Thankfully I was taught the importance of in-home visitation from my Pastor 28 years ago. I'll never forget how he trained me to approach virtual strangers with the timeless appeal of the gospel, or to share time with a shut-in, or pursue a straying member. While our culture no longer views pastoral visitation kindly, I still believe it should be a priority for most Free Will Baptist preachers. Why?
1. Because visitation allows you to build relationships - and relationship building is key to successful ministry. You will have an opportunity to lead people to Jesus through relationship. You will be able to minister to hurting, lonely people through relationship. You will be able to offer that timely piece of advice or counsel that might be life-changing because you took the time to build relationship.
2. Because so few participate in visitation these days. Many outside the South are not accustomed to preachers dropping by. Some don't appreciate it and it would be good to be sensitive to their concern. I'll never forget one home I dropped by that had a sign next to the doorbell that read, "I shoot every 7th preacher who comes by, and the 6th just left!" However, most people treasure thoughtfulness and consider it an act of love that you take the time. If I attempted to provide a number for the times I've heard people say, "Our former pastor didn't visit," or "Preachers today don't visit like they once did," the number would be so high you would think I was exaggerating.
3. Because the need for visitation is great. Cultivate the habit of calling, texting, emailing, AND visiting your people. They will appreciate your heart. And besides, when they know you love them, they will allow you to broach the sensitive subjects.
4. Because it is very difficult (and likely unfair) for you to expect your people to do something you don't do. While the pastor shouldn't be expected to do ALL the visiting, he SHOULD DO his share.
Here are a couple of keys to good visitation ministry:
... Have a goal. "This year I want to make _____ visits." Break that number into weekly and daily goals.
... Have a plan. Form a list of shut-ins who need visiting monthly. Keep watch over your rolls to see who has been missing service. Utilize visitor-cards in worship as a pool to draw from. Find out where your people live and get to know their schedules. Drop by your young-peoples sporting events.
... Have a purpose. While the art of communication requires us to engage people where they live, our conversations should always point people to Jesus. Pray with them before you leave. Tell them you love them. Tell them you hope to see them again soon.
... Never go out without a card, brochure, or bulletin to leave in their door if they are not home. Jot a little note with the time and date on it because some people don't ever use their front doors.
Enough of my rambling... time to go visiting!