I’m increasingly hearing calls for pastors to step back from pastoral care. Experts in church growth are claiming that one of the most important things to do to grow a church is for the pastor to cease involvement in pastoral care. It has been observed that pastoral care is one of the limiting factors for breaking the two hundred barrier.
Should pastors be involved in pastoral care?
My short answer would be yes, but I need to tease that out a bit.
I don’t disagree with the experts who say that at a certain point, the pastor’s way of doing pastoral care will need to change if growth will continue.
However, I would also say that it is not necessarily bad for a church to have two hundred people. I see my role as a pastor as building the kingdom of God and not just the size of my own congregation. If my congregation is only two hundred but the larger kingdom is growing, then things are fine.
I also would like to acknowledge that some pastors are extremely gifted in pastoral care. If a pastor has those gifts, it would seem appropriate for them to continue, even if the experts tell them to stop.
I believe that all congregations should be working toward more lay involvement in congregational care. My congregation has less than a hundred on a Sunday and yet we have care teams that help care for the congregation. This is a good model for congregations both small and large. Not only does it provide more care for the congregation, it also includes discipleship for the care team leaders.
However, I will not be giving up my involvement in pastoral care, even if our congregation experienced explosive growth. It would have to change and I would need to rely more on the care teams, but I would still need to be involved.
I see pastoral care as being an important part of the role of the pastor. I believe that visitation just for the sake of visitation has had its day. But spending time with people, either for building relationships, discipling leaders and caring for the sick and hurting is important. It is part of being a pastor.
Even if I ever held the role of a “teaching pastor,” with my responsibilities being primarily preaching, I would still want to be involved in pastoral care.
Getting to know the people in my congregation is as important for my sermon preparation as reading commentaries and finding illustrations. Preaching is about building a bridge between the world of the Bible and the experience of my congregation. I need to spend time in both worlds.
I know of pastors who spend much of their week in “counselling.” I don’t do this as I’m not a trained counsellor. I would do more harm than good by trying to be people’s counsellor.
But I do need to spend some time visiting in hospitals and nursing homes, as well as meeting people who are not in crisis. I can be a listening ear, I can point to Scripture and I can pray.
So should pastors be involved in pastoral care?
I can’t imagine any pastoral position that shouldn’t involve pastoral care in some way.