Pastoral care should punch us in the face

logo Pastoral care should punch us in the face I am not entirely sure when pastoral became a synonym for nice, but it was already the case when I was in seminary a decade ago. Classes on “pastoral care” focused on things like how to run vestry meetings and how to avoid conflicts. When parishes put together profiles for the priest they want, pastoral is a word that often comes up. The expectation seems to be that a pastoral priest is someone kind and easy to talk to who is highly affirming. This pastor-as-life-coach model of ministry has become dominant in the American Church, and it is killing our congregations.

Of course, Murphy’s Ecclesiastical Law dictates that whenever something terrible catches on in the life of the Church, there is an equal if not more stupid backlash. Enter the Church Growth movement with its emphasis on transforming the work of the pastor into a series of managerial tasks.

“If pastors could figure out how to better tackle the issue of pastoral care, I’m convinced many more churches would grow,” says Carey Nieuwhof in a blog post last month that has been shared more than four thousand times. Nieuwhof says that pastors are spread too thin trying to attend to every tragedy, meet with every family, and handle every baptism or wedding. His solution? Get a team of lay people to do all that stuff while you work on management and leadership development instead.
If a church is going to grow, congregations have to let go of the expectation that their pastor will be available for every medical emergency, every twist and turn in their lives, every family celebration and every crisis.
Nieuwhof is not entirely wrong in his diagnosis . . .



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