Back in the day, the Every Member Visit was a thing pastors did. I remember, even when I was on internship, being asked by more than one potential pastoral mentor: "Are you regularly visiting your members in their homes or at the places where they work?" I remember one seasoned pastor giving me the advice that, if I visited people regularly during the week, I would be more likely to see them in church on Sunday. Another reason to visit, I was told, was because we who do this "odd" work of pastoring need to know how the regular people who come to our churches really live, what are their daily struggles, which questions animate their lives.
Lately though, the Every Member Visit has become an object of scorn. For one thing, it is impossible, if you have a congregation of any size at all. And if you want to become a congregation of any more size, you are really setting yourself up for failure. The Every Member Visit also sounds much like a chaplaincy ministry: it is "taking care of members" rather than reaching out to care for the world; it is inward rather than outwardly focused. There is so much wrong with the Every Member Visit, not the least of which is that it is focussed on "members".
Lately, though, I am wondering if the question is not whether or not to visit (and perhaps the "every member" prefix requirement out to go) but what kind of visits we ought to make.
What if we practiced a strategic kind of visiting, both among those inside and those outside our churches, aimed at hearing stories, and learning the passions and concerns, strengths, hopes and fears of those who worship with us? What if we visited in order to learn what people's gifts were, where they came from, and how they might fit into the mission of God? What if we visited to learn the capacity of our congregation and the needs of our community? What if we visited in order to get a better of idea of what God wants us to do, and how we could possibly do it?
What if we believed that the people who come to our churches are partners with us in the gospel? What kind of visiting would we do then?