Pastoral Care and Leadership - Lesson 3

Pastoral Care and Connecting with People

Visiting people in their homes is an important part of your ministry as a shepherd. Keep track of who you visit and take notes. Have a plan for a meaningful conversation. As you know people personally, it will make a difference in how you preach and how you pray for people. Pray that the Lord will lead you in what to say and be aware that you may often experience something unexpected. 

John  Johnson
Pastoral Care and Leadership
Lesson 3
Watching Now
Pastoral Care and Connecting with People

Pastoral Care and Connecting with People

I. Introduction

A. Perception of pastors as psychological therapists

B. Visitation

II. Connecting with People Personally is a Requirement

III. Biblical Examples

A. God visited Abraham, Moses and others

B. Jesus left heaven and visited people in their context

C. Early church leaders honored the role of visitation

D. Early Church history reveals a ministry of visitation

E. Richard Baxter's church/p>

IV. Essentials for Connecting

A. Order

B. Intentionality

C. Listening

D. Prayer

E. Share a needed word

V. Rewards for connecting

A. You are participating with God

B. You are authenticating your ministry

C. It enhances your preaching

D. It gives relationships a chance to grow

E. It counters loneliness

F. It allows us to pray effectively

G. It builds endearment

V. Risks That Come with Connecting

A. It can interrupt other necessary demands

B. It can be unnerving

C. It can turn into wasted time

VI. We Need to Recover Face-to-Face Interaction

VII. Questions

A. Should lay leaders visit the homes of people in their groups?

B. Importance of valuing people as individuals

All Lessons
Class Resources
  • Being a shepherd to a congregation includes the responsibility to protect, provide and lead. A church is a group of believers that is incorporated into one body and adopted into a family. The church has a mission to go after truth, respond to truth, love one another and share their faith. The pastor is called to care for and lead the congregation in the process. 

  • Convergence is where your greatest passion, giftedness and abilities line up with the greatest opportunity. When managing your time, don't measure your success only in how busy you are. God has not called to do, but to be. Be on a lifelong journey of becoming so you have a reservoir to give from in both your relationships and your preaching. 

  • Visiting people in their homes is an important part of your ministry as a shepherd. Keep track of who you visit and take notes. Have a plan for a meaningful conversation. As you know people personally, it will make a difference in how you preach and how you pray for people. Pray that the Lord will lead you in what to say and be aware that you may often experience something unexpected. 

  • Jesus devoted part of his ministry to the sick, so you as a pastor should, also. God's not interested in taking us back to where we were, but he's always interested in taking us where we need to go. Sometimes being sick and experiencing pain causes us to focus our attention on God. Call the elders to pray for physical and spiritual healing. Part of the misery of sickness is often solitude. When you visit people in the hospital, be timely, expectant and careful with your words. 

  • In your older years, letting go of life can be difficult if people are not realistic about accepting the inevitability of their own death. The process of dying often helps you sift out the trivial. As you approach death, life often seems to become a series of medical tests, interruptions and uncertainty. If someone begins to lose their sense of identity, remind them that God is good and perfectly wise in everything he does, and that he is powerful. In a Christian context, there is every place for grief but no place for despair. 

  • Help the family plan and carry out the services they want in a way that honors both the dead person and their relatives and friends. Help the family navigate the details regarding what kind of services, who should speak, whether the casket will be open or closed whether people should give flowers or donate to a charity, etc. When you are planning what you will say, take into account special circumstances like murder, suicide or someone who may not have assurance of their relationship to God.

  • With the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, there is something happening beyond the surface that is sacred and divine. In the act of communion, we should experience an empowering grace. We look back to the Passover when God led the nation of Israel out of Egypt. We look back to Jesus' death on the cross. We celebrate our present communion with God by the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We look forward to the consummation of all things in the future. 

  • How often should you practice communion? Who should be allowed to participate? Should you use wine or grape juice? Should it be done at home or always at church? Should it always be with the whole corporate body? Should communion be part of a wedding ceremony? When should it be in the order of service? As a pastor, how do you deal with serving communion to people you know are struggling in their lives?

  • Baptism is a sacred ceremony so you as a pastor should treat it with care. People have different views on baptism as it relates to who should participate, the mode used and it’s function as a means of grace or ordinance. Dr. Johnson says that baptism doesn’t produce change, it announces change. As one way to prepare for their baptism, the person who is being baptized can write out their testimony in a way that people who aren’t believers can understand it.

  • There has been a disintegration of the institute of marriage in the American culture over the past 60 years. People in our culture today traditionally get married in a church. Meet with the couple before you agree to marry them. Have procedures and policies in place for use of the church building and your involvement. Suggest that the couple choose one of the following passages as the main focus of the wedding ceremony: Col 3:12-14; I Cor 13:4-7; Phil 2:1-4; Gen 2:24-25; Ecc 4:10-13.

  • Discipleship was an essential part of Jesus’s ministry and a significant part of the early church. Be deliberate about spending time with people that are leaders and potential leaders that are living their lives to follow after God. The heart of congregational accountability is being involved in soul care for each other. Admonition is rebuke and correction that calls people back. Part of admonition is corrective preaching that is done with the right motives and in the right way. Membership requires sacrifice to join others in a battle with others who see themselves as investors not consumers. You, as a pastor, are accountable to protect, guide, encourage, comfort and admonish. In the process of confrontation, it’s important to have a commitment to mutual understanding, to do everything in love, aim for reconciliation, to be proactive, do all for God’s glory, to be a peacemaker and for reconciliation and closure.

