Article 65 of the Church Order went through an interesting editing process in recent years. The article addresses the age old custom of “Family Visiting” in the Christian Reformed Church. It formerly read, “The minister of the Word and elders shall conduct annual home visitation”. Presently it reads, “whenever possible by calling and encouraging them to live by faith, conducting annual home visitation”. As I read that shift in emphasis from “shall” to “whenever possible” I wondered why? I know from my own experience that as I went from my first church to the last church I served we approached Family Visiting quite differently. The first church families were visited according to a published schedule by two consistory members. The last church families had informal contact with elders without any schedule or formal plan as to the conversation.
Communication is society in general and also within the church has changed over the decades. Some decades ago it was not unusual for friends of the family to drop in unannounced for a cup of coffee and a visit. Now if we want to meet friends we text them to meet at Starbucks. Texting and e-mails have become common ways to communicate. Face to face encounters are usually scheduled and less frequent. This is the age of the computer and cell phones. So as elders the question is if household visits of the past our out of vogue, how do we communicate with the households that we have been assigned? I would suggest “whenever possible” means we can be creative in how we communicate. Unfortunately for some churches we have not engaged in other ways to have meaningful contact.
But there are ways that we can communicate. My elder communicates with me every two or three months to see how I am doing. Even though he does not have a specific agenda when he calls, the contact reminds me the church is concerned with my welfare. I think that is important. I would suggest some other ways to communicate with our households is through e-mails in which give information, prayer requests, and encourage our members to participate in the programs of the church. In the future I will be more specific as to agendas that we can have as elders in communicating with our households. But I would ask that you give some feedback as to how you as an elder fulfill the church order “whenever possible” in making meaningful contact with your households.