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Giving of your time, giving of yourself

With regards to pastoral care, I've been given the advice many times: "Don't spend longer than an hour with someone.  If 55 minutes isn't helpful to them, 3 hours won't be either."

The trouble with that advice is that it's bunkum.  Total bunkum.

I suspect it comes straight out of the counselling world where conversations are engineered one-on-one, between strangers, strictly defined as helper and helpee, in a neutral space, at a set time, divorced from the rest of the world, the rest of the week, and the whole web of relationships in which these problems are lived out.  It's all on the clock.  Everything is parcelled out.  Kept separate.  The counsellor especially.

Is that really our model for pastoral care in the church?

Please no.

For many who operate within this professionalized system, they may force themselves to listen for as much as 45 minutes before dispensing their wisdom.  And, to them, that seems like a long time.  I want to ask them, when is the last time you listened to somebody for three hours?  You'll remember it.  And so will they.

If you think you need a PhD in psychology to figure out how people tick, I can save you a lot of time.  Don't spend 3 years listening to Freud, spend 3 hours listening to your friend.  I reckon any Christian can spot the 'dynamics' of a person's life if they've listened for 3 hours.

And, my goodness, what a taste of grace.  Not receiving someone magnanimously into your busy schedule for a precious slice of your attention.  Rather, leaving behind your schedule and entering into their world to give yourself to them.  That sounds like the gospel doesn't it?  And the professional model sounds like human religion.  So repent of it.

I'm not saying don't meet up regularly to disciple and shepherd - meals, drinks, walks - put them in the diary as a regular thing, great.  But you need to be prepared to drop everything, drive across country, cancel those meetings and even (ee gads!) pair back your sermon prep and give people a taste of the gospel in the way you give them your time.

The quality of your pastoral care will not be measured in the discrete hours you dole out, but in the gift of yourself to needy people.

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0 thoughts on “Giving of your time, giving of yourself

  1. Dave K

    Great post.

    The problem that the 'only spend one hour' people are trying to combat total burnout which is no help to anyone. But perhaps the solution is not to professionalise, but to share the burden of sharing one anothers burdens by encouraging others to give themself to X, and X to look to another as well as you. Hard to do that though.

  2. Glen

    Hey Dave - yeah exactly. And the professional model sets up the pastor as the *expert* with the 55 minutes of specialized knowledge to help. So you shoot yourself in the foot immediately, because you're the only one who can help.

    And, I have a hunch that strictly defining when I'm on and off and drawing lines and boundaries might just be part of a mindset that *contributes* to burnout. Maybe. Worth considering anyway...

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