Church leaders engage in a variety of types of “visitation.” Evangelistic visitation focuses on persons outside the congregation and seeks to draw them in. Pastoral visitation focuses on those who have some personal need or problem with which the pastor can help. Family visitation takes in all the members of the congregation, is carried out by all the elders, and does not wait for some pressing need to arise.

The denomination in which I serve requires that “the minister of the Word and elders shall conduct annual home visitation.…” In this it stands in the tradition of historic Christianity. In the early Church there was a conviction that the preaching of the Word should be supplemented with a type of spiritual care in which the members were contacted personally in their homes. Gradually a new view made headway: the sacraments were considered the primary way in which the Church dispensed grace to the faithful. But at the time of the Protestant Reformation there was a determination to return to a more meaningful pastoral ministry. John Calvin, along with others, broke with the system of the confessional and returned to the previous practice of visiting church members in their homes in order to exhort and stimulate them to spiritual growth.

Here are five of the benefits our church has found in a program of family visitation:

1. An atmosphere of supportive Christian concern is created. Although the Scriptures speak very clearly and frequently about the personal caring that should be exercised within a Christian church, in our impersonal society much of that caring does not come through. “I’m a lonely nobody!” is a cry that comes from many even within the church. This loneliness is enhanced by the mobility that marks our society. ...

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