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Pastoral Care System

We know the biblical mandate of caring for the flock. I Peter 5:2 says, “ Shepherd God’s flock among you, not overseeing out of compulsion but freely, according to God’s will; not for the money but eagerly; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.” In Acts 20:28 Paul gives us more on this subject, “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock that the Holy Spirit has appointed you to as overseers, to shepherd the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood.”

Systems should always interconnect and overlap with one another. Ministry care and small groups are a perfect example of this. Small groups should be your first responders to the needs and emergencies that arise within their group. It should not be the responsibility of the pastor to personally attend to everyone but to make sure that everyone is cared for. Yes, everyone should receive pastoral care and no one should be responsible to care for more than ten to twelve people. A care system ensures that people care for each other and feel loved.

A caring shepherd makes sure that the flock God has led Him to pastor is ministered to properly. This involves developing a system that will help in making sure no one slips through the cracks but is lovingly ministered to. People bond to a church when they feel that they belong. Every person who attends needs a role and a relationship in order to feel like they are truly part of your church. A role is a place of service and a relationship means a place in a group. 
In order to offer people a role, you must develop serving teams.

In order to offer people relationships, you must develop Small Groups or Sunday School Classes. 
In general terms, the more you develop roles and relationships, the more your church will grow. A good care system requires as least three components: groups, teams, and then personal pastoral care. These provide people a place to belong, a place to serve, and people who care about them. A great definition of community is “People knowing and being known, loving and being loved, serving and being served, celebrating and being celebrated.”

This question must then be asked as you think through developing a good system. What has to happen for people to know, love, serve, and celebrate each other? Today we will focus on caring for people properly and in a spiritually healthy manner. The reality is that the small group leader is one of the most important members in your church. They are the ones who keep watch over their group as they pray for them and provide care as needed.

Dynamic Church Planting International gives this job description for a small group leader, “To help 3 to 10 people learn biblical truth and experience God while developing relationships with Christ, you, and other people.” We call these groups “Connection” groups and we tell everyone regularly that the best way to get “connected” is by participating in one. In our C-3 ministry statement we say we desire to be centered on God, connected to one another, and compassionate for our city. If people do not want to slip through the cracks they must get connected.

In order to build a good system of ministry care, begin with the small groups (Sunday School classes, Men’s & Women’s Bible studies, etc.) as your first responders to watch over those under their care. Then make sure your ministry leaders have their eyes on the needs of those who are serving on their teams such as greeters, music, and others who serve. Lastly, have a pastoral care team who also is watching for those who need care, whether on a regular basis or for a special occasion. This team needs to re recruited and trained on how to care.

These individuals can come from several places within the church. They may be deacons who have been called by the church to care for the widows and others in the church. Consider what a deacon care program would look like and set a systematic way of people being checked on and visited. Another option would be to look for some who have retired from their full time work, have the gift of shepherding or mercy, and really feel a call to minster in this way. There are always those who love being a part of a team that is focused on ministry care.

In the area of ministry care, Dynamic Church Planting International offers this process.

  1. Model what care ministry looks like by encouraging your potential workers to accompany you as you care for people.
  2. Mentor them by sharing what you are doing and why you are doing it.
  3. Monitor them as you begin to give care assignments. Give encouragement, guidance, and coaching as you continue to disciple them.
  4. Multiply workers by asking them to recruit others to the care ministry.

Hopefully, the workers you recruit will then recruit others to the pastoral care ministry. If there is no multiplication, pray for other workers who will not only provide ministry care but also raise up more ministry team members. Always be looking to develop workers and team members three deep. Every leader needs to be actively looking for an apprentice to train so that the ministry can multiply. It is not good when one person is the only one who knows what is going on. Make sure your leaders are training, mentoring, and coaching others up the leadership ladder.

Once I was asked if as a pastor I had a problem visiting the sick, shut-ins, and those in the hospital. By the way, it is a great question because we should all be willing to do what needs to be done. I replied that I did not have a problem with it and then asked him if he had a problem with it? You see, it takes a team of caring individuals and you cannot afford to build a system that is impossible to sustain.

