The Art of Pastoral Listening

It's not saying the right things but listening in the right way that's crucial to personal visitation.
—Doug Self

I would see Ed and Elaine at church or in the community. They were friendly; I was friendly. But we didn't get into extended conversations. I had heard they were having serious marital problems. The wife, in fact, had inquired about counseling with me, but the husband had been restive.

I knew I wasn't going to take the initiative. At best, they would demand months of counseling. At worst, I feared that I couldn't help them at all.

So on we went: I knew, and they knew, and we all pretended that we didn't know. I sometimes felt guilty for not visiting them. Nonetheless, I put it off—for years.

My pastoral responsibilities include visitation. In fact, I've experienced some success in this part of ministry. But I still find myself apprehensive about visiting people.

Why? Because I'm afraid I won't say the right thing at the right time. Maybe I won't say the appropriate word to calm ...

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