Saturday, September 26, 2009

Visitation Outreach (Part One)

Nearly every church I’ve been a part of had some kind of visitation program. Usually it was to visit those who had recently attended a worship service. Occasionally it was to check on inactive members or homebound members. Sometimes it was just some form of cold calling, like knocking on doors with “surveys.”

The program I participated in most before moving to Brazil was called FAITH. We would have visitation on Tuesday nights, and it was usually in a format of meeting together for 45 minutes to learn the FAITH outline and how make better visits, then going out in groups of 3 to visit “prospects” for about an hour. After visiting or attempting to visit the homes assigned to us, we would return to the church for a 15-minute sharing time.

Visitation is often a backbone of the outreach strategy of many churches. It has been used to varying degrees of success. Unfortunately there is an awkwardness about it that makes a great number of church members choose not to participate. It’s hard to disagree with them. In evangelistic visitation, ninety-nine times in a hundred, you are visiting someone you don’t really know.

It is very hard to develop any kind of real and meaningful relationship with the person in a twenty to thirty minute visit. This is even more true when a primary goal of the visit is to make a gospel presentation and call for a response. Add to that the courtesies of explaining who you are and why you are visiting and your time is about up. The visit is often concluded by giving the family an information package about the church, including its address and phone number and maybe a list of Sunday school classes.

There is an awkwardness to this kind of evangelism. It feels superficial, and it often is. Follow up is even more awkward. If the person made a decision, the visitor wonders if it was genuine or not. He has no way of knowing because he doesn’t know the person. Often when a person responds favorably to an evangelistic visit, their card is sent to a Sunday school teacher or some other person in the church for discipleship.

Its almost as if the message given is “Your decision is important to us. Our church cares about you and wants to help you in spiritual matters. We personally don’t care, but our organization does.”

There is a better way.

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