Engaging people in visits to their workplace allows pastors, lay or clergy, to find a new dimension of pastoral care, interacting with people who are essentially healthy and whole (though occasionally beset with illness or difficulty). Here are some strategies for supporting and affirming people in the places of their strengths. Be sure to share others that you discover by using the form at the bottom of the page.
Two Models for Pastoral Visits in a New Mold
One way for clergy to enter significantly into the daily life of Christians is by visiting them where they spend much of their God-given time and talent—on the job. That may be in a factory, at home, in an office––wherever the people of God are engaged in their work. A model found to be meaningful to both clergy and parishioners is “the marketplace visit.”
Example A — In one congregation the rector arranges visits during the workday as parishioners’ schedules allow. In another, the rector sets aside most Thursdays, scheduling lunches on a one-on-one basis with members of the congregation.
In both instances, the format is simple: they met across the parishioner’s desk or its equivalent. The importance of being a presence at the workplace provides an affirmation that cannot be achieved in any other way. This has had a salutatory effect on parishioners’ sense of call and ministry. For lunchtime visits, each brings his or her own brown bag. For most, it may be the first time these kinds of questions have been asked. If so, it becomes a teachable moment to explore what God-given talents the parishioner brings to his or her job. Using words like “calling,” “vocation,” and “ministry” can take on new meaning for the individual.
The conversations center on these questions:
- What do you do here?
- What connection do you experience between Sunday and Monday, the connection with your faith?
- If the person has a sense of ministry at work, then ask: Who or what influenced you?
- If the person hesitates, (most will) this becomes the “teachable moment” to explore the gifts and talents that they bring to their work as God-given.
- What could/does your congregation and its leadership do to support, affirm, you in your ministry?
Two other possible questions: What challenges do you encounter? How does/could your faith sustain you in dealing with those challenges?
Close with a prayer including the Lord’s Prayer.
Get a business card from the visit.
It is important to share the questions with those to be visited beforehand. The results vary depending upon the person; for some it can be a learning experience as this may be the first time they have considered the connection; for some it is an affirmation of their calling and ministry; for some it can be a challenge to struggle with a sense of ministry where they are; for some it can be an “aha,” when they realize that they do have a calling, a ministry. Most importantly, such visits affirm that the Church is supportive of the very work that occupies parishioners most of their working and waking hours
Example B — The Rev. Dr. Sharon Wilson, Windsor Park United Church, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada shares her experience with marketplace visits:
I resolved to spend one day each month with one of my church members in their workplace. What followed has been a revelation for all of us. First we had to learn the logistics of getting me into their workplaces. I have signed more waivers and confidentiality forms than you can imagine. But all of this preparatory activity has been more than compensated by the insight gained. I have spent time with a security guard, an elementary school vice-principal, the director of a residential facility for troubled teens, a programmer for a religious broadcasting network, a special education teacher, a speech language pathologist, a federal civil servant and a medical laboratory technologist. I’ve witnessed someone break up fights and another extract DNA. I have been moved by the skills and dedication of these folk to the work they do. I have listened as I heard of the stresses and strains faced in the workplace and at home as the two spheres of life connect and collide. Greg Pierce held before me the challenge to minister to the guy in the tollbooth on the I-94. Nothing could have been more powerful or energizing.
Her conversations moved in this way:
- What do you like about your job?
- Do you feel like you’re making a difference?
- Are there times when you feel your values are challenged?
- In what ways do you see your work as part of your effort to live faithfully?
- What are the stresses or frustrations at work?
- If you could choose the sermon topic one Sunday, what would it be
Share additional suggestions for pastoral care that engages people in their daily life and work by using this form: