Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Caring Begins Inside

Go to any Church, you will recognize that the need for pastoral care is always there. More often than not, the demands far exceed the supply. Experienced ministry workers will know of this golden rule of pastoral care: "I don't care how much you know, until I know how much you care."

This places tremendous pressure on people, even those with the best of intentions.
  • How much care is enough?
  • Is one visit a week too little?
  • How do we distinguish who needs care more than the other?
  • Comments like: "The pastor has not even visited me for the past 10 years!"
  • This Church is poor in caring. The pastor don't care. The elders don't care. The leaders are too busy to care. The staff don't care, and the people don't care. So why should I care?
This is not an easy matter to resolve. In fact, I doubt that it will ever be resolved. Caring is not the responsibility of the leaders or any one super-carer. It is the need to have a mindset change.
"All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need." (Acts 2:44-45)
Caring matters, and because caring matters, it matters who does it. All of us. Even if we have a leader, a pastor, or an elder willing to run around all the time listening and caring for people, can that person do it alone? Can that person sustain his level of care over the long-run? The answer is clearly no. A team of people is needed. A Church is not a counseling center where people in need of counseling gets referred to. Neither is it a spiritual hospital where only people who are hurt go to. It is a community of believers sharing all they have, and meeting one another's needs. The moment the expectation becomes a one to many approach, the caring paradigm has become unhealthy. Such a pastor-centric or elder-fixated caring paradigm will not only turn into unhealthy codependency on the part of the congregation, it discourages anyone else from taking up leadership positions. Worse, it may make the leaders seem more "spiritual," or a holier-than-thou mindset. No! We are all called to care. We are all called to be part of the ministry. Like the early Church in Acts, we are called to be united, to share everything, and to give to all who are in need. The responsibility is on all of us. In a nutshell, it takes the whole Church to do the work of the whole Church. The people of God, for the people of God.

Instead of this,

A One to Many Model

The New Testament Church is this.

Everyone Needs Care. Everyone Can Care.

This kind of care networks will be beneficial for at least three reasons.
  1. The pressure will not be on any one person, but on everyone looking to God together.
  2. The model will survive more long-term.
  3. The reach will be wider and deeper.
The main focus for any church group is not to be too quick to jump into a one-to-many paradigm. It is far too easy to throw expectations on any one person, and even easier to be disappointed when the expectations are not met. Far better is to think long term. What does it take for a mindset change? I like to suggest three below.

  1. TEAM-BUILDING: Recognize that Caring cannot be a one-off thing. It requires thoughtful planning and team building. Build care teams. Planning is essential. Otherwise, One-to-Many types of leaders are easily prone to burnout.
  2. SELF-GIVING: Caring is not about saying something and then expecting others to follow up. If God places the need in your heart, ask what you are doing about it, instead of subcontracting the need to others.
  3. CARRY-IT-FORWARD: Caring is more than counseling. It is a way of Caring-It-Forward. I care for you, now you go and show care for others, as best as you can.
Above all, every Church needs to be remember that caring needs to be done in God's strength. Not ours.


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