Our people need to be visited, but every visit should have a purpose. Two things give the impression that the minister does not have much to do: (1) Lack of pastoral visiting, (2) meaningless pastoral visiting. If our visits are businesslike, brief, friendly, the people really appreciate them. And this kind of visiting can accomplish much for the members and for us. A brief visit will enable us to visit all our parishioners more often.
The pastor's image is important. A member of a certain Seventh-day Adventist church told the pastor before the entire church board: "I have to work!" Do pastors "have to work"? Our visiting will largely determine the image we create. A pastoral visit that is purposeless, too long, and too relaxed doesn't create the impression that the pastor has much to do. Let us keep our feet off the footrest and not visit aimlessly.
We can make our pastoral visitation more meaningful by asking questions. This gives us vital information that will aid us in every other phase of our work—our preaching, lay programs, prayer meetings, et cetera. We can find out much about a church member by asking questions.
Some of the questions the pastor might ask on a first pastoral call are: 1. How many children do you have? 2. Are they in church school? 3. Do you usually attend prayer meeting? 4. What subjects would you like to have discussed? 5. Who are your neighbors (in the various directions)? 6. Have you ever discussed your faith with them? 7. How long have you been a Seventh-day Adventist? 8. How did you become a member? 9. What church offices have you held?
Other questions can be added to these, but the important thing is to ask questions! If evangelistic meetings are planned, the pastor might ask, "Will you invite your friends and neighbors to the meetings?" "Do you plan to attend every night?"
Meaningful pastoral visiting can do more for the spiritual welfare of the church than powerful preaching.
"When a minister has presented the gospel message from the pulpit, his work is only begun. There is personal work for him to do. He should visit the people in their homes, talking and praying with them in earnestness and humility. There are families who will never be reached by the truths of God's word unless the stewards of His grace enter their homes and point them to the higher way."—Gospel Workers, p. 187.
"To my ministering brethren I would say, By personal labor reach the people where they are. Become acquainted with them. This work cannot be done by proxy. Money loaned or given cannot accomplish it. Sermons from the pulpit cannot do it. ... If it is omitted, the preaching will be, to a great extent, a failure."—Ibid, p. 188.
Questions asked in a kind way will accomplish the following:
1. Provide vital information concerning the spiritual condition of the church member.
2. Get the member to talk about himself. When he is talking, he is more relaxed.
3. Shorten the time required for visiting.
4. Give direction to our preaching.
5. Provide information that will aid in organizing the church for missionary purposes.
6. Aid in planning a prayer meeting series.
Never should the people be able to say, "I have never had a pastor in my home." By wise planning, careful use of our time, and wise visiting, every member can enjoy the benefits of a pastoral call. And the spirituality of the entire church will be improved by a well-organized visiting program by the pastor.