It’s been quite a year. If you’re involved in any aspect of the pastoral life of your church, then I’m assuming you’ll have had your hands full. So many people have been hurting: old struggles have resurfaced, existing troubles, intensified and new struggles have come into view.
But in recent months, alongside the inescapable reality that people need help, many churches have been faced with the challenge that there aren’t enough of us equipped to offer that help. Most churches are full to the brim of people who care – but not necessarily people who are confident to walk alongside those who are struggling day by day.
Most of us are tired. Many of us are knee-deep in working out how to be a gathered community amid the changing landscape of easing lockdowns, social distancing and vaccination debates. Now probably isn’t the moment to be launching exhausting new programmes in the local church! But maybe, just maybe, it is time to start a conversation about how best to be “equipping the saints for works of service” (Ephesians 4:12) in the area of pastoral care.
Pastors might like to raise the topic with their elders; small group leaders with their members – biblical counsellors with those in the congregation who they know have the gifts and character that would potentially enable them to get involved. And, then, as churches or individuals you might like to plan what steps you could take next. Maybe one of these might work:
• Pick a book of the term. There are so many books out there that speak to the heart! Reading one book, slowly, over the course of a term can take the whole church on a journey towards trusting God more. You can have a message board or WhatsApp group where people share their thoughts. You could have a discussion evening online. You could encourage people to discuss what they’ve been reading in pairs. No hard and fast rules. Just an opportunity to encourage people to lift their eyes and see how God meets them – and others – in their pain. There are some Biblical Counselling UK resources here or some CCEF resources here. And, of course, there are many good books beyond those lists!
• Run a Real Change course. This 6-week course, which works as a resource for small groups, whole churches or 1-to1-s, doesn’t just encourage congregation members to pursue Christ-centred change in the middle of the stresses and strains of life, Real Change provides the local church with a structure and vocabulary that sets people up for a lifetime of becoming more like Jesus.
• Host an evening on pastoral care. There will be people in your church who God has equipped with the gifts of teaching and pastoral care. Why not get them together on a panel to talk about how to become a church that cares even more wonderfully than now? Biblical truth, practical examples, a lively Q&A can fuel faithful thinking and action that brings hope into people’s lives.
• Invite a Biblical Counselling UK speaker. Whether you are meeting online or in person there is a small group of speakers who can help your church think through topics from anxiety to anger, depression to domestic abuse and pornography to pastoral care principles and practicalities. Whether you are looking for a discipleship evening or something more evangelistic, we may be able to help. To request a speaker, please contact us.
• Provide a list of resources. There are plenty out there – resources that fuel our personal growth and our service of others. Why not simply make a list of podcasts, blogs and other resources that you’ve found helpful so people in your church can dip into them when they have the time?
• Encourage someone to do the Biblical Counselling Certificate Course. It’s not a small commitment, we know, but so worthwhile! Applications are now open. Maybe this year is the time to actively encourage someone in your church to train.
Giving people a range of options, from the quick and easy to the deep and profound, will ensure that everyone knows they can do something to fuel themselves up for the care of others. Together, we can all play our part in spurring people on to love and good works. And, in the process, see people personally thrive and sacrificially serve, even in times like this!