Goal centred pastoral care

Most of the pastoral care that goes on in churches all over the world is essentially problem centred.

Problem centred pastoral care assumes there is a state of being that we refer to as “normal” where people are free from physical, mental and spiritual illness and able to function reasonably well in work, family and social life. “Normal” people don’t need pastoral care. Pastoral care is only for those whose life experience falls below normality. The aim of the pastoral care is to restore those people to a "normal" condition.

The New Testament model of pastoral care, however, is not problem centred but goal centred. There is a goal to which all Christians are called to aspire, though few, if any, will reach it in  this life. The apostle Paul sums up the goal in Ephesians 4 v 13:

           “God’s perfect plan for what human beings should be, the standard of Christ’s complete perfection.”

Our goal is not to be “normal” but to be increasingly more and more like Jesus.  The aim of pastoral care is to help people to become more like Jesus - and everyone needs the help of apostles, prophets, pastor-teachers and evangelists to keep working towards that amazing goal.

Those who struggle with what tend to be called “pastoral issues” still need help to achieve the wholeness and maturity we regard as normal but when they do so, they haven’t “arrived”. Everyone, even the most mature and godly saint, still needs encouragement to keep pressing on to be more and more like Jesus.

Do you think of yourself as “normal” or even “superior to most” and assume you’ve “arrived”? Think again.

Do you think of yourself as being in need? Whether you are or not, stop aspiring to get rid of the problem and fix your eyes on Jesus and what his goals for you might be.

Are you a pastor or home group leader? Are you spending hours with people “in need” trying to restore them to some kind of normality? Could it be that some of those people don’t want to be normal, they just want to be loved? Might your problem-centred approach to pastoral care be giving them the message that they will lose your love if their problems are removed? That might be a powerful disincentive that is encouraging them to stay as they are and not make progress. Are there people under your care who are comfortable in their normality but have the potential to become more than normal, to become reflections of Jesus. Would you achieve more by training them and helping them to keep growing than you would from all the hours spent on the others?