Why and How of Visitation
Why should you visit someone?
“The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and great in mercy. The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works.” Psalm 145:8-9.
“And Jesus, when He came out, saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd. So He began to teach them many things.” Mark 6:34.
“Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:14-16.
Our God is compassionate and He hears our cries. According to Jesus, after loving God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind, the second great commandment is “love your neighbor and show mercy” (Luke 10:29-37). Jesus also said people would know we were His followers by our demonstration of our love for one another (John 13:35). We are called to carry one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). In James 1:27, we learn that “true religion is to visit orphans and widows in their affliction.” We are compelled by our loving God who cares for us to love and care for each other – especially those who are suffering or alone.
Who should you visit?
- elderly people still living independently especially if they are shut-ins
- elderly or disabled people living in nursing homes
- people who are sick for a prolonged period of time
- people who are hospitalized
- bereaved people
- people in shelters
- people in crisis
Who should be visiting people?
Many a pastor has fallen under criticism for failure to do enough visitation. Realistically, however, if the pastor is to adequately prepare sermons, counsel, and provide general leadership for the church, little time remains to visit everyone. Some churches have hired a visitation pastor to bridge the gap. Some churches have a visitation committee or team to share the load.
The biblical reality, when you look at the one another passages of Scripture, is that visitation is a corporate effort not just the pastor’s or committee’s job. If we are truly going to express care for one another, then we must sometimes go where the people are. We must lay aside our busy schedules and excuses and make people a priority.
How nice it is if the pastor from the church visits in our time of need. How encouraging if another member also visits during this time of crisis. But to have numerous people visit over the course of time, now there’s a caring church.
To be sure, visitation will come easier for some people than others. While we all should be visiting one another on occasion, especially in time of need, people with a more outgoing personality or with the gifts of hospitality, exhortation, and/or mercy will be more prone to make visitation a part of their regular ministry. Visiting is a viable ministry for people with this kind of gifting and/or personality, especially if their heart reaches out to people who are hurting, lonely, or in need.
What Should Happen in a Typical Visit:
Fear of not knowing what to say or do is one of the big stumbling blocks to going out on visitation. You don’t have to have a planned program to visit someone. Just being there matters more to them than what you do or say. Your presence communicates that you care and that is the bottom line in visiting someone in need. If you go with an obvious agenda, or planned out speech, people could feel that your agenda matters more than they do.
Here are some tips:
- Spend most of your time listening.
- Be sensitive with what you do say (i.e., the kind of stories you tell of people in similar situations)
- Remember that you are there for them and not for yourself so be respectful.
- Offer to read Scripture to them (many Psalms are comforting) or ask for a favorite passage.
- Extend the gift of touch.
- Offer to pray with or for them.
- Leave something with them as a reminder of your visit like a card, a flower, a balloon, a picture, music, a book, last week’s bulletin, food, or any small token.
- Don’t stay too long (be aware of other visitors waiting; meal schedules, etc.)
If you are interested in learning more or finding who to visit, please contact the church office at 716-366-6634.