I recently received an email from a Care Pastor, who is starting from square one building systems and strategies that provide pastoral care at his church in terms of weddings, funerals, hospital visits, and anything else you might imagine in this category.
It’s interesting because most of us know what to do in these situations, but creating a system which can withstand seasons that are very demanding of pastoral care can be quite difficult. The reason demanding seasons can be very difficult for a Care Pastor is because they can’t be in more than one place at once.
That’s the secret to having a solid foundation for your pastoral care strategy; creating a simple system that emphasizes communication and empowered team building.
Pastoral Care can essentially be broken up into three categories; emergencies, encouragements, and counseling. When we’re talking about things like births, deaths, illnesses, hospitalization, and emotional crisis, everything you do will be broken up into these three categories.
Emergencies are things like hospitalization and death. There’s no planning for it. This need creeps up out of nowhere.
Also, this is one of the most pivotal moments for many church members in terms of their future commitment to the house. So being present is crucial. During these moments, the timeline of the visit can make a world of difference. Showing up within an hour of the incident is critical to making a big difference in this situation.
This may not always be easy, but I can tell you from first-hand experience that being present during the emotional peak of a crisis is one of the best ways to represent the loving nature of your church and staff.
Encouragements are things like illness and births. You have a general idea that Jane Thomson is going to be having a baby somewhere in the next week or two, and you can prepare for it in a general regard.
Also, while illness can strike unexpectedly, it is unlikely that it will lead to an immediate need at that very moment. So you don’t need to wake up in the middle of the night to visit the individual.
During these moments, the quality of the visit makes the largest impact, as opposed to the timeliness as with emergencies. So, bringing food or planning to spend a couple of hours hanging out and chatting with the family make the biggest difference.
Counseling pertains to any situation where someone needs to be coached in a long-term fashion to see them through. Examples here would be couples that are having parenting or marriage troubles, as well as someone who is struggling with personal issues like addictions.
As opposed to the other two categories of pastoral care, counseling offers the most leeway in realistic turnaround time and general strategy. When it comes to counseling, setting a realistic expectation of your schedule and availability in a timely fashion are critical.
You don’t need to be immediately available as with emergencies, and you don’t need to spend hours hanging out with the person as with encouragements, but you should be able to communicate the date and time of your first meeting within just a few days of receiving the inquiry.
For example, you may not have an appointment available for three weeks, but let them know when your earliest availability is within 48 hours.
getting serious about emergencies, encouragements, and counseling comes down to creating simple strategies and systems.
These ten things will create an excellent foundation for your pastoral care team and facilitate church growth in the process.
ten tips for churches building a care team from scratch
#1 Create procedures that ensure a leader is swiftly available for emergency situations. In the event of an emergency, people can count on their closest family to be among the first to show up. A person’s church should be like their family, first to respond.
#2 Create a special emergency phone number using a technology like Google Voice that will call certain individuals in an emergency situation regardless of the time of night. This is a heavy burden for a pastor, but this is also part of the sacrifice that causes people to stay in love with Jesus and your church.
Obviously, a team can be built that also receives these calls. List this number on your website as a “Death & Hospitalization Only” number. In my experience, these numbers don’t get abused as much as you may imagine. Being accessible is KEY to church growth; I cannot stress this enough.
#3 Build a team of individuals who receive emergency calls, and notify the others in the group that they are responding. A pastor should show up at some point, but they do not need to be the first responder. The idea here is a team of individuals that represents your church in a strong and passionate way are able to be present during a time of crisis.
#4 Create an administrative process for sending condolences such as flowers and a card from your Lead Pastor and their spouse.
#5 Create a system for providing meals for fourteen days from the day of an emergency incident. You can use a tool like this to help simplify this process. One of these meals should be provided by the church on behalf of your Lead Pastor if possible.
#6 When dealing with emergencies and encouragements, ensure that someone from your care team is checking in with the family, or individual, on a daily basis for thirty days from the incident. At first, these should be personal visits, but eventually, they can be phone calls. Don’t follow up via text message, though.
#7 Create a procedure that ensures a certain checklist of items occurs for births and illnesses consistently during each visit. For instance, when someone is visiting with a church member that needs care you may want them to pray, ask if there’s any way they can help, and connect with a close family member. Clearly outlining expectations are good for team building and leadership in general.
#8 Keep an eye on social media for those in need of a visit. Your church Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are great tools for proactively seeing who is expecting a child in your church community, or who is currently shut in because of illness.
#9 Create a consistent gift basket for new births that include brief documentation about Parent-Child Dedication. The value of this basket should be under $10, but be a gesture of your church’s investment in the family. Trust me. Little tokens like this go miles towards closing the backdoor and growing your core community.
#10 Take a risk on people, because they may just take a risk on the church when you do. If someone is just loosely involved in the church, it’s a strategically and biblically sound practice to invest in them just like someone who has been around for a while. This may be just the thing that connects them to the church for a lifetime.
having a solid pastoral care team is like compound interest; it’s not flashy, but you will see consistent growth every quarter.
Sure, it may not sound as fun as planning a giant Easter worship experience that attracts hundreds of new people to your church, but the growth experienced through a thriving care ministry is consistent, exponential, and the most permanent of any growth type. Doesn’t it make sense though? We all want to know that someone really cares.
So what are you waiting for? Start building your pastoral care team today! If you’re looking for a more detailed strategy, and a deeper level of assistance in creating your care ministry, make sure you check out The Tank. We would love to set you up with an expert who can help you build the right specific strategies for your church.
Chief Executive Officer
TK has worked in the church for over a decade and brings years of executive leadership experience along with years of experience in media and technology. TK has a Masters in Public Administration and is an expert of navigating the minefield of procedural issues churches experience. He’s not quite so stuffy though; he is vibrantly creative and understands what it takes to create and plan a weekend from start to finish including video, music, and production.