I was humbled this morning where in the course of the conversation, I was told I had great pastoral care skills. This person wasn’t yanking my chain, nor were they just flattering me; instead they were sharing with me that they too had a heart for pastoral care and wanted to know if they could be taught the skills to be more effective and intentional in that area and asked me if I could come along side them and teach them what I know.
My reply was that anyone who truly has a passion for pastoral care work and wants to learn more, can certainly learn skills to become better at what they do. And that I thought this person would be an excellent pastoral carer, as they already had the character of being slow to speak and quick to listen.
Its an area I am deeply passionate about, have spoken often about and prayed about, and have felt from time to time that God would use me to teach others in this area. And so I was deeply humbled and yet excited by this mornings conversation. I also felt a burden of responsibility come over me, a burden in many ways that has some elements of healthy fear, as it’s something I cannot be flippant about.
There are many thoughts and ideas that abound as to what pastoral care is; and within this framework, my favourite is Pastoral care is intentional friendship. Within the specific context of the Christian community, we can expand this to have a twofold meaning, in that we are intentional about our relationships with God and with each other.
Within the framework of the working outside the church, in a multi-faith community and society, pastoral care has its added difficulties, in that we need to address the issue of how do we care for others within this environment, as well as working alongside those of other faiths. Some organisations allow you to freely wear your faith on your sleeve, others are more restrictive, and a more subtle approach is needed. But even within this environment, intentional friendship is the important factor.
At its heart, it has a philosophy that says: “You are important to me!” And because you are important to me, I will do what I can to empower you. And this is the crux of pastoral care ministry of the church, in that we know that we are important to God, and because people are important to God, we make it our priority that people are important to us also.