Pastors' Forum


More Than the Pastor

As a church grows it becomes more and more difficult for the pastor himself to make all of the home and hospital visits that need to be made. What are some methods that churches employ to communicate to the people that the pastoral staff truly cares even though the pastor cannot personally make all of the visits that are being required of him?


Dr. Dave Williams – Lansing, MI 
It’s a happy day when a pastor gets the revelation that he can be in only one place at a time. Moses came to this realization while on the verge of a “nervous breakdown,” trying to be all things to his flock (Exodus 18:13-26). And, thankfully, the early church leaders learned the lesson too (Acts 6:1-6).

After 31 years as a pastor, I’ve learned something about this dilemma. I faced this challenge, as most pastors do, and have some suggestions that I think may help.

1. If the church is going to grow, the pastor must release potential in others by educating, training, equipping and releasing them to do the work of ministry. We trained “healing teams” who loved ministering to the sick. They all represented the pastor and were gifted and trained in the healing ministry.

2. Every leader in the church was required to attend my 16 week leadership training course. I taught this myself and emphasized to the future leaders the importance of education and delegation. After a while, everyone was thinking alike – that the pastor must focus on praying, studying, and ministering God’s Word, while others handle the day-to-day matters, like hospital visitation. This way, the whole team was talking about the benefits of lay ministry.

3. I published a brochure entitled, The Threats and Frustrations of a Growing Church. When our church was moving from small to medium-sized, I write this little brochure, listing some of the challenges of a growing church, one of them being that the pastor is not as available as before, and we now must rely on gifted, anointed lay leaders to help.

4. I probably shouldn’t have, but I gave this testimony quite often in church: A man called the church wanting the pastor to visit him in the hospital. The receptionist tried to direct him to the healing teams who were having great results in their ministry to the sick, but he whined back, “I been going to that church for twenty years. I don’t want some second-rate person. I want the top dog to visit me.” So I (“the top dog,”) did visit him, prayed for him, and he died. I tell people he probably would have lived if the healing team had visited him. It wasn’t long before people really wanted the healing teams instead of me.

5. Remember, the best thing a pastor can do for his flock is pray for them, be an example to them, oversee with vision, and to feed them week-after-week from God’s Word.

6. If people do not accept the fact that you, as pastor, can only be in one place at a time, doing one thing at a time, and that you are not the Holy Spirit, invite them to leave and attend a smaller church where the pastor can tend to them personally. I have never been afraid to invite certain people to leave our church, if they weren’t going to go where God’s vision was taking us.

7. pastor, you have a staff, board, and key relationships. You’ll want to pastor them, visit them, and invest your time in them. But you can have staff and lay people “pastor” the others. For me, if a staff member, board member, or key lay leader faced an issue, I was there for them. I learned that with 6000 people on our “active file,” I could be running wild if I had to be a traditional pastor to them all. On top of that, they all have relationships that expect you to do their weddings, funerals, etc. But you cannot, if you are going to continue your growth.

8. Everybody wants the pastor to attend their events. I discovered that I could not attend receptions, graduation parties, renewal of vows, departmental ministry meetings and the like. But my staff members and lay leaders always told the people how much I loved them. I love them enough to feed them properly on Sunday, and to surround myself with leaders who represent me to the people. 

9. I would always share testimonies of lay leaders’ results and fruit. When the healing team experienced a good result, which was quite often, we’d talk about it.

10. Again, it’s important for the entire team to be saying the same thing about this. You don’t want an Absalom in the crowd.

11. You may want to get a guest minister to share the principles of education, delegation and impartation with your congregation, or at least our leadership base.

12. Promote the idea that every member is a minister.

A good resource for you may be my book, How to Help Your pastor Succeed. Many churches are using this as a course for their members (i.e.: Rock Church in Palm Desert, Rivers of Life Church in Lansing, and Suncoast Cathedral in St. Petersburg are just a few). Have your key staff member, or a lay person develop a course and teach it. Any of Tony Cooke’s readers can have the book at 40% off if you go to and use the code TONY2013 (Good through 2013).

