Saturday, April 9, 2011

What to do if Something Goes Wrong on a Pastoral Visit

In my previous post I wrote about how to avoid a visitation disaster. Though there are some ways in which a pastor or lay minister can lessen the potential for a visitation disaster, there is no way to completely eliminate them. If a pastor or lay person makes regular visits to members of the congregation, a visit will eventually go bad. When a visit turns into something negative, follow these steps to help navigate the path back to positive territory.

1. Stay as calm as possible by remembering that the Holy Spirit knew this situation would happen and yet He sent you on the visit anyway. Trust the Holy Spirit to get you through the situation.

2. Make a written record of what happened as soon as possible after the visit while you still remember the details. Though it is possible you will never show this record to anyone else, writing it down will help you sort it out in your own mind. In the unlikely event you do need to remember the exact details at some point in the future, you will be glad you have this written record.

3. Talk to your pastor or other appropriate leadership to apprise them of the situation. They are most likely going to hear about it eventually anyway, so get the awkward conversation out of the way as soon as possible. They will respect you more for being up front instead of trying to hide what happened.

4. Be prepared to admit and correct any part you played in creating the negative situation. Even if you are only partially at fault, be willing to admit to that part. If you are the primary person who caused the negative situation, be willing to admit that as well.

5. Pray for the grace and mercy of God to be upon the situation. Many times prayer changes the situation. When prayer is involved, disasters do not seem as dark as they did when they first happened. Often the Lord begins to calm everyone’s nerves as time passes through the power of prayer.

6. Make a follow up contact in a timely way to help remove relational barriers. Be honest and tell the person you are sorry the situation turned out the way it did. Try to reach out and show kindness to them. Even if they are unwilling to accept the apology or kindness at the present moment, in time, they may have a change of heart and you want to have already done your part to resolve the situation.

Though it is impossible to keep every visit positive, it is possible to have a positive long term outcome of even a negative situation. Following the steps above is one way to navigate the path back to a positive position after a difficult visit.

This is an excerpt from the book, Developing Leadership Teams in the Bivocational Church, published by CrossBooks, a division of Lifeway. The book contains six easy to use lessons to help empower the laity to assist their pastor in serving the needs of the congregation.

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