In my previous post, The Pastor and Personal Ministry, I dealt with some basics on how a pastor can minister to others one on one or in small groups. Much more of that can be done if the pastor takes the initiative to visit the people of the congregation and to have them over to his house. Rarely do pastors seem to do much of either any more, though a generation ago these were considered major parts of a pastor’s duties to his congregation. With all the churches that I’ve attended before, during and after seminary, no pastor from any of those churches ever attempted to call on me at home. The only ones who ever had me over to dinner or any other kind of casual get together were classmates of mine from seminary. Yet pastors who do not do any visitation or hospitality are usually not building any strong bonds and taking opportunities to minister to minister to many whom their ministry could otherwise touch. There’s usually not enough time with the chit chat before or after a service to get to know someone or to know someone’s spiritual history and needs in any kind of depth sufficient for wise ministry to the people of the congregation.
There are several ways that a pastor can ‘reach out and touch someone’ in the congregation:
- A pre-arranged or not pre-arranged, casual call at the homes of church members, attenders or visitors.
- A telephone call to someone in church families or visitors.
- Making a pastoral visit at a hospital or nursing home.
- Making contact with others through social media such as email, instant messaging, LinkedIn or FaceBook.
- Having a church family or individuals over for dinner or games night or some other social occasion.
- Going out to lunch with people from the congregation.
The first thing that a pastor must do is simply to plan and make time for pastoral visitation and hospitality in his schedule. My suggestion is for the pastor to plan a list of people to call on on the first day of his work week. Make it a point to have some sort of personal contact with each family in the congregation at least once a year. If the church is a large church with multiple staff, divide up the congregation into groups on which each pastor will work with an elder or two to minister to their needs. if the church has a secretary, a secretary can pre-arrange visits with those individuals and families with whom this is appropriate. During my pastoral ministry I practically never called ahead to arrange a visit, however. Most people were quite willing to get a friendly and casual visit from a pastor on a weeknight or late Saturday morning or early afternoon.
The subject of the visit is first and foremost to get to know the individual and family where they are. Due to the tendency of many in the church to Misunderstandings and Misperceptions, the pastor will often find that things are different than what he had been told about a person or family from someone else in the church. He will often find that someone who may be a ‘black sheep’ or under a cloud of disapproval from others in the church has in fact been going through a deep time of hardship and adversity and needs love and concern instead. He may find matters on which he can give quick and confidential ministry to others and answer questions that they might have that they would not otherwise broach to others in the church.
There will also be opportunities for evangelistic ministry and personal witness in pastoral visitation and hospitality. When a pastor talks to someone about his or her spiritual history and asks about his or her current spiritual condition, there will be a number of times that he will find someone who has a church background but no personal trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. But pastoral visitation and hospitality in this way is more directed to keeping a shepherding watch on the flock. Most of the time the pastor will need also to seek witnessing opportunities and a personal evangelistic ministry alongside a regular schedule of pastoral ministry and hospitality.
Certainly, in a church where the pastor gives attention to the Responsibilities and Preparation of Church Elders. there will be much more help in visitation and hospitality for him. But the general health of the congregation will be greater where the pastor engages in more personal ministry through visitation and hospitality.