Monday, July 13, 2015

Whatever happened to pastoral visits?

For the past fourteen years in my role as a resource minister in our judicatory I've worked with dozens of pastor search committees. Early in this role I was surprised by the number of these committees who contacted me concerned that the persons they were interviewing were very upfront that they did not do pastoral visitation. I couldn't explain it then to these committees and still can't.

The pastors I had growing up were very good about visiting their members when they were sick or needed special attention. That was the model I followed as a pastor. But, later in my pastoral ministry I noticed that a number of pastors no longer felt the need for such visits. It wasn't that these were pastors of megachurches with other ministers assigned to that responsibility. These were pastors of what we would call pastoral churches, but their concept of what it meant to be a pastor seemed to be much different than mine.

In some of my books and in this blog I've written that our churches need to move from a pastoral care model to a congregational care model. I believe that is a more biblical model (Eph. 4) for any size church, and especially for a bivocational church. As church members learn to minister to one another they are also better equipped to minister to those outside the church. This leads to more effective outreach as more people from within the church are ministering to more people both within and without their congregations. However, this does not exclude the pastor from providing pastoral care when it is needed.

Most of my ministry now focuses on congregations and pastors, but last week I made two pastoral visits on individuals. One is a gentleman whose mother is in hospice. They do not have a church home. A mutual friend asked if I could stop by and visit them so I did. I made sure they had a pastor who could conduct the service when that time came, and the son had just contacted a pastor to do that. We spent time talking about this time in this family's life, and I had prayer with him. It was a great visit.

The second visit was to an assisted living facility where I visited a member of one of the churches I serve. She and I have known each other since I pastored my church. I heard she had recently moved into this home and had said I should visit when I had the chance. We had a great time talking about things that had happened in our churches and people we had known. She shared with me a prayer need her family had, and I closed our visit in prayer. Again, it was a great time of ministry.

Pastors, don't ignore these ministry opportunities. You cannot serve your people well spending all your time in your office with your nose stuck in a book. Pastoral ministry means that the pastor ministers to people at all stages of their lives. Yes, train your congregation to minister to one another. This expands the ministry of your church. But, don't ignore the call of God on your life to be with your people during the transition times in their lives.

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