Among the regular duties that a pastor must carry out is regular in-home visits with members of the congregation. In the first year of my ministry I can remember an elder churchman in the presbytery telling me, “Always take one of your ruling elders with you when you make home visits. There are too many benefits to ignore and too many liabilities when you go alone.” Over the years I have thought back to that counsel and have noted how right this colleague was.
First, what are the benefits to taking a ruling elder with you on home visits? There are many:
• You practically teach the church that the pastor and elders form the church’s leadership, not just the pastor alone.
• You have a second set of ears and eyes on the home and conversation.
• You have accountability present with you so that no one can claim you said or did anything inappropriate.
• You practically demonstrate that the elders of the church love the congregation as much as the pastor.
• You have someone present who might be able to offer helpful life-advice, depending on the age of the elder it could be advice about career, child-rearing, marriage, etc.
• It’s a personal encouragement to you, the pastor, to know that you’re not shepherding the sheep alone.
• You have a second person with first-hand knowledge about how to pray for a family in need.
• The elders of the church get to know the members of the church in a far more intimate manner.
I suspect that there are other benefits that I could list, but these certainly touch upon the key points.
The liabilities to going alone, on the other hand, can be significant. When you visit a home alone, you can have the inverse of the benefits:
• You practically and incorrectly teach that the pastor is the sole leader of the church.
• You don’t have a second set of eyes and ears on a home and conversation.
• You have no accountability present.
• You practically demonstrate and possibly convey that the elders don’t love the congregation as much as the pastor.
• You only have your own counsel to offer.
• It can be a personal discouragement to you as the pastor knowing that your elders don’t share in the labor of home visits.
• You likely don’t have a second person with first hand knowledge of a situation for prayer.
• The elders of the church lose out on an opportunity to get to know the congregation.
There will certainly be times when your ruling elders won’t be able to come with you on home visits. But whenever possible, take your elders with you. Don’t go alone!