One of the most fundamental ministries that the church performs is visitation. A church, no matter how big or small, will have people who are sick, in the hospital, shut-in and in need of a visit. As a result, pastors spend a significant amount of time visiting people from their church and community. As the church grows the amount of visitation required can bury a pastor unless structures and systems are put in place to spread the load of visitation out. Developing systems ensure that the pastor does not burn out, but at the same time ensure people receive the care that they need. There are no doubt a variety of ways that a church could set up a visitation system but here is how one church takes on this need:
Visitation & On-Call Pastors – Every day there is one pastor that is assigned to do all the hospital visitation for that day. If the church is aware going into the day that someone is in the hospital, and in need of a visit, then this is the pastor that goes. Additionally, there is another pastor that is on-call each day. This pastor handles any pastoral care that cannot be planned ahead. This would include anyone who is rushed to the hospital or anyone who calls or walks in wanting to talk with a pastor.
Hospital Visitation Frequency – A pastor from the church does hospital visitation every day of the week, except Sunday. This means that someone who is in the hospital for multiple days will get a visit from a pastor every day unless they are in over an entire weekend.
Visitation Frequency for Rehab & Long Hosptial Stays – If someone leaves the hospital for rehab, or is in the hospital over a weeks time but is not in critical condition, then the parishioner will receive visits only three days per week from the pastoral staff. If they stay in rehab for an extended period of time, then the visits may be reduced to only two visits per week.
Shut-Ins Visitation Frequency – Shut-ins, those who are physically unable to come out to church, are visited by one member of the pastoral staff monthly. They also receive a weekly DVD of the church service so they can watch the service from their home, and if the shut-in doesn’t have a DVD player the church will purchase one for them.
Pastors Who Visit – Every single pastor of the pastoral team is a part of the visitation ministry. The associates pastors, even the associate pastor of youth or kids, is assigned one day per week to do visitation ministry. The senior pastor also participates in pastoral visitation but their visits are in addition to the schedule mentioned above.
Others Who Visit – The pastoral visitation team is just one layer of the visitation ministry of the church. In addition to the pastors, there are also ministries in place that visit shut-ins, another ministry that writes cards to shut-ins, a nursing home ministry that performs services in nursing homes where some parishioners live, and more. There are also trained lay leaders in the church that visit people when they are in the hospital, including one lady whose ministry is to walk with people as they are facing life-threatening illnesses or those who have been brought into hospice care. There are lay/retired pastors, board members, interns and others who all participate in the visitation ministry of the church. Finally, there is the church family. People from small groups throughout the church visit one another when they are in need of care.
It All Works Together – All of this visitation works together to provide the love of Christ to each member of the church family throughout their time of need. Take shut-ins for an example Although it probably doesn’t happen this perfectly often, it is possible that a shut-in will receive a visit from an associate pastor one week of the month, another visit from the visitation ministry another, perhaps a visit from a friend in the church another and then from the senior pastor another. In one month, even though they can’t get out to church, the church will get to them every week. Additionally, they receive a copy of the service each week on DVD, and even receive the church’s weekly newsletter. They could receive contact from their church three times a week, every week of the month, even though they can’t leave their home. Whether shut-in like this, or in the hospital, this visitation ministry ensures that no one is forgotten.
It Scales – Some might argue that a church with multiple staff can do visitation like this, as they have multiple pastors for multiple days. However, this church did visitation like this even when it was much smaller and didn’t have the staff that it does today. When the church was smaller, there were fewer people who were in the hospital, thus requiring fewer visits and time per week. As the church grew, no doubt because of the level of care and attention people were receiving, they were able to add staff and volunteers to keep up with the increasing demands of pastoral care.
This is how one church structures their visitation ministry, how have your seen other churches handle this vital minsitry of the church?