In the modern world pastoral care is both un-popular
among secular thinkers and a lost art among the
religious. Society at large no longer sees the need for
pastoral care and the church seems to have lost her
way in this regard. The truth is that pastoral care is
from God, is done by God and therefore is important.
We need to re-visit this branch of practical theology
and discover why we need it and how it works. This is
what this post is all about.
What is Pastoral Care?
Venter differentiates between pastoral counselling and
pastoral care. He says that pastoral care is the, “caring
for people” while pastoral counselling is, “one-to-one
care for the person in need” (2017:2). In page three of
this book he defines pastoral care again as, “taking
care of the people God entrusted to the church.”
(2017). Pastoral counselling is specific to a setting,
while pastoral care includes counselling it is a lot
broader and includes everything related to the care of
people. In the same way that a mother hen protects,
feeds and guides her young, pastoral care is the
feeding, protection and guiding of people.
Why is Pastoral Care necessary?
Pastoral care is vital because all people are broken in
one way or another. The fall of mankind as described
in Genesis 3 distorted the human soul, which paved
the way for all kinds of dysfunctions. These range from
anger issues to depression and marital issues. No
matter who the individual is, we all need pastoral care
because we are all broken vessels. Pastoral care
provides Gods wisdom and guidance which contributes
towards restoration. If we cannot see this, then we are
blinded by pride. We all need help and so pastoral care
is beneficial for all people.
What are the motives for Pastoral
There are right and wrong motives for pastoral care. If
an individual is motivated by a title of some kind (such
as Pastor, Deacon or Reverend), a Christian trend or
for money they are being driven by a wrong motive
(Venter, 2017:8). In comparison, right motives are
because of who God is (Venter, 2017:6-8) and for the
love of people. The God of the Bible is a shepherd.
Since He shepherds people, people should shepherd
each other because we are made in the image of God
(Psalms 80:1). In addition to this, God loved us through
the cross, therefore we should love each other
(Ephesians 5:25). These are both good motivation for
What are the challenges to Pastoral
There are numerous challenges to pastoral care. In my
own life I have found apathy and lack of skills to be the
most dominant challenges. Venter however identifies
identity crisis as a major threat to pastoral care. In such
a busy world with so many competing voices, pastors
have in many ways lost their identity. This identity crisis
looks like this; When people want guidance, where do
most people go? Friends, the internet, etc. Do many
people go to pastors or other Christians? No. It is
because of this that many pastors have low
self-confidence. Many struggle with a “low professional
self-image” (2017:4). The result is an identity crisis.
Many pastors are left asking the questions, Am I still
valuable? What is my role in society? And so on. This
cripples pastors, hindering them in their work.
How is Pastoral Care carried out?
There are many helpful tools that can be used when
caring for someone in a pastoral capacity. These
should always be done in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Since God is the only one who can truly care for
people, we need God to do this work. Following Jesus
is essential in pastoral care. How do we share truth
without the Lords help? How do we listen to people
without the Spirits strength? David Hansen in his book
The Art of Pastoring echoed this idea when he said,
“The pastoral ministry cannot be employer-driven,
trend-driven or task-driven. Pastoral ministry must be
following Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ called me to this
work, and following him must be integral to realizing his
Having established this, here are just some of the
many practical ways to care for people pastorally. One
can make telephone calls, visit individuals during crisis
situations, listen to people’s problems, ask poignant
questions and share biblical truth (Venter, 2017:11-14).
In addition to these items, Hansen identified some
areas of Jesus’ life on earth that we can use to carry
out the task of pastoral care. They are, “Word. Prayer.
Friendship. Sacrament. Leadership. That’s all” (1994:
224-225). From my own perspective, I believe that
when we follow Jesus daily, He will show us exactly
what we need to do. Sometimes it is giving someone a
lift home, other times it is holding a hurting head or
feeding a hungry stomach and yet other times it is
giving someone a strong rebuke. The key in how to
pastorally care for people is the following Jesus
closely, doing what He does.
Even though there are many challenges to pastoral
care, it is desperately needed both in and outside the
Church. It is because of this that all Christians should
re-discover the importance of pastoral care, so that it
can be done effectively.
● Hansen, D. (1994). The Art of Pastoring. Illinois:
● Venter, G. (2017). Pastoral Care: An Overview of
the Role and Function of Pastoral Care in the Local
Church. Cape Town: Cape Town Baptist Seminary.