Fifteen Reasons Why Your Pastor Should Not Visit Much

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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?
  7. 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?
  8. It fosters unhealthy comparisons among the members. “The pastor visited the Smiths twice this month, but he only visited me once.”
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. It leads to high pastoral turnover. Burnout leads to pastoral turnover. Short-term pastorates are not healthy for churches.
  12. 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.
  13. It leads pastors to get their affirmation from the wrong source. They become people-pleasers instead of God-pleasers.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
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  • A preacher agreed to serve God as our Shepherd/Pastor. Shortly after he was on the field, he began to implement the Rancher/Preacher style propagated here. Attendance, giving and enthusiasm
    declined. The preacher was asked to leave with a severence package. He staged a dog and pony show and left a wake of grief. What was once a vibrant congregation is now in great need of Intensive Care.

  • What was wrong with it and why should it be modified? All the required fields were completed.

  • What was wrong with it. All the required fields were completed.

  • David Mapes says on

    Jesus visited, and He is the Great Pastor of the sheep!

    Therefore, so ought you visit.

    I do.

    It adds to sermon depth.

    It is no sign of sickness ‘of the church’.

    It is NOT unblblical.

    It does not deprive others from visiting also. — The more the merrier in many cases.

    Too many perfect ‘lists’ from Thom. This one is not among the good ones he posts. I affirm his ministry, experience and he is a solid brother, but kicked this one out of bounds. …I think.

    • George H. Jowanski says on

      Comments like David’s and others make me wonder if they read the entirety of Thom’s post. He affirms the need for pastors to visit. His point is that they should also equip others (that is why the title has the word “much.”) It’s almost silly how many of the commenters think they should mention Richard Baxter as if his works are equal to Scripture. The Reformed Pastor is a good book but it’s not inerrant. In fact, I would contend that it has its flaws as well. I am of the Reformed camp myself, but I cringe as I see so many of my Reformed brethren so desiring to prove their intellectual and doctrinal superiority,

      David, your kick is not only out of bounds; your team is offsides as well.

      In your longing to prove yourself right, you have proven yourself haughty, hasty, and half-witted.

  • There are so many comments on herevthat i didnt read through all of them. So if this is a repeat of someone else i apologize. My husband is a bivocational pastor. He spends 30 hours a week on his sermon prep and has a second job. People dont understand why he cant do it all. Its very frustrating and draining on these guys and their families. So many churches hire bivocational pastors now and still expect the same level of work as a full time pastor. Then the members never show up for anything outside of sundays because they’re to tired or whatever the excuse might be. Talk about a double standard.

  • Phil Erari. says on

    Firing fellow pastor for such reason is not valid in its context. It is a reflection of ambition and aindication of leadership crises among fellow pastors who are elected in a leadership package as one body and one team work.

