I love visiting with people in the intimacy of a home. There’s just something special about sitting in someone’s living room, or around their dining room table, and getting to know them better. But, I often wonder if the people I’m visiting feel the same way. When I call and say, “Would you mind if I stop by for a visit tomorrow evening,” how do they feel about that? They might think, “The nerve of some people; inviting himself to my house! Now I have to clean up and get everything ready for a visitor!” Or, they might think, “It makes me feel so good that someone wants to come visit me.”
I wanted to know how the average person feels about preachers, elders, or church members coming by for a visit. I took a survey and the results are below; they may surprise you!
There were 90 people who responded to the survey. No distinction has been made with regard to religious affiliation, age, etc.
Home Visits with First-Time Visitors
I asked, “If you were a first time visitor to a church, would you like someone from the church to come and visit you in your home?” The responses to this question did not really surprise me. The majority of people said, “No.” I imagine that number would be higher among young people and probably significantly higher among non-Christians. One respondent said this, “Making a home visit to a first-time visitor may seem stalker-ish.”
I agree. I read a blog post recently, entitled, “10 Ways to Ensure I’ll Never Revisit Your Church.” The author said, as a visitor, one way to ensure he would never come back is, “Visit me at home.” And with obvious sarcasm, he added, “Show up during dinner time, if you can. Or while I’m trying to put my son to bed. That would be ideal, please. Our generation loves the random church-member pop-in when we aren’t even sure we like your church. Love. It.”
A survey respondent said this, “My home is the only place I am alone and therefore I desire to be alone and enjoy the peace. Plus, I find many who visit try to get involved in things that are none of their business and try to look around at what you have or what your life is like. It comes off as judgmental.”
If you want to overwhelm and scare off a young family who visits your congregation, try popping-in for a visit at their house.
Home Visits with Members
71% of people said, as a member of a congregation, they would “enjoy periodic visits to their home.” Therefore, it seems to me, people feel very differently about home visits from members of a congregation to which the belong, versus a congregation at which they are a visitor.
In fact, 73% of people said, “I love having people in my home and I wish church members would come visit more often.” It seems that many congregations are actually not visiting each other enough. I was very encouraged to hear that 83% of people said that when people come by for a home visit, they feel “loved and cared for.” Only 17% said they felt inconvenienced.
Frequency and Length of Stay
Many of us wonder, “How often should home visits be made and how long should I stay when I get there?” Actually, I was quite surprised by these results as well. A little less than half (43%) said home visits should be made “often” and most of the others felt that home visits should be made: when there is a specific need (21%), when a visit is requested (18%), or seldom (17%). Only one person said home visits should “never” be made.
In other words, nearly everyone wants you to come by when they are having a hard time with something; and many want you to come by more often than that. Almost no one is so closed-off that they never want you to come by.
Another statistic that might surprise you is how long people are comfortable with you staying. The results were varied, but 70% of people are comfortable with visits lasting from 30 to an hour (or longer). Surprisingly, 35% said they were comfortable with the visit lasting an hour or longer.
The other 30% of people said they would only be comfortable with the visit lasting 30 minutes or less. I would say, be on the safe side and plan to leave at (or before) the 30 minute mark. If the visit is going well, and they seem like they want you to stay, extend it a little longer. And be flexible the other way. Don’t hesitate to cut the visit short if it is painfully uncomfortable.
Always remember, the homeowner is in a difficult situation because it would be rude for them to suggest that it is time for you to leave. Don’t overstay your welcome!
This might be a no-brainer, but always give notice before you visit. Don’t ever drop in on people unannounced. Even respondents who enjoy home visits, said surprise drop-in visits are, “rude.”
Some are okay with an hour’s notice (29%), but most would prefer you give them at least a day’s notice before you come by. One person even said a month’s notice would be preferable. People, especially younger families, are extremely busy. Their week is often planned out before it begins.
I would suggest you give people as much preparation time as possible before your visit. You might not mind their house being a mess, but chances are they mind. Many would be deathly embarrassed for you to see their messy home. Don’t put them in that position.
Would People Prefer a Public Place, Like a Restaurant?
No doubt, there are many who would prefer you meet with them at a public place like a coffee shop or restaurant (35%). But, the majority (65%) said they prefer a home environment. The main thing is, you visit with people and get involved in their life. If they are extremely uncomfortable with having you in their home; don’t press the issue. Meet with people wherever they are comfortable.
The main thing I took away from people’s comments and responses is that hospitality is not dead, but it is sorely lacking! People like to have other Christians in their homes. It is important to note, they would prefer to invite you themselves. However, many never seem to “get around to doing that.” So, as long as you give them plenty of notice, a home visit should be fine and even welcomed.
However, it seems from the comments, the better alternative is to have people into your home. Your primary tool for building relationships should be to force yourself to practice hospitality, rather than forcing others to be hospitable to you. One respondent put it this way, “Hospitality is something that seems to be sorely lacking in the Lord’s Church today and I think that ‘home visits’ are a cop out. There is a huge difference between inviting yourself into someone’s home versus extending an invitation into your own home.”
Most people like the intimacy of being in a home. But, they feel very protective of their home. It is their sanctuary. They really only feel comfortable having people they know over for a visit. So, it may be wise to begin by inviting them over to your house (or out to eat). Then, when you have established a relationship, you can see if they would be amenable to a visit in their home.
Whether you are meeting with people in their home, in your home, or at a restaurant…do something! Be with your brothers and sisters outside the church building. Be involved in people’s lives and build relationships. This doesn’t just apply to preachers, elders, and other “leaders.” Everyone needs to be involved in each other’s lives!
I love you and God loves you,