Do you visit house to house?

Do you visit house to house? How does that work? How do you do it?

It was from the first a challenge for Methodists and something that they urged on all preachers. Our order of ordination includes questions still about such visitation. The purpose, at first, was not simply to exchange nice words but to teach and instruct. And, yes, people did not take to it then either. Richard Baxter — who was urged as a model for Methodist preachers — wrote at length about how to deal with the fact that people in the parish do not want the preacher to come around quizzing them on the faith.

In the minutes of the early Methodist conferences, the issue is joined this way:

For what avails public preaching alone, though we could preach like angels? We must, yea, every travelling Preacher must, instruct them from house to house. Till this is done, and that in good earnest, the Methodists will be little better than other people. Our religion is not deep, universal uniform; but superficial, partial, uneven. It will be so, till we spend half as much time in this visiting, as we now d in talking uselessly.


10 thoughts on “Do you visit house to house?

  1. During my active ministry I spent a great deal of time visiting. However, I suspect the nature of these visits would not have met Mr. Baxter’s or Mr. Wesley’s standards. Although I prayed on virtually every visit, I seldom inquired about the state of a person’s soul, or understanding of the Christian faith.

    Near the end of my active ministry, I became much bolder about these spiritual inquiries–probably because I had read the journals of John Wesley. During the last 3 years of my ministry (out of 24 years), I actually ASKED people who were on their deathbed about their relationship with Christ when it was feasible. I never regretted doing so, but I HAVE regretted NOT doing so.

    This sort of conversation seems to be frowned upon in today’s church. I had 5 units of CPE training, and I KNOW that this would not fly in an institutional chaplaincy situation. Unfortunately, my CPE training shaped much of my visitation ministry as a local church pastor. I DID “visit from house to house”; but I was socializing, recruiting people for church membership or church leadership. I seldom inquired after the spiritual condition of people.

    This is one of the biggest regrets of my ministry.

    1. Thank you for continuing to share your testimony, even when it isn’t glorious.

      I hope I’m learned from you.

      I hope to make a ministry of this, but don’t know what it looks like yet, especially with very over-scheduled people.

      1. Thanks for your kind words, John L.. Best wishes in your new appointment. Don’t forget that the old-fashioned telephone can be a great way to “visit” people under many circumstances; and often people PREFER a caring phone visit to a home visit. Pray for God’s guidance, and obey his promptings. That is the key to “success” in ministry. It is God’s ministry, not yours…

    2. Holly – thank you for sharing the wisdom earned through years of experience. I pray God will keep your words in my heart when I have an opportunity to act on them.

  2. What questions should we be asking when inquiring about the state of someone’s soul? How does that conversation start?

    1. I learned to simply say, “Tell me about your walk with Jesus…” It is a rather open statement that allows people to share their experience of God’s grace, or for the pastor to offer Christ…

  3. I read one pastor’s take on visiting “house to house” where he said he stopped visiting members but made a point to regularly visit the visitors and meet with them. It might not fit Wesley’s vision for why pastors visit but it also might be more feasible in the 21st century.

  4. The culture of suburbia really seems to preclude home visitation. I think the best we can do in our world is to encourage a small group culture in which people are sharing their struggles with one another. I had a men’s prayer group at my house in which I confessed my sins to them. Occasionally somebody else would share an actual sin they were struggling with but often it turned into venting. I guess because I was with guys who were older than me, it didn’t feel appropriate to be aggressive in confronting them so my approach was to model for them what I hoped they would do. Some of them got to where they could confess their sins, but it was very hard for them.

    1. Morgan, you are right on about the culture of suburbia not being conducive to pastoral visitation. I would like to see churches transition to being places where we can train people to INTENTIONALLY be in ministry in their own neighborhood–rather like the new monastic communities. Loving our neighbor doesn’t necessarily inviting our neighbor to come to church with us. It may mean feeding their cat while they are out of town, sharing a meal, planning a neighborhood picnic or party. I have lovely neighbors who all seem to drive 8-10 miles AWAY from our neighborhood to attend different churches. There is little sense of community here. I think something is WRONG with this picture.

  5. When a pastor FIRST arrives at a new congregation, I think it is a great plan to invite church leaders to make an appointment to meet the pastor individually for a chat in the church office. The pastor can begin listening to the dreams of the leaders and get to know something about the recent successes in the church. This INVITATION is just that, it is NOT mandatory-it is for those leaders who have something they want to discuss or share.

    The pastor should be intentional about visiting the sick and shut-ins as soon as possible (especially those who may be near death). In addition, it can be VERY fruitful to make telephone “visits” to every household within the first 6 weeks of a pastorate. The pastor can simply say, I wanted to call and introduce myself to you and I wanted to find out if there are any needs or issues in your family that I should be aware of. What does the church need to know about your family? How can we help? This OFTEN inspires inactive members to reactivate. Oh–the pastor should take notes about these phone calls and start a personal file of pastoral contacts.

    After these initial contacts, some kind of system needs to be established for pastoral care. The pastor really can’t do it all in a growing, healthy church; but the pastor is responsible for seeing that people are shepherded.

    Here are links to two GREAT, short articles about developing a system of pastoral care by Jeff Stiggins, the Director of Congregational Excellence for the Florida Conference.

    I hope this is helpful.

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