Everyone should love everyone!
That is quite true, of course, but it also truly does not happen. The church must provide loving pastoral care in many special needs.
It is part of what we signed up for.
A shepherd cannot say he wants to disown a sheep if it breaks its leg, or cannot function well, or goes astray. A shepherd shepherds.
A pastor pastors.
Or makes sure that it happens carefully in the church, as needed. What the pastor does not do himself, in the case of a true need, the care system that he has already set up, provides for the need. We do this “not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be.”
These people are, for sure, “under your care” (I Peter 5:2, 3).
Thanks for your love.
Knute, with Jeff and Jim
For those of us under 40, what did pastoral care used to look like in churches?
- Pastoral care used to look like lots of hospital visits, being there for every baby born, making rounds at nursing homes, being on call when people needed you (no matter what), and doing all the counseling yourself.
- It was hyper involvement in people’s lives and being the “sole resource” for their needs.
- The pastor was the go-to person for every visitation and emergency. His primary role was to bear the load of much of the counseling and his schedule was loaded with personal meetings.
- He knew the names of every person and spent a lot of his time in people’s homes.
- Speaking of general pastoral care, many churches had a goal for the pastor to visit in every home either twice a year or once a year for sure. Some did it every quarter. Fact is, some of these visits were unannounced on an evening, or to a shut-in in the afternoon!
- Certainly there was the same expectation as now about tragedies or emergencies. Church people just expected their pastor to call or actually be there. Of course in some larger churches there would be a part-time pastor or a care pastor assigned to do this.
- In many settings pastoral care might include attendance at an anniversary party or graduation.
- Hospital visitation was very regular. Most involve church people and he would be visiting at least two or three times a week. And in those good old days, the hospital would call the church and tell you that a person from your church was there and give you the number of the room!
What are some ways of pastoral care and touch that are important today?
- Pastoral care is more important than ever today because we live in a very impersonal world. In many ways pastoral care is a wonderful opportunity for evangelism, as well as discipleship, because it has become odd that someone would show up and be dedicated in your life in that way.
- For me, pastoral care and touch looks a lot like being available in public settings. When the church is gathering on the weekends or has an event, I’m going to be around as much as possible to say hi to as many people as possible.
- It looks like being available for counseling. If people ask to meet with me, I will meet with them–but, I may only do that once or twice, then I may refer them to a counselor to make sure they’re cared for.
- Pastoral care looks a lot like enacting the priesthood of all believers. Your “life group” leader or your Bible study leader is also your pastoral care leader, so that care is dispersed through the body as they love on each other.
- Pastoral care is always there for the emergency. I pastor a very large church and people still call me, they still text me, and I still respond, because I love them. In a true emergency no one is imposing on anyone else. When they truly have an emergency, they truly need resources, and I’m grateful they reach out for their pastor. After the initial crisis, we’ll carry the long-term care together as a whole body.
- Many of the same things are important today as they were back then, for people need to know that you care for them.
- I work hard at being really present with them when I am with them, listening, engaging them in conversation, walking the hallways, and shaking hands, praying and asking them how they are doing.
- Social media is an incredible venue to touch and love on people, too. Pray for and acknowledge that you are praying for them.
- A phone call goes a long way to show care for someone and enables them to see that you care.
- I often will spend time each week to send out tons of texts and tell people I am praying for them.
- I work hard at “being in the picture of their lives” when a crisis hits them.
- Just find a way to show that you care. Face-to-face is generally best, but sometimes people are so busy they would rather receive a text or email that tells them you care!
- Probably every pastor would have a different opinion about this of course. I would certainly say there is no room for debate about accidents and tragedies, hospital care, and death—an official representative of the church – the pastor in the case of death or tragedy—should be there very quickly.
A related topic that I hear a lot in coaching —what do you say? Presence is the issue. I don’t know that I ever had anything special to say that was more important than being there or crying or caring or listening to their grief.
Or acting on needs, or getting someone from the church to do that. This might include a cup of coffee or notification of relatives or getting a member of the family from place to place.
- With the extravagant communication methods we have today, certainly being in touch by text or phone call, or sharing concerns in an email when there is not an emergency—these are wonderful conveniences to use.
- This is awfully subjective as are many things in life: whenever I thought perhaps I should call or go, I called or went.
- I do believe every church should have connections with a Christian counseling center so that they provide recommendations that way rather than become professional counselors themselves. Here I’m talking about special needs and complicated psychological issues that we do not have the time or training to handle.
- I remember as a young pastor trying to help in areas of very deep hurt and buried feelings and stuttering my way when I should have instead recommended a strong Christian counselor.
- It is very important for every home group or every Sunday group to have a care captain who makes sure that every family or person involved is on somebody’s care list and that these are first responders when a person is missing a few weeks or getting critical and grouchy or has a special pastoral care need at home.
I see so many churches treat this as only a responsibility of an elder –I know there’s a verse that says they should shepherd!
I talked with one elder who had 28 families on his list and said he wanted to care for them and would not give it up to the group leaders or the care captain in the group. When I pushed him on it I found out he cared for them by praying for the group as a group every so often. Not even naming them. That is not care.