Also, I dug up my class notes that you can download for free. We have a copy of a brochure I wrote in the earlier years for our church, entitled The Threats and Frustrations of a Growing Church which you may download for free. The class notes aren’t very detailed but you are welcome to use them. We also have DVDs and CDs of the message.

If you’re interested, you can have free downloads of both my sermon notes until December 31, 2013 by e-mailing:

Pastor Dennis Cummins – Puyallup, WA
I think the first thing that needs to be reinforced to the church is that the pastor doesn’t always have to do all of the visitation. Until these expectations are changed, I don’t believe using other people in your church to help with visitation will be received.

I have somewhat of a fork approach to handling visitation in our church. I have quite a number of seniors in my church. Most of them are not in the stage of life to commit to a home group. To help with this, I have appointed visitation directors. This couple is well received by the people and has great bedside manners. I have instructed them that when they make hospital or shut-in visits they are to inform the people that they were sent there by the pastor to pray for them and to give the pastor an update. Then I can always follow up with a visit, phone call, email, or text message when appropriate. I as the pastor still make hospital calls, but I don’t carry the weight of having to see or call everyone. Our visitation directors have also developed a team of people to help with food, picking up medications, and other needs that assist our people in transition of coming out of the hospital.

For the younger generations, we handle our visitation primarily through our home groups. The home group facilitators can keep a better handle on critical issues happening in people’s life than I can. It is the home group’s responsibility to provide baby showers, wedding showers, hospital visitation, and transitional care, like providing meals and sometimes light house work, for families in the home groups. This is a system that many large churches have adopted to help them maintain great interpersonal care regardless of size.

What I have found is that my people like their pastor to come and visit them, but they love their life group facilitator or visitation directors to call on them even more.

Pastor Al Jennings – Fort Wayne, IN
In our ministry, we explain to people that we want to minister to their needs and their needs are important. However, the pastor does not do everything himself. We train others in the ministry to do the work of the ministry according to Ephesians 4:11-12, and those who we send will minister with the same anointing of the pastor because they are delegated authority. When they are ministered to by someone we send, it’s the same as the pastor ministering to them because they are extensions of the pastor. We see this principle in 2 Kings 5:9-14. Elisha didn’t come out to see Naaman personally when he came to him for healing. Instead, he sent his messenger out with instructions. His messenger was delegated authority. He almost missed his healing, but one of his men encouraged him to follow the instructions that were given to him through delegated authority. His problem was he already had his mind made up of how the prophet was going to do it.

Some people only want to see the pastor, and this is mostly from church tradition. But when we explain this principle, most people understand. The pastor is just one person and he can’t do all the work on his own. We limit our growth potential if we expect the pastor to do everything. It’s important to free up the pastor so that he can give himself to prayer, the ministry of the word, and getting vision for the church.

And the bottom line is this: when a person is in need, the important thing is that they get results. And results are more important than seeing the face of the pastor. By submitting to delegated authority, people can get the same results that they would get if the pastor would minister to them personally.

(By the way, I have a version of this principle in a book that our people have access to)

Pastor Phil Curtis – Franklin, IN
I love this question. I’ve used different means as the church has grown. When the church was smaller, I would go to the post office and buy a bundle of postcards and hand write a note to each family, trying to use as many of their names as I could. My secretary would not write these, but I would. I wanted to make them as personal as I could. People enjoyed knowing that I took time to write them, and it reminded them how special they were and how I enjoyed being their pastor.

When Valentine’s Day came around, I’d purchase a box of the valentines that kids give away at school and send those in a regular envelope with their name and my wife’s and my name on the back; again hand-written. I even sent them to the kids and youth. Many of my college kids to this day tell me how they have kept my cards over the years.

I also find special deals on small books that fit into an envelope and send them with a little note telling them, “just because I think that you’re special.” This has helped me feel connected to the people (I’ve used a lot of Kenneth Hagin’s little books over the years).

As the church has grown and the finances were available, I’d send potted plants to the elderly, especially the widows, around Christmas and Easter. I contacted a flower shop and got prices on quantity orders and when they found out what I was doing, they gave me a good deal. When you bless “mom,” you bless the whole family; even the ones that don’t presently attend who down the road might give your church a try because of how “mom” was treated.

