I’d been a pastor for several years before I received the revelation of effective congregational care. It hit me like a ton of bricks and soon became a revolution that changed my life and ministry forever. I often said, I wish I had known congregational care principles when I started off in the ministry.
This eye-opening experience came to me shortly after I had become the lead pastor of a church facing incredible challenges. They had gone through a sudden valley of grief and pain, heading for a split, with unbelievable tension and strife. The Sunday morning attendance had dwindled from almost a thousand to less than four hundred, and people were still leaving.
It seemed as though people were finding themselves in gridlock and nobody was willing to surrender, which consequently caused unreal stress and strain. Not only did God graciously help me to bring restoration to the church but also gave me divine wisdom to deliver a solution to the apparent problem. What once was defeat, became one of the most significant victories you could ever imagine.
Deep down in my heart, I knew that real ministry is about people, and if we miss connecting with them, we could lose the God-given momentum. It was at this crucial moment that we discovered the powerful concept of people caring for people.
Many churches today still believe that they provide adequate pastoral care to their congregation. Looking at it a little closer, we will discover that they are not, in reality, providing pastoral care, but only crisis care. This perspective means that people usually have to face a crisis before they receive attention, but once the crisis is over, so is the care. That’s not the way to connect people and is most probably not the way to care for the flock God has entrusted to us.
Somewhere along the line, we have missed this reality in the body of Christ and erroneously made pastoral care the sole responsibility of the pastor. This mindset held on over centuries and became the traditionally accepted norm for congregational care. Unfortunately, this mentality remains stuck in many minds to this day.
With the excellent help of my leadership team, we put a system in place whereby our members were trained and developed to connect and care for one another. The more we researched this concept, the more we came to the understanding that it not only meets a crucial need, but that it’s entirely biblical, and should be part of the ongoing ministry of every congregation. 1 Corinthians 12:25-26 says, “But that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.”
Against all the odds, the church grew exponentially within the first year to the point where we had to provide four hundred additional seats in the sanctuary immediately.
It is often difficult to get from where we are to where we ought to be if we continually allow the overwhelming demands of a congregation to strangle us. Unless we deliberately take steps to change from the lone-ranger style of pastoring to a shared-pastoring style, we will remain frustrated in our goals and stagnate in our development. When I saw this revelation, it soon became a revolution that positively changed the culture of our church and set us on the highway for becoming pace-setting in our entire region.
Excerpted from The Care Revolution: A Proven New Paradigm for Pastoral Care
By Dr. John W Bosman