Regarding the role of deacons and deaconesses visiting church members, the Church Manual states, “In many churches, visitation is arranged by distributing membership by districts and assigning a deacon to each district with the expectation that he will visit each home at least once a quarter. . . . Deaconesses assist in . . . visiting members in their homes when they cannot attend services.”1
Some of the reasons for visitation are to:
• Become better acquainted with the membership.
• Strengthen new members and absentee members.
• Reclaim backsliders.
• Pray for and encourage the sick and shut-ins.
• Identify and follow up on the needs of the elderly, disabled, widows, and single parents.
• Encourage faithfulness in matters of stewardship.
Following are some practical guidelines to consider when visiting:
1. Visit in twos—one person will pray silently while the other is conversing. A husband-and-wife team is ideal for visitation in that the male and female perspectives are represented.
2. Dress appropriately.
3. When entering the home, state the purpose of the visit: to represent the church and the pastoral staff’s concern for the family.
4. Pray before entering the home and maintain the attitude of prayer throughout the visit.
5. “Be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (James 1:19). Don’t gossip or listen to gossip. Don’t take sides when family members disagree. Don’t try to defend the pastor, church officer, or member with whom the family has differences. Stay objective and pray with them regarding the situation.
6. The length of the visit should be about 15 minutes. In extenuating circumstances, it may take longer.
7. Use the nine-step problem-solving process to empower families with problems to become actively involved in developing a plan of action toward finding a solution. The process includes:
a. Engagement. Establish objective and open communication with as many members of the family as possible.
b. Assessment. Appraise the situation based upon factual information presented by family members and others familiar with the situation.
c. Definition. Work with the family to define the immediate problem, the underlying cause of the problem, and the factors that stand in the way of finding a solution.
d. Set goals. With input from the family, set some realistic goals.
e. Alternatives. Look at all of the possible ways of addressing the problem and select the best one(s).
f. Contract. Establish an agreement about the roles and responsibilities of each participant. Everyone is to be held
g. Action. Take steps toward achieving goals.
h. Evaluation. Evaluate the outcome of the action to determine whether or not it was successful.
i. Continuation. Continue to follow the working plan, modifying it as needed.2
8. End the visit with a brief but comprehensive prayer that includes the family’s needs that were discussed. Mention family members by name in prayer.
By visiting members and utilizing the problem-solving process, deacons and deaconesses will be better equipped to provide quality care for families in crisis. They will have a greater awareness of the church’s responsibility to have an equitable system in place for meeting the needs of its sick, poor, and unfortunate members. As they visit and assess the physical, social, emotional, and spiritual needs of the church members, they will seek ways to meet those needs. This will require deacons and deaconesses to become knowledgeable about the available resources in the church and in the community, and the proper steps to take to obtain those resources. They are to educate the members in need on what community agencies they can go to for help, and how to apply for help.
1 Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual, 71, 72.
2 Naomi I. Brill, Working with People: The Helping Process, 2nd ed. (New York: J. B. Lippincott Co., 1978), 91. Note: The author of this article refers to “The Helping Process” as “the problem-solving process” and redefines the nine steps to relate to the ministry context.
Vincent E. White, Sr., D.Min., is a retired pastor and author of The TwentyFirst Century Deacon and Deaconess: Reflecting the Biblical Model; The Twenty-First Century Deacon and Deaconess: Reflecting the Biblical Model Workbook; and Problem Solvers and Soul Winners: A Handbook for Deacons and Deaconesses. www.avasbookpublishers.com.