In our tradition, the elders are encouraged (required by article 65 of the church order) to make an annual home visit. The purpose of these visits have varied over time: providing pastoral care, applying the preaching to the life of the members, supervising of the Lord’s Supper, ensuring that the church programs were effective. Each of these had a different slant on the way to conduct the home visit.
At its root the concern was similar. We desired that members of the church would grow in faith and service in the Lord. Times change. Each age has its own constellation of issues and particular struggles. But in each time the critical concern is for Christ to be so formed in our lives so that our deeds (salt and light) may bring glory to God. This has been called Spiritual Formation.
I believe that this is one of the central tasks of eldership. The home visit has been on the key strategies. As long as I have been in the ministry this strategy has been challenged. Certainly it is no longer the only strategy. Small groups, adult education, mission trips, accountability groups and other means have become common ways to “let the Word of Christ” dwell richly in our lives.
Central to this ministry of elders is helping members “put on Christ.” I encourage you to read Spiritual Formation: Becoming Like Christ.
Home visits have been a struggles in many churches. It has been a perennial source of frustration as long as I have been in the ministry. When done well, it has been a source of great blessing. However between the limitations of time, flimsy relationships between elders and members, and poor conversations at visits the Home Visit has suffered. I would love to have elders share their learning about conducting “visits that bless” in the Forum.
Another strategy that helps with time and can create a positive conversation is to have group sessions. Group session have an advantage. Often times having 6-10 people in a group can stimulate discussions that would be hard to have in a home with just the adult members of the home. This past year in our congregation we encouraged elders to conduct visits in small groups. We called the groups “listening groups” because we wanted to emphasize that together we were listening to God.
I provided the elders with models they could use. They are found in the resources section (Conversations for Listening Groups). At the beginning of the year I did a sermon series directly related to these conversations.
Finally, I suggest that elders do training in Spiritual Formation. There are many resources that are helpful. Some will be included on this website. Training explores what we need to be and do in order to guide members on their faith journey. Take time to learn. It will be a blessing.