How Do You Conduct an Effective and Useful Home Visit?

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 The church order requires that we do a Home Visit (Art 65).  Yet how we conduct a visit, how effective it is, and whether this is a useful strategy is constantly debated.  In this forum we want you to share your thoughts, suggestions and encouragements. After all, we need to support each other.  I waiting to hear from you.  

Neil  

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Participant

We have set a goal for ourselves to try to have each elder visit the families in his district once every two years. The challenge in part seems to be the schedules that families keep are rather hectic. Finding a date that works can be difficult.
The benefits of doing the visits are worth the scheduling challenge. Families really appreciate having that close contact with someone who wants to know how the family is doing, how their walk with the Lord is going, and if they have any questions for the Elders, or the Council.

Hi Duane - wondering how many names you have on your list? I thought ideally it would be good to visit 2 x a year but pretty hard to do....

Visits can be tough to schedule. In addition to visits, our pastor offers the use of the manse for elder district socials once a year. I haven't had mine yet - it's my first year on council here - but I look forward to it, as others who have hosted one said it went well and was appreciated. It can work on a Sunday after church, or in the evening on Sunday. Do others do this too?

Participant

The number of families varies a bit, but each elder calls on around 25 families. This in turn may seem low, only one visit per month, but all of the elders sit on at least one of the church committees as a liaison. In addition, all are involved with choir or other church activities such as Household Bible study groups, or teaching catechism. When you add up the number of meetings and other activities the elders have good exposure to the congregation to both listen as well as encourage.

Community Builder

I am always conscious of the tensions that are present in these comments. here are some I see:
1. the number of elders we need to visit regularly vs the number of people actually available to do the work.
2. visits as spiritual care vs visits as part of church management (how are we doing in our programs? do you have questions about the church?)
3. The time we need to do the work vs the time we actually have (8 evenings a month vs 3 evenings a month)
4. the blessing of the visits vs the difficulty in making arrangements with people who do not make it a priority. (there is a disconnect)
5. the focus on visits vs the many other activities that are required.
6. the present size of the elder's list (20-25) and the size of the list we could be effective with (10). I like the number 10 - comes from Moses.
I am sure I don't have answers to these tensions, but maybe in order to get beyond these tensions (and the accompanying failures), we need to think hard about the way we do elders' work. What is the centre of our call? How do we prioritize? Maybe we need to restructure the eldership and build more flexibility in the church order.

Participant

I have served as elder in a number of CRC's and have been involved with many Home Visits. My observation is that responses to these visits are by and large contrived, failing to glean from the visits true and heartfelt dialogue on the most important subjects that effect the respondents' relationship with Christ. (an "its' my business, not yours" attitude) Somewhere along the line Elders, and the church, for that matter have lost their authority over congregations, making many attempts to nurture ineffectual. Perhaps we need to explore a new way to reach out, preach to, and teach our congrations.
May I suggest one of the best way is to form the "Small Group" ideal - where elders, and maybe deacons are put in charge of facilitating small, house -sized groups once a month or so, with the objective of studying Christinan literature, and socializing, getting to know one another in a more intimate way, freeing us to express what we feel in a non-threatening way.

I know what you mean Alex, the visits are pretty shallow and guarded.I have never been a Elder but from the visits I have endured there is not much communication or trust.

I have to admit that I love the 'haus besuch' (even if we meet in a coffee shop most of the time). I've been an elder for only 2 years, but this is certainly the highlight of the job for me. Having an excuse to call on fellow members of our church and check in with them and share stories from each other's lives and see where God is (or is not) revealing Himself is pretty powerful.

I would certainly recognize the limits to a one-time bi-annual visit, but I believe there is power in the act of the church reaching out to individual members and asking 'how's life?'.

This has struck me as being especially true of the under 30 crowd as they don't generallly like to make longer term commitments (hesitant to sign up for small groups) and are asking if the church really cares about them. Not 'them' as a group, but 'them' as an individual or couple.

Anyway, just a thought.

Participant

So called 'House visitation" is largely a waste of time---IFF conducted as most of the ones I experienced.
First a pair of embarrassed elders come and do small talk awhile.

Then: "well Hank, we better get started"

"you Pray"

then follows a canned Scripture, list of questions, eg., for the children: "do you love the Lord?" Sort of like "have you stopped beating your wife?" [What can the poor kid say?]
If the whole thing is a casual visit to find our where the people live, and what they are interested in...it could be useful.

Participant

If this has truly been your experience either as the elder making the visit, or the person receiving the visit, then you have my sympathy. As an elder who has made, and continues to make visits, as well as having received visits, I have found them to be an excellent way of getting to know folks better.

There have been visits were there may have been a moment of silence, but most of the time, each visit is a time of conversation. For newer members or families that are regular visitors the conversation is largely about getting to know the basics. For families that have been in the congregation a while, we still talk about family, but we also talk about our congregation, as well as our church vision, and the role each of us are or can play in that vision.

