Posted in Ministry, pastor

A visit to the nearby ends of the earth

Earlier this week I made all my drop-in homebound visits. Time to move on to my “make an appointment” “spend a little more time” “sit down over a meal” visits. Today I headed out to see Mr. and Mrs. “H”, an appointment I made a few weeks ago, wedged in between many doctor appointments.

I’ve known the “H’s” for about twenty years, and they are my members who live the farthest from the church. They live about an hour drive from the church. For many years they faithfully made that drive to worship with us. But for the last few years, they haven’t been able to attend as often. It’s been eight months since they were able to make the drive.

I remembered the route today, so I didn’t need a GPS to get to their house. It’s a drive through a lot of undeveloped areas of north central Florida. I drove through wooded areas, potato farms. I passed a number of hispanic convenience stores and fern farms, as well as many, many small Baptist churches. Old Florida at its best, as if time stood still. I finally arrived in their small home not far from Lake George, a bass fishing mecca.

Both were actually doing better than I expected. I brought some subs with me for lunch, since in previous visits, they insisted on feeding me. I didn’t think they were up for that, but they still made some strawberry shortcake for dessert. Their little toy poodle was ecstatic to see me, but was relegated to her crate when it was time to get serious.

After about 40 minutes of small talk and extensive medical updates, I did a brief devotion, confession and absolution, and gave holy communion. While they were able to listen to religious programming via the internet, they do not have access to the sacrament, something very important to them. It’s a privilege to bring the means of grace to them.

We had a nice meal together, chatted a lot about possible assisted living scenarios, and caught up on neighbors and church family. One thing hasn’t changed. They have not lost their sense of humor. They never fail to make me laugh! That is their precious gift to me. Of course, I learned long ago that those I go to visit often minister more to me than I to them. They love to hear stories about what’s going on at church and how everyone is doing. I know they miss their church family!

After about two hours there, I thanked them for allowing me to come and headed home. The next time I see them will probably be at a hospital, since some surgery is on their schedule in a few weeks. Visits like this make me realize that some of the most faithful and devout members of a church are rarely able to attend on a Sunday morning. Also, God can create sacred space in the most modest of homes around Word and Sacrament. Finally, my physical presence means the world to them, connecting them with their church family.

It was a really good visiting day.

Posted in Ministry

The real reason for the visit

I thought I knew why I was there.

I mean, I go to visit people all the time. I visit folks who are first time worshipers with us. I visit others who are struggling with problems. I visit some who are recovering, sick or dying. I visit some just because that’s what pastors do. On site pastoral care is part of the job. But sometimes I learn the reason for my visit after I arrive.

I recently thought I was visiting a couple who had decided to join our congregation. Because of travel, hurricanes and family deaths, our meeting had been postponed for a while. We finally got together and had a really good conversation about church, ministry, the future and some of the uncertainties of life.

As often happens, ninety minutes passed like a moment. As I prepared to bring the conversation to a close and head home, something blipped on my radar. We had both lost a father in past three months. Her brief comment about grief, stress and sadness made me pause. I believe the Holy Spirit nudged me to stay, inquire, and listen to my friends talk about their loss. That’s the reason I was there.

Everything else we talked about, everything else on the agenda faded away as we shared stories about the last days of our fathers. She needed to speak. I needed to listen. Stories needed to be told. Stories needed to be heard.

I am thankful that I decided to simply listen. I wasn’t there to process a new member. Or answer their questions about our church. Or find out how they wanted to be a part of their ministry. I was there to listen to a grieving daughter mourn, remember and thank God for her father.

And I was there to mourn, remember and give God thanks for my father, too. Sometimes I forget that I am still processing this life-changing event from just a few months ago. Life moves on at such a fast pace that it’s easy to forget that we need time to figure all this out.

So, was this visit more for me or for them? Who knows? Probably both.

Posted in Ministry

Eight ways to get your pastor to visit you

Pastors (at least I do) spend a good deal of time visiting with people. A visit might take place in someone’s home, a coffee shop, a hospital, or at the church. If you’re hospitalized, homebound, or recent guest at worship service, you can usually count on a visit.

But what if you don’t fit into any of those categories? If you’re healthy and regularly attend worship, chances are the pastor won’t be stopping by. So how do you get the pastor to visit you? Here are a few tried and true (and intentionally humorous) strategies for receiving a call from me to set up a visit.

Have a baby. I love to come see the little ones! A litter of puppies works almost as well.

Buy a home. I’ll come out to bless it.

Get engaged. We’ll get together for premarital counseling.

Open a restaurant. I’ll stop by for lunch. A coffee shop works, too.

Mention your desire to make a significant donation.

Allude to your desire to teach Sunday School.

Decide it’s time to get serious about those evil spirits wreaking havoc in your house.

Got a tiki bar? I’ve got a blessing for that, too.

Yes, you too can be a good member and still get a visit from your pastor!