Pastoral Care

Part 3 of 3: What is Pastoral Care, Small Group?

How Does Small Group Care Work?

For many years, the pastor has been expected to be the primary caregiver in the church. Should a pastor be a caring shepherd to the church? Yes, but the Scriptures command pastors to be the lead caretaker, rather than the sole caretaker within the body. It commands the body to care for one another. As a matter of fact, there are fifty-nine “one another” commands in the

New Testament. Here are just a few:

  •  “Carry each other’s burdens...” (Galatians 6:2)
  •  “...Be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:2)
  •  “Confess your sins to each other...” (James 5:16)
  •  “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.” (Ephesians 5:19)
  •  “Be kind and compassionate to one another...” (Ephesians 4:32)
  •  “...Pray for each other.” (James 5:16)
  •  “...Love one another deeply, from the heart.” (I Peter 3:8)
  •  “...Admonish one another (Colossians 3:16)
  •  “...Make your love increase and overflow for each other.” (I Thessalonians 3:12)

For too long people have treated the church like a restaurant and not a family. In a restaurant, you walk in and expect to be served. However, in a family, you are committed to serving one another. Our church is a family, and we are to serve one another. The primary way for this to take place is within small groups, where intimate relationships are cultivated and sincere care for one another flourishes.

So, the question remains, how does care within groups work? Here are a few practical ways care works in small groups:

  1. First of all, members of a small group should pray for and with one another. Prayer can take place in your weekly meetings, or it can happen one-on- one when needs arise. You can pray for those in your group and ask those in your group to pray for you. Prayer is cherished when everything is going great or when everything is falling apart.
  2. In times of need, members and leaders of your small group are like first responders. Your small group leader or designated caregiver in the group is your first contact when a crisis happens and your second contact should be your pastor. Your group can pray for you, organize a meal train for you, handle tasks or errands for you, or help with any other practical needs that arise from a crisis.
  3.  If you are in need of care, encouragement, and prayer, don’t assume everyone in your group, or your pastor knows it just because you posted something to social media. Make sure to text or call your group and your pastor when you have an urgent need.
  4.  Give permission for others in your group to care for you. It’s easy to isolate yourself when things get hard, but remember we are eager to follow the “one another”commands in the Bible. Don’t rob another person of the opportunity to obey God by loving you well.
  5.  Usually, when we think of “care,” we mean it in a reactive sense.  Something bad happens in someone’s life, and so people get involved to “care” for them. However, there is a proactive way we can care for others within our groups through discipleship. In the same way, you are being equipped by your elders to live life on mission, you equip others in your group to do the same. You will be best “cared for” when you are growing and thriving in being part of making disciples through your small group.
  6.  Lastly, be careful not to have unrealistic expectations of what care will look like. It may not turn out just like you think it should. But as long as other people are praying for you, checking on you, helping you, loving you, and encouraging you in the mission of your life to be a disciple who makes disciples, you can be grateful.

We desire to care for your needs, especially when the needs are significant (hospital, birth, death).  Having a small group of gospel-centered people and having loving pastors care for you is both Biblical and practical. This is the kind of culture you can flourish in.

Part 2 of 3- What is Pastoral Care, Expectations

What Can You Expect from Your Pastor?

Our comprehensive shepherding plan centers on assigning every partner to a pastor/elder. This assigning does two things:

1. It gives our partners a clear understanding of who is responsible for their spiritual care.

2. It gives our pastors a clear expectation of the partners he is responsible for.

You may, however, still be unsure of what to expect from your pastor, so we are giving you our list of pastoral expectations.

1. Relationship

What this means:

Part of shepherding care is to “know,” the flock and knowing requires that the elders/pastors can identify the sheep for whom they are accountable to the Lord. Therefore, your pastor will have a relationship with you rather than being totally disengaged from your life. One of the ways he will do this is in the next point – he makes shepherding calls to you a couple of times a year. Another way he may do this is by occasionally visiting your small group. To make things simple, we have assigned whole small groups to one pastor so that we can better shepherd through an entire small group and its leader. Also, from time to time, a pastor may get two or three of the groups that he is shepherding together for a time of fellowship. For partners that are not in a group, they will still be assigned to a pastor, and they will be encouraged to join a group.  These are just a few ways your pastor intends on nurturing relationships with dozens of assigned partners.

What this doesn’t mean:

The reality for all of our pastors is a tremendously busy life. With young children, businesses, jobs, ministries, and the task of shepherding dozens of people, things can get hectic. Therefore, it would be unrealistic to think you can hang out with your pastor every night or talk over the phone for hours on end. Please understand our deep love for you and that we are available to you. We just want everyone’s expectations to be realistic.

2. Shepherding Check-Ins

So many times in ministry, pastors react to the needs of people yet never take the time to be proactive with people. While we will respond to needs of our partners, we also desire to be proactive. You will receive a monthly email from your assigned pastor designed to encourage you in your walk with the Christ. This may include anything from a general checking-in, a few words of encouragement, or passing along an article that may be beneficial in your walk with Christ.  In addition to this email, your assigned elder may make occasional visits to your Group to speak or share directly with the Group. These emails and sGroup visits will replace the bi-annual phone calls we were making previously.

