Every year each home in our congregation gets a visit from a pair of elders. Over the years, in the congregations I’ve served, I’ve occasionally heard negative comments about this practice. Some feel it’s invasive and maybe even a little cult-like.
However, even the world sees the value of similar practices. Some time ago I was reading an article about Walmart stores in North America. Walmart has one of the largest fleets of business jets in the world. One of the reasons they have all these business jets is because they want their managers home every evening with their families. Walmart has regional managers and these regional managers have to visit all the stores in their assigned area. The company wants these managers to be out there in person. I don’t know how the coronavirus pandemic has affected this policy, but certainly pre-COVID they recognized that a face-to-face visit was best. If you’re running a big business like Walmart, that makes sense.
I’m not saying that the church is a business, but the same wisdom applies. Elders are not managers, but shepherds. The best way for shepherds to know what’s going on with their sheep is to get out there and visit with them face-to-face in their homes. It just makes sense.
It’s also taught to us in Scripture. In Acts 20, Paul was saying farewell to the elders of the Ephesian church. He told them he carried out his ministry in the church there by visiting people in their homes. Paul did this with the idea that his way of working would set a pattern for the elders. They should follow his example. And so should we.
Of course, the pandemic has affected church life in this regard too. Here in Australia we’ve come to the end of our home visitation season and the elders in our church were eventually able to visit almost everyone in person. However, there were a few months where home visits had to be suspended due to COVID restrictions. If you’re reading this in a place where COVID restrictions are preventing in-person home visits for now, please realize the vital importance of this way God’s flock is shepherded and pray for the time when it can be re-implemented face-to-face.
Finally, for elders, let me highly recommend this article by Peter Holtvluwer on improving home visits. He offers some great advice.