  • Attention to administration is critical to the health of a church. By administrating effectively, you will have more time for other activities. A certain amount of administration cannot be delegated. Historically, three models for church structure are the Episcopalian, Presbyterian and Congregationalist. Churches need to be led by effective leaders.

  • The organization should always serve the organism. In some churches, the pastoral responsibilities are carried out by one or more of the elders, and in some, the pastor position is distinct from the elders. It’s important for you to make sure that the elders are qualified and that they carry out the duties for which they are responsible.  Recognize the structure in your church and your place in it so you know how to relate to people in a way that helps you to lead effectively.

  • Create a culture with a fundamental value of training and becoming leaders. Establish clear qualifications of those who will lead. Create productive meetings that avoid intimidation and manipulation, avoidance of tough issues, personal attacks, digression from the agenda, hot button issues without proper preparation, too much time on money or people issues, leaving the vision and mission out of discussions, people who monopolize and dominate meetings and insistence on unanimity. Have a clear succession plan in place for board members. The staff has the role of daily managing and shepherding and the board focuses on mission and vision.  

  • Determine reporting relationships and a structure for accountability. Develop effective staff meetings. Meetings should be regular, clear agenda, predictable time frame, participation, encouragement, focus on the mission vision and operational plan, informational, innovation, nurturing, praying together, discerning and sensitive to cultures. Establish personnel policies including a staff assessment plan and a release plan. 

  • Assessments are important because God calls us to be fruitful as well as faithful.  Effective ministry requires metrics because it helps you address real needs. A church’s mission should include pursue truth, respond to truth, mature the saint, love one another and reach lost people. What is your expectation of outcomes? What would it look like if you gave a final exam each year to determine what people could remember and what they have put in practice from your sermons? The difference between an organization that is good, and one that is great, is discipline.

  • Conflict is part of our lives anytime we are interacting with other people. According to Alan Redpath, if you are a pastor you are always in crisis, either in the middle of one, coming out of one or going into one. Reasons for conflict include that it’s part of life, the role of a leader, your personal growth, change, style, staff, budgets, preaching and uninspiring results. People often don’t like change, but effective leaders require change to make improvements. Your style of leadership can create conflict because of the expectations of people in your congregation, or what they are accustomed to.

  • Accept notes from people about situations in the church, only if they are willing to sign them. Work to gain trust. Don’t assume that people being kind to you at first means they trust you. Help people become dissatisfied with the same things you are. What got you here won’t get you there. As you create a culture for change, demonstrate that you respect the past and leave some things the same if they are working. Encourage people to accept and value your strengths and be patient with your weaknesses. Develop and teach a clear theology of worship. Worship is response to revelation. If you can articulate a theology of worship, it helps reduce the conflict about styles of worship. Focus on the mission and vision of the church to help avoid conflicts about finances. Teach people how to disagree without making it personal.

  • The Pastor’s job is to equip people to do the work of the ministry. Decide on and communicate the mission and vision of the church that the people support. Create a process to assimilate people. Have a clear entry point and subsequent steps for maturity and involvement. There are 4 historical models for how the Church relates to the world. 1. The church separate from the world to stay pure, and attempting to attract outsiders. 2. The Church in the world to be relevant to people. 3. The Church over the world attempts to gain power and position to control the government structures. 4. The Church engaging the world is being salt and light in the world without separating, compromising or trying to control the structures.

  • If you manage your own finances well, it will be easier for people in the church to trust you to manage the finances of the church. Teach your congregation principles of how to manage money and how to give wisely.

  • Designated giving can undermine the budgeting process. Faith-promise offerings can sometimes be helpful practically, but they can also create a false hierarchy of giving categories. Create a budget driven by the mission and vision of your church. Establish procedures and check to make sure people are following them. Conduct periodic audits to avoid embezzlement. Make the salaries one line item in the budget but don’t discuss the salary of an individual in a public meeting.

  • What got you here won’t get you there. Read current publications to keep up on culture. People like Stuart Murray suggest strategies for connecting with people in this post-Christendom era. Balance the tension between tradition and innovation. Evaluate why people are coming to your church as well as why they leave. Engage the world but don’t become like the world.

  • How you manage transition is a critical aspect of leadership. Manage your present ministry by keeping in mind that, “Success is not measured by what you are leaving to go to, but by what you are leaving behind.” “Every congregation is a congregation of sinners and worst of all, they have pastors who are sinners.” When circumstances in your ministry are difficult, it may be the time to stay and learn important lessons about you and your congregation, not necessarily to leave right away.

Are you a pastor? Are you studying to be a pastor? Are you a leader in your church and you want to encourage your pastor? As a pastor, what does it mean to care for your congregation? How do you do it well? What does it mean to be a good leader? What character traits can you develop? What relational, motivational, spiritual and educational strategies can you use to become an effective leader and develop leaders in your church? 

In Pastoral Care and Leadership, you have the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Johnson as he relates what he has learned, experienced and taught over the past three decades. What a great opportunity you have to learn about how to lead and care for people in your congregation from someone like Dr. Johnson who is thoughtful, relational, highly trained, a talented communicator as a seminary professor and experienced as a pastor who served for more than a total of 30 years at three distinctly different churches. 

