Nurturing Hope: Christian Pastoral Care in the Twenty-First CenturyThe Power of ListeningJoy Together: Spiritual Practices for Your CongregationSabbath Keeping FastingPrayers of the Old TestamentPrayers of the New TestamentSabbathFriendingA Garden of Living Water: Stories of Self-Discovery and Spiritual GrowthA Renewed SpiritualityDeath in Dunedin: A NovelDead Sea: A NovelDeadly Murmurs: A NovelPersonality Type in CongregationsBeating Burnout in CongregationsReaching Out in a Networked WorldEmbracing MidlifeAdvent DevotionalDraw Near: Lenten Devotional by Lynne Baab, illustrated by Dave Baab

Lynne's Blog

Providing Christian care in our time: Seven trends in pastoral care today

Friday August 10 2018

Providing Christian care in our time: Seven trends in pastoral care today

In my post last week, I described a community dinner and a prayer support group as examples of patterns of Christian caring that are now being recognized as pastoral care. Those two stories illustrate several of the trends in pastoral care that I identify in my new book, Nurturing Hope: Christian Pastoral Care in the Twenty-First Century.

Here are the seven trends I think need to be in the front of our minds today in the area of Christian care today:

1. Pastoral care has many models. The model of pastoral care from 50 years ago, a minister sitting in an office having a one-on-one counseling session with a parishioner, still remains. A minister or a pastoral care team member may visit a shut-in or someone in the hospital, a form of Christian care. In addition, people who lead the Wednesday Night Dinner I described in my last post – cooks, servers, greeters, clean-up people, and folks who are trying to build relationships across socioeconomic boundaries – are providing care, as are people in small groups, task groups, and music groups in congregations. A conversation in the parking lot after a committee meeting, where two people take the time to ask how each other is doing, is also a form of pastoral care.

2. Teams and a variety of individuals provide pastoral care. Many congregations these days have pastoral care teams. Roman Catholics led the way here because the shortage of priests means that others in the parish must provide pastoral care for parishioners who are in need. In my own Presbyterian congregation, the board of deacons functions as a pastoral care team, taking meals to people who have just gotten out of the hospital and bringing communion to shut-ins.

3. Christian Pastoral Care Is Grounded in the Triune God. The term “pastoral care” is used in numerous secular settings these days, and Christians can only rejoice when people provide any form of care. However, Christians must have a clear understanding of what makes Christian pastoral care uniquely Christian. I wrote last week about the shepherd passages in the Bible. Christian pastoral carers must understand and experience God as our Shepherd, the one who guides and empowers human care-givers.

4. Christian Pastoral Care Is Missional. About 25 years ago, some Christians began to use the word “missional,” to refer to the understanding that we are sent into the world as Jesus was sent (John 17:18). Christian pastoral care is always a part of the mission of God, revealed in Jesus Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit, to bring God’s love to the world. Christian pastoral care today, then, meets needs within congregations but also in the wider community.

5. Pastoral Care Occurs across Ethnicities and Religions. Throughout the world, cities, towns, and neighborhoods are becoming more ethnically diverse. Many congregations have experienced increasing diversity. As congregations reach beyond their doors to their community, they often encounter ethnic and religious diversity. Caring today involves engaging with and meeting needs experienced by people who are different than we are.

6. Pastoral Care Empowers. In many caring professions like social work, professionals are becoming more aware of the dangers of dependency. The goal of professional care is to empower people to find their own strength. Christian pastoral carers increasingly have the same concerns. One small, unexpected strategy that encourages empowerment is the growing awareness that all Christians are sometimes carers and sometimes care recipients. No one lives in one role forever, and that is quite freeing.

7. Pastoral Carers Consider the Web of Relationships.  Individuals don’t exist in isolation. All of us are embedded in families and communities. In the past, pastoral care was often viewed as helping an individual. In the twenty-first century, we have a growing understanding of the significance of the clusters of people connected to those to whom we are providing care. Increasingly, pastoral care seeks to meet the needs of families and other groups of people.

These seven trends are shaping pastoral care in our time. I invite you to ponder the way you see the trends impacting Christian ministry in your setting. In my next two posts (next week and the week after) I’ll discuss skills for pastoral care.

(Next week: skills for pastoral care. If you’d like to receive and email when I post on this blog, sign up under “subscribe” in the right hand column.)