We also have a card ministry where people can be contacted by email to send a “pick me up,” “sympathy,” or “missed ya” card to those needing it. This way the people aren’t just connected to me but to one another and this allows others to visit them in the hospital and they know that it’s somebody from their “church family” making the call.

Lastly, there will be days that I take a few hours and Facebook people and write them a personal message, and if nothing else just to say, “Just thinking of you and am so thankful to be allowed to be your pastor.” My church folk know that I’m basically shy, so when they get communication like this they know that I’m putting forth an effort to touch base with them and most appreciate the effort.

Pastor Thom Fields – Kennewick, WA
Leading a growing church is continual learning opportunity. If we’ve learned anything at The Garden, we’ve become very aware of the fact that the strategy used to bring us to our current level WILL NOT take us to our next one. Change is the way of life…if we neglect to change, we sabotage our own growth.

I believe for the health of any growing church, it is imperative that a pastoral care team (call it whatever you like) be built and THE SOONER THE BETTER! I’m not talking about gathering a few “warm bodies” together for the sake of placing yet another team block on an organizational chart, either. I’m suggesting that the Senior pastor discover and develop (two very different efforts) people who will receive and carry out very specific training and instructions. It is vital that this team is trained to represent, NOT REPLACE, the pastoral Staff to the congregation. This training should include the actual verbiage that will used to communicate a very specific message when they arrive at any given destination representing the Church. They need to be trained to inform those they minister to that they’re their BECAUSE of the pastor’s love for the Body. Obviously, the pastor can’t meet every need individually—so he’s raised up this team and trained them for the express purpose of multiplying his effectiveness in meeting the needs of the Body.

If this care team can properly communicate the pastors vision to provide care for the flock AND to activate other individuals into ministry—the Body will automatically grow stronger and be ready for future growth, as well. The Body will also accustom itself to receiving from sources other than the pastor—which is extremely healthy.

Discovering people and developing people, as I stated previously, are two very different endeavors. It’s awesome when we “discover” qualified team members within our congregation. They can be an amazing asset to the ministry. They, however, can also be a tremendous source of frustration and even division, if not properly vetted. For example, a retired pastor can assist with care without too much overall instruction…but can that same retired pastor submit himself to your authority and promote “your vision and culture?” It is imperative that any person you “discover” is willing to be “developed” by YOU.

“Developing” people is more of a discipleship—while “discovering” is just that! People you’ve “developed” will learn your heart, catch your vision, celebrate your culture, and appreciate your investment. People who are “discovered” often leave just as quickly as they came, especially if they’re not open to receiving “development.” People you’ve “developed” tend to stand the test of time much better. They’ve been raised up by you and recognize that without your participation, their opportunity probably wouldn’t even exist. “discoveries” are apt to move on when times get tough.

Pastor Jesse Zepeda – Pflugerville, TX
God bless us, we’re still small enough that I am the one who still does all the visitations.

To be honest with you, right now I don’t think I’d like to delegate this responsibility to someone else, but that’s just me right now. God knows what’ll happen tomorrow.

Pastor Rick Renner — Moscow, Russia
Many years ago, while reading Proverbs 27, God gripped my heart concerning one aspect of my responsibility to pastor according to His heart. Verse 23 (NIV) says: “Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds.”

When I read this verse, I understood that God expected me to know the state of my flock—which in my case, was my congregation. For me to know the real condition of the people God has placed under me meant I had to develop some kind of system that would help me get to know them better.

This type of system is especially crucial as a church grows larger and it becomes more and more difficult to keep in personal touch with every individual. Despite the challenge of the task, a pastor must find a way to stay in touch with his church members and keep abreast of what’s happening in their lives so he can understand how best to help them.

After years of prayer and trying many methods, I and my pastoral team have developed a system of pastoral care that has been very helpful and successful. The following are a few of the things we do to know the condition of our flock and what we do to express love and concern for our church members.

1. Weekly Attendance-Taking

As a church grows, it becomes difficult to keep track of who’s present and who isn’t. When a church is smaller, the pastor can look out from the platform and recognize who’s missing. But as the church grows, it’s difficult to tell who isn’t in the service. Therefore, developing a system to track attendance is important to help the pastor “know the state of his flock.”

