Who Needs Pastoral Care?

I’m writing from Epworth By the Sea in Georgia at the Presbyterian Pastoral Care Network, and feeling a bit like a Pharisee.  The point of this conference is to discuss the pastoral care of our pastors and their families and I’m  a big fan of pastoral care for pastors and their families.

On the one hand:

We were asked last night to share an example of a pastor we know who has received stellar pastoral care and one woman could not think of a single example.  She has personally never been honored for her service (almost 30 years) by the churches she’s served.  She has never had a colleague reach out to her in times of stress.  My hope is that she would initiate her own circles of care.  But –  honestly people –  we need to appreciate our pastors and support their families.

On the other hand:

As I hear conversations about the stresses of pastors – and believe me I know about those stresses – I’m cognizant  that everybody seems to have this kind of anxiety these days.  Forgive me, pastors, but who doesn’t have overwhelming stress today?  Is it true that many are receiving every drop of attention from us and there’s nothing left for our own self-care?  Or are only a handful of people getting the spiritual support they need?

I’ve witnessed many congregations doing a terrible job of thanking their pastors.  This is Pastor Appreciation Month – a recognition initiated by the Focus on the Family people – but worthwhile in terms of appreciating those who offer spiritual leadership.

But in a healthy church, the pastors are training others to be spiritual leaders.  Is the issue that we fail as pastors to equip others to serve as ministers?

There’s a lot of talk at this conference about “ministers” and “lay people” and this is the basic problem.  We are all called to be ministers.  The lay people are those with no training and no call to serve the offices of ministry (elders and deacons in the PCUSA tradition.)

There are whole congregations that do not give helpful pastoral care to its people.  A community is transformed when everyone is trained how to care for the lonely, the overwhelmed, the sick.  Yes, there are those without the capacity to care for others.  But most of us can learn the basics.

We all need pastoral care.  And everyone can be taught to offer it.





2 responses to “Who Needs Pastoral Care?

  1. I have been blessed in the current congregation where I have served for nearly 12 years. They held a celebration honoring my five and ten years of service as their pastor, including a beautiful gift from the session and a large fund established from our ministry in Haiti. The session is planning to recognize this year the 25th anniversary of my ordination. Among other things they will invite colleagues and friends and former congregations to contribute $25 to Haiti mission fund in honor of 25 years of ministry. Quite amazing.

    Early on, I asked particular people in the congregation to hold me accountable for healthy living, and they have been faithful to that invitation. That has included their saying to me at random times, “how are you doing? Are you taking care of yourself? You need some rest” and so on. This accountability has been very helpful and gracious. Last week, when a member of the church died with whom I was particularly close, a deacon wrote me a note asking about my own grief and wondering if there was anything that he could do to help. That was the church at its best; and not the first time either.

    In all honesty, I will say that in the early days I was open with them about the need for support, encouragement and appreciation for the pastor. They moved into that with some skill. (Not everyone, of course, but enough that it has created a good positive, encouraging ethos.) The personnel ministry has also stepped more into this role in the last few years.


  2. yep and yep. met with a n’boring congregation last night about how to train folks to do pastoral care. loved that my colleague knows she can’t do it all herself or SHOULD do it all herself.

    preach it preacher!


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