Ministry can be both very rewarding and very difficult. Sometimes this even happens within the same day—even within the same hour! Therefore, I am thankful for any opportunity to encourage pastors to be faithful and to encourage church members to be thankful for those who serve them in the ministry of the word. I am grateful that over the years this blog has served to do some of both.
I would like to provide pastors with what could be a surprising source of encouragement. If you want to be encouraged then you should prioritize regular pastoral visitation of your members.
Right away I may have lost half you with that suggestion, but stick with me.
You may be thinking, “What? More meetings, have you seen my calendar?” I know. You’re busy. And, you are tired; which is precisely why you need to hear me out and think this through.
Let me first tell you what I am describing. By pastoral visit I mean that you the pastor go to the homes of your church members. You set up a meeting and come to their house to talk about their Christian walk. You spend some time talking with them about a range of things to gauge how they are doing and how you can serve them. After a time you pray with them and leave. That’s it. Sounds pretty easy right?
It’s also tremendously encouraging. Here are some reasons.
1) These meetings are not because of issues, therefore, they tend to be encouraging. Just fact that we are not meeting because someone is upset or has done something changes the tone. Everyone tends to be at ease and freely able to focus on what is important.
2) They tend to cut through our polite superficiality. Over the years I’ve noticed that when I call the meeting people are much more willing to get down to business about how they are doing following Jesus. If we bump into each other in the hall it’s always polite but if we are sitting at their kitchen table we are going to talk. I love hearing what our church members have to say.
3) You hear what is truly valuable. Along the lines with #2, with a shorter meeting (hour or so) there is not a lot of time for fluff. Often when I come the member(s) will have questions or items that they would like prayer for. What a blessing as a pastor to begin walking our members through something at the early stages.
It’s also very helpful. Here are some reasons.
1) You get to know the flock better. If you have over 75 members then you probably find it hard to keep up with everyone. Visiting in the home helps with this. Going into the home helps you to identify with them and hear them. There are often things that you learn about a family just by being in their home. Further, the discussion is always illuminating. This informs my praying and helps shape the application of my preaching. When able, I engage with the children and ask them questions too. It’s a total encouragement.
2) You get the chance to listen. I talk for multiple hours a week to our members. Add that up over a month or a quarter and it is a lot of time. How much time do they talk to me over that time? Occasionally we talk at church or if we get together outside of church, but nothing beats this. I ask some questions and get to listen and learn.
3) You can get out in front of issues. How many times have we as pastors thought, “Man, I wish I would’ve known about this a few months ago!” When you visit in the home sometimes you have the opportunity to flip over some rocks before the issues get too big.
4) You help ensure an open line of communication. I have noticed that these visits have increased the meaningful communication related to spiritual growth. I don’t think some of these folks doubted that I cared before I visited them but based on the conversation they for sure knew it. And, after the visits I often get follow up questions or requests for prayer.
5) Sermon feedback. I don’t go in asking for compliments or looking for critiques on my preaching, but I do want to know if they are benefiting from the ministry of the word at the church. What is surprising here is what the Lord uses to impact people. Sometimes things that you think are incredibly profound are missed and the little things leave a major impact. Again, this all helps us in our task of feeding the flock. Learning how and what your people are hearing is like homiletical gold. It is great intel for your prayer and preparation.
We have no way of predicting and securing encouragement. However, by my experience pastoral visits are one of the most encouraging things you can do. I hope I’ve convinced you to prayerfully consider it.
Next Tuesday I’ll plan to publish a follow up to this post. If you have questions or want me to address anything in particular, feel free to fire them at me via the comment section, Twitter or my blog’s Facebook page.