I'm a pastor of a growing church with a shepherd's heart. Over the years I have struggled with the best way to do pastoral care. I finally realized that it is my responsibility to facilitate it with the help of my pastoral team and laypersons who have the gift of mercy. But some hands-on care is essential for every pastor. There is a simple method for ministering personally to seven individuals in your congregation each day in a way that will have a great impact on your congregation. I call it "90-minutes-a-day care."
Here's how it works:
First, plan to spend an hour one-on-one with a person in your church or community. This is 60 minutes of encouraging, building up and praising. It can be done in your office, but most often it is wise to do this outside the church walls. You don't want to spend this precious time conducting church business, and removing yourself from your workplace eases the temptation. I like to take my guest to a local restaurant for breakfast or lunch, and I always pick up the tab. This casual setting affords the opportunity for both light conversation and meaningful dialogue, and prayer often comes naturally.
The second step is to spend 15 minutes writing brief notes to three people. These could be birthday or anniversary cards, thank-you cards, or notes of encouragement. If you have staff members, they can sign the cards too. Unfortunately, when you have handwriting like mine, you have to have your church logo imprinted on the card so people will know where it came from!
Norman Vincent Peale said that Christians ought to be in the business of building people up because there are so many people already in the demolition business. These notes should be directed by the four S's: sincere, short, specific and spontaneous.
The final dimension of this 90-minutes-a-day plan is spending 15 minutes making brief phone calls to three people. This is best done, I think, systematically. Consider calling each church member on his or her birthday and anniversary. Keep a record of the calls so that you're sure to reach every person. Simply say, "Hi, Jeff. This is your pastor. I want to wish you a happy birthday because I love you. I hope you have a great day!" If you have no birthday or anniversary calls, then make the calls in alphabetical order, three a day, until you have spoken to every member that year.
Crisis ministry is only part of the pastoral responsibility. Touching the lives of your people every day will build relationships, bless your people and strengthen your church. Devoting 90 minutes a day to pastoral care makes the process feasible without exhausting the pastor. You can do it!
Stan Toler serves as senior pastor of Trinity Church of the Nazarene in Oklahoma City, Okla., and hosts the television program "Leadership Today." His Web site is www.stantoler.com.