In our church, we take attendance every week without fail. During the message, ushers pass a clipboard down each row of seats, and people know they are to record their church attendance. If they are our church members, they have a membership card with a membership number, and all they have to do is record their member number. If they are attendees, but not members, they write their names. Space is provided for anyone to add additional information if contact information has changed. It is our experience that 90 percent of those who attend our church participate in this weekly process.

On Monday mornings, our pastoral Care Department keys all that information into our computer database. Because this information is in our system, I am able to request information that helps me determine the status of our congregation. For example, if I want to know every person who has missed church for a certain period of time, I don’t have to guess who those people are because with one click of a mouse, someone can access our system and tell me every single person who fits that scenario.

This is important information! If people haven’t been to church in weeks, it probably means something is going on in their lives and we need to check on them. If they’re struggling in a particular area of their lives and are embarrassed about it, it’s possible that they won’t come and tell someone on the pastoral team. But this system helps me as a pastor know that we need to take the initiative to check on them!

Although many people think it’s unspiritual to collect such data at church, I disagree wholeheartedly. This information helps me do a better job of pastoring. Second-guessing ends when we know the facts—and according to Proverbs 27:23, God expects us to know the facts about our congregations.

2. A Call Center

It is physically impossible for me to personally contact all 3,000 people who attend our Moscow church, so we’ve developed a call center staffed with our pastoral staff and volunteers who literally call every member of our church every two months.

What is the purpose of these calls?

  • To let our members know that the pastor is praying for them.
  • To open the door for dialogue so the people can share what they’re feeling or facing in life.
  • To make sure the contact between the pastoral staff and the congregation remains vibrant and alive.

Years ago, I read a statistic stating that one phone call is worth ten letters, and that made a great impression on me. I want the members of our church to know they are important, so we do whatever we must do to communicate that message to them. This kind of personal touch has made a great impact on our church congregation.

If a person’s address or phone number changes, it is usually an indication that something out of the ordinary is happening in that person’s life. It may mean the person has experienced an increase in his or her salary and is therefore moving to a better home. But it could also indicate that the person has experienced a decrease in salary and is in a personal crisis. A change of address may also mean that a person is going through marital trauma. Paying attention to little details like this will help you and your team care more effectively for your congregation.

My pastoral team and our call center have been instructed that when an address or phone-number change occurs, it is a signal that they are to call and simply ask, “We noticed your address [and/or phone number] has changed. Is everything all right?”

Very few people find this invasive, and most people are blessed more than they can articulate in words that we would care enough to notice this kind of detail.

3. Accountability in Membership

Very often people will request counseling from our church who don’t even regularly attend church (which is probably one of the reasons they need counseling!). Before a person comes in for counseling at our church, we check his record to see how faithful he is in church attendance. We will counsel anyone with joy, but having a person’s attendance record helps us see his or her level of spiritual stability and maturity.

If people are attending worship, participating in the presence of God, and hearing the Word the pastor preaches, spiritual growth will be produced in them. However, if our system shows they are not present to experience these benefits of attending church, their negligence in this area is probably right at the root of their need, and we’ll address that problem during the counseling session.

When a person becomes a member of our church, he is told up front that his membership is renewed annually. Very few people are ever removed from membership at our church, but the process of membership renewal helps people take church membership more seriously. People will generally take church membership seriously if the pastor treats it seriously.

Hebrews 13:17 admonishes believers, “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.”As a pastor, I will give account for the souls of those under my care. However, how can I possibly be spiritually responsible for a person I never see in church?

Our official church policy is this: If a person doesn’t attend at least 50 percent of our church services in 12 months, his or her membership is not renewed at the end of the year. That may sound harsh, but it is actually one of the most loving, caring things a pastor can do. If a person isn’t regularly under my care to hear, to learn, and to be submitted to spiritual authority, I have no choice but to remove him from official membership so that I will not be held responsible for him before God.

Before God, you cannot reasonably bear spiritual responsibility for a person when you have no input into his or her life; you have no ability to regularly teach him or her; he or she doesn’t care enough about having spiritual oversight to attend church at least 50 percent of the time.

