Who qualifies to do a house visit? Who qualifies to receive a family visit? This article looks at these questions under the topic of the work of the elders and deacons in the congregation. The author discusses the need for family visits, as well as the manner in which a home visit should be done.

Source: Diakonia, 1989. 10 pages.

Family Visiting

"Family Visiting." Who in the world can say anything new about the subject and can bring up something that has not been said a hundred times before?

Whoever speaks about family visiting can count on an attentive audience. Is it not so that all office-bearers struggle with the question how to conduct these visits? Many consistories set a special evening aside at the beginning of the season to discuss this point. They discuss this every year and not just because of the new office-bearers who have been ordained and face their first season of visiting. Also those who are office-bearers for the second, third or tenth time have their difficulties, their questions, their wishes and their hesitations.

Every time when the new season is upon us, all office-bearers are eager to discuss the coming visits and how to conduct them. An introduction is given, and once the discussion has taken place we all know how to do it. When, however, the first visit has been brought, we are disappointed, not so much because of the family we visited, but because of our own inability to do it as it should have been done. After having read up on family visits and after having discussed it, we know exactly how to do it until...we are faced with the reality of the visit. Then we discover that no pattern can be given and no set schedule can be designed, for every visit is different and every family has its own particular character and its own set ways to which the visitors have to adapt to a large extent.

Family visiting never becomes routine and it will be everyone's experience that there are only relatively few visits which we do remember with satisfaction; about which we are content because they were brought in accordance with their charac­ter and purpose. Personally I have always found bringing good family visits one of the most difficult parts of the work of an office-bearer. I can recall only very few of such visits which left a feeling of satisfaction. I am speaking now about what we shall call the "official family visit" and not about going to see the members at their homes on other occasions. No one should, therefore, expect an answer to all questions or a guide-line which will guarantee success and satisfaction.


Perhaps you were wondering what the sense is of speaking about the question who bring these visits. Is not this what we are interested in most: HOW are we to do it? and should we not dedicate all our time to this question?

Yet, it is absolutely necessary to realize first of all who the persons are who are going to visit. They are the elders and the deacons, the office-bearers of Christ's Church. They visit the members of the congregation.

When saying this, we do not reveal anything new. Is this not an office-bearers' conference after all? We are not speaking about the members visiting each other, or friends going for coffee somewhere. We are speaking about the visits brought by Christ's office-bearers.

Right away this determines the character of the visit. Although we may know each other very well and may have known each other for years, the visit this time is not brought on the basis of friendship or bond of blood. It is brought on the basis of and as a fruit of the bond within the body of Christ, the bond of faith. Believers, we confess in Lord's Day 21, all are members of Christ and therefore have bonds with one another.

It is because of this bond that we visit and are visited. However, this does not say everything yet. Many visits are brought because of the bond which we have in Christ. These are not yet the visits we are speaking about at this meeting.

The Lord Jesus Christ has entrusted the care for His church to men who were called to the office. He gave heavenly gifts after His Ascension into heaven and via these men He wishes to take care of His flock.

Thus we come clothed with the authority of the risen and ascended Lord. He is in heaven but wishes to show His rule over and concern for His own here on earth by means of men who represent Him and who come with His authority and who are His plenipotentiaries. The apostle Paul reminded the elders of Ephesus of this when he charged them to take care of the flock over which the Holy Spirit had made them overseers.

Now it is to be borne in mind that all authority which the Lord has bestowed upon people is never given for the sake of those who received it, but always for the sake of those over whom it is exercised only. That is the reason why parents who do not exercise their authority over their children as the Lord wants them to do it, do injustice to their chil­dren. That is the reason why office-bearers who do not exercise the Christ-given authority over the congregation harm not themselves but the flock. Office-bearers who use their position to enhance their own status are not only disobedient to Christ, they also lead the flock away from their Chief Shep­herd. But so do office-bearers who do not think and act from out of the awareness of the position which they have received from the Saviour.

A first requirement for bringing a good family visit is, therefore, that we are aware of our position and of the authority which the Lord Jesus Christ has given. HE made us overseers and care-takers by His Holy Spirit.