In this class you will learn how to:

Care for yourself and others;

Deal with sickness and death;

Celebrate the Lord's Supper and Baptism;

Lead a wedding service;

Relate to the board and staff;

Grow from conflict

Handle your own money wisely, and the church's;

Transition the church forward with innovation.

Learning to care for yourself is critical. Understanding who you are and how you apply your gifts, abilities and training is an important place to start. Getting enough rest, being deliberate about your relationship with God and responding to his leading, and nurturing your family and your friendships helps you to have the emotional and relational energy you need to encourage and comfort the people in your congregation. As a pastor, you are often invited to be a part of some of the most memorable and intimate events in peoples' lives. You are welcomed into their homes to get to know them and pray for them. You are in the "front row" for weddings, baptisms, baby dedications and funerals. Dr. Johnson gives you some specific direction based on his training and experiences to help you know what to say and to make these times meaningful and encourage people in their relationship with the Lord in the process. 


As you begin to lead a church, find out about the history, structure and culture of the church. Work with the governing board to determine mission and vision so that when you hire and work with staff members, you can all agree on a common direction. Choose strategies that are innovative and effective. Decide on metrics so that you can measure the results. Continue what works and make changes by learning from your failures. Remember that, "what got you here, won't get you there." Avoid unnecessary conflict by fostering an environment where you set clear expectations and goals, practice regular accountability and show care for people by expecting the best and listening well. When there is conflict, have the conversation with the people involved, focus on the issue at hand, avoid personal attacks and strive for reconciliation. In the area of finances, be a good example of handling your own finances by being disciplined, shrewd, wise and planning well. Manage the church finances by encouraging the budget priorities to match the mission and vision that the congregation, board and staff agree on. Set up procedures to prevent misuse of funds and be relentless to make sure they are followed. When it's time for a transition, leave well by having already mentored other leaders and by creating separation so the church can move on. 


Recommended Books

Pastoral Care and Leadership - Student Guide

Pastoral Care and Leadership - Student Guide

Pastoral Care and Leadership - Student Guide

<p>Course: <a href="https://www.biblicaltraining.org/pastoral-care-leadership/john-johnson&…; target="_blank">Pastoral Care and Leadership</a><br />
Lecture 3: <a href="https://www.biblicaltraining.org/pastoral-care-connecting-with-people/p…; target="_blank">Pastoral Care and Connecting with People</a></p>

<h2>I. Introduction</h2>

<p>In two sessions so far we have established some introductory things that are important, some definitions that are important for pastoral care and pastoral leadership. Then we talked about the care of self also as a very foundational issue.</p>

<h3>A. Perception of pastors as psychological therapists</h3>

<p>I want to for the next few sessions really talk about care. Care is the big part of what pastors do, though we have to be careful not to go too far. There was a time, let&rsquo;s say particularly in the 1900s when there were very few pastoral theologies. Most of the pastoral care, I should say pastoral learning, was done through the reading of books largely by sociologists and psychologists. What that created was a lot of pastors who saw themselves principally as therapists and created in churches cultures that expected the pastor to be their personal therapist, listened for language and messages that would speak to their personal care. When I talk about pastoral care, it is within the framework of being a pastor, not becoming a therapist.</p>

<h3>B. Visitation</h3>

<p>Where do we start? I want to talk about pastoral care and what I have titled here is connecting, connecting with people. Connecting with people, what does that mean? That can be a lot of things. Another word we have used sometimes in the church is visitation. It also seems archaic today to use that term. It feels like something that was more maybe in the 1980s or 1970s or even back to the 1950s, let&rsquo;s say back to the Puritans like Richard Baxter, who made it a defining part of his pastoral ministry to visit people in their homes.</p>

<p>Seeing people in their homes today seems like less of an expectation. In fact, people are busy. People are uncomfortable. The idea of stopping by unannounced or without calling first would seem to be an inconvenience, it would actually seem to be just not part of what we should do in culture. There was a day that you did it. You stopped by people&rsquo;s homes. It isn&rsquo;t so much an expectation. It is not even so much a desire unless maybe you are a shut-in and you cannot get out into the world yourself. It is no longer considered in some circles to be part of a pastoral function because people are busy and spouses work and kids are into all kinds of sports. So people come home exhausted. Who has time for the pastor to stop by?</p>

<p>We have also I think contributed to this with technology. We have created a culture that actually loves to be in touch with people through technology, less face-to-face. We have grown to have less value for the face-to-face because after all, we can text or send an e-mail, or maybe even call. But not the idea of doing something face to face. We see it expressed in lots of ways, even with a lot of education today.</p>

<h2>II. Connecting with People Personally is a Requirement</h2>

<p>I want to make an argument here that if one is to be truly an effective pastor, I don&rsquo;t care if your church is a church of 5,000 or 50, a pastor has to be engaged in connecting with lives and be in homes because it gets back to that term we used in one of our definitions, shepherding. Shepherds pay attention to people&rsquo;s lives. It gets back to oversight. It is the role of a shepherd. The role of a shepherd, as we have already talked about, is to watch the flock and to attend to those who are hurting, and to go after those who are absent.</p>

