On Visitation

February 1st, 2014

I have been trying to free up time from my full-time vocational employment one afternoon a week to do visitation. It seems to me there are some generational differences around the expectation of the pastor visiting. Those retired seem to not only welcome it but embrace it. Of course, they are also home or can be home in the afternoon.

A wise DS once told me that one visit usually touches at least three other people than the person visited. I am finding that to be true as many of these folks I am visiting are connected with each other and even related to each other. The only downfall seems to be the question of “why haven’t you visited me” which allows me to say to them “okay this week at so and so time”. In the past I have had the telephone tree of the church (not the church secretary but church members) arrange my visits ahead of time which made folks from the church contact church members and usually helped to make sure people were home when I visited.

The visits are spent getting to know a little bit more about them as human beings and disciples of Jesus Christ but often past joys and hurts from the church are recalled. This helps me to get to know the congregation better and can inform both my preaching and my teaching. Additionally, and this may seem crass, if I have to do funerals at least I have met them. I never try and stay too long but I know that sometimes the person one is calling on is so lonely for company it is hard to break away. But this also points to the ministry the church can have in that person’s life.

Those who are a little younger all seem to be working, including both parents, thus calling on them is much more difficult. Many of these “younger adults” are the very ones the larger church is interested in connecting with at a greater level and so how to do that when visitation is not the answer remains murky. To put this in more theological language: how do we build these young adults as Disciples of Jesus Christ if visiting them is lost as an option? Like many pastors I am doing more emailing and texting of young adults, to which some are responding, but others live in such remote areas that cell phones don’t work and internet is not available at their home.

Besides leading worship it is through this calling/visitation focus that I am being reminded of why I got ordained in the first place. While finding an afternoon each week remains problematic I am enjoying the challenge.

Next up in my interim pastor posting—trying to instill worship changes so that worship is worship and not a town meeting.

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