Monday, February 13, 2006

Pastoral Visits

I went to see a parishioner today.

Nothing formal. No appointment. No elder to accompany me. Just me and a 93 year old man sitting in his den, chatting away.

Of all I do as a minister, I think the one thing that has changed most is the pastoral visit.

I was ordained 26 years ago, and I could get in my car and drive to Elm Street and visit seven homes in an afternoon. No appointment. No worrying about having another elder with me. We'd sit and chat, have prayer, and I'd leave to visit the next home.

Today I have to call ahead -- two or three days ahead of time. I have to get a passcode to be allowed into the gated community (I think everyone in South Florida lives in these gated communities). With luck I can visit 1 family each week.

Most of my visits today are over the telephone or via email. The real face to face visits are at lunch. This year the church gave me an extra $1,000 in my expense budget to provide for more of these meals. After church on Sundays, my wife and I can often take a visiting family out to lunch. Visitors like that -- but woe be to me if I call and ask if I can stop by their home.

Is it just South Florida, are is the whole world cocooning in their homes?

Even hospital visits have changed.

I clearly remember in the 1980s people who were having surgery would go in the day before. I'd see them in their hospital room late in the afternoon. After surgery, it would be several days before they returned home. In a church of 100 people I was at the hospital almost daily.

Nowadays, with 700 members in my church, I visit the hospital about once each month. Right now I have two in Intensive Care, but that is rare. Usually someone goes into the hospital the day of the surgery, around 6 AM, and they are out by the end of the day. I rarely see the parishioners in the hospital unless they are, as my two church members are now, in life-treatening conditions.

I miss the pastoral visits I used to do. I could get to know the parishioners and they could get to know me.


Blogger Jennifer said...

In my mother's church, they have something called Dinner for Eight. Eight different members of the congregation get together for a potluck type of dinner at one of their houses, and they get to know each other. It doesn't matter if dinner is pizza on paper plates or grilled steaks on china, the focus is on fellowshipping. Perhaps you can use something like this to get to know the members of your congregation better?

12:00 PM  
Anonymous kairos said...

Today we're so scheduled and busy its hard just to show up. I think the only place I show up unannounced is for hospital visitation.

I agree with you about lunch. I had my church change my (meager) travel line to a professional expense line primarily so I could pay for lunches with people. Its valuable time.

12:10 PM  
Blogger DennisS said...

Hmmm. New pastor (graduated in 2005), town of 4000, PCUSA church of 109 members, average attendance of 56 -- so our dynamics are quite different.

Only once have I taken another person on a pastoral call - and that was because we were traveling together for a seminar, and stopped to call upon a member hospitalized an hour from our town - and on the way to where we were going.

I usually don't keep track of the number of visits, but last week I did track them:

Took a 95 year old male for a drive & out to lunch
4 hospital visits (3 people, 2 still in the hospital)
5 visited in nursing home
4 visited in long-term care center (present with 8 family members when 1 died - I officated at the funeral today)
4 phone call visits
good visit with 100 year old lady in her home
As result of a request, gave a ride (& pastoral visit) to a 19 year old female who gave birth 3 days later
Assisted an unemployed fellow, near retirement age, with food, cash, and use of my cell phone to make some long distance calls. (5 of these pastoral visits were with non-members.)

I also had coffee with a retired minister, and an extended phone call with another retired minister. Attended a day-long required seminar. Attended two funerals and met with the family and friends. Managed to prepare for teaching communicants class, and prepare the sermon as well.

I've got a couple visits in homes tomorrow (I'll call both before arriving at their doors - but one probably won't have her hearing aids in). At 3:30pm (when she wakes from her nap) I'll meet with a lady with congestive heart failure. Friday morning I'll have a long visit in the morning with a man whose cancer is getting bad.

10:05 PM  
Blogger Questing Parson said...

You're showing your age to an extent. I'm old enough to remember when the hospital chaplain's office called the local pastor to let him know a member was in the hospital. Doesn't happen any longer.

I must say, as a retired pastor supplying a rural church for the bishop after pastoring a large inclusive congregation in intown Atlanta, I'm enjoying the intimacy of once again sitting with families in the hospital, having parents bring a child to the study to talk to the pastor about his problems.

Maybe it hasn't changed completely, but the old ways are just hanging on in isolated rural areas as where I live.

7:25 PM  
Anonymous Lorna said...

really interesting insight.

I think we aren't where you are yet - but even here pastoral visits are less common. busyness on BOTH sides I'm afraid.

budget for lunches. mmm ...

5:00 PM  

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