<p>Here is a scary verse, Hebrews 13:17 says, &ldquo;Obey your leaders as those who must give an account for one&rsquo;s soul.&rdquo; That scares me a lot. That means that all of those people I shepherded, one day I&rsquo;m going to have to stand in heaven and give an account for their lives? Something like that seems to be part of the language being used here, which frankly will be somewhat embarrassing if many of us pastors go, &ldquo;I recognize the name, but I don&rsquo;t know if I really knew the person.&rdquo; To know the person means you have to get into their lives. Part of it is getting into their homes.</p>

<h2>III. Biblical Examples</h2>

<h3>A. God visited Abraham, Moses and others</h3>

<p>If we need some examples of this, let&rsquo;s start with God, who visited his people. When we read the Old Testament, he often visited. He visited Abraham, Moses, Hannah, etc.</p>

<h3>B. Jesus left heaven and visited people in their context</h3>

<p>Jesus is the ultimate connector. He left the nice, comfortable confines of heaven and came into our neighborhood, came into our homes. He visited people in their contexts. He would go to the Samaritan woman who was way off the beaten path, the nobleman whose son was sick. He went to the paralytic, even though the paralytic in John 5 was not asking for Jesus, but he made an unannounced visit to him. The man who was born blind. The tax collector. So he went to offices, he went to businesses, he went to homes. It would appear he spent a significant amount of time with Mary and Martha, Luke 10; Peter&rsquo;s mom in her home, Mark chapter 1. He went to people where they lived, where they worked. He went to the marketplace and the tax office.</p>

<p>What am I trying to say? Jesus didn&rsquo;t come to say, &ldquo;Hey, I&rsquo;m here, let&rsquo;s have a &lsquo;come-to-me ministry.&rsquo;&rdquo; In fact, if you look at Mark 1, when they wanted Jesus to be sort of a contemporary Benny Hinn of his day and have all the people come to Peter&rsquo;s home and line up, Jesus could have stayed right there and let everybody come to him. But you remember in that story, in the dead of night he was gone and the disciples went looking for him and said, &ldquo;Why are you here? Everyone is waiting for you,&rdquo; to which Jesus said, &ldquo;I have come for this purpose, to seek and save the lost. I have come to go to other villages .I have come to go into homes. I have come to go where people are, not have them come to me.&rdquo;</p>

<h3>C. Early church leaders honored the role of visitation</h3>

<p>Is there a place for people to come to us? Yes, we call it church and people come to us. But if it is only one way, you will have a ministry that will never be the ministry it should be. Why? Because God models it and also because early church leaders honored the role of visitation. Acts 5:42, there was this ministry of house-to-house, it appears. It was part of what the apostles did. They went from home to home. Acts 15:36, Acts 20:20, Paul made visitation his priority. In fact, James commands us in James 1 that part of authentic religion is to visit, to visit particularly those who are marginalized and the hurting.</p>

<h3>D. Early Church history reveals a ministry of visitation</h3>

<p>Early church history also reveals a ministry of visitation. Some of the earliest pastoral ministries centered around this. They had this conviction when you read early church fathers, that ministry cannot be done by a sterile distance.</p>

<p>I have been to conferences where I have heard big-time pastors talk about , &ldquo;I leave that to other pastoral staff, I don&rsquo;t have time for doing that, I have sermons to preach, I have boards to manage. I have a vision to set.&rdquo; But then I would say, we are back to definitions, Is that the work of a shepherd? It is part of the work, but it is not the whole work of a shepherd. So, why are we calling people to this? Because God models it, the early church honored it.</p>

<h3>E. Richard Baxter&rsquo;s church</h3>

<p>Early church history honored it and we go back to people like Richard Baxter and his ministry at ?_____(09:07.2). Let&rsquo;s call it what it was, it was the megachurch of his day, it was 600, 700, 800 families. Somehow he found it part of his ministry. In fact, some would say it was his greatest pastoral achievement. He systematically annually visited every family every year, 800 families. Monday and Tuesday he visited some 15 to 16 families, teaching them, keeping notes on their lives with precise care and oversight, which characterized his ministry.</p>

<p>Let me just add this. It is a privilege we have that not a lot of other professions do have. How many professions come into peoples&rsquo; homes? Pastors have this and it is an honor to visit. So the question is, if I have convinced you that there is a role and a place for it, what is involved in doing this?</p>

<h2>IV. Essentials for Connecting</h2>

<p>Let me give you a few things that over the years I have experienced.</p>

<h3>A. The first one, let&rsquo;s call it order.</h3>

<p>There is a certain order to this. It can&rsquo;t be haphazard, probably like sermons that are not part of an order will end up in our default subject that we like to preach more often than others. Or in visitation we will end up seeing the same people that we like to see. So part of order, with a certain amount of careful administration, is to keep notes. To take a church directory, which by the way I have found is one of the most important documents for a pastor. That is where I kept my notes. When someone would call me or I would see someone, I would write notes, so I kept current about people.</p>

<p>Also keeping a bit of a log. &ldquo;I saw this person April 15th&rdquo; so six months has gone by. Baxter would keep notes, not only of who he visited, but he would keep notes on what he discovered because in that time we often, and we should, get to the question of, &ldquo;How can I pray for you?&rdquo; or &ldquo;What is going on in your life?&rdquo;</p>

<p>The first thing is order: having a plan, working through the directory, keeping track of who I have visited, lest again, I neglect some and spend too much time with others. Remembering this, we can&rsquo;t forget this, I am representing not just myself, I am representing the church. I am the church coming into people&rsquo;s lives. I am hopefully Jesus coming into people&rsquo;s lives.</p>

