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.
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When you visit bring a ‘PGP’ personal growth plan. Go through their worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry and mission. Review their prayer life, Bible reading etc. Assign them the relevant things to grow (books, study, church groups etc.) and hold them accountable to be doing those things and demonstrating that they’ve been doing them. You’ll find they no longer want you to visit them. Have an A4 sheet with a check list etc. It’s a win win situation.
Poor excuses. It is biblical to visit people in your church. It will not take anything away but will give people the impression they care for more than just the collection plate. When ministers can bring themselves down to the level of the people they are supposed to be serving the people will see a real person and representative of christ. This is what jesus did. I read nothing in any of the gospels that Jesus burned out. He did say that all will know you are my disciples if you love one another as I have loved you. What a failure he would have been if he did not reach the needy. How many healings would have been recorded if he never went to them and touched them. There has to be connection between the people and the minister. Not a man in a suit and tie preaching from a pulpit high above the people but a fellow human bringing the love of Jesus to the people who need it. Perhaps you have never understood that minister does not mean king but means servant. When was the last time you washed your peoples feet like jesus did. Or are you better than the king of kings? So many shepherds fleecing the sheep. Where are the real and humble ministers who walk like jesus?
I was very disappointed in the tone of your comment Duffraene. The suggestion that a pastor is only interested in the plate and that pastors would be fleecing the flock is not godly in origin. I’d stay far away from “accusing the brethren” of evil intentions.
I for one have always been a bi-vocational pastor.
I rarely speak on finances for the very reason you suggested. In my over 20 years of pastoring I’ve probably devoted five Sundays to preach on giving.
Go ahead that’s not an exaggeration- do the math. That’s less than .005%. So I’d say I don’t fit into your suggested norm.
And the reason is I’ve always believed we don’t have giving problems we have reaching problems. The answer to finances in the church is the harvest. God always funds His work so Increasing your harvest increases your finances.
The same is true for the parishioner increasing your giving into the harvest, will increasing your personal storehouse. God loves a cheerful giver.
I’ve never had a pastor or elder visit me. Today, my mother told me the elders at her church had visited her and I began to wonder and even lament that I’d never been visited. Found this article. I do not expect a visit, but in 10 years…shouldn’t I have an elder at least call to have dinner just to take care of its sheep? Just an informal check in? What then is the purpose of pastors/elders?
Didn’t Christ himself visit Zaccheus and go to heal the sick? Just curious what the job description should be as a pastor. How is it unbiblical to visit?
Right on Annie.
I begin by noting that the author said “much” in his title, implying that pastor will visit when need arises.
Thom isn’t saying pastors shouldn’t visit at all.
For instance, I am a pastor, and I mostly visit when called upon. That’s biblical because James tells us “is anyone sick among you, let them call for the elders.” Clearly this shows the biblical mandate that elders should visit when called upon. This puts the responsibility of initiating the visit squarely on the parishioner not the pastor. Thus eliminates the scenario where John might complain about Bill getting three visits and him getting none. Well Bill called – John didn’t end of story. It also eliminates the need for your pastor to be wondering who should be visited. I’ve had people tell me they were disappointed I didn’t visit them when they were sick. And my response was I was never aware you were sick. Can you imagine the feeling I have when people expect me to just know things without a word. I’m not all knowing like God and I shouldn’t be made to feel like I need to be. Unrealistic expectations are one of the leading causes for why 250 pastors leave the ministry each month.
Now to be honest there are times I visit because I’m prompted to by the Holy Spirit. In those cases I usually call and set up an appt. I almost never visit impromptu. I try to call first unless I know the person on a very personal basis.
And just so you know, I’ve pastored at my current church for over 20 yrs and the church is unified, healthy and beginning to grow again post – COVID.
I hope this comment helps bring balance to your interpretation of the article above. I agree with Thom Rainer, pastors have limited time, especially bi-vocational pastors like myself.
No one really needs to preach the sermon- it will preach itself if the church is of Christ. I Cor 14 describes an assembly with no real magnet in the meetinghouse. How this happened when that church had as many problems as any on earth, but they were still a church of God…made up of saints. Entitlement is God calling man to work.