What is pastoral care?
Everyone goes through seasons when they need wise help. Sometimes we need help because of our circumstances; life in a fallen world has happened to us (Rom. 8:18-25). Sometimes we need help because of our own sin. Believers in Christ are still in-process of being transformed; we should expect a struggle between old sinful desires and our new life in Christ (Gal. 5:16-24; Eph. 5:26-27). Sometimes we need help because we’re confused and don’t know what to do next (James 1:2-5).
Regardless of why we’re struggling, sinning, doubting, or confused, we weren’t designed to help ourselves. We need help from outside. We need God’s grace and his word. And the normal way he leads us to his grace and word is through other people. We need relationships of grace and truth. Pastoral care is a tradition of church life where the wiser and more mature help those who need guidance, by leading them to God’s word.
What kinds of issues can pastoral care help with?
People seek pastoral care for help with all kinds of questions and struggles. These include:
- Spiritual issues – how to believe in Jesus, questions or doubts, spiritual crisis
- Relationships – dating, marriage, relational conflict, divorce, crisis pregnancy
- Grief and loss – sickness, death, depression
- Life direction – job and career, major decisions
- Addiction – pornography, drugs, alcohol, food or eating disorders
- Sexuality – breaking sinful habits, developing a healthy sex life, same-sex attraction
- Dealing with the past – old relationships, shame, regrets
- Financial – debt, budgeting, generosity
Pastoral care givers are not experts in all of these areas. Part of their help could be to connect you with other resources that have added expertise. They’ll also let you know if they think you need clinical, psychological or medical care.
How does pastoral care work?
These are the core convictions that inform how we do pastoral care:
We all need help. We are simultaneously image-bearers of God and sinful people living in a fallen word. Therefore we all have incredible potential to glorify God and we all need help. The goal of pastoral care is to help you discern the image of God within you and the places where sin and the fall has impacted you.
We need help from outside ourselves. In the gospel, God restores us to himself. He gives us his Word to give us right perspective of reality. We need this gospel and this word from outside in order to be whole. The goal of pastoral care is to point you to what the gospel means for you and how the Word of God speaks to your condition. We also invite the Holy Spirit into our lives and pray together.
We are whole persons. Each of us is a fabric intricately woven together. Therefore, the issue that causes us to seek help is usually not an isolated issue. For example, an addiction to pornography might be more complex than desire for sex. Therefore, our approach to pastoral care is to look at your whole life, not just the “issue” for which you’re seeking help.
We need holistic care. Pastoral care is most helpful when it’s part of a larger solution. We all need to be in a community of grace and truth. Some people also need clinical counseling or medical treatment. Therefore, our approach to pastoral care is to think of this as part of your help and to point you to community and other people as needed. We also set a boundary around the frequency of pastoral care (see below: “5-meeting approach”) so that it doesn’t become a replacement for gospel community or professional counseling.
We need hope and hard work. Growth takes time and patience. It’s usually not linear but up-and-down. It takes a lot of work on our part. But we can do this in hope because God’s grace has gone before us and sustains us and is already at work within us (Phil. 2:12-13; Heb. 4:16). Therefore, our approach to pastoral counseling is to help you imagine a better future (hope) and do the hard work of growing into it.
Pastoral Care Providers
Pastoral care is under the supervision of Fellowship Denver’s elder team. The elders have also equipped a few other mature members of the staff and body-at-large to provide care. This enables us to have a team of men and women with diverse gifting who can provide pastoral care. When you request care, the first step will be to match you up with someone who best fits you and your situation.
Sometimes pastoral care requires just one or two sessions. For people who need extended assistance working through something, we use a pastoral counseling process that takes place over the course of 5 sessions. The sessions can include things like: learning about the specific issue for which you’re seeking help, exploring other areas of your life that could be related, studying Scripture and praying together. At the end of your 5 meetings, we’ll help you determine next steps. If specialized counseling is needed, we’ll also help you get connected with a reputable and licensed counselor.
How do I get started?
To get started, you can submit a Care Request Form. It takes about 5 minutes.
Ryan Ramsey, Director of Pastoral Care, will then contact you for a brief intake interview, which will help us connect you with the appropriate care provider. During the intake process, you’re free to disclose or not disclose as much as you’re comfortable.
Fill out an Officiant Request Form if requesting a pastor to officiate your wedding.