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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  • Hi Thom,

    I just wanted to post a small explanatory note here. Thank you for your blog which I often read and find helpful. I disagree strongly with this particular one though. I wrote a blog about it mainly for folks in the UK, but it has been picked up by people in the US and perceived as some kind of personal attack. I hope that that is not the case, and it was certainly not my intention. I hope the Christians are allowed to disagree about issues such as this without calling each other either heretics or unloving or citing Matthew 18 as a reason to keep quiet! Anyway if I have caused any offence I apologise – in must be because I’m Scottish! The blog in question is here –

  • Richard Stout says on

    Recently had a lady in our church who had an injury and found it necessary to stay in a convalescent home for rehab for a few months. I visited her in the facility every week or two to check on her progress and stay connected. A week or so after she returned home, she came to me on Sunday and said, “Pastor, why haven’t you come to my house?” My reply was, “I’m sorry. Did you invite me over and I missed it?” “No,” she said, “the pastor is supposed to visit people when they get out of the hospital.”

    Seriously…I wish theses rules were written down somewhere….

  • Brian Carroll says on

    My favorite flights are the ones where the pilots talk to the passengers. They come on the speaker and say “if you look out the left side of the plane you’ll see the Blue Angels” or “we’re currently flying over White Sands, New Mexico”, etc. They typically stand by the cockpit and greet passengers as they board and leave the plane, but when we’re in the air I don’t want the pilot handing out peanuts or stopping by for a chat – he has a job to do and many people’s lives are in his hands. Flight attendants are there to hand out drinks and peanuts and to make sure folks are comfortable. They take that burden so the pilot can focus his skills and energy on getting us to our destination! We can demand he spend time with us, but if he neglects his job in order to appease the passengers, the plane will eventually run out of fuel, crash, and we’ll all be dead. Thank God for wise pilots and wise pastors!

  • Kimberly Vanbrimmer says on

    Each church is different, has different needs, is of different sizes, and is led by people with different gifts. I would hope that every pastor prayerfully visits or doesn’t visit according to how God leads him/her. I am the pastor at two different churches, both small, so visiting every single member would take significantly less time than a church with 200 members. One church is very connected with one another, visiting and calling upon one another frequently, and sharing their needs with me very openly. I don’t visit often. The other church is recovering from feelings of hurt by a former pastor. They are not close knit and have several shut ins. I am fairly new and don’t know everyone as well as I’d like. I visit often. The pastor and elders together should talk about visitation and make decisions based on each individual congregation, knowing that visitations needs may change over the years.

  • Steve Reynolds says on

    In reading these comments, it is obvious that there are many different perspectives on this issue. However, it is important that sometimes the church’s culture may need to be changed and this takes time. For example, in one of my pastorates, I accepted a call in a church that had had a stormy relationship with my predecessor. Trust between the pastor and church had been damaged. Therefore, I spent my first two years by extensively visiting church members in order to gain their trust. I refer this practice as “paying the rent.” I think this was an important time because it showed that I cared for them as we worked on trust issues. In time, I was able to establish trust and I was free to get the deacons more involved with visitation by setting up a shepherding ministry in which certain families were assigned to each deacon. After this, my visitation was limited to the sick and to the elderly in most cases.

    My point is that some of the issues raised in this article take time especially in churches that have trust issues with the pastor or churches in which the pastor did all of the visiting. If one comes in with the attitude that they are going to limit their visitation before trust has been built, then it may be difficult to establish any kind of discipleship or mentoring ministry. I would also add that in such a church culture, extensive visitation in the early years may be the means by which the pastor can identify those people who have shepherding gifts and who can transition the church from being “the pastor does the visiting” kind of church to one in which godly leaders are collectively ministering to those inside and outside the church. But this takes time!

  • This has certainly generated a lot of conversation about a vital subject, Thom, and for that I’m grateful. Your position on visitation is more or less diametrically opposed to me on in all honesty. I’ve written a mild response your piece, outlining my own ’15 reasons’ why as a Pastor I think visitation is vital.

