Posted by: janineplusbrianequals | November 5, 2009

pastoral visiting…

I recently had dinner with a couple who are shy of 80. They have a pretty good grasp of “old school.”

They told me, that as a pastor-to-be (or pastor-wanna-be) I should make a concerted effort to visit people. Connect with people.

“That’s how you can really serve people and it will promote/support any other work you’re hoping to do.”

Sounds like decent advice. I guess one of the reasons I got into this line of work is that I like people.

I already understand the desire and inclination to sit in my office and get stuff done rather than get out and hang-out.

I realize that I don’t really know what pastoral visiting means. Its getting to the point that taking Kai out in public reduces most situations to damage control. Some times, perhaps, we will be able to get a babysitter and Janine will be able to go with me on one of these semi-social visits. But what about the other times and occassions?

People upward of 70, especially those who have lost a spouse, often have flexible schedules and the desire to sit and chat. But everyone else seems pretty busy. I know some people don’t feel important enough to ask for the pastor’s time and need an invitation from the pastor. But other people have told me that it would be weird and a little intrusive if the pastor called up asking to chat.

Assuming I get an interview (over coffee, say) how much should I initiate a conversation about religion? Some people, I’m sure, have very few opportunities to talk openly about religion and would probably feel disappointed if the topic is missed. On the other hand, I feel like the title I carry is already in-your-face enough without me always pushing conversation toward spiritual life.

So I suppose I am wondering about the logistics of initiating regular, informal contact with parishioners and also about the tone. I welcome thoughts from pastors and laity reflecting your own experience in this area.




  1. I don’t do enough visiting. Andy is quite good at it (sometimes at the expense of his family), so you might ask him directly. When I do visit (like yesterday) it’s usually really useful. I think you can feel your way along as to how much to raise topics of spiritual life. It’s good to phone people and at least make the offer, to chat on the phone if not to have coffee. Certainly when people are in the hospital it’s good to visit them, though sometimes the timing is a little tricky to figure out. I hope you get more light from people who do more and better at it.

  2. Hi Brian! I didn’t get to visit you in the natural setting of ‘after church’ time, which is a good time to let visits happen naturally, I think. When you said it was damage control with Kai, ouch. Find those friends who can’t wait to see a small person, young with people his age, or older with a desire to dote. When I worked with elders in 2002, I invited a Kindermusik colleague to do a program in the community where I worked, a new form which taught moms and dads and their toddlers with elders as part of the process too. These elders had Alzheimer’s, or dementia from other causes, and they doted like crazy! They loved being around those babies for many reasons-great-grandchild energy, reminded them of their own children, etc. Taking Kai when it seems lovely and having a one-on-one when that seems more enjoyable, and in natural situations like after church, holiday gatherings…and noticing your own energy (do I have ‘visit’ or ‘nap’ in me today?) might make it feel more authentic to you too. Authenticity is a beautiful thing. Love, Tryn

    • Thanks for the thoughts…I will certainly draw on them as I try to do a good job of visiting. In some cases people don’t want a two year old in their home… but I bet you’re right. I bet many people appreciate it, and its more a case that I feel distracted/apologetic of his destructive capabilities.

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