Guidelines for Pastoral Care – An Example of an Approach

Every church needs an approach to Pastoral Care. In a small church the pastoral care is frequently handled mostly by the minister, although it is surely preferable if the members share in the work of caring for one another, sharing their lives and bearing one another’s burdens. However, the larger a church becomes, the more important it is that pastoral care is shared more widely, not least to ensure that the minister is freed to build discipleship and to support and train others for their ministries. To make sure that needs are not missed and that nobody slips through the cracks, it is important to identify who cares for who. We might distinguish between Day to Day Care, Crisis Care and ongoing Special Care. We would also want to identify “problem areas” which would always be referred to the minister (and then if appropriate to outside agencies) and we would need clear instructions on matters such as confidentiality.


In case they are of interest to anybody, I am sharing below the Guidelines for Pastoral Care which I developed for my previous church. By way of context, the church had 130+ members and roughly as many other adult contacts regularly attending services or different activities. As well as the minister, the church was led by 2-4 Elders with pastoral responsibility (and Secretary, Treasurer and 6-8 Deacons without pastoral responsibility). There were around 8 Home Groups and the Leaders of these had responsibility for members/attendees of the groups and their families, and a few individuals were identified as Pastoral Carers supporting people who were not part of Home Groups.


Do feel free to use or adapt these guidelines in any ways you choose.


Rev Peter Thomas   North Springfield Baptist Church 2017




Guidelines for Pastoral Care in Somewhere Baptist Church


Every member of the church has a general responsibility for the physical and spiritual well-being of the other members. Within the church some are gifted and set apart by the church with particular responsibility for the pastoral care of others.


“Pastoral care” can mean many things and operate on many levels.

  • Friendship – mutual support and encouragement;
  • Practical help – for example with household tasks, transport, etc;
  • Discipling – guidance and support in the Christian life;
  • Counselling – a listening ear and wise advice;
  • Short-term Crisis Care and Long-term Special Care in particular circumstances.


In general the Minister’s pastoral role is to give type (E) Crisis Care and Special Care as described below, to offer pastoral care type (D) counselling, and to train, equip and support others in the church in their ministries.


The Elders, Home Group Leaders and Pastoral Carers share responsibility for pastoral care type (B) practical help and type (C) discipling, drawing in other members of the church where appropriate.


The whole church shares in the responsibility for pastoral care type (A) friendship, caring, sharing and bearing one other’s burdens informally.

Who does the Caring?


The Minister has responsibility for

  • The Day-to-day Care of the Elders and their families;
  • Short-term Crisis Care of any individuals and families e.g. in the Problem Areas listed below;
  • Long-term Special Care of any individuals and families.
  • Any individuals in special circumstances of e.g. Marriage Preparation, Baptism Preparation, Bereavement, Hospital visits;
  • Any individuals who request the assistance of the Minister.


The Minister and the Elders are jointly responsible for

  • The Day-to-day Care of the Church Officers and their families;
  • The Day-to-day Care of the Home Group Leaders and their families;
  • The Day-to-day Care of the Pastoral Carers and their families.


The Elders have responsibility for

  • The Day-to-day Care of the Minister and his family;
  • Supporting the minister in offering Short-term Crisis Care and Long-term Special Care.
  • Any individuals who request the assistance of the Elder.


The Home Group Leaders have responsibility for


  • The Day-to-day Care of members and regular attenders of their groups and their families;
  • The Day-to-day Care of other members of church and congregation on their list which the group has agreed to care for.


The Pastoral Carers have responsiblity for the Day-to-day care of

  • The Day-to-day Care of members of the church and congregation on their list, who would not usually be covered in other ways.


Levels of Care


Day-to-Day Care involves support and encouragement by fellowship, prayer and practical help. For a housebound or sick person, it requires periodic contact by visit and telephone. Note that Home Group members will normally share in the tasks of caring for each other and for others on their Home Group’s list – the Home Group Leader coordinates the caring but does not do everything!

A vital part of Day-to-Day Care is to refer situations to the Minister and Elders whenever greater experience and knowledge is required for effective pastoral care. A Home Group Leader or a Pastoral Carer has the responsibility of quickly informing the Minister and Elders when Crisis Care or Special Care become necessary for someone on their list.


Crisis Care is the short-term close involvement by Minister (or Elders) in situations of particular difficulty and delicacy such as the Problem Areas listed below.


Special Care implies regular long-term specialist support and counselling in Problem Areas and will be offered by Minister, (Elders), other appropriately qualified members, and outside specialists.


Problem Areas


Among the circumstances where the help of Minister or Elders must be obtained are any problems connected with

  • serious illness or accident, and Laying on of Hands for healing;
  • bereavement;
  • family breakdown;
  • matters related to sex* including child abuse* ;
  • alcohol or drugs;
  • crime;
  • debt;
  • psychiatric problems* ;
  • any aspect of the occult* ;
  • spiritual problems of various kinds;
  • any other serious problems affecting attendance or participation in church life.


A Home Group Leader or Pastoral Carer must ALWAYS inform the Minister and Elders before offering care and ministry himself/herself to anyone on his/her list in any of the Problem Areas listed above.

A Home Group Leader or Pastoral Carer should not normally offer any ministry in areas marked with a * above, nor to folk not on his/her own list.

A Home Group Leader or Pastoral Carer might visit but would not undertake any ministry while alone with a member of the opposite sex.

These common-sense principles are very important to prevent unnecessary duplication of effort, to prevent the damage which may easily be done by inexperienced or ill-informed counselling and to avoid any risk of embarrassment or scandal. If in doubt, seek the guidance of Minister or Elders.




Any matters discussed with the Minister remain confidential to him, although he reserves the right to seek the advice of specialists completely outside the church if necessary.

Any confidential matters discussed with an Elder will normally be shared with Minister and may be with other Elders or with outside specialists, but not otherwise within the church.

Any confidential matters shared with a Home Group Leader or a Pastoral Carer will normally be shared with Minister and Elders but not with other Home Group Leaders or Pastoral Carer or in any other way within or outside the church. The ability to abide by such confidentiality is an essential requirement for any Home Group Leader or Pastoral Carer.

A person who requests help on the basis that ‘‘The Minister and the Elders are not allowed to know’’ should NOT be helped but referred immediately to Minister and Elders. This principle is entirely for the protection of Home Group Leaders and Pastoral Carers, who might otherwise find themselves needing to refer a person elsewhere but being prevented from doing so on grounds of confidentiality – a dangerous and intolerable situation.




Pastoral Care and Gossip are mutually exclusive. If remarks or accusations are made about another person’s problems or conduct, the speaker must be invited to repeat them in that person’s presence as soon as practical and such matters should be referred to Minister and Elders.

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