The Care of Souls as Outreach

My latest interest focuses on exploring pastoral care as outreach.  I talk to lots of small church pastors and leaders, picking their brains for stories of smaller churches doing effective ministry.  More and more I’m hearing stories of people helping people — people caring for people —  as a means of outreach.

Pastoral care, to use the well-worn phrase, has not been in vogue in the past 20-years or so — really since the church growth movement changed the pastor from shepherd to CEO.  (But that’s another story for another post.)

David Augsburger, Professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling at Fuller Seminary,  bemoans the neglect of pastoral care in evangelical churches today.  In their new book, Connected, sociologists Nicholas A. Christakis and James H. Fowler point out that 12% of Americans have no one in their network with whom they can discuss important matters, or go out with socially.  That in itself should present churches with new opportunities for caring ministry.  But, too often the care of souls, or “the cure of souls” as it was called about 500 years ago, conjures up images of the pastor as pseudo-counselor or chaplain. Hand-holding is not what most pastors aspire to, even if we all have to do some of it on occasion.

But the kind of care I’m talking about isn’t psycho-spiritual navel-gazing.  Nor is it practiced only by pastors.  I’m talking about the kind of care that seeks out those in need and helps them.  And, help isn’t just defined in spiritual or psychological terms.  Help, or care, is that which responds actively — with food, rent, a warm meal, a heartfelt conversation, or a word of encouragement.

Just about every church I’ve written about exhibits some form of caring ministry.  Small churches can do that because caring is about relationships with people; not programs or marketing.  The big kicker is that the unchurched are ahead of us on this one — they think the church ought to do more caring for people in need.

What are your experiences?  Have you used a caring ministry as outreach?  What were your results?  How did caring change both you, and your church?  Let me know because this is a topic I’m going to visit regularly from time to time.

5 thoughts on “The Care of Souls as Outreach”

  1. Hi Chuck,

    I really enjoy your blog, thank you.

    We use a caring ministry as outreach. When we set up our “pastoral care” team (I don’t like the use of ‘pastoral’ because it implies that the pastor does all the caring), we called this ministry our “Community and Church Care Team.” They care for both the community and the church.

    One of this team’s initiatives is our “Boost,” program run in conjunction with a local government primary school. The aim is to sensitively uncover needs (beause people often don’t come and tell you they need help), and then meet that need. It’s that simple.

    The fact that a church would invest time into caring for the student body and their families was considered so unusual and innovative that we were recently nominated for a prestigious community award! We thought we were just being the church. Here’s the story …

    Click to access sdoc6302.pdf

  2. Chuck,

    I performed a funeral today for someone in our community that was not a church member. My only contact with this family was thru our volunteer rescue squad and twice caring for them thru our missions ministries.

    This person’s wife specifically asked me to do the service because of our care for her family. Otherwise, I doubt I would have even gotten a call.

    And at today’s service, without any way of knowing it for sure, I believe several non-believers had a chance to hear the Gospel, several of which I pray this opens a door for further witness and ministry.

    We (the Church) need to do better, and we need to be reminded of the eternal value in even the smallest caring ministry act.


  3. Bryon, that’s exactly the kind of thing I am talking about. Real connections in real life circumstances. I am sure God honored your message and presence with this family. Blessings on you and your church!

  4. Wayne, I looked at the article link and that’s amazing. Great stuff you guys are doing down-under! You’re touching dozens of families and hundreds of lives, plus you’re being good citizens and neighbors, too. Good work!

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