|"When can I leave without seeming rude?"|
Greetings Matriarchs and Rev-Mothers-in-God:
As a ministry student on my final and full-time placement I find that I am now doing more pastoral/ parish visiting. I enjoy this part of ministry immensely, love listening to people's stories, pastoral issues, etc. but... there are some folk, who, whilst being utterly fab, seem to keep you pinned to the sofa for several hours. This afternoon, a visit to a kindly and wonderful couple saw me there for 3 hours. Obviously, if the visit has got into very deep pastoral stuff, that is entirely different from just a 'wee blether' ['blether' = 'chat'], however, any advice regarding appropriate and sensitive exit strategies when on parish visits would be most welcome!!
It's amazing how complicated ministry can be, isn't it? As a pastor who spent her first home visit eating cake for hours with a delightful couple who swore they hadn't been visited in 30 years, I feel your pain. Now's a good time to hear what more experienced pastors also learned the hard way.
Most folk know that you have other people to visit. So set yourself a schedule that allows them to know that you care but also have to do other things. Hospital visits should be short and sweet, after all they are there to heal and rest. Home visits really shouldn't go more than an hour unless you get into one of those deep pastoral things that you have already alluded to. Offer to return if it is needed. When you are a pastor in a parish, you don't have the time to give 3 hours.
You need to be the guardian of your own time. Some people can't wait for you to go and others will keep you there all day. But you must set your boundaries.
And kathrynzj adds:
Here are the three things that help me: 1) When I make the appointment I tell them that I am doing visits that day or in some other way plant the seed that I'm not staying for the afternoon; 2) when I arrive I let them know that I have an appointment an hour and half from when I've arrived (these are well visits, not hospital visits so I expect an hour) - so if I arrive at noon I'll say, "I'm so glad to spend some time with you, my next appointment/meeting/picking the kid up off the bus is at 1:30 so we have some time to catch up." 3) At any point between 50 minutes and 80 minutes when there is even the slightest bit of a pause I say, "This has been so wonderful, may I pray with you before I go?"
In my experience if they are not 'with it' enough to catch those social cues then in general they are not the types that will get upset if you finally just leave.
And then there's this...
There were certain people who I knew I could visit if I needed a safe space or a quiet afternoon. Now that I'm in a congregation where I have a different role, I miss some of those deeper connections. Sometimes it's okay to get off the hamster wheel and enjoy your pastoral role.
Ruth Everhart keeps it short, but sweet:
Dear "N" -- I have been sunk into that very same sofa! Perhaps it would help to follow the advice about "an ounce of prevention." Announce your plans upon arrival: "I'm so happy I can stop by for the next (40 minutes). Yes, I'd love a cup of tea, and then I'll be pushing off at (2:45), as I have other visits to make. I'd love to hear what's new with you, then have a few minutes of prayer together." Good luck!
|Neither of these is the actual Rambler.|
Dear N -- I too have sometimes arrived at a visit with an announcement of time constraints; but on a get-acquainted visit, I remember I used to set myself a tacit time-limit, and at that point make a "I should be going, I should push along" noise, and listen very carefully for the response -- and if the response was "Oh, but I was just about to put the kettle on" I would re-settle myself. I did make some visits that were much too long, I know. But it was a shock to my world-view to find out that parishioners wanted to be visited, were glad to see me, and reluctant to let me leave. It was much easier when I was assistant-clergy with fewer demands on time and energy, because I often had the freedom to respond to situations that I did not expect to find -- for example, when I called upon a long-inactive member of the congregation and found her in terminal illness. It was very good to be able to change plans and re-arrange schedules "in midstream."
On other occasions when I had to be elsewhere, I used to arrange with the parish secretary-- or a family member -- to page me tactfully at an appropriate interval -- 45 minutes or an hour, usually.
There was another learning, actually post-retirement. I was doing interim ministry and was warned that a particular couple were "voraciously needy" and would eat up all my time, etc., etc. In the event, I suggested to them that I come for a visit every week on a definite day at the end of the afternoon on my way home (they lived on my route homeward). So they knew they would see me at 4:30 and we would have Holy Communion and prayers for their various ills and aches, and I would go promptly on my way with the assurance I'd see them again next week. That worked very well...I was glad not to have the stress of having to decide whether or when to visit...they were happy...I was happy...and I got to know other aspects of who they were than just their "neediness."
The best of blessings to you in your visiting ministry -- and you'll be blessed in doing it, in the most delightfully unexpected ways!
Readers, what think you? What makes it hard to set these boundaries?
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