    • Kelly Wiley says on

      Andrew this topic is a hot potato. Opposite views do to personal as well as congregational experiences. I had a pastor friend who was fired. His great sin was he was a verse by verse expository preacher as good as any I have heard. He was told that if he wanted to do such teaching and study so much he should go to a college and do so because it had no place in the church. They wanted him to visit 40 hours plus like all their previous pastors. That church thirty years later has never had a strong pulpit. I know churches which because the pastor visits well over 40 hours a week who are growing because the pastor spends the lion”s share of his time visiting the congregation and the lost as well. We have all seen churches that are dying because no one visits anyone even the lost. A church that has a pastor who visits a lot is in better shape than a church where no one visits. THE BIG QUESTION IS what is biblical. We talk a lot about pastors making sure they are called to the ministry but there are many views of what the Ministry is. If our view is don’t muddy the water by telling me what the bible says just show me what works it can be a fatal error. Every revival in history has come about through great preaching. A church or a country even America will never experience Spiritual Revival because the pastor is a great visitor, where the pulpit gets the few minutes or the couple of hours left after the long hours of visiting for study. Sunday evening with the pastor preaching has all but disappeared. Why? So the pastor has more time to visit. Yet across America in every single county and town church attendance is down and America is in moral decay. Yes a few churches grow for a while sometimes quickly when the pastor visits a lot but as time goes on they die a slow death. With no exception a weak pulpit where anything a pastor does is seen as more important than preaching and seen as more important than time in his study and prayer to give a strong is unbiblical. Show me where Paul told Timothy make sure you spend most of your time visiting. Show me any country having a revival because pastors visited more. There are not any. But where pastors take the time to dig deep into the Word of God history shows many revivals. It is a sign often of a great ego for a pastor to think his time visiting and speaking to people is more important than powerful life changing sermons where God Himself through His word speaks to the congregation. A pastor who spends most of his time visiting has no confidence in the Word of God.

  • Lockard Russell says on

    God commands to visit. An example is James 1:27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. Most pastors has their chosen (high society) folks which would be about 20% that they visit very often and leave the other 80% (poorer) average members unnoticed. A lot of pastors are in every kind of organization you can mention and do not have time for the things that pertain to the church. To be noticed in the church today one must act and look like a hippe or child of satan that way you will get the higest praise of man but I would rather walk with Jesus alone and make sure of Heaven then believe another gospel.

    • Two questions: (1) What is your basis for those very broad claims? (2) How many visits do YOU make each week?

      • And we know that James 1:27 is directed toward pastors because….? I would think James was present in Jerusalem in Acts 6 when such vital ministries were handed off to others that the “pastors” could stay focused on their calling of prayer and the Word. He knew better than to say “And pastors, get this, ‘To visit the fatherless…’ is just for you.

  • Hello Thom,

    I’m not a regular reader but from what I have read and garnered about you, I am a bit surprised at your take on this topic.

    I presume you are familiar with Richard Baxter’s “The Reformed Pastor,” and his recommendations of personal visitation being essential to good pastoral ministry? He personally visited 15 families a week (on Tuesdays and Wednesdays) in his parish ( As I understand it this pace allowed him to personally visit each family in his congregation about once a year. This pace does not seem to have hindered his effectiveness in the pulpit either.

    In that same article I link to above, John R. W. Stott is also quoted as being in favor of more routine (weekly) pastoral visits.

    One of my personal favorite books for pastoral guidance, “A Pastor’s Sketches” by Ichabod Spencer, is just a small collection of thousands of pastoral conversations over 21 years of his pastorate in Brooklyn. What is additionally remarkable about this record is that he managed these visits/encounters while maintaining a schedule of preaching 3 times on Sunday, not to mention regular mid-week and occasional special services.

    I’m wondering if you could comment on Baxter’s, Stott’s and Spencer’s approach and success in pastoral visitation and the pulpit in light of your 15 areas of concern?

  • Alaina Walton says on

    First of all, Thom, your small group books were my absolute favorite to use while I was in pastoral ministry! Sadly, after 15 years I have decided to leave the pastorate. While there are many factors that went into that decision, the biggest reason is exactly what you described in this article. I got tired of being the “professional,” getting so much push back from members who didn’t want to do the work of the church. I saw myself as shepherding a flock toward Jesus’ Great Commission while my churches just wanted a CEO.

  • David J Crane says on

    I have no problem with personal involvement — but sorry if I find that my mind on this subject differs somewhat on the subject . I have learnt to respect the opinion of others —-but do the work of the ministry has I feel the Lord is leading me.

    A visit from a Pastor — especially in and during a difficult time — is absolutely essential,

    • Please read this quote from Dr. Rainer’s blog: “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 pastor cannot possibly know the condition of his sheep if he is not examining them regularly. Waiting for them to come to him is grossly insufficient. Most church pastors do not visit their congregations enough… How does the pastor know when one of his sheep is sick?

    • Ed –

      Is this a serious comment? Pastors should go to church members to see if they are sick?

    • “How does the pastor know when one of his sheep is sick?”

      I’m a pastor, and I’d like to know the answer to that question myself. Maybe you can tell us, Mr. Hale? How is a pastor supposed to know his people are sick when his people don’t tell him they’re sick? Is the pastor supposed to be able to read minds? Have you learned that technique? If so, please share it with the rest of us. Many of us pastors would truly like to know.

    • Seriously? Clearly and unequivocally I’m with the clergymen on this one. It’s our responsibility to notify – James 5:14a Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders

  • I may be repeating something that has already been stated, but the comments went on and and on and I gave up reading them.

    Coming from a tradition that does not use the title of Pastor, I wonder whether that title is a part of the problem that raises expectations of pastoring every member.

    I also wonder whether there is a distinction to be made between pastoring the individuals within the congregation and pastoring the congregation. Ephesians 4 seems to speak of building up the church, not just individuals.

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