Pastoral Care – Part II: Challenges and Mindsets

On Monday we posted the first part of this interview with Heather Andrews and Karen Robinson from the Pastoral Care team at St Thomas Church Crookes, Sheffield, about equipping and releasing whole church bodies to engage in Pastoral Care – this is the second part of the interview.

So, what mind-set and functional changes needed to happen in order to fulfil your vision statement of “having healthy whole communities out on mission.”

Wow, they are many and varied! Here are a few of the earliest ones:

  • Viewing pastoral as missional  

 I think in terms of mind set, the main change has been to see pastoral as missional; in the way we minister to each other, ‘love one another’, we not only show the world that we are Christ’s disciples but also take the same love out. A cell (small group) or cluster (missional community) who have learned to minister profoundly to each other will more naturally minister in any situation – what happens IN will flow OUT!

  • The church – the “whole body” – need to get used to being the ones who pastor.

Many people initially held the view that the vicar alone IS ‘the church’, the shepherd. I suppose the shift that had to happen was to say we are ALL ‘the church’. This means that, under clergy leadership, and with real accountability, we are all able to pastor to one another.

This is particularly hard for people when they are going through challenging life circumstances, when they want to feel like they’ll get “the best pastoral” care. Most people would equate that with “the vicar” or someone in a paid ministry role, rather than a “regular” member of the church.

If you are convinced that whole body ministry is the right way forward then it takes loving perseverance to press through with those who are used to the vicar being the only appropriate person to pastor them – sometimes that is the case, but not as often as you might think.

  • The stereotypical image of pastoral people.

We could see that people held a ‘twin set and pearls’ stereotypical expectation of a pastoral person. The stereotype was that a pastoral person should be someone who is probably female, older, wiser, and someone who was already sorted with God.

We found this expectation unhelpful in two ways. Firstly, it put an unspoken expectation on pastoral ministers to be – or appear to be – perfect, always sorted, and never able to show brokenness or vulnerability.  Secondly, people could discount themselves as being not good enough to minister to others.

We needed to be clear on the values and best practice for ministry whilst also recognising that we are all imperfect and on a journey towards wholeness.

  • The role of Senior church leaders

Church leaders need to be 100% behind this in order to enable, support, and release it. They need to be fully convinced that releasing the whole body to engage in pastoral care is the right way forward, and be willing to gradually place more and more responsibility in the hands of their people.

It’s hard. The church congregation are shifting from being consumers to participants, and the clergy are shifting from being “provider” to “enabler”.

One of the roles of the senior leaders is to help establish a culture of everyone contributing to, and receiving from, pastoral care. Here at Crookes, Mick Woodhead, the Rector, has intentionally created a culture in which it is normal to share our need for Kingdom breakthrough. At gatherings, it’s natural to be asked to raise a hand if we need healing or help of any kind. It’s visible to everyone that we are ALL vulnerable. We are always encouraged to ask the person next to us to pray for anything we might need prayer for.

Cells are encouraged to have ministry as a regular aspect of meeting together – inviting the Holy Spirit into each other’s lives, as well as supporting each other in many practical ways. 

A mind-set of community. 

When we started to make the transition we already had clusters in place. Without them I don’t think we could have begun the shift in pastoral thinking and practice. The majority of our people were already committed to walking in community. One of the biggest benefits of this was that people who were in the central pastoral team at that time were also scattered among the clusters, instead of being a separate, centralised block. As we increasingly asked clusters to include pastoral care, those pastors were able to model ministry. We do still train and equip those who have pastoral gifting and they are still left scattered across the clusters, working within the body. 

So how does the Central Pastoral Care work alongside Clusters? 

We now have a very small group classed as Pastoral Team who centrally train and support the work in clusters, and access any wider support or involvement on an individual basis. Probably the most important breakthrough we had was the ‘Route to Care’. The ‘Route to Care’ is a simple flow chart showing who is available to offer the next level of ministry. This had an amazing impact. Once cluster and cell leaders had a clear path to the support THEY needed, they became much more confident in caring for their members and encouraging them to support each other. Referrals to central team began to reduce to the point that we now see around 95% of all pastoral care happening in cell and cluster. Alongside the Route to Care we have the ‘Confidentiality Circle’. This is an encouragement to minister in community and to avoid the pitfalls of one to one ministry situations. See the website for details.

