VISITING with people in their home or work environment, pastorally, is something I’ve been doing regularly for nearly twenty years. Every time we step into someone else’s environment we do so as guests with certain privileges, but also with certain responsibilities.
These following considerations are worthy of reflection for any of us who conduct visitation:
1. Pray before you arrive: it’s good to ensure our hearts are prepared and our minds are attuned. On the way to a home or workplace I’ll try and envisage what the environment might look like, prepare myself for the greeting I’ll receive, and just generally psych myself into being myself. It’s important to be relaxed.
2. Call ahead if there’s any change to plan: it’s no good arriving early or late or with extra visitors. Catching people unawares is not a good way to start or maintain a friendship. It’s never good to surprise people.
3. Ensure you stick to the house rules: at many workplaces there are safety considerations to abide by. In many homes there are customs and traditions we may not be aware of. Take every instruction seriously and keep it front of mind. It’s all about respect.
4. Gauge the mood: I’ve often felt that, whilst the visit was planned in advance, that the mood wasn’t quite right. Something unanticipated had come up. Being sensitive to such changes, and being understanding, we should offer to reschedule if it’s inconvenient. They might be expected to say it’s okay, and come on in anyway. It shouldn’t bother us if we can’t make the visit and have to reschedule.
5. Take care to relax: it’s important when we’re on someone else’s turf to be as relaxed as possible so we can be as mindful as possible. The more relaxed we are the more relaxed our host can be in hosting us.
6. Take care to make them the focus: using our listening skills, with plenty of eye contact and positive body language, we ask questions that show our interest. The pastoral visit is about them after all. We certainly want to ask questions to check their health and wellbeing.
7. Ask them if there’s anything we can do: many times there is something extra we might do for someone. Get them something we know would be edifying for them to read. Run an errand for them after the visit. If it would help.
8. Don’t outstay your welcome: it’s always good to get a sense for how long to visit for. It would be okay to spend 30-45 minutes for many visits, but a good visit is one hour. Only under unusual circumstances would a visit be appropriate for 90 minutes or more — i.e. tragedy. Some people are offended if we don’t stay long enough. If we can only visit for a short time, this is best explained earlier in the visit to set their expectations.
9. Be sure to pray with them: there may be little opportunity to talk about God directly given the environment and the situation, so to be able to pray with the person(s) we are visiting is vital.
What a privilege it is to visit people in their home environment.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.