Though I’ve had a chance to hone my pastoral skills inside the congregation and in a hospital setting, I know that one of the best gifts an interim minister can leave a congregation is a well-trained pastoral care team (if one is not already in place). That being said, there are two areas of focus for pastoral care: of individuals and of the congregation.
Pastoral care of individuals in a congregation comes in many forms and venues - from visiting the bedside of an elder in the hospital, to a quick check-in after Sunday service, to the frantic late-night call from a family in crisis. I am grateful for my extensive Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) experience – first in a level 1 trauma center and later specializing in care for heart patients and on the maternity ward. These experiences taught me how to listen deeply to the person in need before me. In a congregation, these skills come in handy both formally, when a congregant requests an appointment with me, but also informally – I’ve learned how to provide pastoral care in small doses even during meetings or in the receiving line after worship by being present and paying attention.
Of a Congregation
As a system, the congregation itself is often in need of pastoral care. Particularly during an interim ministry, congregations often experience very strong emotions that may need to be attended to: grief, loss, anger, frustration, despair. I believe it is incumbent on a minister to attend to the pastoral needs of the congregation, not just the individuals within it. This may mean naming the loss(es) the congregation has experienced, using Appreciative Inquiry to help congregants remember what is so wonderful about the congregation, or helping to shift a congregation from a culture of scarcity to one of gratitude and generosity. In congregations that have a history of ministerial misconduct, pastoral care of the congregation may look like taking small steps to rebuild the congregation’s trust in ministry as an institution. Pastoral care of the congregation is an essential aspect of ministry that should not be overlooked.