This should also become evident in the manner in which we greet the family and in which we address them during the visit. It would not be good if, upon entering the home and greeting the family, we greeted the man and the woman as: "Hi, Morris, how are you?" and "How are you, Miriam?" How­ever well we may know each other, it should become evident that this time we do not come as old acquaintances or friends, but as ambassadors of Christ. By the way, this is not the only occasion when this ought to be remembered. Personally I have made it a habit at official functions and at meetings not to use the first names of brothers — even though I may have known them for more than thirty years and have seen them grow up from baby to adult — but to greet them by their family name when others are present. This keeps things in the proper perspective and reminds us constantly of the nature of our being together.

Formality in this respect certainly does not have to make things unpleasant and does not have to cause a distance between brothers and sisters.

When we realize and remember who we are, when visiting the families, we have made great strides towards properly conducting a visit for then we bear in mind the basis on which and the reason why we are making this visit. Via us the Lord Jesus Christ exercises His care for His own, for His sheep, the members for whom He gave His life.

By not coming on our own authority or with our own authority, we are also encouraged to show the authority of Christ for the benefit of His own. If we came on and with our own authority, we would not dare to bring many visits and we would not dare to visit all whom we are to visit. It is Christ who gave the authority; it is He who wishes to exercise HIS authority through men who are sinful in themselves and who are aware of it, who have learned that their position and labours are not based on their own worthiness.

When we, correctly, demand of the congrega­tion that the members shall respect and honour the authority and position of the office-bearers, then it is a primary importance that the office-bearers themselves are convinced of this authority and position first of all.


This brings us to the second question: Whom are we visiting?

We said it already: the members of Christ, the sheep for whom He gave His life. It is good to realize that as well.

When the elders are shepherds, their visits are visits to the flock. And shepherds they are! It is, therefore, wrong to reserve the title "pastor" for the minister. This amounts to discrimination against the elders and fits more in a hierarchical than in a Reformed system of church-government. Being pastors of the flock, the elders are to show the good care of the Great Shepherd, Christ Jesus.

As said before, it is good to realize and bear this in mind as well. It is good, especially since office-bearers are not allowed to show preference for members whom they like over against members who are not all that sympathetic and lovable.

It is a fact that we would rather visit the one family than the other. There are always members in a congregation who seem to be able to do nothing else than criticize one thing after the other. Bringing them a visit often times amounts to nothing else than listening to a record with the needle stuck in one groove. Whatever topic is touched upon, they al­ways manage to get the train on the one track they know. Then a sigh of relief is uttered once the brothers are outside, and they say, "Fortunately, we don't have to go there for another year." And one may think to himself, "Then my term is over and I am out of the consistory! Next time, if I ever get in, I'll try to get another district."

It is not necessarily so that we are reluctant to go and visit members who are far from pleasant, to put it briefly, but there are also other cases, we would rather see someone else attend. Take, for instance, an elder who has to go and visit or perhaps even ad­monish his former school teacher. Or one who has to visit a ministerial couple while he attended cate­chism classes with that very same minister. Or one who is in his thirties and now has to visit a brother and sister who are of an advanced age, while the brother served many times as an office-bearer.

We all know examples of visits which bring extra difficulties. These difficulties and hesitations can be overcome only when we bear in mind whom we are going to visit. We are not going to visit our old teacher and we are not going to visit the minister who guided us in the study of Scripture and confessions, but we are going to visit the members of Christ for whom He gave His life and who have to experi­ence that they belong to the body, that the Good Shepherd takes care of them by means of those whom the Holy Spirit has made overseers over the congregation.

It is especially comforting to remember this when we visit members who are not all that pleasant and who are very critical of everything when it comes to the church. What they should hear when we visit them is the voice of the Good Shepherd, and what they should experience is that they, too, are members of the Saviour's body. After all, Christ gave His blood for them as well as for us and Christ gave to them His promises and made His will known to them just as much as He did to us and to all the others.

Bearing this in mind may not make the visit any more pleasant, but it will help us greatly when bringing the visit. It will fill us with compassion rather than with counter-criticism and the fruits of such a visit might be surprising. It greatly helps the visiting office-bearers when they remind themselves constantly that this miserable man is still a member of the flock and that this unpleasant woman has received the promises of the forgiveness of sins and of the renewing of life just as much as all the others. It will enable the brothers to show the compassion of Christ and to pass on the love of God.