If a person is removed from membership, it doesn’t mean the person may never rejoin the church. If the person chooses to become faithful again, he is required to go through the series of membership classes as if it were the first time he ever did it. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. For example, if someone is sick, if he or she is regularly away on business, if the person is on an extended vacation, and so forth, he or she is not bound by this requirement.

However, because of the work of our call center, we are usually informed in advance of these exceptions. The personal contact we make on a consistent basis enables us to stay aware of the people who can’t be there every week, who are sick or bedridden, who are away on vacation or on business, etc.

Before people ever join our church, they clearly understand our requirements for membership. If someone objects to them, he or she simply doesn’t join. However, the vast majority of people are blessed that we’d care enough to have such requirements of our church members. They know we’re absolutely serious about their lives and about our responsibility to them, and they’re confident they’re joining a church where people will genuinely care for their souls.

The membership covenant helps me know who is committed and who is not. The gravity of this system of accountability brings the people to a higher level of commitment, and everyone benefits as a result.

Again, what you treat as important is exactly what the people under your leadership will treat as important. If you don’t treat membership and regular attendance as important, your congregation won’t regard these responsibilities as important either. Never forget that!

4. Home Groups

I am very aware that home groups don’t work everywhere, but in our case, home groups are very effective. Through the oversight of home-group leaders, we keep further informed about the state of our flock. Home-group leaders also help with hospital visitation, ministering to the sick, and even conducting funerals if needed.

Having home groups allows people to develop a sense of “community” with people who live nearer to their respective neighborhoods. We have home groups for women only, for married couples, for singles, for youth, for English-speaking international church members, and for senior citizens. pastoral-staff members are responsible for various home groups and meet with those leaders regularly to train them and pray for them.

Our home-group outreach is the most effective tool we’ve found for ministering to a large group of people on a more personal level.

5. Leadership Training

Once a month, I meet with all the volunteers in our church. By meeting with them once a month for two hours of training, I have the opportunity to impart my heart and my vision into each of them. I make this time with our volunteers a top priority; therefore, our volunteers also treat this monthly meeting as very important and make it a priority to attend.

In these monthly meetings, we teach our leaders how to greet people, how to talk to people, how to deal with troubled people, how to dress to represent Jesus with dignity, and so forth. This is a new development in our church, but it’s one that I especially love because it helps me stay in touch with my volunteers, who in turn touch the entire congregation.

In summary, none of what we’re doing is perfect—but doing something to demonstrate spiritual responsibility is better than doing nothing! The plan we’re currently implementing works very effectively, although we are constantly reviewing, adjusting, and updating it in an effort to make it better. In every way possible, we want to minister to our congregation on a personal level that can’t occur in the church foyers or at the front doors of the church before or after services.

According to Ezekiel 34, Jesus will hold us accountable for the way we ministered, or failed to minister, to the sheep He entrusted to us. If we want to confidently look into Jesus’ eyes and say that we did what we knew to do to fulfill the ministry He gave us, it is imperative that we perform consistent checkups of our systems and procedures for knowing the state of our flock.

You may say, “That sounds like so much work!” Yes, caring for people’s souls is a lot of work. But it’s the most important work in the whole world. It is a divine call that affects people’s lives and even their eternal destinies, and it is one that requires the greatest effort and care.

Pastor Brad Allen – San Mateo, CA 
Seniors!! Many of our senior citizens are gifted in hospitality and compassion. They’re doing an excellent job of caring for the sick and making the needed personal visits to many of our congregants.

Some visits shouldn’t be delegated and need to be done by the pastor. But many people are greatly encouraged from a visit from a church member on behalf of the church and the pastors.

Meals can be paid for by the church but prepared or purchased by the visitor. It’s nice to arrive at the door with something.

Our seniors, retirees, etc., do a great job of visiting and praying for the sick and have the time that younger church members often lack.

Pastor John Lowe – Warsaw, IN
I have everyone read “In Search for Timothy,” then I turn them loose to love and minister to each other.

Pastor Jim Blanchard – Virginia Beach, VA
As the church moves forward and grows, the pastor finds that he is unable to personally lead every service, function, ministry etc. It is wise to consider others to assist from the faithful people with the right heart attitudes to assist in various areas of ministry. A word of caution: it is much better to be slow in placing people in areas of responsibility than to be too fast in giving titles, offices, etc. It can be very tempting to try to fit people in the areas of ministry that need people; however, the wrong person in the wrong position can be worse than not filling it at all.

