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Is there a need? It is fair to say that both the community and congregation appear to have increasing needs. The question is can the leadership facilitate all the care that is necessary to meet those demands and is it biblical for such care only to emanate from the leadership? Another assumption that people may have is, that if it is done unofficially no recognition should be required Whilst the remit of session is to undertake pastoral supervision this provision is not exclusive. Some elders can give dynamic leadership, bring wisdom, spiritual depth and vision to their role. However, may not feel suitably qualified or comfortable with the breadth of district visitation. This does not mean that they are not aware or visit people within their district but can employ and perhaps should employ the services of others to facilitate in this role. It appears that whilst Elders have many gifts that every member ministry should provide leadership with individuals who have the motivation, concern and pastoral capacity to offer support to members of the congregation and community. This would appear to be the biblical model and properly administered would be under the supervision and authority of the Session. The issue of recognition is important. The bible reminds us that people should not do things for recognition but nowhere forbids recognition. In fact it encourages congregations to endorse the ministry gifts of others. This endorsement is not only a consensual approval that God has provided this person with such gifts but also holds them accountable for the deployment of their gift. Recognition therefore is not only God honouring in that it rightly asserts that God is the provider of such a gift, but is also necessary to initiate a level of accountability in how that gift is used. For the spiritual discipline of the church to have any power one cannot sensor or remove what it has not officially endorsed or recognised. How would such a team be formed? The leadership would be responsible for validating any person seeking to be recognised in this capacity and also responsible for seeking to detect any individual showing signs of such gifts. No individual can be self designated or approached to consider involvement unless first approved by Session Who would be responsible for this team? The ultimate responsibility for the spiritual oversight of the church is retained by Session. Any team formed would therefore have to report to Session on its activities. It may not be feasible that the whole group meets with Session depending on its size but a representative of Session may have to meet with the group and report back to the leadership.
Who could benefit from such a ministry? It is recognized that both the church and minister would benefit from a pastoral care team. The minister would be released to perform less routine visits and focus on more specialized or time consuming visitation. The congregation would be enriched by more frequent visits and exposure to wider knowledge and skills base, Who would be eligible for such visits? Obviously those in pastoral need, some guidelines are listed below; 1. Anyone irregardless of age, gender or race who is experiencing emotional, social, spiritual or economic problems. 2. Anyone and not necessarily those who have an affiliation or connection with the church but fall within our parish bounds. 3. The intention of providing pastoral care is for a limited duration offering the help and assistance needed to cope with a particular crisis or situation. How will such visits be arranged? Such visits will be arranged by consultation with the Minister and he/she will approach members of the team and appoint someone to provide pastoral assistance. He will also determine how much time should be given to those visits and through consultation with the provider determine an exit strategy after assistance has been provided. What is expected of the pastoral care team? 1. In a sensitive and sympathetic manner introduce yourself as a member of the pastoral care team and that if possible for a specified period of time offer assistance 2. To keep all information confidential, except where access to such information, places that individual or any other individuals at risk, is of a criminal nature or deemed by professional bodies as contravening rules of confidentiality. 3. The primary duty of the pastoral care team is to listen and offer practical support. 4. To submit themselves to the authority and supervision of the Session. What is NOT expected from the pastoral care team? 1. To do the job of professional bodies or organizations but simply to assist the church in its caring role. 2. To provide extra assistance and devote time to the visits that the minister deems inappropriate and unnecessary. 3. To place yourself in a vulnerable situation that may give rise to rumour or misunderstanding. 4. To approach any professional, individual, or organization with the intention of breaking confidentiality without first consulting with the Minister. If it is decided
that such information needs to be referred to the appropriate authorities then together and only with the support and presence of the minister those authorities are contacted. 5. To operate outside your knowledge and skills base and counsel or direct any individual to do something that may have implications for their well being and conduct. Unless first consulting with the Minister and if necessary then direct them to the appropriate professional bodies. 6. To criticize, sympathize or encourage any conversations that will damage the reputation of the church or any other individual. Anyone who engages in the pastoral care team must appreciate that whilst they may feel they have personal gifts, according to scripture, such gifts need to be recognized by the church body and regulated by its leadership. If the leadership feel that such individuals after a period of time do not adequately demonstrate the possession of such gifts or have forfeited the right to use then they will accept the decision of the Session to withdraw from the pastoral care team. It is our desire that the guidelines we suggest are there to protect everyone. How do such guidelines protect people? The Team Member The guidelines protect you from compassion fatigue. We want our team to be protected from too much exposure to the pain, suffering and hardship of others. Strange though it may seem, unless we retain the right levels of exposure we become ineffective in providing care and assistance. That is why we limit the time and duration of visits. A visit should be long enough to listen and short enough to want to go back and listen. That is why in consultation with the minister try to stay to the guidelines suggested. When it comes to rumours about inappropriate behaviour or concerns about child protection issues it is vital that providers take appropriate measures, that do not place them in vulnerable or compromising situations. This is there to protect you as much as the people you are giving assistance to. Therefore if approached by the Minister in relation to such a concern give it due consideration because it will be done to protect you and those around you. If the leadership deem that after a period of time you do not posses the gifts needed for this task, it will be out of concern for you that you may be asked to reconsider your involvement in the team. This in no way will be done to demoralize you but to effectively release you into a more productive and fulfilling role in the church. The Individual Requiring Assistance The guidelines are there to protect them. When people are vulnerable they will often listen to any advice that is being given, even when that advice comes from those not
skilled or qualified to give it. That is why we ask you to provide a listening role and to offer practical assistance. Even for those who are skilled counselors a line management system is in place to establish a more collective response to the complexities of people’s problems. Always working in consultation with your Minister provides a better solution to the diverse nature of peoples problems. It not only protects you from making expensive mistakes but shares the responsibility of providing a more comprehensive solution to the problem. The pastoral care team is no place for mavericks. By placing a fixed period of time for the visits it helps you stay focused on what needs to be done, will be long enough to alleviate its deepest problems and yet effective enough to help the individual begin to put together their own coping strategy. You do not help them by becoming dependant on you. You help them by becoming independent, or perhaps more biblically, God dependant. The church. By following the guidelines you help your local church. The objective is to provide pastoral care and free up time for others to enable them to use their gifts more effectively. The last thing any church wants to do is to spend time addressing the unnecessary mistakes made by others. Guidelines are there to reduce misunderstanding not create it. Therefore, whilst all mistakes may not be avoided compliance with the guidelines should reduce them. This in turn will effectively give you more to time to enjoy your role and bring comfort to those you help.
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