Thus the office-bearers are to be aware of their own position AND of the position of those whom they are visiting.


This is already an indication of the reason why families and single members are visited.

We are not speaking now of the visits which are brought with a view to special difficulties or in order to admonish because of specific sins. What we have in mind at the moment are the more-or-less regular and seasonal visits to all the members of the congre­gation.

Again we must state that it will be of a great help to bear in mind WHY we are going to this family and why we are visiting them.

We do this because the Holy Spirit has made us office-bearers over the flock of Christ. We do this because the Lord Jesus Christ wants to extend His care to ALL His members and He wants ALL of them to be aware of it that, although He is in heaven, yet He does not forget His members here on this earth, but takes care of them and looks after their needs by means of His office-bearers. We do this because no one in the congregation of Christ may get the impression as if he is not counted in with the flock, as if he does not rate. Do we not hear it more than once that it is about fourteen months ago that the previous family visit was brought, and do we not hear this from the mouth of members, who complain that they have contact with very few, that they do not experi­ence the communion of saints?

However, it is not only they who are to experi­ence that they belong to the body of Christ. The bond which exists with all is to be strengthened with each and every one.

It is the will of the Great Shepherd that His office-bearers shall look after the flock. That is why they visit the members, the families.

What is the purpose of these visits?

Looking after the flock means in the first place to see to it that the flock remains a flock. That is: that the sheep stay together and that together they have and maintain the bond.

Then: it is of utmost importance to see to it that they not only remain a flock, but above all that they remain the flock of Christ. To this end the Lord has given office-bearers to His church in order that what He has purchased with His own blood may remain His and not become someone else's. Did not the Lord send the prophets in the Old Testament dispen­sation in order that Israel might remain HIS wife and not give herself to others, to the idols?

John the Baptist was the friend of the Bride­groom, whose task it was to prepare the Bride so that, when the Bridegroom lifted the veil and looked at the face of His Bride, he was pleased with what he saw and gave expression to his pleasure and joy by shouts of surprise and happiness, which in turn made the friend of the bridegroom rejoice.

Thus, we might say, the office-bearers are the friends of the Bridegroom, whose task it is to prepare the Bride to meet the Bridegroom at His coming. Thus it is their task to see to it and to ensure that she remains His and His alone.

That is why the office-bearers visit the families They go there to see whether the members remain faithful to the Bridegroom, whether they have and display their love towards the Bridegroom, and whether they submit themselves in everything to Him and His authority and Kingship which He exercises for their benefit. For Christ, too, has re­ceived His authority only for the benefit of those who are His.

They visit the families to see whether the fami­lies and the members thereof continue in the path of the kingdom, living as obedient children of God. They visit them to see whether there's any point in which they may extend their help in keeping the members on the right track. They visit them in order to see whether comfort, encouragement, admoni­tion, rebuke, or exhortation is necessary. They do so in order that they may extend help in due season, may warn betimes the ones who are in danger of going astray, and strengthen those who are living in obedience before the Lord.

When visiting the members of the Church, the office-bearers know that they deal not with strangers and aliens, but with citizens of the kingdom, with children of the covenant.

And as guardians of the flock, they come be­cause they have to investigate whether the children of the covenant live as such, whether they believe the promises of the covenant and whether they meet the obligations of the covenant. They are to do their best to discover whether the children of the covenant live in such a manner that their prayers are not hindered, the prayers in which they confess that they believe the promises and in which they ask the Lord for strength and guidance that they may obey the com­mandments.

The office-bearers visit, not because they are interested in the economic or social well-being of the members — although they are interested in that, for life cannot and should not be cut up into separate sections — but because they have to take heed of the flock, the Bride of Christ, their Chief Shepherd, keeping her pure and holy so that it may be a pleasure for her Bridegroom to look at her now and when He appears.

Realizing why the visits are brought is, again, of great support to the brothers while, at the same time, it will give direction to their visit and the discussions during the visit.


From what has been said above it becomes evident that the visits should not be restricted to the once-a­-year appearance to which we are used in our eccle­siastical life.

