Pastor Visitation at Home or Hospital

With hospital visitation guidelines in a relaxing trend, your pastors are once again making more regular home and hospital visits. Making these visits is one of the great joys of pastoral ministry, giving us a glimpse into your space, and providing an escape from paperwork, books, and other administrative duties we’d sometimes rather knock off the end of our to-do list.  There are many different reasons we respond to hospital rooms, homes, or the community, including if the person requesting the visit is sick, just wants to talk or share an idea, would like communion, need someone to listen, wants to go fishing, and so on.

Here’s the thing though. Of all the schooling and education we’ve received, we never took a class titled, “How to Know Someone Wants a Visit When They Don’t Ask for One”. Sure, we will call when we’ve heard news warranting a visit or when things slow down in the office, but even then our friends and members vary in their desire for or expectations of pastoral visits.

Knowing when to visit gets even trickier when the hospital is involved. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability laws, also known as HIPAA, prevents medical facilities from contacting churches to let us know when parishioners are admitted. Providers vary in the information they are willing to give over the phone, even if we share a name with them. As much as I wish we received a call whenever our members walked through the doors of a hospital, we don’t. Here are some helpful tips to be sure we make it out for a visit:

¨ Call or email the church office with a request for a visit.

¨ Share where you’d like the visit. Some would like a prayer before going to the hospital while others prefer a visit at the hospital. Be sure to share which hospital as I’ve been to 9 different ones and countless rehab/therapy facilities over the last 8 years.

¨ Let us know what timeframe would be best. Would morning or afternoon work best, or any time of day? If you’re going to only be in one day, we will do our best to work a visit into our schedules.

¨ Follow up with a phone call or email. If you share a request on a Sunday morning at church or out in the community, know that between the request and us writing down the information we might be stopped 3 or more times. Things get busy and our memories are not as sharp as we’d always like them to be.

¨ Please forgive us if it takes a day or longer to get there. Sometimes we have prior commitments or are hundreds of miles away with family.

¨ Have friends, family or a staff chaplain let us know. By far, the most frequent way we come to know someone is in the hospital or wants a visit is when a friend or family member lets us know.

¨ If you want communion, please ask. We will sometimes bring it with, but if it’s requested we will be sure to have it.

Now, in a perfect world we would have 100% satisfaction in the quality, and quantity of our visits, but it is not a perfect world, nor are we perfect pastors. Ultimately, we do our best to get out of the office when requested or not, and we do our best to provide pastoral care to our whole community. Let us know when you would like us to head out for a visit and we’ll be sure to do our very best to be there.



Pastor Matt