A faithful and trusted companion.
This is what good pastoral care requires. Whether the level of pastoral care that is being offered is to an individual, a family, a congregation or a community, what you need is trust and faith.
I think about pastoral care in three levels, the personal, the corporate and the community, and the more I considered the three level approach, I realized that they have more in common than what separates them, though there is separation.
In your personal life, when you come to talk to your pastor, you want an appropriately boundaried individual. Someone you can with whom you can ask hard questions about life, death, infidelity and spiritual growth. Questions that are situational and belong to you, in this moment of your life. You want someone who’ll hear what you have to say and not judge you for what you reveal.
It’s the pastor’s job to listen, to hold both the information your share in confidence and you in care. Someone who’ll not recoil in surprise or horror, but someone who can see the very human you in whatever it is you bring to them.
In the life of a church, the pastor’s role is not only to visit the sick and to nurture relationships within the congregation, but there is a role to play for the congregation in encouraging that congregation into greater systemic health. This work can be in sharing resources, leading workshops and messages from the pulpit and beyond. We need not wait for a crisis to arrive before we pay attention to our church community, to which so many of us turn in times of difficulty.
And in a community outside of the church, the minister can have a role to play in both being a comforting friend to the suffering and a prophetic voice for those in authority. It is the role of the church to stand in critique of our society, to point out where we as a culture might better live out the religious values of the faithful. This can be done in a homeless shelter where there are no cameras and in the City Council meeting where minutes are taken. It can be done in small, accompanying gestures, or by addressing the State House of Representatives and having one’s commentary recorded into the official state records.
As with all things in life, there is a balance to be achieved. You do this by seeing the needs around you, and by keeping an eye on how much time and effort you are spending in any one arena. A healthy ministry can go from the micro to the macro and back, of course, all the while balancing focus, impact and relationship.