Friday, November 12, 2010

Visiting and a project coordinator

I've been thinking about a couple of things regarding our church lately...

One is in regards to visiting with people within our church community. The truth is... I just don't know how to do it. Or I don't do it well. I called two people this week - two elderly women, to be specific - and both of them gave me the brush off when I asked if I could stop by for a visit. And these are two people who I think actually like me and have been a regular part of the church community. I've had this happen on other occasions too, and, to be honest, I don't even know how to react. I mean, who doesn't want their pastor to come visit them? I always thought that's what pastors were supposed to do. I've also had occasions where after I visit someone, then they don't come around church much anymore. So the only conclusion I can come to is that I suck at visiting with people. Or else people just don't like me. It really does give me a bit of a complex sometimes.

Now, to be fair, I think some people tend to think that if the pastor wants to come visit them then they must have done something wrong or they think I'm only coming to ask them to do something. That's how things are in a program-driven paradigm. But as we try to switch to more of a people-development culture I think we need to change things.

What I would really like to do is get in the habit of visiting with the people and asking what I/we can do to help them in their spiritual journey. I would like to basically ask four questions:
(1) Where do you see God at work in your life right now?
(2) What would you like to see God do in your life over the next 6-12 months?
(3) How can I, or the church, help?
(4) How can I pray for you?

The thing is... I have no idea how to go about setting this up. I think before I get to the point of asking people questions of that depth I first need to have a better relationship with them. Which means I need to be able to visit with them period. And, again, I have no idea how to go about doing this if people don't want to talk to me. It's something that will take time.

I had a professor once who pastored a church and he had a sign-up sheet where people would sign up and once a week he and his wife would go to a different persons house for supper. I've thought about that, but I would be afraid no one would sign up to have us over; plus I'm kind of a picky eater (I'm sure I could deal with it). It also seems rather... programmed; and I really don't know how that would go over. So... I am at a total loss. Really. I'm thinking of just standing before the congregation and saying, "I would really like to visit with all of you in your home or mine, but I just don't know how to go about it. Can anyone help?" But I don't want to be a pity case. So if you have any suggestions...

Or, maybe it would be more realistic to not expect everyone to talk to me. Maybe somehow establish a culture where anyone everyone were able to do this. You know, not everyone would have to talk to me, but everyone just talked among their friends about these sorts of things. That would be great.

Or lately we've been thinking about having supper groups, and just having one question for each night. Not that all the conversation would be about that, but hopefully to just start some conversations down a better path than running down politicians or discussing the weather. I don't know...

The other thing I've been thinking about is a project coordinator. During our Sunday night discussions the son-in-law actually triggered this. I think small churches often think they need to add staff in the areas of a youth pastor or worship leader or something like that. I think what we need more is a project coordinator. Someone to organize service projects for our church and to help us carry them out. It could be anything from putting together a list of places to volunteer, to setting up a day of serving somewhere, to organizing a short-term mission trip even.

This is one more area where I really suck, and this wouldn't even need to be a paid staff member. But I think this could be a big help in the church.

So... that's what I've been thinking about mostly. That and whether it does any good for me to send everyone birthday cards. I actually CAN do that, and I kind of even like to, but I don't know that it really matters. That's probably what I'm best at: doing things that don't really matter much. ;)

Anyway, peace out; and in.


Jim said...

"Now, to be fair, I think some people tend to think that if the pastor wants to come visit them then they must have done something wrong or they think I'm only coming to ask them to do something. That's how things are in a program-driven paradigm. But as we try to switch to more of a people-development culture I think we need to change things."

There's more than that - if my pastor called me and wanted to come over for a chat, I'd have to worry about (a) getting the house cleaned - can't let him see that we live in a rush!, (b) what everyone else in the family has going on, including will the kids be bouncing around, doing trumpet practice, etc.?

Plus, yes, the fear of being asked to volunteer for something else at church - which is why I am avoiding church for the current month ("Stewardship month" and all that).

So one suggestion would be to rephrase "When I can come over?" to "Can I buy you a cup of coffee at the cafe and just chat - no agenda?" There's a world of difference in that. It puts it on neutral territory and makes it clear that no action other than being there is required. Does that make sense? Perhaps even asking people in advance simply to go out to lunch after church on Sunday - I mean, they're already out of the house, and if they know in advance then who can say "No" to lunch, when most people go to lunch after church anyway, it seems?

That said, when I've wanted to talk, I usually seek my pastor out, but I don't as often as I would like, because he's busy, yadda yadda yadda. In our denomination I am probably more supposed to go talk to an elder (we have elders assigned to us by first letters of our last names), but I don't know the elder from Adam (my fault, I know) and so discussing some of the issues I come up with would feel really uncomfortable.

Per the dinner thing, our church has a program called "Groups of 8," where people sign up, get assigned to groups of eight people (four couples, or any permutation of couples and single people who want to be involved) and then they rotate having dinner at a different member's house once a month. I think at the end of a year you're supposed to "switch partners" and everyone gets assigned to a new group (couples being assigned to the same group as a couple, obviously). It sounds good on paper, but we haven't participated (for one, see comments about having people over to our busy, messy, hyperactive house of six). Dunno if that would work with your congregation or not.

Tom said...

Dan I think we need to go on a road trip down to Jim's place for a surprise "inspection" and then report to his pastor on the way back out of town. :)

Jim said...


Y'all'd be welcome to come visit, but the surprise inspection would not be a good thing. Let's just say six people living in one house makes for some interesting experiments in entropy and chaos. :o)

dan horwedel said...

You make an excellent point. Actually, that's what I often do. It doesn't work so well with elderly women who can't drive though. ;)

I also understand what you're saying when you say you'll contact the pastor if you need to. I think "church" for you is maybe a bit different than it is for Tom and I though (or, a lot different). We don't have a big organization, so relationships *should* be easier/different/better. But they're probably not.

I do think all of this shows a certain naivety on my part though. It is so easy for pastors to lose touch with reality and what it's like to be a "normal" person. And I hate that to no end.

As always, thanks much for your input!

ps - Tom and I will probably be to your house in about 20 minutes. Is that enough time to clean? ;)

Jim said...

Yikes! We'd better get cleaning! :o)

Seriously, I think it goes both ways, i.e., congregations who expect pastors to be perfect, inhuman, etc. And hey, who wants to have a perfect, inhuman person over for a talk? ;o)

Dunno if you saw my latest two blog posts, reviewing "The Other Six Days," but there was a quote in there somewhat relevant:

"Our secular world 'respects' clergy as it 'respects' cemeteries: both are needed, both are sacred, both are out of life." - pg. 131

It's true, and it's sad.

Pastor D said...

One visitation schedule that has worked is to visit couples the week of their anniversary and singles the week of their birthday thus everyone gets a visit at least once a year. That theory works on paper. As you know, things happen and there are interruptions people become ill, crises erupt. It’s like doing triage whoever is bleeding the most gets seen first.