Upset Your Pastor Didn’t Visit You in the Hospital? Well, Did You Tell him You Were in the Hospital?

The words sting all these years later.

They came earlier in Alan Rudnick’s pastorate when a congregant called to chastise him for not visiting another member in the hospital.

“You’re not doing your job,” the caller said. “You’re not being a good pastor.”

The fact that Rudnick hadn’t been notified about the hospitalization didn’t matter to the complaining member.

“In the caller’s mind, I was responsible for information that I didn’t know about.”

Rudnick, a Baptist minister, author and speaker tells that story to open his Aug.1 Church Leadership blog titled “When to contact your minister.”

He makes the case that seems obvious on the surface but isn’t so clear to many Christians in times of hardship or grief: pastors don’t just automatically know when their presence is needed. They must be notified.

Rudnick isn’t alone in that frustration.

“Alan’s story is pretty common,” said Tony Lankford, the senior pastor at First Baptist Church in St. Simons Island, Ga.

He recalled a similar experience earlier in his career.

“A gentleman had surgery and I simply didn’t know about it until he was out of the hospital,” Lankford said. “I sensed a disconnect between us after that.”

Lankford said he believes the communications breakdown often occurs when church members tell friends or school classes about an ailing loved one or pending surgery, and then assume someone will notify clergy.

“And when there’s no response they may see that as a lack of caring when it is really a lack of communication,” he said.

What can ministers do about that? One is to direct Sunday school teachers, deacons and other leaders to contact the pastor or church office when they learn someone is hospitalized, he said.

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