Some more links about my new book:
          How I came to write Nurturing Hope
          Overview of the book, plus endorsements 
          Purchase Nurturing Hope in paperback or for Kindle 
          For my friends in New Zealand, purchase Nurturing Hope from the Book Depository  

My new book on Christian caring: How I came to write it

Thursday July 26 2018

My new book on Christian caring: How I came to write it

In mid January 2017, I was enjoying summer in New Zealand and slowly working through closets and drawers in preparation for our upcoming move back to Seattle in June. I was glad we hadn’t planned much travel for the summer, because I find it overwhelming to sort through possessions, and I was making very slow progress.

My friend Beth Gaede contacted me that January. Beth served as editor for five of my books, and over the course of working on those books, she and I became friends. In 2016, she had taken on the editor role for a series of books on pastoral care that would be published by Fortress Press. In our monthly skype conversations in 2016, she had talked about the various topics the books in the series would cover, such as grief, relationships, and parenting.

In the first half of 2016, I taught a class on pastoral care using a syllabus created by Lydia Fuller Johnson, who I consider to be a genius at pastoral care. Lydia said in her syllabus that if she could have used a subtitle for the course, it would have been “the changing face of pastoral care.” As Beth was formulating the plan for the series of books, and as we talked about it on skype, I chimed in with my opinions based on what I had learned from Lydia’s syllabus and from my own practice of pastoral care in many settings.

On that big day (for me!) in January 2017, Beth asked me if I would write the anchor volume for the series. It would be a general overview of pastoral care, setting the tone for the rest of the books on specific pastoral care situations. This was the first time I had ever been asked to write a book, so I felt honored and very grateful for that affirmation of my writing abilities.

However . . .

We were going to move from New Zealand to the United States in late June. I would be teaching my heaviest load ever between March and June. I had numerous speaking and preaching dates set up for the months before we left. When we got to Seattle, we were planning on doing significant repairs to the house we had bought a couple of years earlier.

The publisher needed the book to be completed by September, and all I could see was VERY busy months between January and September. I didn’t reply to Beth’s email the day I got it, because I really didn’t want to say no, but I knew I needed to do that.

That night, before I feel asleep, I started thinking about how I would structure a book on pastoral care. I would want to devote half of the book to the trends in pastoral care that Lydia had laid out in her syllabus. I could think of seven trends I would want to cover. I would want to devote the second half of the book to skills for pastoral care. I’ve written books about listening, spiritual practices and avoiding burnout. I view those as three significant skills for pastoral care. One additional skill I thought of that night as I was pondering was understanding stress.

I woke up the next morning and wrote down this outline. I made notes about what I would include in each chapter. That day, I still didn’t respond to Beth’s request. Even though I had an outline for the book, I knew I needed to say no to writing it.

That second night as I lay in bed, I began writing an introductory chapter in my head. I could perceive the topics I would cover to introduce the seven trends and the four skills. The next morning I got up and wrote most of the chapter.

Hmmm. By noon on that third day I realized that I was going to write the book. I told Beth yes and dived in. I wrote all but two chapters in January, February and March. In April, I set the book aside to begin marking essays and finalize details for moving. In August, after we had arrived in Seattle, I did a lot of reading for the chapter on stress, and I completed that chapter and the other one I hadn’t written yet. The book got to the publisher by September, and it will be released next week on August 1.

In the next few weeks for my blog posts here, I’ll write about the trends and skills I present in the book. Nurturing Hope: Christian Pastoral Care in the Twenty-First Century will be my eleventh book, not counting my three Bible study guides and my four fiction books. Some of my books were like this one, written in a short period of time, pouring out of me as if God were giving wings to my words. Others of my books took many months, written in two or three mornings a week, balanced with other work.

So many people ask me questions about the publishing and writing process. I thought you would enjoy hearing a little bit about the steps that lie behind my latest book. I am thrilled with the book, proud of the content, and grateful for the opportunity to write it. I feel humbled by the privilege of being called by God to be a writer.

(Next week: trends in pastoral care. If you’d like to receive an email when I post on this blog, sign up under “subscribe” in the right hand column.”)

Two articles on listening, one of the key skills in Christian caring:
          Listening past the noise
          Letting go of agendas so we can listen to God and others