In too many cases, ‘hindsight is 20/20 vision’. Our prayer is that the pastor would have the foresight to watch people’s attendance, tithing record, heart to serve, and Christian character before attempting to fill vacant ministry positions. In many cases candidates should be observed over several years depending on the level of responsibility given within the church. The bright side of this is that the Holy Spirit and your spouse will help in choosing the right people for the right areas of ministry to make the load lighter and to assist the pastor in fulfilling his responsibility. Here are a few guidelines that have served us well over the years:

1) Ask God in prayer to send laborers into the local church into His harvest.
2) Don’t be quick to give titles, offices, etc.
3) Find out about the person from family, employers, previous church pastors, etc.
4) Trust your instincts and conscience: the Holy Spirit will guide.
5) Listen to your spouse’s impression of the individual: some act differently around the pastor than around others.
6) If you have put the wrong person in position; don’t allow it to stress you out. Take time to pray and discuss calmly with the individual with a witness present to seek a solution such as reassignment.
7) If the people know from you that you have their best interests at heart; they will generally follow your leadership in these matters.
8) If the pastor is unable to personally visit; a nice Hallmark card is a kind gesture noting that you are in our prayers, love, pastor.

May the Lord grant you His wisdom in caring for His people and may God bless your ministry.

Pastor Tim Gilligan – Ocala, FL
I recently did a series on Roles and a teaching on Multiplying Ministry in order to communicate this very subject to our church. It really begins with me being clear about my role so that I can best communicate and model it to my congregation. Defining and redefining my roles helps me clarify my priorities.

We need to be intentional and deliberate about discovering and prioritizing our roles. Our roles reveal our priorities and make most of our decisions for us. When we live by priorities and principles 98% of our decisions are already made!

After twenty-four years of pastoring, I still need to prioritize, clarify the goals and delegate new areas of responsibility. I recently explained that there are too many people for me to baptize, babies to dedicate, people to visit in hospitals, etc. While I appreciate that many of them request me for weddings, funerals, etc., I cannot neglect prayer and the ministry of the Word. Our people need me to put prayer and the Word first because that’s really what they were drawn to in the first place. People want to know their pastor, but if I were to do it all they would only remember their pastor.

Their needs are much better met through delegation. Delegation is necessary to be efficient and multiply ministry! We put tremendous resources into our pastoral care, Next Generation and Small Group departments to take good care of them. The Acts 6:1-7 Model helps explain the need for delegation to multiply as a church. I have also taught on the Jethro Principle found in Exodus 18:13-27 and The Principle of Delegation in Matthew 10:40 and Luke 10:16.

Keeping the Big Picture in the forefront is also important. We as a culture are very “me oriented,” and I find it necessary to remind our church that there is a bigger picture. In our county, 65% of our residents say that they have no church affiliation. We are not only here for the already convinced and this must be constantly communicated as we cast vision. Yes, their needs must be met, but they also need to know that they are here to serve people. We all have a need to love and be loved; to know and to be known; to serve and to be served!

Ministry must be multiplied! Needs must be met; the Gospel must be preached; people must be brought back to God; people must be saved and believers must mature.

I recently told our congregation that I will give myself to my God, my family, and my call, which is our church! I will give myself continually to prayer and the ministry of the Word. I will feed and tend to the flock, and give oversight. I will lead leaders, enforce the vision and maintain a spiritual staff. The Word of God will spread, the number of disciples will multiply greatly, needs will be met, people will come and go in peace, ministry will be multiplied and the Gospel will be preached!

Pastor Virgil Stokes – Tucson, AZ
Before you begin, reconcile yourself to the fact that some folks will never be satisfied with anything other than your presence. Their complaints cannot determine your actions. Also, any change in the way things are done will bring some discomfort until it becomes part of the culture of your church. Reality is that you can never be everywhere. You are not required to be, nor should you be.

