How to Organize a Visitation Program
by Pastor Jack Hyles
(Chapter 3 from Dr. Hyle's excellent book, How to Boost Your Church Attendance)
How should a visitation program be organized? What methods should be used? These and other questions are asked continually by church leaders, especially pastors. Some suggestions will be given in this chapter for use in organizing a visitation program.
1. Have a Card File. You may use a simple card file for your prospect cards. The NAME and ADDRESS' of the prospect are all that you need on the card. Then, use the back of the card for writing a report on the results of your visit, and the date of the visit. This will keep the next visitor informed of the results of the previous visit. Any helpful information should be written on the back of the card for the visitor.
The pastor should go through the card file personally, and choose the people to be visited. As he goes through the file, he should pick out the ones whom he feels need visiting this particular week. The best prospects are those who have visited in the regular church services, the "new moves" into the city, and others who voice interest in coming.
It is good to separate the card file and set it up by town sections. This has been the most effective method for us. We have our city divided into twenty sections, and the cards are placed in their corresponding section. Below is a sample of one of our 4 x 6 prospect cards, which we mimeograph in our office.
There are many visitation card files you may use. All of them are good and may be found anywhere. However, the important thing in a visitation program is not the file-it is the way the file is used. This chapter is not to
(cut of one of our prospect cards)
NAME: John Doe
ADDRESS: 123 Main Street
New Move to City:
DATE OF VISIT: VISITED BY:
New Address: Other:
RESULTS OF VISIT:
11-21-57 - Smith & Jones-Just moved in. Baptist. Promised to visit us Sunday. Nice.
give you filing suggestions, or card suggestions, but to give you practical ways to use the files that have already been made.
2. Do Not Have More Than Two Visitation Programs Each Week. By having not more than two visitation programs each week, the efforts will be concentrated. Perhaps the wisest thing to do is to have the visitation program on one day-one session in the morning and one in the evening. The ladies may visit in the morning and the men at night, along with the ladies who work during the day.
3. Do Not Have Too Many Other Activities in the Church Program. Make visitation the biggest thing-make soul winning the most important thing in your church. Then the people will have time to do that which Jesus told us to do. Many churches are occupied with such varied activities that soul winning is pushed under the carpet. The visitation program should be the largest thing in the church. It should be better attended than softball games and other functions. Some churches have found it best not to have the other activities, but major entirely on the soul winning and visitation itself.
4. Thursday Is Often the Best Day for Visitation. Our visitation program is on Thursday morning and Thursday night. The ladies come on Thursday morning (with some of the men who work at night) at ten o'clock; and the working ladies and men come at seven o'clock on Thursday night. Thursday is a good time for two reasons: First, it is close enough to Wednesday night so that no one forgets visitation. A reminder on Wednesday night is always in order. Second, it is near enough to Sunday that people who are visited can easily remember the promise they made. Monday is a good day to go visiting, but it is so far from the next Sunday that it is less effective than Thursday. However, I would suggest Monday as the second best for a visitation program. People forget easily. It is easier to get folks to come to the church on Monday or Thursday than any other time, because it is fresh on their minds after the services on Sunday and Wednesday.
5. Have a Place for Everyone. We have found it advisable to have something planned for each age group on visitation night. For example, in our church we have all of our nurseries open. We also have a planned period for the beginners and primaries. Workers from a different beginner or primary department are in charge of the beginner and primary children whose parents come to visit each week. This program includes singing, games (modeling clay, picture puzzles, etc.) conduct or child life stories, Bible stories (flannelgraph) and handwork of some kind. The handwork may be simple (color sheets or something to make from construction paper, etc.). Sometimes the children go outside for games and refreshments.
