So, this blog post arises from a question I posted on my Facebook page which was, “Do you visit the home as part of your ministry with children and families?” From the responses it seems a few would like some tips or thoughts on how to go about this or why it is important or just would be interested to read a blog about it! So, here we go :
1. “Visiting” doesn’t mean going in and having a cup of tea.
When I talk of visiting (and think of my own practice) I mean a quick doorstep hello. Most of the time, not even going in to the house / flat / apartment / mansion (delete as appropriate). So, one of the things that might stop us doing this is time – we just don’t have enough as it is, we can’t squeeze visiting a load of people in too! I’m thinking of 90 seconds at the door – not tea and scones with loads of arranging in advance of when people are in or whatever.
2. “Visiting” works when nobody is in.
What? Well, I have found visiting works well when I can plan 30 minutes in to my day – it works well if that might be when kids are getting home (which will vary depending on your community) – but, what if nobody is in? Well – GREAT opportunity to ::
Pray for the household. Take a couple of minutes to thank God for whoever lives there, kids, siblings, family – whoever. Pray God’s peace might reign, pray that this home would be “home” to all who live there.
Post a note. Postcards are great for this, as everyone sees what is written – there isn’t private communication going on, you can have something pre-written with an encouraging verse – just with something from you saying, “hope you are having a great week!” from “the Children’s Team” or “Lighthouse” or “Superheroes” or whatever your group is called.
3. “Visiting” can help you map your patch.
It wasn’t until I started visiting that I got to know my patch – but that I mean the immediate community that I served. In one context, I could visit about eight families in one street. I didn’t appreciate that all these kids knew each other really well – not just because they were at same school, came to the same club, but were also – cheek by jowl living next to each other. Other communities I have served, the kids are spread out – few at the same school, even fewer in the same geographical area – in fact, the only way I could visit was to drive from one to next and so on. I was wondering why it was so hard to build a sense of community – and here I was realising that we weren’t actually in the community. I then realised there were roads, streets, flats and sections of the area where we had no presence at all among the families there. Wow. Something to think about!
4. “Visiting” tells the kids you are thinking of them outside the club or activity.
This might seem weird – but, for some kids, it is a revelation that you are thinking of them when they are not in the club or activity or church thing you lead. For someone they know and trust, who they value and look up to just stopping by to say “Hi” on the doorstep is HUGE! Kids (and adults too) have an idea in their heads of how the world works – when children are little, they might believe that if they put their own hands in front of their face that they can’t be seen – as they develop their awareness of the world and other people, they discover they CAN be seen – other people also have eyes! Anyway, we might exist – to some of the children we work with – “at church” or elsewhere – not in front of them on their own doorstep!
I remember when my wife was a teacher and we would go to the cinema together – occasionally, she would see students from school. This was Secondary School kids, and they would say, “Miss – you go to the cinema?!” as if it was beyond their comprehension. A quick chat on the doorstep might not be much to you – but, for your kids – it is a huge thing. Don’t underestimate the power of that.
What do we tell children about their value, their worth and significance to us when we go out of our way, make time, and visit them where they live?
5. “Visiting” – Eight Tips.
Eight Tips For Visiting ::
Plan a Route. This might seem obvious, but (and maybe this is just me) when I started I just randomly wondered around the streets near my church. It wasn’t very productive, I doubled back on myself and missed streets out . . . I also get lost on the way to the bathroom, so I needed a little map. This is easy to do. If you have a database where the road address is in it’s own field (I highly recommend this!) it means you can see at a glance who is in the same street. Also, plan a route that brings you back to where you began (I know, I’m talking to intelligent people here) so that in the time you have allotted for your visiting you don’t finish, only to discover you are four miles from your car.
Go Together. Who could you go with? This might be problematic if you are in a team of “one” in terms of availability at the time it would be appropriate to visit the home (I’m thinking between 4pm – 6pm, no later than that). If you have interns, this is a great way of spending some time with them and modelling engagement, building rapport, spontaneity and tackling the unforeseen. It is also a good “safety” thing to not go alone, as well as being pretty Biblical,
After this, the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of Him to every town and place He was about to visit.
I love the idea of this, going ahead – preparing the way for Jesus together – whilst also, in the age of the Spirit, knowing that God goes before us.
Engage on the way. This is the bonus of walking around your patch – you meet people! You may not be heading to their house, but on the street (especially if you are in a place with “foot fall” or you are hitting the street at the time kids are coming to and from school) you will bump in to people. Don’t put your head down and press on – stop, make time, chat. Be present to this person you didn’t realise you were going to meet (child or adult) – how might you encourage them, cheer them on, be kind, generous and thoughtful? You might be just who they need to see, you might say just what they need to hear. This could be a holy moment, a sacred encounter – if you don’t rush on.
Take something with you. When you arrive on a doorstep and people are in, don’t arrive empty handed. Have an activity sheet to complete or a flyer for your next family or kids event. It makes it easy to have a conversation!
Do it regularly, not necessary frequently. This is important. No activity should be all consuming and some – like this – need to be regular, but not weekly. Give it some thought, maybe plan to visit when it is coming up to the end of a half term – make contact with the home before you then don’t see the kids for a week. Maybe do the same when you are approaching major holidays / breaks from school. A visit is special – even a short one – don’t make it so often that you lose that.
Visit for specific reasons. The great thing about building in visits, is it becomes “normal” to engage with the home. A visit might be exciting and special, but not a total surprise if you have built it in. Now, given that context it makes it easier – and maybe second nature – that if there is a poorly child in a group, it would make sense to visit the home and see how they are doing. It shows you genuinely care, you have noticed and you are concerned for how they are doing? Do they need anything? Can you do anything for the family? You might also visit if you haven’t seen a child for a while . . . not with a “where do you think you’ve been” attitude – but rather with a, “hey, we’ve missed you – how are things?” attitude.
Drop Something to Make it Happen. This is a key tip. Lots of things can get in the way of doing visits. It might seem there are more important things to do and it is a “nice extra” if you can squeeze it in. However, for the benefits mentioned all I can say is this is a pretty essential piece of work – it will only happen if you make time for it and prioritise it.
Visit safely. This is important and it is good to have an ABCD checklist when you are out and about. A = Accountable. Who are you accountable to? Have you made sure you have communicated that this activity is happening on behalf of the church – you don’t represent yourself when you go visiting as the children’s worker. This has to be something that has been agreed and approved and covered by your church insurance policy. B = Boundaries. Be clear about your boundaries. Visit at sensible times (between 4pm and 6pm for example), don’t enter the house unless parents are present and have invited you in. C = Core or Committed. I would not just “rock up” to visit a child I have met once at a kids club and not ever seen their parents. Be wise about visiting places where you know nothing of the context. D = Diary. Put everything in the diary (make sure this is shared with staff / church leader). Make a note afterwards of who you chatted to and write a brief reflective journal.
Make sure what you are doing abides by your Church safeguarding policy and any umbrella organisation you might be supported by (e.g. Diocese and / or CCPAS – now known as www.thirtyoneeight.org Ideally you should have a lone worker policy).