An Inadvertent Invention: Pastoral Visits with a Preschooler


Post Author: Collette Broady


Necessity is the mother of invention, as the saying goes. But there really should be another saying: Motherhood necessitates invention. Especially when you are both a mother and a pastor.

I started a new job when my son was five weeks old, a half-time position as intentional interim pastor in a church that had had conflict with its previous pastor. Most of my job was leading a congregational self-assessment and study as well as leading worship and preaching on Sunday mornings. With the help of my then-husband, a very nice babysitter, and a tremendously easy-going baby, I made it work.

Except for the visitation part of being a pastor. I have always struggled with this part of ministry, since I am a major introvert, and it has always fallen to the bottom of my legion to-do lists. But now with a baby, it seemed doubly impossible that I should get around to visit the homebound members on my roster. My pastor guilt and my mother guilt were at war.

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Then one morning when I was in the office, baby in tow, a homebound member, Donna, called to say that her grandson had just died and could I please come and see her right away. You can’t refuse a request like that. So, I packed up the diaper bag, breast pump, and my work bag, buckled baby in his car seat and we went. The three hours I spent with Donna that afternoon I remember fondly as one of the best visits I’ve ever made.

What I didn’t know was that the little one I was viewing as an obstacle to the work I was supposed to be doing was in fact an entry into deeper conversation with a fellow mother, a balm for the grief of a grandmother who had just lost a beloved grandson, and a gurgling, giggling reminder that there is life even in the midst of death. She cuddled my son and talked about what a wonderful gift family is, but also how much being a parent and grandparent breaks your heart. As he played on the floor, she talked about her memories of the grandson she had cared for when he was a baby.

Fast forward to a few months ago, when I had all but forgotten about this experience. My son is in daycare now and I have more time to go and visit without him along. Though I am now divorced, between daycare and careful scheduling of my weekends, I am usually able to fit my work into times when my son is being cared for by another. Unless someone dies. Then everything goes to you-know-where in a hurry.

One of my homebound members had been languishing in hospice for several weeks, hanging on to the last bit of life despite not eating and drinking. Then Saturday morning her daughter called to say I’d better come right away. I looked at my son playing with his trucks, and I must have hesitated, because the woman said, “Oh, do you have your son with you? Just bring him along.” So I did.

And it happened again, a beautiful visit with women of faith. But this time there was a difference: the visit not only opened up the conversation with those for whom I was caring. It opened up conversation with my son too. I explained, as best you can to a three year old, that the woman we were going to see was very sick, that we would be praying with her and reading the bible, and that she probably would be asleep most of the time.

He wanted to know why she was sick, and when she would get better. When I explained that she wouldn’t get better, we started a conversation about death that is still going in bits and pieces these months later. He now understands that sometimes people die, and he is simultaneously fearful that he will get so sick that he doesn’t get better, and hopeful because he knows that sometimes people that die come back to life (“like Jesus, Mommy!” he says).

He is developing a compassionate for others that is astounding to me. About a week after we visited the dying woman, he turned to me after our bedtime prayers. “Mommy,” he said, “What about that girl we visited? Did she get better?” He routinely reminds me to pray for those I’ve forgotten about, and asks that we pray for his friends who fell down and got scrapes on the playground that day.

By complete accident, out of necessity, I discovered that one of the best ways to teach my son to practice faith is by taking him with me as I practice mine. This means that I take him not just to church on Sunday morning, but into the everyday (sometime) drudgery of pastoring. I’m thankful for the conversations this accident has opened up, both with members of the congregations I serve, and with my son. It’s now part of my ministry to pick him up early from daycare once a week and take him to visit a homebound member.

Except when his nose is running neon green. Then he stays at daycare.


Rev. Collette Broady is a pastor of two churches and mother of one three year old in Mankato, Minnesota.


Image by: Alex Hendrickson
Used with permission
4 replies
  1. Suzanne
    Suzanne says:

    My husband is a PK, and he remembers going on these visits as a kid with his dad to the hospital and nursing homes. What a wonderful ministry to those who so often do not get to be around children! Beautiful accidents, or maybe they aren’t accidents after all. 😉

    Reply
  2. ruth e. hetland
    ruth e. hetland says:

    thank you for your article. i have two boys ages 5 and 6 and they have been joining me on pastoral visits ever since they were born. i worried before they were born about how i would juggle having kids and doing my work but i have been so happy at the ways they have blessed my ministry. since i homeschool, i tend to have them with me more often than not but i still try to have some days each week (when my husband is home) that i do visits without them – and it never fails that on those days the folks i visit ask “where are the boys?” i’m so pleased my boys get to grow up having many elderly folks as friends, they aren’t afraid of hospitals or even death – it is all part of daily life for them. they pray for the nursing home folks and the hospitalized just as much as i do.

    i used to feel like i should keep my kiddos out of sight in order to be seen as professional – i’m glad that i realized that just isn’t true. blessings on your ministry and your son!

    Ruth Hetland – Our Savior’s Lutheran Church – Clifton, TX

    Reply
  3. Kelsey Johnson
    Kelsey Johnson says:

    Love this. I also stumbled upon pastoral care with my son when I had to take him to work with me as a solo pastor in a rural town (no daycare!). I was surprised, delighted, and touched to see the way that my parishioners opened up around him in ways that they never had with me before. Sometimes I think it was the distraction of having a baby in the room. Many people are more comfortable chatting while they do something else (play with baby, for instance), than they are having a serious one-on-one discussion. I wonder if there are other ways we could incorporate helpful distraction into pastoral care, even when babies are at daycare.

    Reply

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