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4 & 5 May 2024 (Pastoral Page) PASTORAL CARE MINISTRY IN OUR CHURCH

By Asst Ps Lai Keet Keong


Pastoral care refers to care provided from a spiritual perspective. The word 'pastoral' comes from the Latin word Pastorem which refers to the notion of tending to the needs of the vulnerable[1]. Often, pastoral care is used synonymously with pastoral ministry where the latter refers to shepherds and their role in caring for their sheep (Psalm 23:1-6, 78:52-55). While a strong, caring pastoral ministry is necessary to disciple the flocks, believers are commanded by Jesus to love one another as He loved us (John 13:34). We are called to be conduits of God's grace to others in our community.

 

Today, churches across denominations have embraced an ‘every member ministry’ model of pastoral care where worshippers are encouraged to care for one another through small groups and the organic development of Christian friendship. The late theologian, Timothy Keller, wrote[2] that all believers have been called to the role of God’s priests. In other words, the responsibility to care and look out for one another is not limited to pastors, leaders or full-time ministry workers, but the sacred duty of every believer in the body of Christ.

 

While the “every member ministry” model may work well most of the time, the challenge comes when worshippers may still fall through the cracks either because they are not connected to any CARE Groups or ministry groups, or due to the size of our church with multiple services over the weekend where they may go unnoticed. Especially when no one intentionally checks in on them on how they are really doing.

 

Another challenge could be the blurring of boundaries between friendship and pastoral care. Believers may not always recognise when others have complex personal needs and should be referred for specialised helps. They can often act out of good intentions but lack appropriate support, equipping and accountability.

 

Another challenge is the commonly held expectations, that pastoral needs must be attended to by pastors. Unless a pastor or church leader checks in on them, despite being attended to by fellow believers, they still feel a sense of not being cared for pastorally by the church.

 

All believers are commissioned to do the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:11-13, 1 Peter 2:9). There is an urgent need for us to emplace organised pastoral care to facilitate and provide support to gradually change the culture of expectations that are placed on ministers. This takes time and requires a willingness to embrace change. We need to recruit, support, and equip our volunteers for the work of the ministry. This is important so that believers live out their divine role as royal priesthoods and being our brothers’ (or sisters’) keepers; and averts ministers from becoming overloaded or burnt out.

 

In her book, “Nurturing Hope: Christian Pastoral Care in the Twenty-First Century”, the author, Lynne M. Baab[3], outlined the role of pastoral carers in the church. A pastoral carer is someone who either formally, as part of a pastoral care volunteer team, or informally, as part of their fellowship or ministry groups, offers care and support to another. Training should be provided, and a system be set in place for recording incidents and concerns for all activities. Entries should be signed and dated, and sensitive information kept in confidence. Regular supervision for volunteers and group leaders are important to discuss and follow through with any challenges encountered. Pastoral carers should be aware of the limits of their own abilities and competencies. They should seek further help when facing situations outside their expertise. The role of ministers and church leaders is primarily to equip, and organise pastoral care, while personally be actively involved in the ministry as part of the body of Christ.

 

Baab also wrote, “Pastoral care is less about what we do and say, and more about being present and bringing God’s presence, or in fact, recognising how God is already present. Advice and helpful ideas – all of which come all too easily to me in conversations – are appropriate sometimes, but many times simply being with someone in need is all that is necessary.” Every believer can be a pastoral carer who cares for another simply through a phone call, a text, meeting up over a cup of coffee, or to journey together during difficult times. God will enable those who avail themselves.

 

My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord, it is with this intent that I humbly invite you to a dialogue session regarding the Pastoral Care Ministry moving forward. On behalf of the Pastoral Care Ministry Leadership Team that comprises Angela Soh, Tan Beng Hwee, Eileen Chiang, Lin Weiting, Janet Tan (Counselling & Care Ministry) and myself, I look forward to sharing with you the plans, training, and support system we will put in place in the upcoming months (Please see below for details). May the Lord lead and guide us to better care for every worshipper in our Church. Because Every. Person. Matters.

 

Date: 25 May 2024 (Saturday)

Time: 2.30pm – 4pm

Venue: Room 02-02/03 (Fish Tank), CBC

To register your interest to attend, please click on the following link:

 

[1] McClure 2012, “Moving Beyond Individualism in Pastoral Care and Counseling”, P269

[2] Timothy Keller 2012, “Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City”

[3] Lynne M. Baab is an ordained Presbyterian minister, an author of numerous books on Christian spiritual practices, and taught pastoral theology for 10 years at the University of Otago.

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