<h3>B. Intentionality</h3>

<p>Second is intentionality. That is, I need to think through how long I need to spend. If it is too brief, it is simply perfunctory. If it is too long, they will be relieved when I leave. It is sorting out how much time do I spend. Part of this intentionality is transcending the social. You are taking time maybe to say, &ldquo;God, I want to consecrate this conversation.&rdquo; It needs to move beyond the chit-chat that happens often in the foyer on Sundays. It looks for opportunities to talk about faith.</p>

<p>Thomas Oden, who is a wonderful pastoral theologian, put it this way: &ldquo;When Jesus met people in their homes and work settings, He cut through to the marrow of their lives. He exposed their idolatries. He awakened a living sense of the presence of God. He looked deeply into their souls. He heard them and he called them to repentance and faith.&rdquo;</p>

<p>I am going to be a little critical here. I think with a lot of pastors, it is just glorified chit-chat, which changes nothing, really. So, intentionality.</p>

<h3>C. Listening</h3>

<p>A third is listening. It is being intentional to listen. Let&rsquo;s be honest. They have heard enough from us, they hear us every week. We need to let them tell their story. We need to ask penetrating questions. We need to ask the kind of questions that allow people to talk about their favorite subject, which is themselves.</p>

<p>I find when you open up opportunities for people to talk about themselves, they want to spend time with you. They get rather tired of listening if it&rsquo;s one-sided coming from us. In visitation we have the opportunity to give attention to details, which doesn&rsquo;t happen in the foyer after a morning service. Sometimes when people want to open up to me in church, I might say, &ldquo;We could go a lot further with this conversation. How about if we get together this week?&rdquo; Because if you are not careful, if you don&rsquo;t manage things, you can spend all of your time with one person when you gather corporately, then that robs people you also need to see. When you are in the home, then you can give that focused attention.</p>

<h3>D. Prayer</h3>

<p>Here is the fourth part that is involved. That is prayer. I know that kind of sounds like the obvious, but sometimes people don&rsquo;t do that.</p>

<p>I have never had anyone when I said, &ldquo;Can I pray for you?&rdquo; that said, &ldquo;Not this time.&rdquo; People love when you pray. They love when you bless their home. How many people do that? Just say, &ldquo;Can I take a moment just to pray that God would use this space to do amazing things and advance his Kingdom?&rdquo; I have had people invite me to go room by room and do that. I will go into a study and I will just pray, &ldquo;Lord, may this be a place of deep connection&rdquo; or maybe in the family room, &ldquo;May this be a place of great hospitality.&rdquo; Just asking God to bless.</p>

<h3>E. Share a needed word</h3>

<p>Here is something else, the fifth. Obviously, sharing the needed word. There is always a needed word. This again is where it can naturally flow out of your own relationship with God. I find a lot of times, and I would guess you do, where if you go deep with God, God somehow uses that in a later conversation. I will find myself going, that is exactly what God was saying today. I don&rsquo;t think there is any mistake or coincidence there.</p>

<p>So, a needed word that builds on friendship, that shares needed wisdom, that gets beyond the chit-chat, that sometimes allows people to open up. Just to say, &ldquo;You haven&rsquo;t seemed yourself lately in church&rdquo; or &ldquo;How is your relationship with your daughter going?&rdquo; or &ldquo;Are you really happy in your work right now?&rdquo; or &ldquo;I can&rsquo;t help but notice a lot of times you leave the church fairly soon. Is there something of an engagement in the body that we are not being attentive to?&rdquo; &ldquo;Is there a gift you would love to impart or share?&rdquo;</p>

<h2>V. Rewards for connecting</h2>

<p>What are the rewards? There are a lot of rewards, but here are some I have listed.</p>

<h3>A. You are participating with God</h3>

<p>We are participating with God because when we go into a home, we are going with God. We are bringing his presence into people&rsquo;s lives. We are becoming an avenue for God to work.</p>

<h3>B. You are authenticating your ministry</h3>

<p>We are authenticating our ministry. Frankly, I&rsquo;ll tell you, it means little to me if a pastor says up front in a pulpit, &ldquo;You know, I love you and I care for you, church&rdquo; but they never see him in their home. How do they know you really care? Not that that will completely authenticate it, but people remember.</p>

<h3>C. It enhances your preaching</h3>

<p>A third thing, it enhances our preaching. Our ministry takes on relevance. It puts life in perspective. &ldquo;It kindles the homiletical mind&rdquo; is how Oden puts it. Not that you talk about the people you visited, or you will never be invited to their home, but it helps you to see the things you need to address.</p>

<p>Let me illustrate what I&rsquo;m saying. A number of years ago I visited this rather large popular church, more of a health/wealth gospel kind of church. The pastor was talking about building bigger barns, kind of how I remember it, and how God honors that. In the course of the time he shared a story of the past week where he was at this conference with all these big-name people and he lost the keys to his rental car. The story was funny and humorous and he went into great detail. In fact, such great detail that I think it was at least a third of the sermon. I suddenly thought, This gal I&rsquo;m sitting next to might have just gotten a report from the doctor this week that she has cancer and he is talking about losing his car keys to a rental car at a conference. The more I listened to him, I thought, this man is totally out of touch with people, with life.</p>

<p>I will tell you this, almost every time I have gone into a home and I have listened to people where they are, I find myself driving back to church going, I have to change that illustration, that would mean nothing. I have found myself totally humbled. I think I have it hard?</p>