Care should be pushed down to the groups people meet with when they are in a group.
- All of this is another reason to urge people in the church to be in a life group or a home group or a Sunday group—all of which should have community built into them and care built into them. Obviously the church must also provide care for people who do not want to be a part of a group. Here we can appoint “parish visitors” or shut-in managers or hospital visitors. They do not have to be elected by the congregation! An old maxim: “Give away titles and responsibilities freely!” Often!
- It’s not exactly pastoral care, but learning names and knowing what’s going on in lives or having various staff do the same, is very important.
I believe strongly in “horizontal pastoring,” where staff members in a larger church have a certain age group they are responsible for, and they get to know the people and disciple the men if they are a man and advise the groups that involve people of that age. It really can work well.
Why are groups important for care in a church over 100?
- We use a 10 to 1 ratio. For every ten people in our church we want one spiritual leader to be connected to them, because you simply cannot know people beyond that. If you are truly caring for people and their spiritual needs as well as other needs, you must be connected and available.
- This is where we “release the priest.” It’s the priesthood of all believers that helps us care for one another. Groups organize that, whether it’s an official group like a “Life Group” an ABF, or an organized roster. If you have a church of 200, you’ll have a pastor and five elders also, you can break that roster out and make sure that people are cared for in that way.
- My experience is that when there’s an acute care situation (long-term healthcare or a long-term crisis), everyone must jump in and carry that burden together.
- We often tell our people to reduce the circle you find yourself in. The smaller the group the better the care you can find and give to others.
- Smaller groups are best for accountability, too. It’s hard to get lost when you’re connected.
- We actually divide our large church into over 50 segments that are cared for by a deacon couple.
- People want to know they matter and that they are cared for, and small groups keep that in check.
- Plus, it gives everyone the chance to do the work of priesthood of believers!
- One person can only know about 60 people at one time, so as the church grows the care continues to take place on a more intimate level by more than the pastor.
- As mentioned above, the people you meet with on a regular basis know your mood and your needs. Care should be assigned to groups and there should be a care captain in each group who knows of needs and has them assigned.
- If it is true that “one person can know about 90 people,” as sociologists write, and have awareness of special needs in lives of even fewer, and if the church has some responsibility for care and shepherding, then surely we do not have to argue for smaller groups!
A spectator church can get the gospel and truth out and be an inspiration for many, many people, but the church organized by groups can do a lot more in those lives of the involved.
Is it good to show more pastoral care to certain people?
- The depth of the need and the chronic-ness of the need affects all of that, so when there’s a true emergency or true crisis more care is going to go there. You’re also looking at the people in the situation—are they emotionally healthy or emotionally unhealthy?
- You’re balancing all that out, because pastoral care cannot rule the day. Leadership ultimately has to be the dominant factor, but we love those that we lead and sometimes people need more than others…
…the single mom of the special-needs child needs more help.
…the 48-year-old dad who’s just had a stroke—that family needs more, of course.
…the person who has the same problem and has had the same problem every time they’ve met with you for past five years. (That meeting can be scheduled out.) You love them and care for them, you don’t ignore them, but of course you don’t give all of your attention to that all the time.
- Yes, and it begins with my family! If I spend all of my time caring for others and neglect my own family, then I have failed as a pastor.
- I also believe my staff should receive more care than others as they are constantly giving to others.
- There are certain times that people with whom you have a personal relationship have an emergency situation, and receive extra care.
- There are three kinds of people: VIP, Very Teachable People; VDP, Very Draining People; and VIP, Very Important People. A pastor cannot give all his energy to the VDP’s, or it will impact the ministry in a dangerous way.
- Surely we all understand that in times of sickness or tragedy or special personal or financial need or aggressive sinning, the answer is a strong yes.
- That may be like asking parents who have a special-needs child if that child should have more attention than their other children. Of course!
- Just as there are amazing athletes who make millions and attain levels the rest of us cannot even dream about, there are people who have constant needs and sometimes mixed up ideas or spiritually neurotic syndrome’s who need our help more than others. Yes, some of them can and do find healing, but many will be on our watch lists for all of this life. Love keeps on.
- There are people in every church who never say much and never get up front, who are wonderful at showing love to needy people and who have patience beyond many of us. They should be ministering with pastoral care to those who have many needs, not wishing they could teach.
- And wasn’t there someone who taught that if you have 100 sheep and one of them goes astray, you go after that straying one?
Vol. 6, Issue 12
Produced by CE National
Pastorpedia is a resource provided to you by CE National, a church effectiveness ministry. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 574.267.6622 if we may be of any help to you or your ministry!
Jeff Bogue, of Grace Church, in several locations in the Bath-Norton-Medina areas of Ohio; Jim Brown, of Grace Community Church in Goshen, Indiana, a church known for its strong growth, family and men’s ministries, and community response teams; and Knute Larson, a coach of pastors, who previously led The Chapel in Akron for 26 years. Pastorpedia is brought to you by CE National. Visit cenational.org/pastorpedia for more issues and to read the bios of our contributors.