From time to time someone will ask me a question like the following:
“Pastor Biz, what do you spend your time doing during the week?”
To which I often answer (in my more serious moments) something like,
“I meet with church/community members, have appointments over meals, and work with our ministry teams and leaders. The care I provide to our ministry teams differs from week-in and week out. Currently, our Youth Ministry is receiving more time than usual. But I may meet with our Missions, Children, Deacons, Elders, Worship, team, etc. depending on the day or the week! I also spend time in study and preparation for my teaching/preaching responsibilities. When I have time, I like to pray/think/reflect on the church’s overall health. I also try to craft out time to pray and connect with parishioners who are homebound or in need of visitation. And, finally, I enjoy meeting with other pastors and ministry leaders, when possible.”
That’s all to say that I spend most of my time and energy providing some form Congregational Care.
By Congregational Care, I mean what is historically called Pastoral Care. We don’t hear this phrase much these days, but its place within congregational life is as vital as ever!
A Forgotten Pillar and an Ancient Practice
There are dozens of Bible verses that accentuate the importance of the work of Pastoral/Congregational Care. One of my favorite passages is from II Peter 5:2 – 3:
“Like shepherds, tend the flock of God among you. Watch over it. Don’t shepherd because you must, but do it voluntarily for God. Don’t shepherd greedily, but do it eagerly. Don’t shepherd by ruling over those entrusted to your care, but by tenderly showing them the way.”
Extending spirit-filled, loving, and genuine Congregational/Pastoral Care is tiring work. I never know what I will encounter when I am with people. On any given day I may meet with someone concerned about a deeply personal matter. They have come to me for a listening ear, prayer, and spiritual wisdom or insight. I am humbled and amazed by the fact that people look to me for guidance and care.
Then, a few minutes later, I may face someone who is frustrated with something I said, a decision I made, or an action I took or failed to take.
Each situation, whether filled with concern, complaint or something in between, is an opportunity to extend and receive Congregational and Pastoral Care.
So, I have to be ready at a moment’s notice.
Being a Companion
The Rhythm that enables me to be ready at a moment’s notice is the Rhythm of Companionship or Companioning.
To clarify or illustrate what I mean by the Rhythm of Companionship, I am going to share a portion of a letter I recently read in a gathering of adults (both young and old).
This meeting of young and older adults took place in our living room. The purpose of the gathering was to explore, collectively, how to conduct ministry to youth and children in a way that’s supportive of Pillar’s vision.
The vision, in its simplest terms, is that we become a place of Christ-centered Soul-Care and Spiritual Formation.
A Letter: From Our Heart to Yours
“Dear friends, when Melissa and I came to Vero Beach, we brought a dream of going about ministry differently. Our calling and mission – both then and now – is to help Jesus’ disciples (even those who don’t yet know it) create space in our lives. Enough space to be attentive and responsive to the presence of Christ who is alive within and among us! The fundamental desire of our church is that we become a center – a hub – of Christ-centered Soul-Care and Spiritual Formation.
We have always believed that this vision is not just for adults. Now that we’ve been at it for a while, we suspect that this dream is explicitly connected to our love for young adults and youth. More than that, children, and families as well.
Pillar desires to be a place of Christ-Centered Soul-Care and Spiritual Formation.
That’s why we’ve asked you here tonight. We will be asking you to reflect on what matters most in your life, why it matters, and then what you are willing to do in response. For us, it’s Soul-Care and Spiritual Formation. Now, in this season of Pillar’s life, it’s seeing the vision of Soul-Care and Spiritual Formation take on new and life-giving realities in the life of our youth, young adults, children, and families. It’s not a vision specifically of “what” we are doing, as much as it is a vision of “how” and “why” we go about doing what we do.
We understand that “programs” are both necessary and useful. We launched Pillar, however, with the single desire to help people create space in their busy lives. Not just any space. We do not mean space that’s the mere absence of activity. Instead, space that is an intentional emptying of things and events that trap us and prevent us from being attentive and responsive to the presence of Christ within and among us.
Personally speaking, this journey has required some commitments of Melissa and me along the way. I want to share them with you because I believe they may be required of you if you commit to this journey.
Practice, Not Perfection
First, a commitment to Creating Space by way of Sacred Rhythms and Spiritual Disciplines that nurture our attentiveness and responsiveness to the presence of Christ both within and among us. Secondly, a commitment to live a life of Compassion toward all who come our way, regardless of belief, background, pedigree, or privilege.
Third, a commitment to be Companions on the way. This requires a fundamental shift in how we see ourselves and our role as leaders in the ministry. While Melissa and I understand our leadership role and do not forsake it, we also recognize that we are Companions on the way, first, and leaders toward a goal second. This is an essential shift I have made both personally and pastorally.
One final personal word: it’s not about perfection. We are all still on the road. But it is about practice: practicing a certain – yes different – way of doing youth, young adult, children and family ministry!
Grace and Peace, Biz and Melissa”
My entire approach to and philosophy of ministry shifted when I began to see myself first as a Companion on the way and second as a leader toward a goal.
Further, I don’t believe any of us will ever genuinely participate in the ministry of Congregational/Pastoral Care until we first understand our primary role as that of companion!
And, if we are to live with others as a companion, we must be crystal clear about our calling! Calling is the final and most essential Pillar of all.
But what I will say about calling is likely not what you think I am going to say!