Number One Fear

I hope I’m not overwhelming my blog with posts, but there is just so much to say lately. So here is the next thing. My number one fear as a pastor is making home visits. I know that I need to be doing it. I know that it will probably yield much fruit to visit the members of the church, especially those whose attendance is infrequent or non-existent. I know that a good shepherd goes in search of the lost sheep. But I tremble with fear every time I consider making home visits. What usually happens is that I put them off. I procrastinate, and find all sorts of other things to occupy my time so that I do not have to do the unpleasant task of talking with the members.

Why do I have such a fear of this? I have been thinking about it a lot lately. Part of it is that I have no idea what to say. The times that I have had the opportunity to visit with members about their faith or their attendance, I have completely blown it from my perspective. I feel like I am imposing on them, that they have no desire to have a visit from a pastor. And for many of them I would probably be right. Nevertheless, this is no excuse. I am neglecting my flock, and will be held accountable for the souls of the baptized that have been entrusted to me. The perfectionist in me waits for the perfect time, the perfect circumstances, the perfect system before acting, knowing all along that such things will never come. Maybe it would help if I had a few prepared questions to ask people, open-ended ones that get them to talk about themselves a little bit. Because I am nervous, I usually do all the talking. They really don’t teach you this stuff at seminary, or if they did I was probably not listening because it was in the Pastoral Practice classes. Does anyone else struggle with this? Most of the laymen who read this are probably not the type that I would be afraid to visit. I hate making people feel uncomfortable, but sometimes it is necessary. Does anyone have any sound words of wisdom?

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About Rev. Paul L. Beisel

Graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN in 2001 (M Div.) and 2004 (S.T.M.); LC-MS Pastor and Adjunct Instructor for John Wood Community College; Husband of Amy and father of Susan, Elizabeth, Martin, and Theodore.
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5 Responses to Number One Fear

  1. Anonymous says:

    A home-going pastor makes a church-going member.

  2. Pastor Beisel says:

    Thank you Pastor Fritz.

  3. Lincoln - BoW says:

    I have never believed home visits to be the end all and be all of pastoral practice. I smacks of “theology of presence.” Many of my members are faithful in attendance, yet do not want a visit. One of them, when I asked when I could visit, suggested I visit another member who lives close by, instead. I did.

    That having been said, there is a place for the pastoral visit. I also don’t care for them. I also am not very good at them. I find that in most cases, the best thing to do is ask questions, and then listen. Where do you work, where were you raised, how long have you been at the church, etc. Any question about them, their past, present or future will quickly turn into a long explanation by them of who they are, what they believe, what fears they have, what problems they have, etc. The first two dozen or so will go badly. Keep it up, you’ll get better. Eventually you will find that youa re able to steer the conversation somewhat to causally find out from them what you need to know.

    Of course, shut in visits are different. They want you to come to “bring the goods”. After the initial visit, I actually try to keep them short. I try to keep chatter to a minimun. Find out how they are doing, and give them the Sacrament. I want the Word and Sacrament to be the cornerstone of those visits, not the visit itself and the conversation.

    Yet a third category is the delinquent visit. They don’t want you to come either, but you must. It won’t bring them back in most cases. If you have a faithful member (preferrably an elder who knows his doctrine) who was ever in sales, take them with you on a visit. I did that, and learned more in twnety minutes than in all of my courses at sem about visiting delinquents. It was like watchinng a master craftsman at work. (In my case a retired insurance salesman, who knows his catechism better than you do.)

    Of course you can just visit them and do whatever you want. Don’t worry about offfending them. They don’t go to church anyway, so what can they do – stop coming? Start despising the word? They obviously stopped believing somemwhere along the way. So you really have nothing to lose.

    More than enough ramblings for now.

    +INJ+

    Lincoln
    BoW

  4. Pastor Beisel says:

    Lincoln,

    Thanks for the ramblings. I don’t think visits are the “end all” either. But I was talking primarily not of social calls but of calls on delinquent members, etc. I was just praying Psalm 27 today and I like what it says, and maybe it applies: “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?” What am I afraid of? I guess that I will come off sounding like an idiot and that they will not come to church. Jesus has some good words too in the Gospel this week for this: “The reason you do not believe them is that you are not of God.”

  5. Lincoln - BoW says:

    Like I said, don’t worry that you come off sounding like an idiot and they never show up for church. They don’t anyway.

    You have nothing to lose. So go, be an idiot, but do it boldly.

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