Tending the flock

I announced in our September newsletter that Debbie and I would be visiting each family in our church in the coming months.  A frequent complaint in small churches is “the pastor doesn’t visit enough.”  Which usually means, “the pastor doesn’t visit me enough.”  Not that our folks were complaining, but I’m trying to be more intentional in my pastoral care. 

Israel Galindo, in his excellent book The Hidden Lives of Congregations, talks about the expectation congregations have of the pastor.  In our size church (under 150), contact with the pastor is very important.  As church size increases, the expectation of personal contact with the pastor diminishes.  But, in our size church, pastoral visits in each home are important, and here’s why:

  1. Members get to tell their stories.  They may not tell all their story on your first visit, but they will tell at least part of their story.  People want to be known, not just as members, but as individuals who have a story that started long before you became their pastor. 
  2. You get to tell your story.  Often these home visit conversations will begin with family stories.  But this is also an excellent time to share parts of your own faith journey, as it is appropriate to the flow of conversation.  You have a story before you came to this church, too, and your members need to know you as well.
  3. You can hear “between the lines” the hurt, hopes, and heartaches.  People often don’t blurt out their pain or pride, but if you listen closely you can hear the things that still burden or bless them. 
  4. For a few minutes, they have your undivided attention.  On several visits, members have remarked, “You’re the first pastor to visit me.”  Or, “I can’t believe you took time to visit me.”   That personal connection, and your personal attention are important to your members. 

Pastoral care is important in every day life, not just in times of crisis.  I’m trying to let my members know that I really care about them and want to know their stories.  After all, Jesus listened to a lot of people that nobody else had time for.  “Love one another” applies to pastors, too.