I have found it helpful to do a few things to prepare the way for others to be my hands and eyes in these situations:

  1. Begin by regularly reminding the congregation what your job is. Ephesians 4:11-12 gets frequent mention from my pulpit. My job is to prepare others to do the work of the ministry. Anytime I am forced into another role it means my job is not being done. As with anything, faith comes by hearing, so I have to build faith in the people concerning this issue. I also instruct those who visit on my behalf to let the person know that “pastor asked me to come minister to you.” Delegated authority is part of the flow of the anointing. I am constantly on the lookout for people who are gifted in areas where I am not. This saves me and serves others with more effectiveness.
  2. Recognize an eldership. I have a board of elders with whom I meet regularly. We review the condition of people in the church who have medical or personal needs. We pray for them and then divide the responsibilities for keeping in touch with them, monitoring their condition. Each elder sends me feedback. Finding these trusted folks takes time and careful evaluation of their maturity and loyalty, but it is well worth the trouble. Moses was instructed to find 70 men who were elders among the people. This means they were already recognized by the people as being mature believers and leaders. (Numbers 11:16)  Every church of any size has “unofficial” elders among the people. I look for the loyal among that group to be official elders. In choosing my official elders, I asked my pastoral staff to write down the names of those in the congregation they would consider to be elders among the people. There were three names that appeared on every list. Those were my first three elders. They have blessed me and my congregation immensely.
  3. Give your elders actual responsibility. Once I find some elders on whom I can depend, I make it a point to recognize them regularly in front of the congregation. I call them elders when I speak of them. I refer folks to them for prayer and advice. I have them come up to pray with me over people. I give them opportunity to speak about events and issues. Moses was careful to give Joshua some of his authority before the people (Num. 27:20). I use my elders to respond to emergencies when the offices are closed. They answer phone messages and respond to prayer needs. It enables me to have a day off without fretting or fielding calls.

In my own heart, I have to fight the compulsion to do everything. It is counterproductive in the long run. Indeed, it is poor stewardship of the gift that is in me. I believe my pastoral job is to lead the flock, feed the flock, and protect the flock from predators. Those whom I train and appoint to help me in this process carry the same anointing that I do. (Numbers 11:17)  I do my best to trust the anointing, not my own ability.

Pastor Dean Brown – Bronx, NY
At Christ Alive we have an individual that overseas our ministry to Adult Seniors. This person handles all visitations and coordinates with our Nursing Home Ministry Outreach to insure that none of our seniors are overlooked, whether at home or in a care facility. In addition, we utilize members in care giving to the rest of the congregation. The staff and volunteer leaders must fill out a Care Givers or Visitation report that is sent to me and my wife.

On at least a monthly basis, either my wife or I (sometimes both) tries to visit or call any seniors or individuals who are sick at home or who are in a care facility. We also visit anyone hospitalized who’s dealing with any form of major illness. It is expected of our Youth, Young Adult, and Children’s Ministry leaders to do visitation of those under their leadership.

Pastor Tim Kutz – Bartlesville, OK
Ministry is people. A person with a true shepherd’s heart will make time to get to everyone, one way or another. But after the church grows to a certain amount, you need to enlist like-hearted people to stand beside you for this task, not because you can’t necessarily get to them, but that you develop a ministry that is not a one man (woman) ministry. In most instances, this cannot happen soon enough.

This is one thing that needs to be mentioned often from the pulpit. Example: Thank the Lord that our church is growing. One of the challenges of church growth is to keep informed on how people are doing. My position as a pastor necessitates that I gather others around me, people that will come and go in my place if I can’t get there. Every one of you is important to us. Please let us know if you or any family members are in the hospital or are having any kind of challenge where we could come stand by you or them and join our faith with yours.

You can start this by holding an In Search Of Timothy seminar and then strike while the iron is hot, placing sign-up sheets for departments that you need help in, but in this case, privately recruiting a person, couple, or a select group of people who can stand beside you. In most cases, and with rare exceptions, they will be your staff members/associates.

Continue frequent training for these people because you want them to have fresh revelation of their position of helping and representing the pastor. You always want a person going into a situation saying, “pastor Tim sent me to check on you and to pray for you, and to report back to him.”  If you have loyal, honorable people that are placed in that position, and they are trained properly, it will always speak to people of your concern for them individually.