Certainly, in by far the most cases such yearly family visits are considered sufficient to ascertain that the family is still continuing in the way of obedience. Besides, we know each other, don't we, and the congregations are not that large that frequent con­tact is impossible. We see each other on Sundays and we also keep a watchful eye on each other. Devia­tions will be noticed quite soon and then there is still time to go and visit.

However, we should not trust this too much. We know that the heart of man, more than anything, is subtle. We also know that it is possible to keep up a good front for a long time, fooling everyone who looks at the situation superficially and from a distance. Perhaps everyone of us knows examples of such an attitude.

There is another reason as well why the visits should not be restricted to the yearly occurrence.

How will the office-bearers ever learn to know the people it their section or ward, if they visit them just once a year? Is not this one of the reasons why family visits are often times considered to be so difficult because we do not know the family or the member and, therefore, are not aware of special needs, special weaknesses or special gifts and strengths? A visit of one hour or even a couple of hours once a year can hardly be called sufficient to receive a good knowledge and well-established impression of a family.

Did it never happen that you reported on a visit and called it a good visit and then one of the other office-bearers at the meeting asked, "And did you enquire about this or that?" or "How is it with the eldest son, or with the second daughter?" and that you had to admit that you were not aware that there was something special with that family or with that members simply because you did not know enough about the family?

We are aware, of course, of the fact that the office-bearers have their own families and that most of the work is to be done in the evening, after the daily task has been completed. We are equally aware of the fact that frequently those who are office-bearers are also involved in all sorts of other work in the midst of the congregation, so that their time is at a premium. Then we do not even speak of the almost countless meetings which they have to attend and which could be drastically reduced without damage to their work proper.

Yet we must maintain that a once-a-year visit is not sufficient, even though in by far the majority of cases no harm may come from it. If the office-bear­ers are to know their families, they are to visit them more often than on an once-a-year basis.

Such visits — it has to be said at the same time — do not have to be, and preferably should not be, as "official" as the yearly visit. There would not be anything against it to make it a social visit, a visit of the office-bearer together with his wife. It does not matter if, during the visit, things come out into the open which should not be­come common knowledge. For even at these so-called "social vis­its" the office-bearer keeps in mind that he came here with the express purpose of learning to know the family. He also should tell the family this when he makes the appointment.

That he takes his wife with him should not matter at all. We do not have to deny that most office- bearers discuss quite a few things with their wives, also matters from family visits. In general, what can be said against this? Is the wife, then, all of a sudden no longer a helper fit for man when it comes to his work in the midst of the congrega­tion? I am not speaking here of the sisters who cannot keep a secret and who should be kept out of everything for their own sakes and for the sake of the congregation. I am speaking here now of those who help their husbands in carrying the burdens and responsibilities of the office in Christ's congregation. It could even be wise — and here I think especially of the deacons — if an office-bearer asked his wife to go and visit a family in order to enquire and find things out for him.

This has to be done with great discretion, and not every wife is fit for this, as not every brother is fit to be an office-bearer. The wise will know times and occasions, also in this respect.

Apart from the arranged visits, there could be unexpected visits, dropping in for a moment to see how things are going and catching the family un­awares. One of my colleagues once said that, if he had to bring a visit to admonish a sister, he prefera­bly went on a Monday morning. "Then," he said, "they are all busy with the laundry and bent over their washing-board; they can blush as much as they want and ascribe it to the steam coming from the hot water, but I can bring my message and catch them in their daily work".

"My colleague", he said, "has a district with more well-to-do people. When he goes in the after‑noon, he is let into the living room and sits there waiting for a while, for the domestic help told him that the mistress was having a little rest and would be down shortly. Half an hour gone."

Not everyone will have the opportunity during the day-time to drop in "just for a quick cup of coffee," but if it can be done, it would be most helpful for the office-bearer. He could also find the members more relaxed and more accessible than during the, always more official, yearly visit.

It goes without saying that more frequent visits are needed in cases of illness, grief, or tension or when there are special difficulties in a family or with a single member. Then these visits should not be left up to the minister. Of course, the people expect to see the minister, but they greatly appreciate it when the other office-bearers also show their Christian love and interest and come to comfort and strengthen, to support and guide. Perhaps the other office-bearers are even better able to help than the minister is, because they are better acquainted with the needs of the family.


