or terminally I’ll will still complain that they did not get a visit from the preacher. No matter what, It is never enough. And Lisa, you write well and make great points, but I would do anything to hand off administration. I preach 3 sermons per week teach, Sunday school and I am the youth director on top of pastoring. I would without hesitation hand off administration. No one will do it. It’s the preachers job. Along with head up the new building program, (even though I am not equipped for this), drive a van, set up the youth room, proof read the bulletin, make sure to be involved in evangelism, and the community, be an ex officio member of all Committees, pray, develop leaders. Not complaining, but I am of the belief that biblically and practically it does not make sense for pastors to visit everyone. I have been blasted on facebook by a member who almost never attends, for not visiting her father who never attends. I visit people for evangelistic reasons (on request of the deacons)…and they don’t want me there. That has happened more than once. The second one used it as an opportunity to criticize my preaching, and the fact that I don’t fit in. But I will say, I visited some shut ins who had not ever been visited by my predecessor, and they were grateful. And told me so. Balance and perspective.
As a pastors wife, my husband visits regularly.
Problems happen on the other end as well. There are some who a grateful for his visit, some feel annoyed because they think he is being nosey or condemning them for not coming to church, which makes them feel guilty, the same ones get offended if he don’t visit by saying he doesent care.. being a pastor is a hard job! My husband loves the Lord, loves all of our members and stays awake a lot of hours praying for people over the problems they have!
When I answered God’s call to plant a new church, after 20+ years in leadership ministry positions, I felt directed to use Biblical mandates, not man’s. One of the foundation verses for ministry was Ephesians 4:12. Being a non-compensated Bi-Vocational Pastor I can’t possibly do everything a full time Pastor can and live to see 60. I have cast what Ephesians 4:12 directs upon the church and they have responded very well since the overriding majority of our group (approx. 200) was led to Christ by our church. I can certainly see from my past denominational church experience the only way to get past this embedded, Pastoral effectiveness killing and people-centered, doctrine is to start a new independent work and let those attending know that they are called, commissioned, and released to do the “work of the ministry.” This forces the individual members to grow personally so they can be effective ministers of the Gospel in and out of the church. And it gives me the time I need to “feed the sheep” and my family in a healthy manner. I do visit when I’m needed to.
Thomas is spot on with this teaching!
Thank you, Gary.
Obviously today’s pastors (really just preachers) take this view. There are people in the congregation who are suffering greatly that need more than fellow members to visit. That is not to say the pastor should visit over every minor or small surgery. We had two men in our congregation commit suicide in the last year. My husband was one of them. My husband had stage 3 cancer and not once did the pastor visit. After his death I was so distraught and had to request that the preacher call me. He never once prayed with me. There are 6 paid salaried staff members in this average sized church.
Oh, please. Get in a new profession.