Family visiting is a conversation. It involves two parties looking forward to talking about the way God is working in their lives.

 We  need to restructure the eldership indeed and should build more flexibility in the church order. 

There is clearly a need to distinguish between pastoral elders and administrive elders.

Effective personal support and relationships often exemplifies the positive interdepence that characterizes the healthy church

Healthy churches are made up of needy people. To think otherwise is to misunderstand the nature and mission of the church

To see why this is true, let's take a look at the mission of Christ " God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world,but that the world through Him might be saved. Followers of Christ are called to the mission of those who what is means to be broken ,loved,and forgiven.

Our new pastoral care ministry is the result of restructuring the visits, building relationships and more

 

 Pastoral Care Ministry is a New ministry of our local CRC church which aims at fulfilling the everyday, friendly, dropping by to see how you are doing caring ministry of the church.

This Ministry aims at ensuring that no one is forgotten in the daily life of the church.

Does not replace other pastoral care ministries, rather it works in concert with and supplements the existing pastoral ministry of our Church.

 

 Pastoral Care Worker (PCW)

Pastoral Care Workers (PCW) are professing members of our church recognized for their pastoral gifts and sensitivity with people and situations, and are appointed by council for a terms of service among the people of our church.

Council will appoint the PCWs forming the Pastoral Care Team

Council will inform the congregation of their appointment

Council will commission the PCWs during a worship service with appropriate prayers and scripture

  

The Pastoral Care Worker

1. is assigned by the Pastoral Elder and Pastor

2. Engages in prayer, visits, calls, encouragement, deeds of compassion.

 Prayer

(1) the congregation is divided among the care givers for prayer

(2) the ministries of the congregation are divided

(3) any special needs of those under your care

Visits

(1) within the first month, the PCW should introduce self to those within their care

 (2) use cards, email, texting, coffee whatever would be appropriate to the situation

(3) make visits whenever appropriate such as, new members, new comers, shut-ins,

widows, widowers, sick - major illnesses and hospital, and so on (but do inform

the pastor if you come to know of illness, impending surgery and so on)

 

 Encouragement and communication

(1) as you discover special events of families and individuals, and with the permission of

the individual(s), feel free to post these item on a bulletin board which will be

provided. Also communicate these events in a timely manner to the pastor for Sunday

Worship and the Admin for inclusion in the Newsletter

(2) help people address their concerns or ideas or express them in helpful ways so that

these can addressed by the Pastoral Team or Council.

(3) come along side people and encourage them in the daily walk of following Christ.

 

 

Communicate directly and as soon as possible with the pastor concerning

a. serious or critical needs and circumstances of pastoral issues – or if you believe that a visit

by the pastor would be helpful in the situation

b. or when there are questions you don’t feel comfortable answering, or you can’t

answer–don’t guess, don’t just offer your opinion or bias, just make the promise, I don’t

know but will find out.

Report suspected abuse to APARC (part of the Abuse prevention effort of our church).

The pastoral Care Elder and Pastor will pray for and encourage each PCW

 

 The Pastoral Care Team

1. is a team and should work as a team and so should meet often for prayer, encouragement,sharing at times and places organized by the Pastoral Elder.

2. meet twice a year or as often as necessary to assess and coordinate needs and strategy

3. The Pastoral Care Team is accountable to Council and is overseen by the assigned Elder and

Pastor

4. Call the pastor or pastoral elder in difficult situations

5. Confidentially is encouraged, it is not secrecy. Confidentiality means that only those who should know will know. APARC will explain this, and the limits of confidentiality.

For the PCW, confidentiality means that what is shared with you stays with you and is not to be gossiped around. 

Neil, thank you for starting the "Home Visit"  forum.  We're currently in the process of conducting Home Visits.  This renewed initiative comes after numerous failed attempts over the past twenty years.  A review of Council Minutes going back to the mid-1970's (shortly after the our church became formally Organized), documents a very vibrant Home Visit program.  This trend continued into the mid-1980's when, for whatever reason, this time-honored custom became a thing of the past....until September 2010.   What changed?   Our church has entered a "Season of Transition" with the pending 2011 retirement of our pastor of 17 years.    We purpose to use this transition time well and with God leading us accomplish a Home Visit with each family.  Each of our 5 Elders has approximately 20 families within their District.  Where to start?    We began with prayer asking God for courage, strength, guidance and wisdom.  We got our nose into "the Elder's handbook", Part 3: Moving amoung God's People.  We learned the tradition of Home Visits has ancient roots.  Paul visited believers from house to house (Act 20:20), and churches that practice regular pastoral visits are the richer for it.  We've continued to pray seeking God's guidance and continued to receive training from the handbook.  Reaching out in faith, we have started making Home Visits once again to the members of our church family with a focus on "building relationships".    I've heard it said, "Do your best and let God do the rest".  Knowing God loves us, God is for us and God is with us,  we'll continue to improve.   Blessings to All.