Please understand this does not mean that we will drop all phone conversations or personal communication with our assigned partners.  As always, when you or your family is in special need of pastoral care, we will still be available to you.  We need you to continue to make us aware of those needs in your life (birth, death, counseling needs, etc.).

Our hope is to serve you well and, at the same time, maintain a healthy and realistic balance within church, work and family. We love you all so much and count it a privilege to serve you.

What this doesn’t mean:

We never want to make these calls feel like you are going to a clinic in some unknown town to visit a doctor you’ve never seen. We hope to be more like a family doctor who knows you and you know and trust. In other words, these emails and calls are not a “check the box” impersonal duty, but rather a loving responsibility we believe will help you thrive spiritually.

3. Confidentiality

What this means:

Your dirty laundry will not be making the pastor’s sermon on Sunday, nor are you going to hear your news coming back to you from other people like a boomerang. Your pastor will not relay your struggles, sins, and other confidential information to others in the church.

What this doesn’t mean:

There are a couple of exceptions to this rule. First, if we hear of a felony you’ve committed, we are obligated to inform proper authorities. Secondly, if there is a church discipline issue, we can’t say we will keep it confidential if we plan on honoring Matthew 18:15-17 where an unrepentant sinner is brought before the church. Bear in mind that only repeated, long-lasting unrepentant sin will be brought to the church.  This means that until you've been approached by one, then by two or three, then by the elders about willing sin in your life and you refuse to pursue "turning" or "repenting" from that sin, the church body won’t be informed.  We will not bring "sin struggles" before the church.  Those are sins that, though you struggle with them and sometimes still commit them, you recognize them as sin and are actively working and praying toward ending them.

4. Availability

What this means:

You will have your pastor’s contacts, and he will be available to your needs especially when there is a crisis.

What this doesn’t mean:

Your Group is the first place of primary care for you – your Group is like first responders. So, don’t let your pastor take the place of the primary care of your Group. Your group will handle such things like meal trains, daily visits, and the such. Also, your primary one-on- one discipleship most likely will not come directly from your pastor, but more than likely another partner or Group member.

5. Presence in crisis and celebrations

What this means:

If you or your immediate family is in the hospital, going through a crisis such as death, marital problems, or troubled children, your pastor’s presence is significant. Your pastor can be present, not only in times of crisis, but also in times of celebration like a child’s birth, occasional parties, or other celebrations of milestones. Proper protocol would be first to contact your Group and then your pastor.

What this doesn’t mean:

Just to reiterate point number 1, our pastors carry an extremely heavy burden of caring for their families and the partners under their care. However, that doesn’t mean you are a bother or we don’t want to be with you in crisis and celebrations. It just means we may need a little time to put some things in order before we get to you.

6. Some questions

What this means:

He will ask you questions about your life. He wants to know your struggles, your sins, and your shortcomings. He doesn’t just want to know about the bad things-- but the joyful things, too. The important aspect here is sharing and communicating. Your pastor can’t be faithful to shepherd you if you are not open and honest with him. So expect some probing questions during the shepherding calls – it's just because he loves you and wants the best for you.

What this doesn’t mean:

He won’t be asking creepy or inappropriate questions. He won’t be judgmental and condemning when you are struggling with issues. He will be loving, professional and understanding.

7. Prayer covering

What this means:

Your pastor will consistently pray for you by name each week.  What an honor for your pastor to pray for you and what a privilege for a man of God to constantly be lifting you up to the Lord!

You may get a text from him sometimes saying, “praying for you,” or “How can I pray for you?” If you are in need of prayer, send your pastor an email or text to let him know how he can pray.

What this doesn’t mean:

When we say we are “praying for you,” it's not some meaningless, non-existent jargon we are speaking. We mean it - we are actually asking the God of all creation, King of Heaven and Earth, to act on your behalf for His glory and your good.

8. Disappointments

What this means:

Your pastor WILL mess up. And, it's not if, but when. The truth is that your pastor is flesh and blood – a mere man who sins and makes mistakes. Please be patient with him as he wholeheartedly desires to shepherd and care for you well. Keep in mind that if he never knows he disappointed you, he never will be able to address, fix, repent or handle it. He needs to know when disappointments happen so that both of you can grow.

What this doesn’t mean:

Your pastor will never use this expectation as an excuse to fail you. Even though he may disappoint and fail, that doesn’t let him off the hook. One great thing about having a plurality of elders is that we will be holding one another accountable too. Please continue to pray for us as we strive to meet these expectations! We are looking forward to the next months and years of serving and loving you toward Jesus.

Part 1 of 3: What is Pastoral Care?

Jesus is a shepherd to His people – He is the Good Shepherd, Great Shepherd, and Chief Shepherd. This shepherd imagery gives a clear vision of His comprehensive care for His people to know them, feed them, lead them and protect them. So, it would only make sense that He would use the same metaphor to describe those He calls to lead and care for His flock. Under the headship of Jesus, our elders at Greenbriar Church are the primary overseers and shepherds (pastors) of His church.