<p>So it authenticates, it enhances our preaching, it tells people we are real. When you stand up and say, &ldquo;I know this verse. I know it connects with many of you because I know, I have listened to many of you, and I know that gossip is a big part of your lives. It comes out too often and too easily.&rdquo; Or, &ldquo;I know this is where you are because I have listened to many of you and many of you I know are not talking to your kids.&rdquo; Or how about this, &ldquo;I know this text is where God wants to speak to us today because many of you are bitter. I know that because many of you have shared stories, people that, try as you may, you can&rsquo;t get over the injury, the wounds and it hurts and you still can&rsquo;t let go.&rdquo;</p>

<p>When people know that you know that, they are going to listen. It is not saying, &ldquo;I was just in Ann&rsquo;s home the other day and Ann, as maybe some of you know, is really bitter towards a husband who left her.&rdquo; Obviously that is not what we are talking about. Or being authentic to say, &ldquo;Sometimes I feel that way about my son.&rdquo; If you are going to say that, you had better check in with your son first. I have learned over the years to never use my kids as an illustration unless I have their permission, Rule #1. Rule #2 is to not do it very often. I have actually tried pretty hard to keep my family life pretty private to protect them. I&rsquo;m getting a little bit off here, but it is all part of what we develop sermons on and part of it is our visitation.</p>

<h3>D. It gives relationships a chance to grow</h3>

<p>Here is the fourth thing, the rewards, advantages. It gives relationships a chance to grow. My relationships don&rsquo;t grow with chit-chat in the foyer after a service. But behind open doors it illumines hidden needs. It penetrates resistances. It heightens my pastoral conscience, if you will. It tells you things that you would not know outside of those closed doors. It tells you maybe things to expose unhealthiness that you wouldn&rsquo;t otherwise know.</p>

<p>I remember once I visited a family and this man was this Godly man. In fact, he would call me up and go, &ldquo;Pastor, I&rsquo;m coming home from work. Could we just share the Word together or pray together?&rdquo; He was very quiet, low voice, just a Godly man. Then one day I visited his family. All the curtains were closed. It was like 7 o&rsquo;clock and the kids were already in bed. You got a sense that things just don&rsquo;t add up here. The wife was very sullen and quiet while he just kind of went on with his things. I remember, later that week she called me and she said, &ldquo;Can you come and rescue me and my family from my husband, he is at work.&rdquo; It turned out it had been a long, abusive relationship. I would have never guessed in a million years until I visited their home.</p>

<p>So, it allows you to really know people. On a positive side, it allows you to go deeper with people too, to connect with things you have in common. &ldquo;Oh, you are a kayaker also. You mean you also went to the Air Force Academy? Well, I went to the Air Force Academy.&rdquo; Suddenly all of these connections and now the relationship is very different.</p>

<h3>E. It counters loneliness</h3>

<p>Here is a fifth piece to it as far as rewards. It counters loneliness. A lot of people are far more lonely than we realize. One discovers that while you might feel it is an inconvenience, some people have been waiting a long time for somebody to knock on their door that is not selling stuff, but just wants to come in and spend time.</p>

<h3>F. It allows us to pray effectively</h3>

<p>Here is the sixth major reward. It allows us to pray effectively. Now I know what to pray. I tried, best I could, not always faithful to this, but I tried to pray through the church directory. So each day I would pray for this page and the next day I would pray through this page, until I had prayed through the whole directory and then I would start over. I wanted my people to know I prayed for them. But for a number of people I would say, &ldquo;Oh, Lord I pray for the Samuelsons. I don&rsquo;t know what is going in their lives, but I want to ask you to bless them. I ask you to give them a heart for you. If they are going through difficulties, I pray they will find you as their strength.&rdquo; General, but good things to pray.</p>

<p>But then, seeing the Samuelsons, I could say, &ldquo;Lord, their son is grieving them with the choices he is making. I&rsquo;m asking you to change their son&rsquo;s heart.&rdquo; That is what it does. Now you are praying in ways that really matter. So it helps us to pray more effectively.</p>

<p>It helps them to pray for us more effectively. When you say, &ldquo;I hope you will remember to pray for me. In fact, you know what I would like to ask you to do. It would mean a lot if when you drive to church, you would pray for me on Sunday morning, that you would ask God to speak powerfully through me. I&rsquo;m working on a text this week, I&rsquo;m finding it really hard to understand. Would you pray for me? My son is making some bad choices also. Would you pray for my son?&rdquo;</p>

<p>You start to develop a bond, right? It has changed your relationship, all because you took the time to enter into their home.</p>

<h3>G. It builds endearment</h3>

<p>Here is something else I have listed. It builds endearment and I have kind of touched on that already. &ldquo;There is nothing that endears a pastor to the flock like personalized, caring visitation.&rdquo; Back to Thomas Oden. I think that is true. I think over time these visits become times that endear you to them, and them to you. It changes things. There are great rewards.</p>

<p>Let me say on connecting with people, yes, the home is one piece. Another is lunches in people&rsquo;s workplace. I made it a practice of trying to go out a couple times a week to see people in their workplace. I love doing that. I love to see people&rsquo;s worlds. They see my world all the time. A lot of times, if people are not sure what to do with this, I will call and say, &ldquo;Matthew, I would like to come have lunch with you. I would like to not go to a restaurant, I would actually like to brown bag it and come to your office.&rdquo; It would be, &ldquo;Have I done something wrong?&rdquo; They wonder what your agenda is. A lot of times people will say, &ldquo;Why did you come?&rdquo; When I say, &ldquo;I have no agenda, I want to get to know what you do.&rdquo; For the most part then, &ldquo;Come, let me introduce you to my coworkers.&rdquo;</p>

