By Justin Buzzard
Being a pastor means being about relationships. My first responsibility as a pastor is to know and love God. My second is to know and love the people I pastor, encouraging them to flourish in their relationship with God, our church family, and our city.
One of the most effective ways I can do this is by visiting people at their workplace.
Because God designed people to work, my congregants spend most of the week at their workplace. I realized years ago that a powerful way to know and love my church members is to visit them there. I want to know this massive part of their lives. There’s a connection that can happen in the workplace that’s more holistic than a conversation in the pews or at a coffee shop.
As I write this, I’m picturing specific people whose cubicles and workplaces I’ve recently visited. I think those people would say they feel known by me in a deeper way because I’ve visited the place where they spend most of their week. Last week I received an email that said:
Thanks again for visiting me at my workplace last week. It was an incredible thing you did that I’ve never seen any pastor do before. Really speaks to your desire to get to the church members on a deeper level.
I love this part of my job. I look forward to each week’s workplace visits. Some of my visits take me to the “sexy” Silicon Valley workplaces: Apple, Google, Facebook, Tesla, or Netflix. Other visits take me to less glamorous workplaces: the veterinarian clinic, an acute-care assisted living hospital, a construction site, or a coffee shop next door to a stay-at-home mom’s toddler-filled apartment. These workplaces are diverse and varied, and they give me vital experience with the culture my church is inhabiting and seeking to influence.
Currently I average about three workplace visits per week. If you’ve not done this before, maybe start with one per week and build from there. I generally schedule one hour for these visits. When I show up I always ask for the church member to give me a tour around the workplace, as I’m naturally curious and enjoy seeing new places and meeting new people.
People usually introduce me as “my pastor” or “my friend, Justin.” Often I spend part of these visits talking with co-workers, and great things have sprung from these unplanned conversations. Next, I grab an on-site lunch or coffee with the church member, and I seek to listen and learn all I can about how they’re doing in their life and work. Perhaps I’ll offer a word of encouragement or a prayer, and a hug. That’s it. The main thing is presence—making myself present in their daily world.
I’ve learned that a simple one-hour visit communicates great care to people (most people have never been visited at work, even by a spouse or best friend), and it makes me a better leader and preacher because I’ve gained deeper awareness of what my people are facing. When I write sermons I don’t picture people in the pews; I picture them in their workplaces and neighborhoods, with all the challenges they face there.
I want to see less of people coming to church offices, and more of pastors going to people at their workplaces. The incarnation is our gospel motivation and model: Jesus moved toward us—he visited Peter at his workplace by the sea, Levi at his tax-booth cubicle, and the Samaritan woman at her well.
Pastors often have good book budgets, which I heartily support. But I believe pastors should also have generous “people” budgets for driving all over their city to visit workplaces and buy people a sandwich or cup of coffee.
Pastor, why not start visiting your people in their workplaces? My hunch is you and your church will like this so much that you will keep doing it for the rest of your ministry.
Reprinted from The Gospel Coalition. Justin Buzzard is founding pastor of Garden City Church in Silicon Valley, co-founder of Three Sons Club, and author of Date Your Wife, Why Cities Matter, and other books. You can follow him on Twitter.