Article by Teresa Chang
Several of my church leaders from my home church really stand out as walking out a pastoral lifestyle. One of our elders opens her home for weekly bible studies every Saturday morning, where she cooks breakfast for the entire bible study! Our young adult leader, she installed smart locks on her doors, so that she can open her home for people to gather, even if she isn’t there! They always make people feel seen and known, and welcome all with open arms and hearts.
When you look at the body of believers in your care, do you see the pastoral gift at work among them? The following questions might give you a glimpse of the “pastoral state” of your congregation:
- How inclined are the people toward fellowship?
- Do they enjoy just hanging out with one another?
- How much do they want to be together?
- Do they spend time together having fun over a meal, opening up their hearts and homes to one another? Is this a natural value (lifestyle) among your people?
Let’s look at a few ways you can build a lifestyle of pastoral care in your church.
1. Raise up the vision for care and community.
Ultimately, church programs don’t endure unless a lifestyle is already in place that supports them. To build a pastoral lifestyle among your people, teach about pastoring and show them what it looks like—model it for them. We need to celebrate the actual pastors in our midst, and we also need to celebrate the “regular” members of the church who are moving in pastoral ways (purposefully connecting with one another, caring for one another when people are sick or after surgeries, etc.).
Your senior church leader and leadership team need to make a conscious effort to model the pastoral gift in everyday settings. To the extent these values happen in the leadership team is the extent to which they happen in the congregation. As leaders, we have an amazing opportunity to mirror the heart of Jesus as we encourage those around us in family and community.
2. Identify and remove challenges.
The Bible tells us to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, souls, minds and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. The law and the prophets are summed up in that one thought: Love one another (Matthew 22:37-40). The power of the pastoral gift is found in that love-one-another command. Your church members are gripped by the same love and care for the same vision, which means they can walk together in pastoral harmony that leads them into God’s purposes.
Begin to identify challenges that might hinder you and your church from living a pastoral lifestyle. That often means examining your own values and priorities. What do you truly value? Look at how you manage your money, spend your time and allocate your talents to get a good idea of your priorities.
Does anything need to be adjusted in your life? In your church? Begin to make those adjustments.
3. Encourage friendships in your church.
It may sound trite to encourage your church members to “make friends” with one another, yet the power of the pastoral gift is found in love. For the Body of Christ to function properly, we need connection and family. Pastors care deeply about each individual in the church and help people feel honored, connected and fulfilled in their participation. We cannot force people to be friends with one another, but we can create an environment where friendships happen naturally. We can cultivate relationships that go beyond cultural and even personal barriers, so we can find true joy with our spiritual family.