During my final year in seminar working towards completing my M.Div. I was interning at a church where I was asked to make regular pastoral visits to the elderly folk at the assisted living home next door to the church. As someone who has always gotten along well with “old people” this shouldn’t have terrified me as much as it did. I knew many of them already and chatted easily with them before and after Sunday worship. I truly cared for them and wanted to know how I could serve them and minister to them.
And while that last sentence is true, I was so terrified of being asked a question I didn’t know how to answer that I often found myself neglecting those pastoral visits. In fact, this is still an area of my ministry that I struggle with. Those who know me may be surprised to find that I am, by nature, an introvert (yes, I know it’s suddenly trendy and cool to claim being an introvert… when and how did that happen!). I’ve learned to be more extroverted and outgoing for the sake of ministry, but the fear of speaking with people whom I don’t know well continues to strike fear into my heart.
A friend from church sent me a link to the following blog post about “The Lost Work of Pastoral Visitation.” There is much in the article to commend (although I do confess skimming over a few paragraphs), but the following portion in particular struck me for what should be obvious reasons:
We hear much today, and rightly so, of churches committed to simple means of grace. I suggest that if your ministry does not include systematic family visitation, you are neglecting an important means of grace. I challenge you to rethink your ministerial philosophy. If you have not been doing regular pastoral visitation, I encourage you to repent and seek God’s grace to start immediately.
In whatever capacity you serve in your church, I encourage you to prayerfully consider working towards re-claiming this important ministry. It may not be something that comes naturally to you, it certainly isn’t for me either, but if we are not willing to obey this important area of pastoral duty then perhaps there are other questions we ought to be asking…
- If a pastor completely neglects pastoral visitations, what does that say about his desire to see his congregation grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ?
- How does the pastor raise up and train others (particularly Elders and Deacons) to conduct pastoral visitations?
- Why do you believe pastoral visitations have become so rare in the church today?