We also have a special program for our juniors on visitation night. They meet in the back yards of some of the workers' homes each week where they have a special time of fellowship and Bible study. This program for juniors may include special Bible memory work con tests, and the children may be rewarded for their efforts. We have our youth choir on Thursday night, which takes care of the young people. This leaves only the adults free to visit. A place is provided for everyone in the family. For a long time we noticed that a husband would come to visitation and his wife would stay home. Hence, we have practically doubled our efficiency by providing a place for each member of the family on Thursday morning and Thursday night.
6. The Pastor Should Meet the People as They Come.
I have always tried to make it a practice before the services to stand outside and meet the people as they come -especially at visitation. If the people can meet the pastor, and chat for a while before they go visiting, it is a blessing. They feel that they have had God's man fellowshiping with them for a while.
7. Compliment the people for Coming. Many of us are hard on people who do not visit; it would be better to concentrate on being nice to those who do visit. A "God bless you," or a "I'm glad to see you tonight, John," or "It's a blessing to see you, Joe," means something to people. Also, a letter of thanks to those who have come for the first time will be appreciated by them, and will encourage them to participate regularly in the visitation program.
8. Visit by Family Rather than by Age Group. We have found it best to set our files up by families rather than by age group. For example, if there are five people in a family and the visiting is done by the Sunday school classes, one family will get five visitsand four families will go unvisited. If we visit by families, not only does it mean that more families will be contacted, but it also means that people who work in the Sunday school with the younger children will have the opportunity to witness to adults. It also helps to keep the church one family, rather than several small churches within a church. We, therefore, have only one card for each family in our prospect files, rather than having one for each member of the family, set up by Sunday school age groups.,
9. Have a Short Service Before You Go. We find it helpful to have a song and a few testimonies-and just a short service before leaving to visit. Also, a period of prayer puts the people in a spiritual attitude before they go.
10. Go Two by Two. When the people arrive at the church, many of them have already chosen their visitation partners. Those who do not have partners should be carefully aided by the pastor in selecting visitation partners. People of mutual interests and social standing should be chosen to go together if at all possible.
11. An Experienced and an Inexperienced Visitor Should Go Together. Often the pastor should encourage the people to take inexperienced partners with them to visit. If two inexperienced people go together to visit, they might become discouraged and fail to return to visitation. However, if you can send an experienced visitor with each new person who comes, that will be an encouragement, as well as instruction to the new visitor.
12. Give Only Five or Six Cards to Each Team Which Goes Visiting. If a person can make two or three good visits a night he has done well. To do this, five or six cards would seem advisable. About fifty per cent of the people will not be at home; hence, the reason for giving several cards to each team.
13. Place a Promising Prospect in Each Group of Cards. If each group of cards has one good prospect in it, then each person who goes visiting will receive a blessing. As you group the cards, prior to visitation time, try to see that there is one good prospect in each group of cards, thereby assuring each visitor of at least one blessing. If they can come back from visiting feeling that they have done some good in at least one place, they will likely come back the next week.
14. Leave In An Orderly Manner. Be careful as you give the cards to the visitors. Some people can visit better in certain sections of town than others. This selection may be done tactfully and carefully. Also, as the teams come by for their cards, give them doorknob hangers, literature about the church, tracts, and other items which can be used successfully in the visitation program.
15. Have the Team Pray for Persons on Each Card.
One of the most successful things that we have ever done is to have a period of prayer by the team, after they are in their car, as they look at each card which has been given them. They call the name of the person on each card in prayer before they go.
16. The Pastor Should Be Waiting for Them as They Return from Visiting. Many people have won victories on visitation and they want to share them with the pastor. Many have had reversals they want to tell the pastor about. The pastor can rejoice with those who are rejoicing, and lament with those who are lamenting, encourage those who have not had good visits and thank them from the bottom of his heart for coming. This encourages the people, and gives them an opportunity to see the pastor before they leave to go home.
Another idea in getting folks to visit is to have folks who already come to visitation regularly solicit someone who does not come, previous to the visitation day, to go with them. If this could be done one particular week, the visitation crowd could be doubled in a week.
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