To verify both of these realities, we can observe in Acts 20 that Paul called the elders of the church in Ephesus to meet with him. He told them the Holy Spirit made them ‘overseers’ to ‘shepherd’ [GK poimainein which is the word we get ‘pastor’ from] the Church of God, (Acts 20:17-18,28). Another great way to describe elders/pastors is simply “servant leaders.” Elders lovingly lead and give oversight, not to lord their authority over God’s people, but to humbly serve them in truth in love.  The first place we find the notion of a servant leader is from Jesus Himself, who said that “even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mat 20:28 ESV).

How do pastors serve the church in leadership?  By shepherding “the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly;” (1 Peter 5:2 ESV). Paul says something similarly to the elders at Ephesus, commanding them to “pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood,” (Acts 20:28 ESV).  The fundamental responsibility of church leaders is to shepherd the flock of God.

So how does a shepherd (pastor) care for the flock? We can define “shepherding care” this way: Pastors exercise Shepherding Care in the local church by knowing, feeding, leading and protecting the flock through oversight and personal relationships.  Let’s take a look at how Shepherding Care takes place through oversight and personal relationships in the four categories of knowing, feeding, leading and protecting.

Knowing

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. (Hebrews 13:17 ESV)

Pastors have been tasked to keep watch over the souls of the flock. That is a tremendous responsibility and one that we do not take lightly. As a matter of fact, one of the main reasons we have created a comprehensive shepherding plan is because of the weight of this passage. We will be held accountable for how we care for God’s flock. For us to shepherd well, we first must know our partners.

Knowing by Oversight

Knowing requires the elders/pastors to be able to identify the sheep for whom they are accountable to the Lord. The best way for us to know who we are spiritually responsible for is to distinguish between the guests and partners of our church. We have designed our partnership experience for this reason.  Those who sign covenants to partner with the Greenbriar Church family are who we are accountable to before the Lord. In this partnership process, not only do we discover who we are spiritually responsible for, but we also get to know you by hearing your story. We want to know that you have been converted and that you are on a path to discipleship.

Knowing by Personal Relationship

We will be contacting our partners on a consistent, deliberate basis each year to check on your overall spiritual health. On these calls, will pray with you, answer questions, or address any concerns you may have. However, the primary responsibility we have is to make sure discipleship is thriving in your life. Your assigned pastor will email you in advance to set up a time for you (and your family) to get together either via phone or in person. Making hospital visits, caring for families during a crisis, and any other pastoral care for our partners will also be considered “knowing by personal relationship.”

Feeding

“Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep,” (John 21:17 ESV).

It is the responsibility of every pastor to make sure the sheep are well nourished through the preaching and teaching of the Word of God.

Feeding through Oversight

Our Sunday morning gathering is a time not only for corporate worship but also to learn more about the Word. Our sermons are intentional and well thought out in advance. We address current, relevant issues by teaching how the Gospel speaks to us about them. We also teach verse by verse through a couple of books of the Bible each year. Sermon series campaigns are yet another way we strive to feed the flock.

Feeding through Personal Relationship

One of our primary objectives for our personal meetings with partners is to ask how you are doing in the area of discipleship. We believe that if a partner is growing in being a better disciple (learning, following, and reproducing) of Jesus Christ, then he/she will certainly be healthier. Therefore, most of our personal meeting with you will be centered on how their discipleship is increasing.

Leading

Not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. (1 Peter 5:3 ESV)

Pastors do not drive sheep; they lead sheep. The best way to lead is by example.

Leading by Oversight

By regularly and clearly stating our vision, we are helping to lead our flock to make disciples and plant churches. We share our vision through teaching, partnership experience, small groups, creativity and art, and a whole slew of different ways. Our aim is to be examples in living out our God-given vision for others to see.

Leading by Personal Relationship

We practice church discipline for the purpose of a sinning partner’s repentance and restoration so that they may flourish and glorify God. We also help lead others through giving counsel and helping them find ongoing counseling if necessary.

Protecting

I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; (Acts 20:29 ESV)

The world is always preaching powerful sermons about how you’re to live your life. However, it’s a shepherd’s job to share truth in love to protect the sheep from false teaching.

Protecting by Oversight

We are always teaching truth each Sunday and creating safe environments through small groups for you to hear the truth and be protected by false doctrine and beliefs. We tackle tough topics through preaching and writing, and we are constantly pointing people toward Jesus!

Protecting by Personal Relationship

We say hard things by speaking the truth in love. Instead of letting things fly under the radar to avoid confrontation, we embrace opportunities to speak truth to our partners. This is love. Hate is not saying anything if we thought someone was heading for a cliff. However, we love our partners and want to see them thrive rather than be destroyed by sin. We also desire to protect the innocent who don’t have fathers or husbands. We protect the widows and orphans from crafty people who want to exploit them. Another way we protect is a continual commitment to pray for each partner.

We ask you to be patient with us as we strive to serve you to the best of our ability. Each elder has the full-time job of leading his own family and also working to provide for his family. Shepherding Care is not easy especially in a busy culture, but it is worth it in the long run for all involved.