  • Michael Gaydosh says on

    I read a critique of the article first and then read the article. While I appreciate some things you say as it applies to some situations in some churches, your basic premise is flawed. I have spent years reading and meditating on Paul’s message to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:17-38. The response to his words was beautifully described by Luke, “And they began to weep aloud and embraced Paul, and repeatedly kissed him.” What produced such a passionate response? Paul tells us himself when he said, “You yourselves know, from the first day that I set foot in Asia, how I was with you the whole time, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials which came upon me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house.” One mark of Paul’s ministry is described as being ‘FROM HOUSE TO HOUSE.’ Later he reminded them, “Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears.” It was the tearful, personal, house to house, ministry of Paul that produced the tears of the people who received that ministry for three years. THIS IS THE KIND OF MINISTRY THE CHURCH NEEDS TODAY. I published the book ‘A PASTOR’S SKETCHES’ by Ichabod Spencer in 2001 and it has thankfully influenced a new generation of ministers to practice biblical visitation in their communities and churches. For several years SKETCHES became required reading at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville under the direction of Tim Beougher. I have read the backstory of Spencer’s ministry and the Lord used his meticulously detailed pastoral visitation ministry from the late 1820’s -1854 to bring incredible growth to the church in Brooklyn that he pastored. His pastoral visitation fed his pulpit ministry (which was quite remarkable in itself) and his pulpit ministry opened doors for his pastoral ministry. In my personal experience of over 20 years of pastoral ministry in the Northwest and the Northeast I found that a proper pastoral visitation ministry opened doors and hearts to receive the Word of God. The ministry of Richard Baxter stands as a testimony of the power of this house to house ministry. It was not until he began to enter the homes that he discovered how little his people understand and believed of what he preached. It was his house to house ministry that transformed Kidderminster from a village of heathens (‘an ignorant, rude and reveling people’) to a town where entire streets had family worship every night and the Name of the Lord was honored. He wrote the book THE REFORMED PASTOR to describe in detail the kind of ministry that the Lord blessed in Kidderminster. It was a detailed exposition of Acts 20:28, “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” This book went all over the world and had a profound effect upon the pastoral ministry for generations. Charles Wesley and William Grimshaw of Haworth were conversing together and agreed that preachers should ‘visit from house to house, after Mr. Baxter’s method.” J.I. Packer closes his excellent Introduction to the most recent Banner of Truth edition of ‘The Reformed Pastor’ by asking the following questions: “Have I set myself, as Baxter set himself, to find the best way of creating situations in which I can talk to my people personally, on a regular basis, about their spiritual lives? How to do this today would have to be worked out in terms of present circumstances, which are very different from those Baxter knew and describes; but Baxter’s question to us is, should we not be attempting this, as a practice constantly necessary? If he convinces us that we should, it will not be beyond us to find a method of doing it that suits our situation; WHERE THERE’S A WILL, THERE’S A WAY.” (The Reformed Pastor, pp. 18,19, emphasis added). Having read your article, and comparing your 15 reasons with Scripture and Church History, I find that you have missed the mark by miles. Please reconsider.

  • I think you are you wrong – RB

  • Carl Peterson says on

    I think this article is unclear and that is why it is getting such a wide variety of responses. What kind of pastor and churches are really being described? I think we are left with having to think of our own specific history with pastors and churches and those experiences vary widely. What is visitation really anyways? Is having lunch with a parishioner visitation? Hospital visits? Getting coffee? Saying hello as he crosses the street? It is such a vague term.

    I had a very negative reaction to the article when I first read it. I was a chaplain at a major hospital and often those sick would not get visits by their own pastors. Pastors would come and we would defer to them since they would be with the sick long after we were gone.

    After i read it again I have a more positive understanding of the article. I think balance is the key almost everyone is looking for. Some visits should be made by the pastor. some by other elders or deacons. And the majority should be by the members of the church. Of course the pastor can train members to visit by taking members with them on their visits. Killing two birds with one stone.

    Visitation might be a new term but I do not think the pastor knowing their congregation deeply and sharing in their lives is new at all. Gregory of Nazianzus in the 4th century called pastors to be physicians of the soul and explained that the pastor must know his congregation if he is to preach or minister to them.

    I go to a small church but my pastor does a good job at visiting people in the congregation. He has had lunch with me a couple of times during the work week. I do not expect him to have special visits with me every month but a few a year does not seem too much of a burden. I do go to a small church though.

    Again balance is the key. I think pastoral visitation is Biblical even though it does need to be more defined as a term.

  • Jay Hartranft says on

    Thank you. Being in a small farm community in Madison, Florida, I suppose I had an Elijah complex – that is I thought I was the only one who thought this way. All the pastors here in our association (most of the 32 SBC churches have congregations under 100) are consumed with visitation. Thank you for this article. Now I feel less pressure as I give myself “…contiually to prayer, and the ministry of the Word.” Acts 6:4
    Blessings my brother.

  • The word “visitation” causes me to twitch, shudder and hide under my desk. I was a pastor.

  • The main key is clear: “NOT VISIT MUCH”. The visit is a important work of pastoral care.

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