"We hope that the pastoral care can last for a long time, and the service can also last for a long time," said a pastor when reviewing his pastoral ministry.
This statement was made by Pastor Y, who has been serving in a church in Eastern China for many years, as he reflected on his pastoral experience. Pastor Y has been exploring church transformation for more than ten years and has found that pastoral care is the most important element of the church's work.
At one time, the church Pastor Y served was the same as other traditional churches with the pastor preaching from the altar and the believers listening. But there was a huge gap between the pastor and the believers and there was often a discrepancy between what the pastor was really saying and what the believers were understanding.
After identifying the problem, Pastor Y realized that the church was in need of transformation. So in 2012, long before the pandemic began, Pastor Y was convinced that the church needed to do small groups. Later on, he realized that it was not enough for the church to have small groups but also good small-group leaders.
The transformation of Pastor Y's church began in 2015 and after two years of exploration, it finally started to get on track in 2017. The pastoral care of believers is now carried out mostly by small groups. Small group leaders pastor others while getting pastoral care for themselves at the same time.
Pastoral care is central
Pastor Y stated that in the actual pastoral care process they had found too many hurt people still in need of healing. If a person's spirit has not healed, he/she will still be filled with bitterness and hatred and not be able to comprehend even the most basic of truths. Pastor Y's church has done a lot of spiritual healing. Through spiritual healing, many people have been removed from harm while finding joy and freedom.
However, healing is only one of many ministries – it is not the core. In their church, the most crucial thing is still pastoral care. Their church is pastoral care-oriented while the remaining activities and ministries, such as healing and couples' camps, are paired with pastoral care.
Pastor Y said that before the transformation journey, they did a lot of ministries, including prayer ministry, worship group ministry, and Christmas ministry, relying on them to promote the development of the church. But such a church model had serious problems, as it was also unhealthy and powerless. Each staff member did their own thing, lacking unity. But now, after more than ten years of transformation, Pastor Y says that the current church has "grown out of pastoral care and the church is now more like a tree of life”.
Focus on relationships
One of the distinctive characteristics of Pastor Y's church is that it places great emphasis on relationships, putting relationships before ministry and making relationships a prerequisite for all other ministries and activities.
Pastor Y says the impact of the outbreak during the last few years has prompted them to accelerate their transition toward small groups while doing an "interior renovation" of the church. “In the past, our churches looked bright and shiny on the outside; we did a lot of activities which looked vibrant. Yet the inside of the church was still a rough room, very shabby and simple."
Under such circumstances, they decided to care for church members more, focusing on relationships and pastoral care.
Emphasis on the family
Before the pandemic, they often carried out couple’s retreats for three or four days, building better marital and parent-child relationships.
The church also holds parental meetings on how to respect a child's individuality and raise them according to their personality type. For example, children who have a talent for art should be raised according to their inclinations, but a child was expected to study accounting because the parents were in business. Pastor Y and other church staff advised the parents to adjust the direction of their child's training.
Pastor Y added that comparing a child’s weaknesses with the strengths of others only leads to lower self-esteem.
Perhaps due to traditional cultural reasons, men seldom speak at home, are bored all day, and fail to express their feelings to their wives and children. Women, on the other hand, talk a lot. Therefore, the church encourages men to express their love to their wives and children and urges wives to listen more to the hearts of their husbands and children.
Focus on health
"We want pastoral care and ministry to last a long time, so good health is indeed very important." Pastor Y added that their church places great importance on the physical and spiritual health of their members.
Pastor Y arranged for a group of believers to go to a large hospital a few dozen kilometers away for a medical checkup. One of the church’s believers knew the owner of a medical checkup agency and could get a discount. Pastor Y then led the group in purchasing an affordable medical check-up package. The pastor said that nowadays people are often too busy to worry about their own health. Yet we are entrusted as God’s stewards to take care of our own bodies.
When it comes to the future, Pastor Y hopes that family can be the basic unit of their church. Each family should be full of life and a glorious testimony to all featuring close-and-healthy relationships between husband and wife, parent and child, mother-in-law and daughter-in-law. Families with problems, such as children with psychological issues or depression, are naturally drawn to a church consisting of healthy families.
- Translated by Abigail Wu