By Thom S. Rainer
I read the sad story recently of a church that fired its pastor because “he didn’t visit the members enough.” Granted, I don’t know all the details about the situation, but I am not optimistic about the church’s future.
“Visitation of the members” became a common job description of pastors about a century ago.
It’s a bad sign.
While I am not advocating that pastors never visit people, I am concerned that such expectations are well beyond those with serious and emergency needs.
The truth is: Your pastor shouldn’t visit much. Here are 15 reasons why.
- It’s unbiblical. Ephesians 4:12 says that pastors are to train the saints or believers to do the work of the ministry. It does not say pastors are to do all the work of ministry.
- It deprives members of their roles and opportunities. The second part of Ephesians 4:12 clearly informs us that ministry is for all those in the church. When the pastor does all or most of the ministry, the members are deprived of a God-given opportunity.
- It fosters a country club mentality. “We pay the pastor’s salary. The pastor works for us to do the work and serve us.” Tithes and offerings become country club dues to get served.
- It turns a church inwardly. The members are asking what the pastor is doing for them, rather than asking how they can serve others through the church.
- It takes away from sermon preparation. Those same members who complain that a pastor didn’t put enough time into the sermon are the same ones who expect the pastor to visit them.
- It takes away from the pastor’s outward focus. If pastors spend all or most of their time visiting, how can they be expected to get into the community and share the gospel?
- It takes away vital leadership from the pastor. How can we expect pastors to lead if we give them no time to lead since they are visiting members?
- It fosters unhealthy comparisons among the members. “The pastor visited the Smiths twice this month, but he only visited me once.”
- It is never enough. When churches expect their pastors to do most of the visitation, they have an entitlement mentality. Such a mentality can never be satisfied.
- It leads to pastoral burnout. It is impossible for pastors to maintain the pace that is expected of all the members cumulatively, especially in the area of visitation.
- It leads to high pastoral turnover. Burnout leads to pastoral turnover. Short-term pastorates are not healthy for churches.
- It puts a lid on Great Commission growth of the church. One of the great growth barriers of churches is the expectation that one person do most of the ministry, especially visitation. Such dependence on one person leads to a cap on growth.
- It leads pastors to get their affirmation from the wrong source. They become people-pleasers instead of God-pleasers.
- It causes biblical church members to leave. Many of the best church members will leave because they know the church is not supposed to operate in this manner. The church thus becomes weaker.
- It is a sign that the church is dying. The two most common comments of a dying church: “We never done it that way before,” and “Why didn’t the pastor visit me?”
The pervasive mentality in many churches is the pastor is the chief visitor in the church.
It’s a key sign of sickness. It’s a clear step toward death.