[Check the bottom of this blog post for training resources] One of the things I love about being a Pastor is that beyond the actual paid staff of the building you work in - you have an entire congregation of co-workers. All of us are working together to try and bring God's kingdom here on earth. The reality of ministry is that if your church has more than a dozen people - you cannot be all things to all people. (To be honest, if your congregation has more than 2 people, you cannot be all things to all people). In order to thrive in your ministry and lead a healthy church - you must learn to empower the people around you. There's a moment in Acts 6, during the early church that illustrates this. Basically - there's a food distribution program that has some drama going on, and rather than taking care of it themselves, the disciples select 7 men and they commission them and put THEM in charge, so that the disciples can focus on preaching the word. Every Pastor has strengths and weaknesses - things we are naturally good at and things that we need to work on. Finding leaders in your congregation that compliment your strengths - people who do well the things you don't do very well - makes sense. But even if you are the greatest pastor in the universe, and you are good at everything - you are still a finite human being! You can't be everywhere at once, and so you need to raise up leaders from your congregation to become co-workers in building God's kingdom. Visitation can be one of the BEST parts of ministry. Simply put, you get to visit with people. Sometimes that means you just go and hang out with people. Sometimes you do hospital visits, or death bed prayers - and those can be very challenging. But most of the time, it's just spending time with people who are homebound. Many of them are starved for human connection and you get to bring that connection into their world. It's wonderful - but it is also time consuming. To try and visit everyone regularly AND do all the other thing Pastors do - there are not enough hours in the day. You would end up treating each person poorly - like another check on your To Do list. (and burning yourself out in the meantime). BUT THERE IS HOPE. If you raise up a Visitation team, bless them and commission them, train them up for visitation - THEY can work together and visit your people FAR more often than you could ever get around to it. At our church the system works like this. There is a Visitation Team, and each person on that team has 3-4 people that they visit at LEAST monthly, if not more frequently. They visit all the homestay people in our congregation, and then fill out these little reports for the Pastor to read. They also know that if there is an emergency, or the person would like a phone call or a visit from the Pastor especially - they can call me. I love to get those calls. We meet quarterly to update our lists - shuffle assignments as the needs have changed. We run a training for the visitation team once every couple of years - or any time a new care giver comes on board the team. For YEARS when I first started out, I would scurry around doing all the things a Pastor does - with this constant load of guilt in the back of my mind. I would think, "Oh no, I haven't done enough visitations. It's been two months since I've been to see that one person. They must feel so forgotten. I haven't called that person in weeks." Training and empowering a visitation team has put a HUGE load off my mind. I can do my job knowing that the people are cared for and visited regularly. Pre-COVID, I had a system where once a quarter, I would set up a day or two and clear my entire schedule - just do a full day of visitations. What a joyful day! I got to go around from house to house, nursing home to nursing home, visiting all of our people. But otherwise, I would be available for phone calls and visitations at the request of the visitation team. I also created a Visitation Team Training you might find useful: (it also includes a page that has the communion liturgy and then some helpful bible verses on the back)
Here's a copy of our reporting form for Visitation Ministry:
Finally, let me encourage you to train your people to look for signs of Elder Abuse or neglect. It's a new issue - so there's not a lot of trainings available right now, but you can check with your local senior center and hopefully find some resources. Empower your congregational co-workers, and the people in your church will be loved and cared for at a level no one person could ever do themselves. Happy Visiting!