Pastoral Care in Growing Churches
For a church to break growth barriers, systems must be created to help maximize the giftedness of the people for the good of the community and the church. One of the areas that often becomes an issue as a church begins to grow and age is Pastoral Care. How does this happen?
- May be that the pastor takes all the weight upon himself and starts down the road to burnout stifling his leadership and the growth of the church,
- May be resentment and criticism began to divide because of the elusive ENOUGH – “the church isn’t doing enough for me.”
- May be there’s an Acts 6 moment where the church realizes that needs are being unmet, like those of the Helenistic Jewish widows in the story of the first New Testament church (Act 6:1-7).
Eventually, the need to systematize and scale pastoral care will become apparent in a congregation.
The Question is: Who is Responsible for Pastoral Care in the Church?
Here’s how my church has answered this important question:
1. The Body of Christ
We are actually all responsible to care for one another – See Philippians 2:3-4, Galatians 6:1-2. We are to be looking out for the needs of each other as members of a church. Churches should seek to have a culture of compassion and care that leads people to look beyond themselves to the needs of others.
I asked a pastor of a fast-growing church, how he scales pastoral care. He said, almost every week, I tell people to turn to the person next to them and say, “It’s not about me.”
2. Small Groups
Small Groups are a great place to foster compassion and care. The Small Group ministry is a household to household ministry. In smaller groups, the needs of individuals can be more easily identified than on Sunday mornings. Churches should teach small group leaders that they are shepherd/pastors to their group and the first place for care.
3. Pastors / Elders
The Bible also calls godly pastors / elders to the task of pastoral care – 1 Peter 5:2, Acts 20:28. Their care was to be more oversight though. It was these that appointed Stephen to care for the individual needs of widows. Their pastoral care role should be more in the refuting, holding accountable, prayer, and teaching/preaching. Most pastors want to be involved in every pastoral care case, but they can’t always in growing churches. Churches must recognize their equipping role and not set the expectation that they be the sole proprietor of care for everyone.
4. The Cares Team
A best practice in growing churches is to equip a team to be a part of pastoral care in the church. This is a recognition that the pastor can’t do it all and that God is equipping members of His body to be shepherds along side the pastor of the church. Much of the task of pastoral care is administrative. Others can and should take on some of the roles of setting up meals, scheduling visits, visiting the hospitals, ordering flowers, even sharing at funerals, praying with people, etc., etc. Find a way to identify and equip the churches shepherds for the work of ministry.
5. Outside Support
What happens when pastoral care needs are beyond the scope of the churches care? Churches should recognize the support they have outside of their own body. Other churches may have ministries that could help. There are solid Christian counselors in every community that would love to be available to individuals or the church at large.
How does your church scale pastoral care? What would you add to this list?