<p>When I was a pastor in Holland, many of my parishioners were expats who worked in corporations, who did some of the most fascinating work in the world. Boeing representatives, ?_____(27:54.3) airports, overseeing their use of planes and maintenance. I would meet with him and he would take me into the caverns of a 747 that they were checking for maintenance. I would ask him his challenges, what he faces. So when I preached, he knew that I knew what he was facing. It is a great reward.</p>

<p>So whether it is in the workplace, in the home, sometimes at an event where maybe someone is performing. I can&rsquo;t tell you what that means to people. You took time to watch my race? You came out and saw me dance? Wow. Yes, I just wanted to see your world. You have to tell me, what went into that? How does one become someone who dances like that? Now they know you care. So when you get up to say, &ldquo;I want to talk about an issue here of this text&rdquo; they know you understand.</p>

<p>I am sharing with you these rewards, but believe me, I think increasingly today we find a lot of excuses of business. I just don&rsquo;t have time, it can feel interruptive. But we have to do it.</p>

<h2>V. Risks That Come with Connecting</h2>

<p>What are the risks? Can it be risky? Yes, it has risks.</p>

<h3>A. It can interrupt other necessary demands</h3>

<p>It can interrupt our demands. We have a lot of things on our schedule. It takes time. You can&rsquo;t just carve out 10 minutes. There is the drive. There is the time. There are these risks. It might take us away from our computers.</p>

<h3>B. It can be unnerving</h3>

<p>It can be unnerving. Sometimes be prepared for the fact that that pleasant conversation turned really hard. I remember, I visited a German scientist in my church in The Netherlands. God just really put him on my heart and somehow I had this compulsion, it was like God said, &ldquo;You need to go show grace to this man.&rdquo; It was not an audible voice, but you have a sense from God, I have to do this. I went, I couldn&rsquo;t find his village. I thought, God, I gave it a great effort. The Holy Spirit was saying, &ldquo;No, that is not good enough.&rdquo; So I drove until I found his place, I knocked on the door. I said to the man, &ldquo;I just wanted to make sure everything is right between us. Somehow I just sense I need to see you.&rdquo; He was very warm and friendly, then he said, &ldquo;Actually you have kind of ruined our church.&rdquo; And for a half-hour he went on. He is this big German man, Martin, I remember. Actually the gist of it was, he got so worked up, at one point he said, &ldquo;You have made the church so EFFECTIVE.&rdquo; He was more from the charismatic that loved more of a free flow and didn&rsquo;t like some of the order and things we brought. For a half-hour he really laid into me. Then he warmly got up and said, &ldquo;Pastor, it was nice to see you.&rdquo; I remember, I got in my car and went, What was that? You know what? It was where I was supposed to be. You just never know.</p>

<p>I remember one time visiting a couple, they were really financially in a very difficult place, couldn&rsquo;t afford glasses for their daughter. I said, &ldquo;I brought some glasses as a gift from the church for your daughter.&rdquo; Somehow he had built up over time this deep anger with life, with God, with the church. He exploded, ripped me up one side and down, so much so that I remember I couldn&rsquo;t go back to church. I had to go to my back yard and compose myself. So there are risks. You never know what you are going to find on the other side. However, it is better that it happens there and probably not in the foyer. Sometimes you will be blindsided by mean tempers or explosive conflicts. You might see a side of people you wish you didn&rsquo;t see.</p>

<h3>C. It can turn into wasted time</h3>

<p>The other risk is, it can turn into wasted time. By wasted time, what I mean is, it ends up really talking about nothing. I think sometimes pastors will say, &ldquo;Today is visitation. I am going fishing with Al for the day.&rdquo; Not that fishing is a waste of time and not that spending time with Al is like that, but sometimes we can justify a lot of doing nothing. It is like sometimes people could fairly say, &ldquo;I would like a job where I just hung out with people and chit-chatted and get paid for it.&rdquo; There has to be intentionality.</p>

<h2>VI. We Need to Recover Face-to-Face Interaction</h2>

<p>This is pastoral care and I think it is something today we need to recover. What we need to recover is face-to-face. Let&rsquo;s remember, Jesus was incarnate. You know what &ldquo;incarnate&rdquo; means. He came in the flesh. Flesh-to-flesh which again our culture is getting us away from.. We don&rsquo;t even take the time to call, we text, we have disincarnated ourselves. I think actually today is a day to recover and then our ministries will be much more credible.</p>

<h2>VII. Questions</h2>

<h3>A. Should lay leaders visit the homes of people in their groups?</h3>

<p>Question: I have a question. I&rsquo;m not a pastor, but I am involved in ministry as far as a leadership position. In your original model you were talking about some models, the pastor is up front and everybody else is kind of lay and not really active. I guess my question, as a leader, should we take on that same kind of role with our smaller groups, to be intentional and visit?</p>

