This is a continuation of the series, “Working One Hour a Week,” answering (at least for me) “What do pastors DO during the week anyway,” and you can find Part One right here.
Today, let’s talk about building relationships, particularly through pastoral care.
Pastoral care is important, an inescapable part of the life of ministry, and there’s something to be said about professionals who are trained, equipped and ready to walk alongside people in the best (think weddings!) and worst (think unexpected deaths!) moments of their lives. It is an honor and privilege to walk alongside folks, to sit in silence in hospital rooms, to trust the Holy Spirit will understand our sighs and muddled words, to invoke God’s presence in the rooms where God already is.
And it is something that cannot, should not, and ultimately, will not be done only by professional Christians.
First, it’s impossible–I can’t remember where I’d read it, but if the expectation is that one person will cover all pastoral concerns (hospital visitation, home calls, concerns sharing and keeping up to date), there might be enough time for that person to also prepare a sermon during the forty hour week, if the church is fewer than 80 active members. Might. So that means anything else–teaching, advocacy, community presence, innovative worship, name it–either has to happen on an ever-deepening deficit, or not at all.
The most simple solution, I think, is this: equip the congregation to do pastoral care, and start calling it congregational care. If we look to the witness of scripture, there’s not, in any community or mention through the entire New Testament, someone who has the task list and job description of a solo pastor in mainline Protestantism. One of the big draws of the church, in fact, was that the community was so connected and interwoven, everyone was caught. There were many as one, not one doing the work of many.
It takes a paradigm shift–the pastor may not come pray with you in the hospital! But an elder or trusted servant may! And God hears those prayers exactly the same way as the pastor’s. And some will be upset–but they’ll come around.