Thursdays with Todd Linn: 5 Reminders about Making Good Pastoral Care Visits

Most pastors spend a great deal of time making pastoral care visits. Thankfully, many churches are blessed with multiple staff, elders, deacons, and laypersons who share in this responsibility. Whether you’re visiting members in the hospital or home, here are five things to remember about pastoral care visits:

  1. Listen before knocking. This practice is especially relevant to hospital visits, but also applicable to other situations. Because most hospital visits are unannounced, we are wise to pause for a moment at the door and listen for any signs our visit may be untimely. For example, it’s nearly always best to wait for hospital staff to finish their work before entering the room. Additionally, listening for a moment at the door may indicate another visitor is in the room. Patiently waiting for their visit to conclude honors their time together and ensures we don’t interrupt a meaningful conversation.
  2. Keep your visit brief. Situations vary, but most hospital visits should be around 10-15 minutes. Some visits are shorter, especially when we sense the person is tired or uncomfortable. Other visits are longer because the one we are visiting is especially animated and enjoys our company. And, it may be helpful to spend a bit more time sitting with family during their loved one’s surgery. In any case, it’s usually better to hear someone say they wish we could stay longer than to know we’ve overstayed our visit.
  3. Don’t talk too much. Most of the time, pastors just need to show up to make good pastoral visits. Too often, however, we’re tempted to talk more than we should. When members are in the hospital, they usually don’t feel like talking much and are frequently blessed simply by our brief visit and prayer. This is especially true during bereavement visits. When people are grieving, it’s typically not our words that bring them comfort, but our presence.
  4. Take somebody with you when possible. Taking somebody with you on pastoral visits is a discipleship opportunity that may also bring additional encouragement to the one being visited. It’s also a way to build camaraderie among deacons, staff, and laypersons. And when a pastor brings along a spouse, son, or daughter, he is allowing his family to share in the care of a congregation.
  5. Always conclude with prayer. Near the end of the visit simply ask, “May I pray for you?” and then lead in a brief prayer asking for God’s comfort, strength, and encouragement. During hospital visits, it’s good to pray for hospital staff, too, as they are often nearby and may appreciate prayer. If the person you are visiting is asleep, just offer a silent prayer and leave a brief note letting them know you were there.

Pastors: what other visitation practices do you find helpful?

To read more of Dr. Linn’s insight, visit his website, Preaching Truth


  • Buddy Lamb says:

    Do not ask of details. — Some want to tell you all the details about their condition and others do not. Allow them to decide. Use questions like “Are the doctors telling you anything new?” or “How can I best pray for you?” This gives them the freedom to share details at their comfort level. You knowing the details are not as important as they know that you care about them.

  • Todd says:

    Excellent advice, Buddy! Thanks for sharing.

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