<p>Dr. Johnson: I think if I am tracking with what you are asking, I don&rsquo;t mean in any way to convey that visitation is just a pastor&rsquo;s prerogative or responsibility. Actually this should be something he models and then encourages teams of people to do, particularly people who are gifted in doing that well. While saying that, I do not think therefore it is something that is delegated so that you don&rsquo;t have to do it. I think it has to be both a team effort, a broader effort.</p>

<p>Shut-ins for example are going to need a lot more care than what a pastor can give. I would say at the same time, it would be unwise to say, &ldquo;I have teams who see the shut-ins, so I don&rsquo;t need to do that.&rdquo; They need their pastor. Secondly, a pastor needs them because sometimes he needs to hear their hearts and the world they live in.</p>

<p>I remember an older woman who was very active. In fact, she was in her 80s and she sky-dived. She was one of these who wanted to live forever at full speed. But the day came she couldn&rsquo;t do it anymore. I remember going to the care center where she was. I remember, she said to me, &ldquo;Pastor, I really don&rsquo;t have any worth anymore.&rdquo; She needed a pastor to seek value and worth into her life. It helped me, again driving back, as almost all my visitation did, to go back to the church and go, &ldquo;I think I need to change what I was going to say&rdquo; or &ldquo;I need to open my eyes, I wonder how many other people feel that way, who come every Sunday.&rdquo;</p>

<p>I don&rsquo;t know if I&rsquo;m answering. It is again, part of moving from passivity to activity, to say to people, &ldquo;There are a lot of people that need you.&rdquo; I think it does require some training because the things I have just talked about need to be carefully thought through because people can, for example, stay too long. You really have to watch. You can say, &ldquo;This conversation is going really great. It just seems like they are eating up this time together.&rdquo; I would often say, &ldquo;I&rsquo;m coming for 15 minutes.&rdquo; Even though it was gong really great, I would try to cut it off because people, even though you might read it as they are so glad to have you, I would rather them say, &ldquo;I wish we could spend more time,&rdquo; as opposed to, &ldquo;I thought that guy would never leave.&rdquo;</p>

<p>When I retired from pastoral ministry I told the church, &ldquo;I want to be the first one to know, not the last to know.&rdquo; You don&rsquo;t want to extend your welcome.</p>

<p>Question: My question was more as a leader in the church, even though I&rsquo;m not a pastor, would it benefit if I took on some of these, making sure that I have connection with my students.</p>

<p>Dr. Johnson: I think for all of the reasons that it enhances my ministry, I think it enhances yours. I think if you have a leadership role and there are people you are mentoring, shepherding or caring for, I think any way you can see them in their world, again will really enhance your credibility, your voice into their lives. It will make you more effective because you know the world they live in and what they face.</p>

<h3>B. Importance of valuing people as individuals</h3>

<p>Question: It seems like it would be important to be really intentional about making that time where you really care about individual people that you are visiting, because it seems like it could get to a point where you want to do it to make sure that things in the church are going smoothly or to have a good reputation with people, or things like that. By making it really about caring for people and going beyond the surface questions, going beyond the social conversation, that not only communicates to them that you care about them, but also that is a way that they can respond to their neighbors and people at work, to really care about who is in their sphere of influence in a way that is more than just a social conversation or what is convenient.</p>

<p>Dr. Johnson: Visitation is multifaceted. There are a number of things that are going on. You want to come and show care. You want to learn about their lives. You want to build your relationship with them. You also are coming as a representative of the church, again, so it is more than you. So when you step in, you are the church. Maybe you do also have a bit of an agenda. Maybe you are talking about moving the church and you have some major resistors. It is only getting behind closed doors you can say, &ldquo;Tell me what is really going on.&rdquo; Where people might say, &ldquo;I&rsquo;m really afraid.&rdquo; What I&rsquo;m trying to say is, I think there should be a lot of intentions, if you will, and though it&rsquo;s okay to say I want to build a relationship with Martha, but I also want to know why Martha is feeling like she is feeling.</p>

<p>I had this guy, Wayne. I have a lot of Wayne stories from my first church. If I could say this, Wayne was a pain in the butt. My first Sunday I preached, he got up halfway through the sermon and said, &ldquo;I can&rsquo;t hear the man&rdquo; and he stormed out. He would come in sometimes and say, &ldquo;You get your fanny out there and turn on the thermostat, it is too cold in here.&rdquo; I thought, What? We need to get rid of this guy, I need to go to my elders. Then one day I went over to see Wayne. Do you think he opened the door and said, &ldquo;What the heck are you here for?&rdquo; He opened the door and said, &ldquo;Pastor, it is so great to see you.&rdquo; I came in. He said, &ldquo;I was a photographer before I retired, can I show you my pictures?&rdquo; He was like my grandfather, we had the greatest time. It is not that it automatically changed when I went back to church.</p>

<p>It was something almost like Wayne had a turf issue. I was the 13th pastor and I was a little bit on Wayne&rsquo;s turf. I thought, I have to see Wayne often, and I would come over and we had great visits. I think in an offhanded way he gave me one of my better compliments. I went to see him as I had resigned to go to Holland. He looked at me and he said, &ldquo;Well, Pastor, I hated you when you came and now I hate you that you are leaving.&rdquo; I could never win with Wayne, but at least we got there.</p>

<p>You come with lots of reasons, but part of being strategic and intentional is also to say, Who are the people I really need to see, maybe I don&rsquo;t want to see, maybe I&rsquo;m scared to see, but I really need to see? Sometimes that is where the best things happen.</p>