A previous Q & A dealt with the matter of "elder visitation." Do you have anything that can be given to members of a congregation to better prepare them for what to expect when elders come to visit?
I wrote this for local use, but you may use it in your own congregation if you find it helpful.
Why are they coming to our house? What do they want to talk about? Did we do something wrong? Questions such as these are not uncommon when the average modern evangelical finds their name listed on an Elder Visitation Schedule at church. While the practice of elder visitation is not as common as it once was, your elders love you and are committed to shepherding your soul as those who will give an account on the last day.
The purpose of this article is to help prepare you for your upcoming elder visit so that it will be most profitable for both you and your elders.
While it might seem more convenient to conduct this visit at the church building, your elders believe that there is still value in house to house fellowship. Further, please remember that God promises special (and sometimes surprise) blessings to those who are willing to be hospitable. All your elders are asking of you is a quiet place to meet and enough seats for everyone. If you wish to provide refreshments, you certainly may; but please keep them light. You elders are coming to serve you and they do not want you missing the better part.
It is the hope of your elders that they will be able to visit with the entire family (children included). Since these visits are typically scheduled in the evening, your elders will endeavor to be sensitive to your children’s bedtimes. Consider having the children present for the first 20 minutes and then dismissing them to bed. This will also provide opportunity for a more intimate and non-distracted visit for the parents.
Since this will be a spiritual and prayerful visit, your elders ask that all worldly distractions be temporarily removed. You will probably want to turn off the television or radio and prepare to have the answering machine catch incoming phone calls. If there are young children in the house, they should be told something to this effect: We are having church at home tonight and everyone needs to be calm and quiet.
While it is natural to engage in small talk when someone visits your home, please remember that your elders are hoping for something more than a conversation about the weather, sports, etc. After initial pleasantries have been exchanged and everyone is comfortable, your elders will be expecting to inquire as to the spiritual health and well-being of your family. Please accommodate.
While an elder visit is not intended to feel like an inquisition, your elders find that the best way to initiate spiritual conversation is to ask questions. You elders may inquire into the following areas:
Education of Children
Relationships in Church
Utilization of Gifts
Reputation in Neighborhood
Again, the intent of such inquiries is not to interrogate, but so that the elders can better understand, edify, and instruct your family.
Despite the one-sided appearance of such an inquiry, please remember that your elders are ultimately there to serve you. Please participate fully and freely in this conversation and ask questions of your elders as well. If there is something about the church’s doctrine or practice that you don’t understand, this would be an opportune time to discuss it.
It is not uncommon for families to regard an elder visit as an opportunity to voice all their concerns and complaints about the church. While your elders do want to hear legitimate concerns, their hope for a home visit is that it would be positive and edifying. Gossip or slander against other members will not be tolerated and a charge against an elder cannot be received without two or three credible witnesses. If you do have legitimate concerns and complaints against a member or officer, it might be best to bring this matter to an upcoming session meeting.
One of the chief duties and privileges of your elders is to pray with and for the families under their spiritual charge. During the visit, please be sure to share your family’s recent joys, sorrows, and continued struggles so that your elders can bring those matters to the throne of grace. The visit will end with a time of prayer and the elders will indicate whether is will be led by one person or be open to group participation.
It is the hope of your elders that this article has prepared you for a visit that will be profitable to your soul and to their pastoral work. Amen.
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