December 16, 2016

The Best Gift – A Visit

As we prepare for the festive season of Christmas and New Year with family and friends, we are also reminded that for many these are days of great despair. Whether through illness, being shut-in, loneliness, loss of loved one, or estranged family members, this “hallmark card” season exacerbates many underlying issues. 

It has been proven numerous times that contact with a compassionate and caring person in many cases can be the antidote to this despair. As church members and leaders, caring for others, especially those in our church community, should be our number one priority and the space where we excel above all institutions because we have the example and teachings of Jesus as our guideline. 

As a church community we should be in touch and know the status of ALL our members year round. So if you are wondering how Mrs. Jones is doing or why you haven’t seen Mr. Smith and no one in the church knows, the question is "Why not?"

In many of our churches our clergy and lay Eucharistic ministers do an excellent job of reaching out to the sick and shut-in. However there may be more we can do to cover all within our congregations on a continuous basis. Below are best practices that some congregations have put in place to achieve these goals.

  • First, add lay Eucharist visitors (separate from lay Eucharistic ministers) to supplement the number of people reaching out to our church family.
  • Second, engage the vestry members or another church group and assign ALL members of the congregation among each person in the group. It is that person’s responsibility to reach out to the members on their list (by phone, visit, card) and report to the priest/warden if anything is amiss.
  • Third, include a pastoral report as an agenda item in your Vestry meeting, e.g. people visited in person or on the phone, others not visited and again any issues to be addressed.
  • Last and most important, all church members should be encouraged continuously to reach out to their neighbors. Who is my neighbor?

Whether it’s a newly baptized baby and family, or a member who is angry because they were sick and no one visited, or a young adult who feels the church is no longer relevant to their lives, having an active, vibrant pastoral outreach is our best gift for the connectedness and well-being of our churches and members.