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Lesson 4 Pastoral Care and the Worshipping Community

"Come; let us bow, down in worship
Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;
For His is our God
And the people of His pasture,
The flock under His care
."
-- Psalm 95: 6-7

If a pastor were asked to identify every aspect of a typical week's work, most would be hard
pressed to do so.
Accept for some very basics—sermon preparation and preaching—
few weeks are identical.
Whether visiting a postoperative surgical patient, studying exegesis,
attending a county commissions meeting on rezoning, or doing premarital counseling,
the pastor represents God to the people.
That means offering the love of God to the world.

So, another definition of pastoral care is to demonstrate the love and character of God
to the community.

Pastoral Care Through Visitation

Clergy have a unique opportunity that is given to few if any others.
We have the privilege of being able to call on church members at almost any time.
We have unparalleled opportunities for social service, intimate dialogue,
and Christian witness.

No matter how ill the patient, the doctor waits for the patient to come to him.
The legal matter may be urgent but generally the attorney requires the client to come
to his or her office.
It is bad professional ethics for the dentist to knock on our door and offer to
extract a tooth.
Among professionals clergy has a special privilege.

We have a biblical mandate to visit (Acts 5:42).
However, we must be careful not to abuse the privilege.
Visitation requires much grace, patience, and commitment.

Why Visit?

Only by visitation does the pastor acquire direct and immediate knowledge
of individual members of the congregation.
Many people hide their sorrow, irresponsibility and joy in groups.
The informal safety of ones own home gives the pastor opportunity to see people
as they really live.

Visitation is more likely to break through the wall of formality than anything else.
It invites people to share their feelings.
The purpose of visitation is to search out those who need spiritual council.
The aged, infirm, and shut-in depend on pastoral visits for encouragement and hope.

A high degree of influence will be lost if visitation is neglected for long periods of time.
Visitation gives the pastor opportunity to become "part of the family".
Visitation helps the minister to know how to pray for those whom he serves.
Visitation also sparks the preparation of sermons.
Confidentiality must always be foremost.
However, if the minister sees a pattern of struggle in several families, he can response to
the need form the pulpit.

Difficulties related to pastoral visitation:
Some members make unreasonable demands for excessive care.
It is difficult to organize appointments while remaining flexible for emergencies.
Serving a large congregation usually makes it impossible for the pastor to visit those other
than crisis situations.

Pastoral visitation requires self-discipline.
It is easy to neglect visitation for other important activities.
However, visitation is one of the best means by which clergy can learn
firsthand of members aspirations, struggles, and challenges.
Shepherding can not be done at a sterile distance.

Discussion Questions
Why is visitation important to pastoral care?
Have the students give personal examples of visitation experience.