Pastoral care? You, like me, might be wondering, “what does pastoral care really mean?” The dictionary is a good place to start: ‘pastoral care is a contemporary term for an ancient model of emotional, social and spiritual support that can be found in all cultures and traditions.’
Further, the word ‘pastor’ comes from Latin word for shepherd and so as the name implies, ‘pastoral’ care originally was an image associated with shepherds and their flocks. In the Bible, the image was readily understood and used by good leaders and their responsible care for their people. The shepherd knew his sheep by name and was prepared to risk his life to protect them. In John’s gospel, Jesus is identified as the good shepherd who lays his life down for the sheep. Pastoral ministry is the ministry of shepherding God’s people.
Why is pastoral care so important in a church community?
Modern society puts great stresses on individuals – eg financially, socially, health wise – and people may feel unimportant and disconnected. The church needs to offer effective pastoral care, so people are noticed, and support is given. People simply need to be cared about. That’s what Jesus invites us to do.
But how do we care for people? I’ve found that when I talk to someone, I simply ask myself, ‘how can I care for this person and make a difference to their life?’ So pastoral care is more about listening than giving answers.
Pastoral care is something I am very passionate about. During the initial months of lock down due to covid, last April, one of my roles was to identify groups of parishioners and link them to a ‘group leader.’ Each one of these leaders had a responsibility to try and keep in touch with everyone in their group, checking in with them via a telephone call each week. This gave people the opportunity to chat, be listened to, and to stay connected to others and hopefully to not feel so alone during those very difficult months. This was a demonstration of people caring for one another and displaying kindness and concern for others.
Now we are able to be back on site, with the opportunity to attend services and small groups in person, and our op shops reopening, more people have the opportunity to be involved in caring and serving activities. By being a loving community in this way the church will be practicing the love for others that Jesus called us to display. I see pastoral care vividly in action each time I visit both op shops, playgroup and at Rainbow Town.
As I commence my new role within our ministry team, I will be supporting Trinity Family Support Network and the pastoral care team. I look forward to the opportunity to serve others in this role and being able to listen and care. It is really important that members of our church and those in the wider community, feel valued and cared for.
Pastoral care is something that we can all do. We can all contribute, by being aware of those around us in our church and in our neighbourhood, listening to them and offering support. The pastoral care team really appreciate your help with identifying those needing care. We care for people not only in terms of their practical and emotional needs – we also acknowledge their spiritual needs, which as suggested earlier, is integral to pastoral care. We can all be involved in the ministry of shepherding God’s people.
Pastoral care is a ministry of God’s grace for a few years, focused on people enjoying God’s grace for a zillion years. This is the perspective we must carry.