Thursday, September 06, 2007

Pastoral Visits – the Changing Landscape of Ministry (Part 3)

Dahlia of the day: Kasasagi.

(Note: I am writing this series from the perspective of a male pastor. The same issues are there for the female pastor. Please adjust the “gender” to fit your situation. For convenience I am grouping people into three age groups: Older, younger and not specified.)

Home Visits with Older Couples:

There are some wonderful older couples in our church. There is so much that we can learn from spending time with these dear folks. There are the couples that met just days before heading out for WWII, got engaged and got married at the conclusion of the war. There are the couples who have been married for 60+years—through good and bad, richer and poorer, through sickness and health. We can learn about commitment and love. Visiting these folks is a true blessing.

Home Visits with Older Single Women as a Male Pastor:

For the sake of wanting to not get killed, I will not define “older!” Our congregations have many women who live alone: some are widows, some are divorce, and some have never been married. There are some very wonderful older single women at Evergreen. These ladies may be “shut-ins” or have health concerns. I do not believe that any of these women would misconstrue a pastoral visit. I don’t believe that any of these women would show sexual interest in me. Is there any way that I can know for sure? The answer is simple, “No.” Besides, all it would take is the simple accusation of impropriety to damage the church, my family and me.

Is it appropriate for a male pastor to visit them in their home—with no one else present? I will confess that I have visited many older single women in their homes. I know that every time I do this I am taking a risk.

Home Visits with Older Single Men as a Male Pastor:

Guys are so different! We aren’t from “Mars,” we are from another galaxy! It only takes a few “grunts” or “nods of the head” to constitute a conversation. We can talk about last night’s Mariner loss or Sunday’s upcoming Seahawk game. Guys are just… guys. On the serious side, older single men get lonely, can be depressed or may be grieving. Others have just started “dating” after the death of spouse. Visiting such guys does not have the same “risk” factor as visiting an older single woman.

Home Visits with Younger Females as a Male Pastor:

You must be joking! A home visit with no one else present is absolutely out of the questions unless it is a life and death situation. Nothing may happen but it looks BAD!!! Take someone with you.

Home Visits with Younger Males as a Male Pastor:

You readers may be surprised—but I caution against this type of visit. Too much has been said in the news about male pastors preying on young men. Once again, nothing may happen but it looks bad. (Not quite as bad as visiting a younger single female but that may just be a cultural bias.)

Home Visits with Any Other Female as a Male Pastor:

Absolutely not, unless there is some extreme situation. Does this mean that I don’t “trust” the women in my congregation? Not at all. It means that I value them so much that I would never put them in an uncomfortable situation. It can look very bad to have the pastor coming and going from the home of a female parishioner. This is also true of visiting the home of a “couple” when the male of the house is at work!

Home Visits with Any Other Male as a Male Pastor:

This is one type of home visit where I have no restrictions, except common sense. I have had wonderful visits with guys from my church. I have gone hunting, fishing, Geocaching and sailing with guys that I know. A male pastor spending time with male parishioners is a good thing.

So what’s a pastor to do? Check back tomorrow as I give some thoughts on what a pastor can do to visit and care for people in the congregation.


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