Visiting Drove Me Batty

I wonder . . . what makes visiting church members so difficult?

Maybe visiting is easy for you (and therefore I’ve already begun to resent you), but it drove me batty. Hospital and emergency visits? No problem. Follow-up on the first-time worship visitor? Easy enough. But it was the general visiting, the checking-in with people that was like soap scum on my to-do list. I’d try to clean the list up, but more visiting lingered.

Was e-mailing an appropriate “visit?” Was a phone call sufficient?

If you’re not a pastor reading this, and therefore on the other side of the door/computer/phone, what do you think? (Don’t worry, your pastor never reads this blog…)

In every church I served, large or small, I could identify folks I “should” regularly visit. Some things worked for a while . . . I made a database and tracked my progress . . . I had my secretary call and make appointments. But most things never succeeded. I know one reason why visiting seemed a struggle. In Barbara Brown Taylor’s LEAVING CHURCH she reflected on people she never knew at the last church she served. At a farewell party . . .

I wound up with a couple I had always thought I would enjoy but whom I never really got to know since they did not serve on any committees and were never, as far as I knew, in crisis. … I did not wonder why I had not sought them out earlier because I already knew the answer. By my rules, caring for troubled people always took precedence over enjoying delightful people, and the line of troubled people never ended. Sitting there with corn stuck between my teeth, I wondered why I had not changed that rule sooner.

It was the same for me. How do we balance the never-ending “troubled” visits with the “delightful?” Or can we?  What do you do?

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1 Comment

  1. When I started going to my mother’s Lutheran church after returning to Bethlehem, I marvelled at how good the pastor was, at a church which was slowly edging to folding its tents. After a while, I heard that the pastor at the church I was confirmed, many, many years ago, was a mediocre preacher. But he was a great visitor. It seemed as if he compensated for what he knew was a weakness, by developing a strength in other areas.
    I did some visits to older, live alone church members as part of my lay “continuing education” program. I recall that the first visit was literally scary. I didn’t know the gentleman, and had no idea, except for sharing a church and a home town, whether we had anything in common. After, HE had no reason for me to be stopping by. It eventually got easier, but it was always a chore. I will never be a pastor or even a deacon (well, maybe that), but I cannot imagine “Liking” to visit parishioners. Of course, the worst reason is to try to have them come more often or to fill out their pledge cards for the year. I think one pastor I had literally had a rule against making “social” visits. He was perennially aloof outside church duties. It’s one reason I’m not attending that church any longer.

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