Pastoral Care

Pastoral Care Team

How do you make sure that you are caring for the people in the church properly? Is pastoral care completely the pastor and staff’s responsibility? Is it possible that pastoral care is actually keeping many churches from reaching more lost people? How do we balance loving people more and the call to love more people? We have the challenge to help and care for people but also are to share the gospel with those who are far from God.

In Lasting Impact, Carey Nieuwhof makes these observations. “Practically, churches cannot run simply on paid staff. The model is unfeasible and the work is simply too great!” Also, “Ironically, it’s in caring for others that most leaders make the mistake of neglecting self-care!” He has even written a blog article on how pastoral care stunts the growth of most churches, which is well worth the read, at careynieuwhof.com. It will challenge you!

The early church had a problem in this area that we are told about in Acts 6. When the apostles saw that there was a lack of adequate pastoral care they did not work harder or try to do all the work themselves. They did not work longer hours and neglect their families because they were the only ones who could do the work of the ministry. They did not rebuke the widows and tell them they were too demanding but, instead, chose seven other men to help in the needed pastoral care.

Your church will struggle to grow, and the pastor and staff will become overwhelmed, if the church does not take steps to appoint a pastoral team. When we follow the biblical model it ensures that people are properly cared for and that a few are not so overloaded that they eventually burn out. Here are a few ideas from Dynamic Church Planting International’s New Church Dynamics on how to develop a pastoral care team:

First, find someone with a pastoral gift to lead the team. Prayerfully ask the Lord to raise up an individual who has a passion for this ministry. They need to be someone who loves loving others and visiting people in their times of need. If you structure small groups to oversee those in their groups, they are the first responders. Then, this leader can help come alongside of the small group to make sure they are properly ministered to and cared for.

Look for people with the gifts of shepherding and mercy. There may be retired individuals in your church who would love to help in making hospital visits, home visits, and even calling to check on shut-ins and those who are sick. Remember, the number one reason many say they have never volunteered in the church is because no one ever asked them. There are those who would love to help if they were asked and shown what to do. This brings us to the next step:

Second, make sure you give this individual the training they need in this ministry. Here is a simple, but effective, four step process:

  • Model care ministry by encouraging your potential leader to accompany you as you care for people. Never go alone, but always strive to take someone with you so they can see first hand how to handle different situations.
  • Mentor the leader by sharing what you are doing and why you are doing it. They will learn a lot by watching how it is done and then discussing it after the visit has been accomplished. Answer their questions when you debrief immediately afterwards.
  • Monitor the care leader as you begin to give care assignments. Always be prepared, ready to give encouragement and guidance, because you will need to continue discipling them in this area. Continually ask what you can do help and resource them.
  • Multiply by asking the leader to recruit others to the care ministry. If they truly are a leader they will easily recruit others to help in pastoral care. If you do not see multiplication then you will need to pray that God will raise up another leader who can multiply themselves.

Third, empower care team members to visit on behalf of the pastor and staff. Like an ambassador represents his country’s leader, your care leaders represent the leadership of the church. Ask team members to make it clear that they are representing the pastor of the church. People should feel loved and cared for by the church when they are visited by members of the pastoral care team, small group leaders, or any other designated individuals you have trained to provide care.

If you want more out of your team then you must put more into your team. Make sure you have clear expectations spelled out for those serving in this area. Also, they need to know who to call if they are unable to follow through on their visits. There must always be a back up plan. The goal here is that they are loved, cared for, and prayed with. This can be full time job and the pastor does not have the time to do all of this himself.

The model of the pastor doing it all will only lead to people being mad, a lot of frustration, and the pastor becoming totally overwhelmed. Jethro said this to Moses, when he saw the way he was trying to do it all himself, “You will certainly wear out both yourself and these people who are with you, because the task is too heavy for you. You can’t do it alone!”

Healthy churches develop pastoral ministry teams!