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Giving of your time? Giving of yourself! [repost]

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?  Jesus doesn't dispense heavenly trinkets from a distance, He gives Himself doesn't He?  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 those in need.

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2 thoughts on “Giving of your time? Giving of yourself! [repost]

  1. Paul Blackham

    Glen, Thank you so much for having the courage to post this. Yes, the professional minister is - as Richard Bewes always says - THE great trap of ministry. The moment we are 'professionals" - the moment it is 'us' and 'them' then we are finished as far as the Living God is concerned. The local church is a family where we are all sharing our lives together. Isn't it interesting that the Bible doesn't have "senior asssociate ministerial pastoral directors" and such like - it has "elders" ... someone who has been around in the Kingdom for a while and knows a litle bit more of the wisdom of etenity in Jesus Christ. Elders in a family or a community... sharing life together .. in fellowship.

    If I ever hear another comment about "strategic networking"... AArgghhh! That kind of demonic, fleshly thinking that puts the resources into the very kind of people that the Corinthians loved but ignores the kind of people that Jesus would spend so much time with - at a well, washing His feet, dropping through the roof with all kinds of physical and spiritual problems..

    Anyway, thanks for a reminder of the truth and grace in Jesus. You and Emma have shared this grace with me and Liz... so I know from personal experience the reality of what you say.

    Glory to the Crucified God, this Good Friday morning!

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