Until now we have not touched upon the question, how the visits are to be conducted, and I would not be surprised to learn that this is the part which the brothers are most interested in. It is the question in what manner we are to conduct family visits with which we all have to struggle, is it not? No matter how many visits we may have brought in the course of the years, we still have not found the right method. We still come home far from satisfied with the manner in which we conducted it and the result we achieved.

Let us first be convinced that without a good preparation nothing succeeds. Thus family visits also require a good preparation.

This means that we cannot and should not use an overall pattern and apply it to each and every family in our district. A consistory can agree to use a certain theme during the visits of a particular season, the brothers will discover that this cannot be anything but a guide and definitely is no pattern which must be followed everywhere and in each and every case.

Before going out for a specific visit, the visiting office-bearers will think about the family or the single member and ponder about what the best approach will be and what things should be asked and/or discussed. In connection with the situation and the condition of the family or the single member, a Scripture passage will be chosen, although we are to avoid choosing a passage which already contains very specific admonitions or warnings. Such a choice might cause the family or the member to shut up right away so that a fruitful discussion and visit is rendered impossible.

Sometimes it is decided to take one particular Scripture passage for all the visits of that season. There is nothing against that, as long as the freedom to choose another passage remains for specific instances. The advantage of having the same passage everywhere is that the different reactions in the various families may be an indication of the condi­tion of that family.

It goes without saying that before going out on a visit, the brothers ask the Lord for His guidance and for special wisdom incase special difficulties are expected or known to exists. This, however is such an integral part of the work that one who does not pray before going out cannot expect any fruit upon his work.

It also belongs to the preparation that the office-bearers are well-acquainted with the Scriptures. In the old form it was said that they should continually meditate on the mysteries of faith. In the new form this has been replaced by that they should train themselves in godliness and diligently search the Scriptures. This may sound less mysterious than that meditation on the mysteries of faith, it is clearer and shows that no one can do the work of visiting and of heeding the flock with the staff of the Word, without diligently searching the Scriptures and studying them so that he can teach others the myster­ies of faith.

We said, that a good preparation includes that an appropriate passage of the Scriptures is chosen.

This brings us to the question whether the fam­ily visit should always be opened with prayer and reading of the Scriptures.

In general, this question is to be answered in the affirmative. By Scripture reading and prayer or prayer and Scripture reading it is made clear that the brothers do not come for a social visit, but that it is a special visit, indeed.

It would, of course, be foolish to interrupt an already on-going discussion by saying, "Well, let us now first pray and read." This will result in a strained situation after the "official" opening. I recall one family visit where we had a really good discussion going which went on for about twenty minutes when, regrettably so, I said, "Let us now first read and pray." You can guess what happened: the rest of the visit was a flop, to put it bluntly. It became too artificial.

Normally, however, Scripture reading and prayer or prayer and Scripture reading will mark the opening of the visit. A few words can be spoken in connection with the passage read and the brothers could explain why this passage was chosen. What should be avoided is that they deliver a sermon or an introduction on the passage. This may shorten the time, it is not in accordance with the purpose of the visit. It is not the office-bearers who are to talk that evening, it is the members of the family or the single member that are to do the talking and are to be invited to do so by asking questions.

As for these questions, this is one of the most difficult points in the whole visit.

To start with: we should never ask questions which can be answered with a simple "Yes," or "No". Such questions do not reveal much, or rather, the answers to such questions do not reveal much. It makes things too easy on the members and too hard on the office-bearers, who then have to rack their brains to think of the following question. Following questions should be occasioned by what the mem­bers answer to the previous question.

For example: I recall that at one visit I asked the brother and sister whose marriage I had solemnized, whether they still loved each other as much as they did when they got married. This was a question which they could answer with a simple "Yes," or "No". When their faces fell and they answered with "no, not really," there was the opportunity for the second question: "What is wrong then?" The office-bearers then had the opportunity to probe further and to help the brother and sister for the time being. Alas, later on the alienation became worse and sepa­ration was the result.

In general, we are hesitant to enquire about the relationship between husband and wife, but the care for the wellbeing of the flock demands that we do so. The influence of the surrounding sinful world does not by-pass the flock of Christ, and we must pay attention to the condition of the married couples in the first place. A sharp observer will discover even without asking whether the relationship is good and be thankful for it; but the brother and sister are allowed to know that this area is one of the aspects of life over which the care of the office-bearers extends.

