In Exodus 18:18, we see Jethro talking to Moses about how to delegate leadership to others to support the Israelite people.
I’m with Jethro on this. It is neither healthy nor helpful for you to do Pastoral Care alone. You are going to wear yourself out and the people looking to you for support will not get the best care.
Like many things, this is easier said than done. When you look around at your congregation, you might be wondering who would make a good care ministry team member.
In Exodus chapter 18, we find Moses was talking to his father-in-law Jethro about how he was spending his days as leader of the Israelite people. Moses reported that when people have difficulty they come to him and he listens, settles disputes and teaches or guides people according to the statues of God and His laws.
This sounds a lot like Pastoral Care.
When people in your congregation experience a difficulty they come to you for wisdom and advice on how they might settle a dispute, conflict, or trouble they are facing. You guide people according to the Word of God. You identify what is said about the issue in the Bible, and you teach and encourage people to walk out the path that is laid out in the Word.
But I want to highlight what Jethro says about Moses doing this type of pastoral care alone.
Jethro says, “The thing that you do is not good. 18Both you and these people who are with you will surely wear yourselves out. For this thing is too much for you; you are not able to perform it by yourself.” (Exodus 18:17-18 NKJV)
Jethro gives wise counsel.
You are going to wear yourself and those who come to you out if you try to do it all on your own.
So as Jethro says, it is important to train leaders who honour God, speak the truth, and are team players. These are the ones that will help you to care for the congregation.
But this is easier said than done. When you look at your congregation, you might be wondering who would be a good candidate for the care ministry team. So let me break it down a bit and share with you three types of supporters and how each adds value to a care ministry team.
There are 3 categories of caregivers
- Professional – clinicians who offer treatment
- Pastoral – usually on staff; offer guidance through the Biblical lens
- Peer – those with lived experience who offer support
All three types of caregivers have value and contribute to a care team. The ability to include clinicians on your care team is dependent on your church’s resources. Therefore, care teams are most commonly made up of pastoral care and volunteer peer supporters.
For a limited time, I’m offering a free guide; 3 Steps to Building a Sustainable Care Ministry. In this guide, I walk you through the process of leveraging your community resources. It includes a community resources template to help with your search. So make sure you download this guide at the link below.
When first starting to build a care team I think it’s important to appoint a leader, or go-to person, over the care ministry. This aligns with Jethro’s advice to Moses about having different leadership responsibilities.
But for our purposes, we are going to focus on finding peer volunteers for a care ministry.
Finding volunteers is difficult at the best of times, let alone when it involves supporting those who are suffering. Most people don’t see their ability to show empathy and mercy as a gift.
When you are seeking out people to be on a care team, look for natural helpers. These are the people who stick around after service to chat. The ones who seem to have their finger on the pulse of members’ personal lives, or who are part of the people-oriented teams, like hospitality or prayer. Those who see and act on a need without being asked are the kinds of people you want on your team.
Diversity on a care team is a strength. Look for those who come from a different history, culture, gender, age, and have a variety of experiences. Diversity is an asset as long as the person has the maturity to maintain ethical standards and confidentiality.
If your care ministry was all made up of those who were 50 years old, happily married and who were all white, it is not likely that everyone seeking support would identify or feel comfortable talking to them. When we are looking for support or advice it is human nature to seek out those who can relate and who have gone through similar trials.
For example, when I was a new mom I had the privilege of accessing a number of highly capable and knowledgeable professionals. I had a midwife, a public health nurse, an obstetrician, and a family doctor. But who do you think I went to for support?
I went to other moms – those who were only weeks, months or a few short years ahead of me.
Now I’m not saying their advice was better. Perhaps the nurse would have told me the same thing my friends did. But I instinctively sought out support from my peers. You, too, can likely think of a time when you sought out support or advice from those you could relate to.
So having a diverse group of care volunteers will strengthen your care team and create an environment that will encourage people to seek out support rather than suffer in isolation.