Visiting the Everyday
Our church has been working for a few years now to shift the culture to more of a frontline focus. We have been able to make small shifts that are changing the way we think and live in community together. From my perspective, one of the largest drivers of change has been 'frontline visits' - i.e. visiting people in my congregation in the places they interact with those who don't necessarily follow Christ, like their workplace. I want to see where they spend their time, to hear their stories about kingdom opportunities and challenges, and to understand their everyday context.
While some pastors might consider taking a couple hours to do this every week to be a 'luxury' since we often don't have a vast amount of discretionary time, I have come to see it as a necessity. As pastors, we can easily find ourselves spending most our time with two types of people: those involved in church leadership or those going through challenging situations. If we're not careful, the majority of the church ends up not get much individualized attention. One potential negative consequence is that it then becomes more likely that sermons end up geared more towards the minority of the congregation, rather than to everyone. A weekly frontline visit helps me ensure that my sermons are ministering to the whole congregation, not just the leaders or those in pain.
Following my visit, I write a short summary of our conversation in our weekly church newsletter (with their permission, of course). I highlight the frontline context of the member that I visited that week and, when appropriate, share prayer points with the congregation. This has not only given the congregation a better way to understand their fellow members' context, but deepened our corporate prayer life. I have also found that the visits themselves can be very encouraging to the people I visit. They not only have their place of frontline ministry validated, but they also have an opportunity to minister to the gathered church through the stories that I will share on their behalf with the whole congregation.
From my perspective, these frontline visits have helped me to be a better pastor as I develop a deeper understanding of the real live issues that Christians are facing. On occasion, it also gives me stories that I can share from the pulpit. So it's truly a win-win.