Pastoral Care Doesn’t Require Capes

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Four practitioners discuss how to minister well without resorting to heroics.

Pastoral care sits at the center of our vocation as ministers. In addition to preaching and leading worship, celebrating the sacraments, and shepherding souls, we care for the sick, and we counsel the anxious, the fearful, and the grieving. But as pastors, to honor and revere and care for others is to be affected by the care that we give. We gathered four practitioners of pastoral care to reflect on the inherent challenges of this aspect of ministry.

Lindsay Rich is pastor of congregational care and faith development at SouthPark Church in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Ronnie Martin is lead pastor of Substance Church in Ashland, Ohio, and cohost of CT’s The Art of Pastoring podcast with Jared Wilson.

Toni Kim is a former pastor who now serves as a spiritual director, nonprofit administrator, and board member. She lives in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Derek McNeil is a psychologist and president of The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology.

CT’s editor in chief Daniel Harrell, a former pastor, moderated this discussion.

This article has been edited for clarity and length. You can listen to the full conversation at this link.

I’ve always held that the best pastoral care does not aim to fix a crisis so much as to frame a crisis within the cross of Jesus. In your experience, how can we help the people we are caring for see God in what is happening in their lives?

Martin: If you’re somebody who preaches the Cross, it confronts some of the complexities of our comforts. And it confronts those complexities with the sobriety of our suffering Savior. We all face fragility. “In this world you will have trouble,” Jesus said. The Cross frames our crises by adjusting our expectations. How will I face the inevitable …

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