One of the things we do as pastors is care for our flock. When life is “normal,” this can be a challenging task. When life gets turned upside down, like it is right now during the COVID-19 crisis, pastoral care can seem impossible! Here are a few things that I’ve learned to be important during this challenging season.
First, the same rule of thumb still applies when it comes to pastoral care: presence is powerful. However, with all of the restrictions in place, we can’t offer our presence like we once did. Hospitals and nursing homes are restricting access to clergy. Even if someone would welcome a visit into his or her home, it may not be wise to go. Thankfully we live in a time where we can circumvent this problem, at least to a degree. Utilize technology. I’ve had several care conversations over the phone, counseling appointments on Zoom, and I even sent encouraging texts or hand-written letters that have gone a long way. Just because we can’t be physically near, doesn’t mean we can’t still be present.
Second, empower people around you to care for those in your congregation. It’s not news to any of us that we cannot care for everyone on our own. We need people to help, and further, God has spiritually gifted people within our congregations to care for others. With a little bit of coaching and direction, this can also go a long way. One of the things we’ve done is collected all of the names in our database of people who are in the 65-plus age range. I recruited a team of about 30 people who are willing to call 10 of those households each week to check in, assess any needs, “visit” with them over the phone and pray together. Just like that, we have 400 people who are getting weekly care calls!
Finally, it is so important, possibly more than ever before, to engage our people with empathy. There are a lot of emotions floating around right now, and most of them go unprocessed since we are isolated. Feelings of grief, disorientation, loss, fear, and frustration are probably just a few of the things that people are feeling. It’s so important to allow people to own and express what they’re experiencing without judgement or correction. We do that by empathizing with them. Listen. What are they saying? Why are they saying it? Empathy can go a long way in helping people feel “normal” during such a strange time.
Let’s allow the Holy Spirit to empower us and to bring about the healing salve of God’s presence to the wounded and broken hearts who need it. Be encouraged: we’re not alone in this time of uncertainty!
Care Pastor at Crossroads Church
A number of online applications such as Zoom, Facebook LIVE, and others have become invaluable to stay in contact with congregants during social distancing.