A 42 Year Pastor’s Testimony About Why Pastoral Care is Important
Recently, the church I was privileged to found and pastor for 20 years held a heartwarming farewell for my wife and me. One of the gifts was put together by my daughter Brenda. She asked people who I have pastored over the years to write a brief paragraph about my pastoral ministry. I still haven’t gotten through the book. It’s hard to read through the tears.
I did notice, however, that no entries said, “I appreciated the organizational dynamics you introduced,” or “The new program was incredible and meant a lot to me.” It’s not that these are unimportant, but they are not remembered for significantly impacting their lives.
Instead, what I have read says something like, “I remember when my child went to the hospital. When we got to the emergency room you were there.” And, “I remember when I met you, my marriage was in trouble and you invited me for coffee. I didn’t think there was any hope, but you encouraged me and gave me counsel. Today many years later our marriage is flourishing.” And another wrote, “I’ll never forget you standing with us all night as our baby died. It was shortly after that I came to know Christ.”
I need to be honest and let you know that I didn’t always do pastoral care with the best of attitudes. Sometimes I would leave the office or home with a grumble because I had to stop the sermon I was working on, or the leadership development plan, or the time at home with my family.
But, when I got to the person or family in need, thankfully my attitude changed. I was glad I could be of some help, though often I felt helpless. Often, I would go away as the person who was blessed because I witnessed their enduring faith. Other times I would leave with tears wanting to relieve them of their pain and suffering.
Being forced to semi-retire early due to health reasons, I look back with a fresh perspective. Pastoral care is not a necessary duty that comes with the territory. It is an opportunity to deeply impact the lives of people who need love and care. As I mentioned, I didn’t always see it that way. My natural inclination is to research and study, to organize and plan, to work hard on sermon presentation (not just preparation). But, looking in the rear-view mirror, I see that some of my more effective ministries took place coming alongside those experiencing crisis.
Yes, I understand the size of the church matters. But, I also know that the pastor of 100 people is still pressed to “get it all done,” usually by himself. The pastor of a large church needs to train and develop a pastoral care team. But, he shouldn’t be absent from doing care himself. I pray my reflection on why pastoral care is important brings you encouragement in your ministry.
The old saying rings true, “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
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