What’s the primary role and function of the central pastoral team? 

When someone is referred to the Pastoral Coordinator, it is on the understanding that the person referred is still either attending cell/cluster or, where that isn’t possible, is being prayed for and practically supported by cell/cluster. This helps to ensure that people don’t fall out of community at the most challenging times of life. Church, cell, and cluster leaders also have free access to Pastoral team if they wish to talk or pray through a situation they are dealing with. 

A referral, with a short explanation of the reason, comes from the cluster leader or church leader.

Most often, this will be a request for ministry in a specific issue or situation.

Initially, the most likely response would be to book a cycle of Kairos prayer. This is a series of 3 sessions, following the Lifeshapes Learning Circle. We follow a pattern of observe, reflect, discuss in the first session, and then we pray, allowing the person to leave it all with Jesus.

One of the critical things is to let them put their requests to God – because that’s where they’ll get the peace – not from us. We always give the person chance to say what they need to say to God –whether that’s confession or repentance or something else. I want them to leave believing and knowing they can hear God rather than thinking they need to return back to me because I hear God for them. We agree with them in prayer, that God can do that.  In the second session we talk about what God has been saying to the person in the interim and then try and extract the building blocks of the next step – not the rest of their life – just the next steps for today and tomorrow. We get them thinking about what will improve their connection with God. We make a plan with them and set accountability with them. We send them off with the proviso that they’re in community and they’re being prayed for.

This is often all that is needed for the person to hear God and find a way forward. We look for the next step which will make it possible for them to continue to meet God and serve with others in their community. This pattern of Kairos Prayer is entirely multipliable – anyone can do it with anyone else. See our website for outline of Kairos Prayer sessions.

On occasion, one cycle is followed by another as God peels back layers of understanding and reveals other areas in which he wants to minister. This would be more akin to ‘Extended Prayer Ministry’.

We find that this method makes clear boundaries for ministry and can reduce the number of cases where individuals are almost constantly being cared for but not in community or active in serving others. Obviously, there are those who need extensive prayer and support, but our aim is always to integrate every individual into a community in whatever way is appropriate – where they can then become part of a community that can continue to care for them pastorally.

More rarely, we work alongside other outside agencies, such as doctors, counsellors, mental health teams etc. We have a very clear policy on how to respond to anything which may come under the Safeguarding Policy of the Church.

Are there any exceptions to the Route to Care?

The Route to Care covers the pastoral support of every person in cluster across the church. It doesn’t apply to those who attend gatherings or events, but have not yet joined a cluster. They are always invited to receive prayer after gatherings, and offered the opportunity to meet appropriate church/cluster leaders.

Heather Andrews 

Heather has been pastoral coordinator at STC for the last 7 years. She is a Sheffield girl born and bred, and was married for 33 years to Edward, who died three years ago. They were keen motorcyclists and members of the Christian Motorcyclists Assoc for several years. Heather has two children and three grandchildren, and loves being a granny. Especially when she gets to go to all the best kids films. And gets things like a hamster for her birthday. She has been in church all her life but only became a Christian in her thirties. She has loved being a youth leader, a football coach [?] and a childminder among lots of other things.

Karen Robinson Karen-Robinson-832x468

Karen has been on pastoral staff for 6 years. She came onto team after leaving her job as Special Needs Coordinator at St. Thomas’ Nursery. She is married to Tim and has three children and two adorable and lively grandsons. As long time members of STC, she and Tim have seen and embraced many changes and been in the forefront of stepping into the new. Karen has recently taken up running and is often to be seen on the streets of Crookes along with Tim. She enjoys time with family and friends and is a keen gardener.

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Categories: discipleship, family

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