Will you visit from house to house?
My co-laborer Bruce and I took a much needed motorcycle ride yesterday afternoon. We enjoyed some of our areas beautiful scenery and winding highways. We stopped and hung out in the shade for some sweet tea. While we rested, we ended up talking about this question at one point. We talked about how this question, if taken literally, can be a really uncomfortable and even unproductive if not done in just the right way.
I do know pastors (of several denominations and non-denominations) who visit house-to-house quite literally. Personally, the idea of cold calling on someone’s porch sounds awful. About two years ago, I was sitting at my grandmother’s house when the doorbell rang. The young man at the door introduced himself as “the new pastor at [xyz] church and I’m going door to door in the community to introduce myself and invite you to Church.” The encounter was perfectly awkward and uncomfortable for everyone.
Even if the people were members of my congregation, I think it would be difficult to visit from house to house. First, most people work outside of the home and aren’t around when I would be visiting. Second, many people find a home visit to be an invasion of privacy.
So how is one to live out the spirit of this question in a way that is integrous? What I think it means is that pastors need to get out of their offices and be among the people! Make visiting a priority, especially those who are lonely, grieving, or ill. When someone is sick or in the hospital, don’t let your staff-parish relations team have to report that someone is upset because you didn’t go visit. In those moments, especially, people want a visit from their pastor. I know we’re not mind readers and people don’t always let us know that someone is in the hospital or having surgery or some other crisis….but when you know, make it a priority to be there. I remember when I took CPE that I experienced the priestly ministry of presence first hand. People to whom I was not and probably never would be their pastor welcomed my presence and prayers as a symbol of Christ’s presence and prayers. We represent Christ whenever we visit someone. This MUST be a priority for us.
Here’s some tips I have learned:
- Especially with family’s that have young children, offer to meet them on neutral ground for a cup of coffee or lunch. My own house looks like a scene from Twister with a 19 month old running around (and soon a newborn). I’m much more comfortable meeting with someone outside of the embarrassment that is my home.
- Always call ahead and schedule a time to visit.
- Use the phone or texting to let people know that you are thinking of them and praying for them.
- Have lunch in visible places where you know that you’ll encounter people.
- Visit folks at work (by appointment, of course, and as their workplace allows).
- Get into the community and go where people are: sporting events, school plays, concerts, etc.
- Participate in community events.
- Use social media (with cautiousness) to communicate with your people.
- Personally get involved with a community project.
- Join a community organization.
- Coach a sport.
- Substitute teach.
- Join your volunteer fire department.
The list could go on and on. I think the real intent of this question is “Are you willing to get out of the office and be among the people God has called you to serve?”
I know that we all (myself included) could do a better job of this, but time and time again I’ve found that the best relationships I foster happen outside of the walls of the Church.
Will you visit from house to house? This is my commitment.