When we ask questions, we learn something about the brother and sister, about the family. In order to learn from the answers, we are to be good listeners.

Sometimes it is thought that an office-bearer who can talk well and can get a conversation going and keep it going is better than one who says little and mostly listens. Good listening, however, is at least as important as — if not more important than — speak­ing well. The answers which are given to specific questions will reveal much. And even if the brother or sister succeed in hiding the real situation by giving evasive answers, a good listener will discover this and will probe further, so that they have to reveal their deeper and more honest thoughts.

I recall the story of an elder who understood more of a family than the minister who accompanied him on that visit. When they were on their way home, the minister asked the elder what he thought of the family. The elder answered, "They showed us their leg, but the trouble is in their arm."

In order to discover the real condition of a fam­ily, it is necessary to ask pointed questions, that is, questions which require a judgment, a statement on which further conversation can be based.

The questions should, therefore, preferably begin with "What?" or "Why?" or "How" or "In what manner?"

And if a question is asked which can be an­swered with a simple "Yes" or 'No," then the fol­lowing question should ask the "Why, then?"

Let me use an example.

If there are children who attend catechism classes, they may be asked whether they like catechism classes. Let us assume that they say "Yes, we do." Then the question would be very appropriate: "And what do you like about them? Can you tell me some­thing about what you are doing there and what you learn there?"

If, on the other hand, the answer should be "No," the visitors will ask what, then, is wrong and what they do not like in particular. The answer to this question may show something about the chil­dren's attitude, but it may also reveal to the office-bearers something about the minister, and may enable them to speak with the minister in order to get some change or some improvement in this respect for the benefit of all.

A favourite question is "Are you strengthened by the preaching of the Gospel on Sundays?" When the members say, "Yes," the topic is finished unless the brothers ask what specific comfort and strength the brother and sister receive from the proclamation of the Gospel. Then they are compelled to give account of their affirmative answer and are prevented from evading specific points by giving a general answer to a general question.

The more general the questions, the more gen­eral the answers that we receive, and the more pre­cise and pointed the questions, the better we learn to know the family. And no family visit will give any satisfaction unless specific questions have been asked and specific answers have been received.

Another example.

If there are brothers or sisters who are very critical of society life, young people, for instance, then the question is very much to the point: "WHAT are you doing to improve it?" "In what manner do you try to get things going?" or "What have you done in this respect?" or "What are, in your opinion, the reasons for this situation?" Then we bring the members to an explanation, and from the explana­tion the discussion can be steered towards the member's own spiritual attitude.

Asking pointed questions will prevent that brothers have to look surreptitiously at their watch to see whether they can leave because they have run out of topics. It is the so-called good visits which are most difficult in this respect. When there is something to be disapproved of in the family, the time may go too quickly, although the danger is there that all the time is taken up by this one point and the rest of the life of the family does not even come into view. It could also be that a family raises a specific point in order to hide other things that are wrong. Here much wisdom is needed to cut it off in a manner which leads the discussion into another direction and points the finger to the members or the family themselves instead of at the congregation or the consistory or the minister or the brother and sister. Again the "What" "How "Why" at the beginning of another question will be most helpful.

Not everything will have to come into view during a family visit. If we were to cover all aspects of life in the church and in the world, we would need more than one evening per family, especially when there are children old enough to be present at the visit. There is the relationship of husband and wife, but also the one between parents and children, between the children among themselves which should receive the attention. The children should be asked, e.g., whether they live together in good harmony and whether they love one another as the Lord demands of us. And when they — as can be ex­pected — say that they do, the question will follow how they show this towards their parents and to­wards their brothers and sisters. We could ask whether they are honest towards their parents or do things behind their backs and whether they do their best at school, whether they try to show also towards their fellow students, their peers, that they do not succumb to peer pressure but follow the command­ments of the Lord their God alone.

In these days of the pill and so-called family planning, the office-bearers would be remiss in their duty if they did not touch upon the question of children. A childless couple could be asked how they react to the fact that the Lord has withheld children from them. The answer will reveal whether it is a self-imposed situation or something which the Lord's hand sends them.

