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How to Leave a Pastoral Care Visitation

You do highly valuable work in your pastoral care visits – but is the way you conclude those visits undermining your efforts?

It is an honor and privilege to visit someone who is lonely, sick or grieving. For many, it is not easy to let others into their home or hospital room, making it hugely important to do so with a humble attitude and gracious spirit. As a followup to our article 3 Tips for Home Visitations, today we share how to appropriately leave a pastoral visitation. 

There are many ways to leave a pastoral visit, but the worst of them can leave your charge with a sour taste in their mouth. The caring work you put into a visit can be completely undermined by the way you finish a conversation. Fortunately there are steps you can take to wrap up a pastoral care visitation in a way that leaves the person feeling cared for and encouraged.

Give a Timeframe for Leaving

Quick transitions can be jarring for people; if you are having a conversation one minute and you are gone the next, the individual may feel a lack of support. Instead, as you are approaching the end of your time together, it’s important to find a natural break in conversation and signal an expectation of your leaving ahead of time. Try something like: 

Staci, I need to leave in about 5 minutes. Is there anything else you’d like to share?” 

If you happen to have forgotten an important piece of information that was stated during the conversation, now is a great time to find that out:

Gerald, I have 2 or 3 more minutes before I need to go. Remind me which daughter is coming into town next week?” 

With one statement you can clarify an ending to your visit as well as invite a closing statement from the other person. Providing a timeframe for the other person gives them a minute to prepare for your departure. For some people you might be the only human interaction they have that day, or even the next several days for those who are homebound. 

Our grandpa used to say, “When you leave I experience the presence of your absence.” For those who are alone, that quietness and stillness comes rushing back as soon as you leave. We don’t bring this up to make you feel guilty for leaving, but rather so you can honor the person you are with by allowing them to prepare mentally for your departure. 

Express Gratitude

After stating that you have a few minutes left, express gratitude. If there is anything that you admire or want to acknowledge about the person, tell them. Something like, “I am honored that you have shared your struggle with me today. I see so much courage in your ability to talk about your fears,” or as simple as “Thank you for your time today. I look forward to seeing you again.” If something they said really struck a chord within you, tell them. This is your time to show appreciation and practice thanksgiving. 

Don't Over-promise

People providing care often have a tendency to over-promise when they are nervous or anxious. They feel like it makes the person they are visiting like them more or feel comfortable. Seasoned pastors know to under-promise and over deliver. This helps both the pastor and the individual set reasonable expectations that don’t set anyone up to fail, and it leaves room to be pleasantly surprised.

Wrapping Up

Leaving a pastoral care visitation with grace and empathy can make a profound impact on those in need of support. By providing a clear timeframe for departure and inviting closing statements, pastors can create a smooth transition that honors the person they are with and allows them to mentally prepare for the end of the visit. Expressing genuine gratitude and appreciation further enhances the connection and leaves a lasting impression of care and encouragement. Seasoned pastors understand the importance of avoiding over-promising and under-promise while over-delivering, setting realistic expectations and leaving room for pleasant surprises. Ultimately, by embracing these thoughtful practices, pastors can leave their charge feeling cared for, supported, and uplifted, fostering a sense of comfort and hope in the hearts of those they serve.

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