I’m writing from Epworth By the Sea in Georgia at the Presbyterian Pastoral Care Network, and feeling a bit like a Pharisee. The point of this conference is to discuss the pastoral care of our pastors and their families and I’m a big fan of pastoral care for pastors and their families.
On the one hand:
We were asked last night to share an example of a pastor we know who has received stellar pastoral care and one woman could not think of a single example. She has personally never been honored for her service (almost 30 years) by the churches she’s served. She has never had a colleague reach out to her in times of stress. My hope is that she would initiate her own circles of care. But – honestly people – we need to appreciate our pastors and support their families.
On the other hand:
As I hear conversations about the stresses of pastors – and believe me I know about those stresses – I’m cognizant that everybody seems to have this kind of anxiety these days. Forgive me, pastors, but who doesn’t have overwhelming stress today? Is it true that many are receiving every drop of attention from us and there’s nothing left for our own self-care? Or are only a handful of people getting the spiritual support they need?
I’ve witnessed many congregations doing a terrible job of thanking their pastors. This is Pastor Appreciation Month – a recognition initiated by the Focus on the Family people – but worthwhile in terms of appreciating those who offer spiritual leadership.
But in a healthy church, the pastors are training others to be spiritual leaders. Is the issue that we fail as pastors to equip others to serve as ministers?
There’s a lot of talk at this conference about “ministers” and “lay people” and this is the basic problem. We are all called to be ministers. The lay people are those with no training and no call to serve the offices of ministry (elders and deacons in the PCUSA tradition.)
There are whole congregations that do not give helpful pastoral care to its people. A community is transformed when everyone is trained how to care for the lonely, the overwhelmed, the sick. Yes, there are those without the capacity to care for others. But most of us can learn the basics.
We all need pastoral care. And everyone can be taught to offer it.