This is a continuation of a earlier post on Personal Identity and Success within the church. Recently I completed a certificate 4 in Chaplaincy which is run by the Australian Christian Churches in partnership with Booth College (Salvation Army)
The greatest issue I felt this course deals with is in training people what true pastoral care is…and by default what poor care is. It’s my contention that it should be mandated that every pastor, church planter and pastoral worker, cell group leader etc should have to do this course before being released out into society or into leadership within any church.
Some of the most common areas of poor pastoral care of people relate to the way we listen (don’t listen) interrupt 1/2 way through their story and tell them the answer about how to fix their problems (preach to them and invalidate their feelings) Quote scripture to them (this should fix your problems) Tell a person to just have faith and they will be ok. (this is ignoring the reality of the persons problem, making them feel they are at fault) Try and rescue the person or tell them what to do (this creates co-dependency and doesn’t empower the person) Control / manipulate the person through pressure to conform / change (this builds up guilt, resentment and while some change may be evident, it wont be life changing) Ignoring, black banning, ostracising, humiliating a person if they don’t conform (This is abuse) Tell the person you don’t believe them (invalidating their experience and who they are)
Good pastoral care however recognises that there are no 1, 2 and 3 easy answers to fixing life’s problems. It causes the carer to empower the other through listening and engaging with how they are feeling in their circumstances. It never tells the person what to do, rather it empowers them by helping the other make their own decisions. Empowering others means we must accept the person as they are, not wanting them to change before we will accept them. Pastoral care may involve a level of praying and scripture sharing, however its important that wisdom is used and its not preaching to the person to make us feel better having done our christian duty…..
True pastoral care will empower people to be whole, to make decisions for themselves and to help throughout a difficult situation. It will validate people as being human and cause them to know they are loved, forgiven, wanted and empowers them with hope, building up ones identity in a healthy way.
Poor pastoral care produces guilt, shame and devalues identity. It reinforces ones lack of hope, it destroys true intimacy and hinders and not helps the others growth.
Good pastoral care is all about building healthy relationships and healthy identities, not being frightened to share in another’s imperfections and exploring our own vulnerabilities with God and with each other.