If there are very few children in the family, the question could be asked whether the brother and sister would not love to have more children and whether they ask the Lord for them. The answer to these questions will give an opportunity to go fur­ther into it.

Work and environment, school and vocation, all these things will come into focus during the visit. And in all the questions, in all the discussions, the office-bearers keep in mind and let the members feel that their concern is the purity of the Bride of Christ and the pleasure of the Bridegroom.

It is difficult to determine how long a family visit should last and whether a whole evening should be set aside for one family or the possibility exists to squeeze two visits into one evening. The brothers have to take into account the question whether the man has to get up early to go to work or whether the people are used to go to bed early. They also have to keep their own situation in mind. Perhaps two visits per evening are possible, if an early start can be made. What should be prevented as much as pos­sible is that an arrangement has been made with the second family that the brothers will be there at nine o'clock and that they show up at a quarter to ten, although we all realize that something may come up at the first visit which upsets the whole schedule. In extreme cases it may even be necessary to phone and cancel the second visit because of the need to continue the first one that very same evening.

Again: no firm rule and no guide-line, to be applied all times and places.

In closing the visit, prayer is to be offered and in this prayer the things that came up are brought before the Lord with thanksgiving and supplication. What should be avoided at all cost is that in this closing prayer the brother who offers it dishes out all sorts of admonitions and says things which he did not say or did not dare to say in the discussion. Such would be an abuse of prayer. We can be certain that the Lord closes His ears to those words. Then we do not even speak of the thoughts which come up in the hearts of the brother or sister whom it concerns. They most certainly will stop their ears!

As for the reporting at the consistory meeting, the brothers and sisters must be able to trust that things which they tell the office-bearers confiden­tially are not reported at the consistory meeting. In general, the reports should be very short and should not be a brief repetition of the visit brought. "And then they said this, and then I answered that to this, and so on."

The brothers should also be aware of it that they are no address for complaints or mailmen who have to bring over messages about all sorts of things.

In almost all cases there is a question at the end whether the brother or sister have anything to ask or anything to say. It is not a rare case when personal beefs are revealed and the brothers are requested to bring this to the attention of the consistory. These things often times concern points which were discussed by the consistory on more than one occasion and it is no exception when, as a result of the remark made at the family visit, a whole new discussion ensues at the meeting. We are to avoid this. If the brothers are aware that a decision regarding this point was made in the past they should tell the brother and sister this. If they know the grounds on which this decision was made, they should tell the brother or sister this as well. And if no new argu­ments are presented, they should tell the brother or sister that they will mention it, but that no result is to be expected, since no new arguments have been brought forward which would warrant a renewed discussion at the consistory meeting.

I recall that from some families the same ques­tion came every time anew, and that in some instances their question found support with some of the office-bearers, who then wished to have a whole new discussion about the matter, as if no decision had ever been made. It is not surprising when in this manner frequent consistory meetings are necessary and then well into the night.

If there are more substantial suggestions which the brothers are asked to pass on to the consistory, they should advise the brother or sister to put it all into writing, with their grounds, and to give it to the clerk of the consistory. Minor things can be passed on via the visiting office-bearers; they are, however, no mailmen and no addresses for complaints.


That we have paid no special and detailed attention to the family visiting to be done by the deacons is not caused by regarding their office as being of a lower rank. It is simply the result of the abundant material which had to be brought to the fore regarding the visiting by the elders. And still we only touched upon a few aspects.

On the other hand, much of what has been said about the visiting by elders also applies to the visit­ing done by the deacons. However, their work merits a separate treatment, and for this reason I have refrained from speaking about it in particular. Perhaps someone else should have been asked to present an introduction about the visiting by the deacons. If I had divided the attention between the two — elders and deacons — neither one of them would have received the attention they deserve. Perhaps some points will be raised in the discussion.

In conclusion I would like to state that this introduction has been presented by one who knows more about the difficulties of family visiting than about the proper way in which to conduct it. May you all have benefited from it to the upbuilding of God's people and to the honour of Him who is the Chief Shepherd, the Bridegroom, our Lord and Savour. Let us be content with being friends of the Bridegroom.

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