Pastor Eddie Turner – Murfreesboro, TN
As a pastor, I have always viewed my assignment in terms of priorities. First is the preaching/ teaching of the Word of God; secondly is the care of the flock which the Lord has placed me over. In my early days, when I only had a few people, it was easy to spend time with the flock and be at every medical procedure and make those necessary visits. As the church began to grow numerically, even though I was unable to personally make every visit and every hospital call, the priority of pastoral care remains a main theme in our ministry.

Included in all of our staff pastor’s portfolios is pastoral care. Whether they be children, youth, college, singles, senior adults, etc., they are responsible for proper pastoral care for their department of ministry. They turn in weekly reports of their pastoral care touches. At the same time, even though as Lead pastor with the responsibility of leading a larger church with multi-staff and increasing responsibilities, I make it a priority to continue pastoral Care touches with my flock. I spend time each week making phone calls to church families who are experiencing medical crisis. If the medical challenge is serious, I personally will rearrange my schedule to go to the hospital and pray with the family. Finally as the church continued to grow, we eventually brought on full time a pastoral care minister whose only responsibility was the care of the church family. That person and I met three times a week to discuss the individual needs of the flock.

Interruptions of my schedule are allowed for pastoral care ministry. Even as I write this response, a knock at my office door occurred and in walked a church member with a ministry need. My first thought was to tell them to make an appointment, or see one of the other staff or dismiss my assistant who allowed this person in without an appointment and warning. But as pastor, this is part of my calling and in fulfilling that part of ministry the anointing is very available.

Unfortunately, I increasingly see pastors, especially as their church grows, become more isolated from their flock. They delegate all the personal touches to others. There are times to retreat, there are times to be distant from the cares of the flock, there are ministry responsibilities that can be and should be shouldered by other qualified staff members. But as a pastor, a main responsibility which the Lord has given me is to care for the flock, not only from the platform but also on the pavement. If a pastor doesn’t like to be around people, he may want to consider the Prophet’s role; those guys seem to like being alone!

Pastor Phil Edwards – Ennice, NC
I have a visitation team and part of their responsibility is making hospital visits when I’m busy or out of town.

Pastor Ray Almaguer – Glendora, CA
This is a good problem to have; it means the church is growing and with it the needs of the people are growing too. The solution lies in the effective training of volunteer ministers. Moses faced this same problem in Exodus 18:13-26 when he alone could not keep up with the demands of the people. The apostles faced the same problem in Acts 6:1-7 when they could not keep up with the demands of the growing church. In both instances, they had to delegate the ministry to capable individuals. In our church, we have a team that is trained to do hospital calls, to visit those who are at home sick, shut-ins, and the providing of meals for those at home recovering after surgery or childbirth. All of this is the result of effective training. Find somebody with a strong mercy gift who can lead this team.

You need to teach all of this to your church. I would suggest starting with your leaders. You need your leaders and influencers to help you communicate to the church that it is okay for others to provide this type of ministry. When we began to make this transition in our church, I taught this directly from Exodus 18 and Acts 6. Then teach it to all of your volunteers, and then to your church. Teach those who are making the hospital calls to say something like, “Our pastor couldn’t be here today but because he loves you so much he made sure I came to see you…” Something else you can do is to publicly praise the person who made the hospital call. Say something about it on Sunday morning. Make heroes of the right people.

The truth is this: There are people on our team who can make a much better hospital call than I could ever make. They truly have a gift for this type of ministry.

Pastor Duane Hanson – Saint Paul, MN
Even though our congregation wouldn’t be considered a “big” church, we have been training qualified individuals to help us with the responsibilities of pastoral visitation. [I must confess my fault ~ This is one area of ministry I’m glad to train & delegate to others!]

Church members are taught to understand that we can’t be everywhere, even though some of the new people still have the attitude that the pastor is on call 24/7 if needed. Covering this issue in a membership class is the first step, with follow-up reminders during group meetings by a ministry director when a person steps into the ministry of helps. We make it known through our leadership / ministry teams that the first person to take responsibility in a crisis may be their ministry director, who will act as the personal representative of the pastor when a visitation is required.