In a recent post at his website, Chuck Lawless discusses reasons why we often avoid doing pastoral care. Here are six of those reasons:

“Let’s face it, church leaders. Some of us much prefer preaching over pastoral care. Others love pastoral care, but not all of us. Some do it because our role demands it, but that doesn’t mean we always enjoy it. If that’s who you are, use this post to check your heart. You might even be honest with your church and ask them to pray for you about this responsibility. Consider these reasons some of us don’t love this role:

It raises some of the toughest questions. How do you explain the death of a child? The loss of a home to natural disaster? The breakup of a marriage? How do you direct the church member who’d rather die than undergo rigorous painful treatments again? How do you help that young man dealing with same sex attraction?

It can present awkward situations. Think about it. Entering a hospital room with the smell of a recent bowel movement. Counseling a church member who’s weeping on the floor. Leading the funeral of a deceased person you didn’t know. Officiating at a wedding where the bride’s parents aren’t speaking to each other. If you serve as a pastor long enough, you’ll face situations you never considered.

It’s never ending. As long as we minister to people, we’ll always have some other need to meet. The needs are there when we wake up and when we go to bed. A break is just that – only a break.

If you mess it up, it can harm a relationship. A church member who forgives a poor sermon may not forgive you for not visiting her mother in the hospital. Make a mistake in a wedding, and it’ll likely be on video for everyone – in particular, the frustrated couple – to remember forever. Pastoral care wounds can leave deep scars.

It can be time consuming. Few actions of pastoral care are simple. A hospital visit requires driving and visiting time. Funerals and weddings demand days more than hours. Counseling can consume your schedule if you let it. Ministering to people just takes time.

It pushes emotionally cautious pastors to their limits. Pastoral care might mean hugs . . . and tears . . . and confession . . . and grief . . . and personal reflection . . . and gut-wrenching, heart-level conversations. It takes some pastors to depths they seldom comfortably go.” [Click to read the full article, including two additional reasons]


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About The Author

Michael Duduit is the founding publisher and editor of Preaching magazine. He is also the founding Dean of the new College of Christian Studies and Professor of Christian Ministry at Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina. Michael is author and editor of several books, including the Handbook of Contemporary Preaching (Broadman & Holman Press), Joy in Ministry (Baker Books), Preaching With Power (Baker) and Communicate With Power (Baker). From 1996 until 2000 he served as editor of the Abingdon Preaching Annual series. His email newsletter, PreachingNow, is read each week by more than 40,000 pastors and church leaders in the U.S. and around the world. He is founder and director of the National Conference on Preaching and the International Congress on Preaching, which has been held in 1997 at Westminster Chapel in London, 2002 at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and 2007at Cambridge. He has been a pastor and associate pastor, has served a number of churches as interim pastor, and speaks regularly for churches, colleges and conferences.

One Response

  1. Dan Edwards

    Let me preface this response by stating that while I am not in a Pastoral position, I have been in ministry for many years and have seen many things that should not happen in the church happen anyway. We must all put on the gloves and dive in to help those in leadership to get through the day-to-day muck called life. Please understand that sometimes my filters come off too easily, if these thoughts bruise you, maybe there’s a good reason for that, so get out the Neosporin.

    I don’t think anyone ever expects another person, no matter what their position, to be perfect every time. Some of these “reasons” are simply excuses to not do what a Pastor has been called to do, no matter how uncomfortable. God gives His grace for a reason. Look, we all make mistakes, that’s just part of being human and we certainly all have our own issues and difficulties to deal with, but that can create personal growth and many times we NEED stretching for this to happen. Awkward situations? Give me a break, LIFE is an awkward situation.

    Time? I would recommend that leaders learn time management and delegation, most churches have support staff whether they are called Associate Pastors, Elders, or Deacons, heck put your congregation to work (they are still the called according to GOD’s purposes) instead of requiring the Pastor to be the only one working for the Kingdom. The same thing applies to church growth. Unforgiveness? It really only hurts the one who is being stubborn or resentful and, ofttimes, the other party(ies) never even know that an offence/slight has occurred and have long since moved on with their life.

    We who hold positions in the secular realm have to continue to grow in knowledge normally referred to as Continuing Education, why not take a course in counseling or a psych course if you don’t have strengths in, or maybe take along someone who is more gifted in this area to act as a buffer and learn from them (unless Pastors are above learning). They may not teach everything, but they can better prepare you for the inevitable or unexpected.

    The long and short is that we are family, unfortunately we have become a rather dysfunctional one that expects to be spoon-fed all of our Christian life and this would stress out any head of household. It’s time for us to grow up, put on our big boy pants and learn how to help. My last thought – Get off the teat and get dirty, time to grow up church.