In this issue of Pastorpedia, Knute Larson, Jeff Bogue, and Jim Brown talk about a system of caring for the growth and provisions for people in their churches.
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Like it or not, the title “Pastor” implies we care, and thus have a system of shepherding or caring for people with needs.
A pastor is a shepherd. A shepherd provides food, rescue and shelter (spiritually, usually).
So here the three of us go on the subject of pastoral care—not the issue of being in every home every quarter (my assigned goal in 1966), not the pastor being the counselor for everyone in the pews.
We are talking about a mood in the church, but especially a system of caring for the growth and provisions for people who are there.
We hope it makes you analyze.
Knute, for Jeff and Jim
What do we owe regulars?
- As a pastor, and in all things, we owe the people that God brings into our paths LOVE! So we deny care or concern to no one. Whether you attend every week or you are a fringe person’s aunt, if you ask for our attention and care we will give you our attention and care.
- Care and attention are very different from ongoing deep investment. Someone who is committed to the church, standing by your side, and giving his or her life freely to you has earned the “right” to have your life given freely to him. In reality it’s nothing more than what a true friend would do. So if I have to cancel a vacation and come home to be with someone who is ill or dying, I don’t think of that as a pastoral duty; I think of that as being a faithful friend.
- If you are a fringe person’s cousin twice removed, I will probably make sure that you are cared for, (from my vacation), by someone at the church, as opposed to stopping everything and running directly to your side!
- I personally think the greatest thing we can do for our people is to pray for them. Prayer immediately connects us to God and allows the greatest care possible to be given no matter how desperate the situation.
- A touch of some sort…let them know that you are aware of their needs. If you are unable to make a personal touch then have a system in place—deacons, care groups, appointed care people, etc.—that will make a personal touch with them.
- A realistic expectation of your time to be with them. Let me explain: there are times it is okay to say no and probably best to say no. Way too many pastors assume the Messiah complex; some are even threatened by another staff person making a touch. If you think you must make every touch when called upon, you will soon end up burned out and out of ministry.
- They need the best version of you to serve them and their needs so you must make sure you care for the needs of your own family. You cannot address every need of everyone at the expense of losing your own family. If I fail as a husband or father, I have failed as a pastor.
- Be sure to ask the Holy Spirit to help you discern between very demanding people (VDP), very teachable people (VTP), and very important people (VIP) when you schedule your touches.
- Some people just need to know that you care—a call or a text or a FB message will go a long way to say you care and love.
- Make sure you own your schedule, too, because not only do they need a good shepherd but they need a good preacher and visionary leader who keeps his finger on the pulse of his church so he knows the needs.
- James McDonald once asked a person who was complaining about not getting attention, “Do you tithe to the church?” All people need care but some will receive more than others because they are invested more. But we must never show favoritism!
- Always pray and ask God how much time you should invest in care, and always keep in mind that you are not doing it to please man but to please God. That truth will set you free!
- Grace! All good gifts from God, including spiritual life, are undeserved. So we must pass it on, with genuine love, including very regular explanations of the cross.
- Worship! This is about public services—truly pointed up not out, and authentic and real.
- Love! What else is the church, if not a place of true community and care?
- Mission: some may not crave it, but they need the challenge of living on mission as a church and person.
- Integrity: so they trust leadership and also each other.
What works effectively in assigning care?
- Lean into the closest circle of relationships a person has, so when someone needs care the first question is always, “Who is closest to them? Is it a pastor, an associate pastor, or a Life Group member?” Then, we will assign the oversight of that care to the person who is closest relationally. Once that assignment has been made we may all participate in the care process.
- The pastor needs to be careful not to undermine the leadership opportunity of the lay person by riding in as the “knight in shining armor” to save the day. It is healthy to allow the lay leader to care for that person, but that does not necessitate the absence of the pastor. There are times when it is also healthy that the pastor show up or make a phone call and keep in touch with the person, even though he is not arranging all the details.
- Build a system that lets the people be the priesthood of believers, thus caring for each other. Many people are gifted from God to care for others, and all should learn.
- There must be a care system in place that is led by a staff member who in turn delegates when necessary.
- Begin with the circles where the person already serves or ministers, such as a small group.
- Develop deacons/deaconesses or something similar to make sure there is a point of contact to begin the care process.
- All of our regular attenders are divided up and put under the care of a deacon couple that cares for them.
- The pastoral team each has a day that is their “on call day” to do the visiting that is needed.
- By all means, allow all in Sunday or home groups—the Bible calls them Sunday and Home ABFs!—to care for the people within these groups. And my experience argues for designating one or two of them to manage and assign that care.
- I urge churches to appoint Care Shepherds, or Parish Visitors or Care Ministers to care for those not in groups but in need. “Give away titles and responsibilities freely.” (Marlene Wilson, author on volunteerism).
- One person on staff should be the point person for all ministries of care, to be sure it is excellent. The volunteer ministry managers take care of the details in each specific area.
- One person or couple can usually care for 3-5 others in their group. Yet many churches use the old deacon or elder systems and assign 25-30 families to each. Vanity of vanities.
When is it you and no one else?
- This is usually determined by the closeness of the relationship and the events surrounding the need for care.
- If they are old-time members that I have pastored and been close to, and they are needing care as older persons, I would still be involved because they are my friends. I love them, and want to be near them.
- If it is a newer person that I may not know well, but they need care because of dramatic circumstances (i.e., there has been a dramatic death or a dramatic set of events), I might still be directly involved because I’m not pastoring only the affected family. In some circumstances, the whole congregation may have been traumatized so I may need to be pastoring the whole congregation as well.
- From the list above it is the VIP. And at the top of that list is my own family, no questions.
- My staff, for they are the closest to me.
- Long-term attenders that have invested their lives in the ministry.
- Key people in the community who help us to reach many for Jesus because of their role in the community.
- Whoever the Holy Spirit directs me to. I have been surprised by His leading on many occasions.
- Good friends, board members, neighbors, staff, tragedies, city leaders, people you have personally discipled.
- Your family. 🙂
- People who clearly ask for you.
- Everyone, if you are the only pastor. Obviously, we want to help our people care for themselves, and their families and close friends. But we are talking about when they truly need their shepherd.
Pastorpedia is produced monthly by three experienced pastors: Jeff Bogue, of Grace Church, in several locations in the Bath-Norton-Medina areas of Ohio; Jim Brown, of Grace Community Church in Goshen, Indiana, a church known for its strong growth, family and men’s ministries, and community response teams; and Knute Larson, a coach of pastors, who previously led The Chapel in Akron for 26 years. Pastorpedia is brought to you by CE National. Visit cenational.org/pastorpedia for more issues and to read the bios of our contributors.