What could I say? How to help other people? Here are some general principles linked to our sermon series on how to deal with specific pastoral issues, including guilt, anxiety, failure, fear, anger and bereavement.
11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
“Pastoral care is not “the care the Pastor gives” but instead the kind of care all Christians should give to each other obeying the commands to love one another and to love our neighbours. “Each part in its own special way helps the other parts, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.” (Ephesians 4:16 Living Bible)
Galatians 6:2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ.
Christians are able to “bear one another’s burdens” in ways that other people cannot. People can help each other in all kinds of practical ways, but our caring becomes explicitly Christian when we share Jesus with them. We do that very often through our words as well as our actions.
What are our aims as we try to help people through their problems?
Matthew 11:28-30. 28 ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’
We begin helping by sharing the other person’s burdens. But our aim is not to carry other people’s burdens forever, but rather to introduce them to Jesus the burden-bearer. “I know a Man who can!”
Colossians 1:28-29. He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. 29 To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.
We want to help people to become “fully mature in Christ” – not dependent on us, or going their own way alone, but relying on Jesus for themselves, “a mature individual in union with Christ” (Good News Bible).
What do we actually DO to help people?
Pray for yourself, pray for them, and offer to pray with them. Ask others to pray too respecting limits of confidentiality.
Find out what God wants to say to their situation. Read Christian books, look at reliable websites and ask advice (e.g. from your Minister) so that you will be able to give the best help that you can.
The Holy Spirit – relying on God to help you to help them.
Be open to spiritual gifts of prophecy, knowledge and wisdom so that you can bring them GOD’s answers, not your own.
Asking the right questions – to encourage them to share freely.
Listening – take time to listen attentively and sensitively to their problems
So that the person knows that somebody else cares and understands their situration. In “the priesthood of all believers” we represent God to them. Our actions assure them that God loves, accepts and (where relevant) forgives them.
THINGS NOT TO DO
DO NOT criticise or be judgemental.
DO NOT assume that “you understand” their problem.
DO NOT offer simplistic answers.
DO NOT rush them – go at their pace.
Remember that we are not only offering human help and solutions. We are there representing Christ to bring God’s healing into their minds and hearts.
What kinds of things could I say?
Testimonies of your own experiences, or of friends, or from books, videos etc. Relevant Bible passages IF they are believers. Point them to useful books and reliable websites.
Finding a way ahead.
Many people who share their problems are looking for help in making choices and finding a way out of their problem or the best way forward for them in their situation. It is not your role to impose a solution upon them, but rather to help them to find their own solution. You cannot lift their burden, but Christ can. Help them to reach out for HIS help. This sometimes includes helping people to recognise and come to terms with situations where there is actually nothing they can do but rely on God’s grace and strength. See Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.
Referral – be the link in the chain if they need specialist help.
Among the circumstances where the help of the Minister must be obtained are
any problems connected with major illness or accident, and prayers for healing; bereavement;
matters related to sex including child abuse;
alcohol or drugs;
any aspect of the occult;
any deep spiritual problems.
Everybody must always inform the Minister and Elders before offering care and ministry himself/herself to anyone in any of these Problem Areas. This is very important 1. For safeguarding, 2. To prevent unnecessary duplication of effort, 3. To prevent problems which can arise through inexperienced counselling, and 4. For your own protection.
Keep confidences, but be ready to seek help if YOU need it to help the person.
Any matters discussed with the Minister remain confidential to him, although he reserves the right to seek the advice of specialists completely outside the church if necessary. Any confidential matters discussed with anybody else, may be shared with the Minister but not with anybody else within or outside the church. That includes not sharing with your own spouse or partner. Willingness to abide by these limits of confidentiality is an essential requirement for helping other people.
A person who requests help on the basis that ‘‘The Minister is not allowed to know’’ should NOT be helped but referred immediately to the Minister. This principle is entirely for your protection. Otherwise you might find yourself in the dangerous and intolerable situation of needing to refer a person elsewhere but being prevented from doing so because that would breach confidentiality.
Pastoral Care and Gossip are mutually exclusive. If remarks or accusations are made about another person’s problems or conduct, the speaker must be invited to repeat them in that person’s presence as soon as practical and such matters should be referred to the Minister. If an issue of safeguarding comes to light you should follow the church’s safeguarding procedures urgently.
THEORY INTO PRACTICE
We learn the skills of how to bear one another’s burdens” by supporting each other as friends in Home Groups and in the church. The starting point for caring for others in this way is allowing others to care for us. Being prepared to open up and be vulnerable to other Christians not only helps us with our burdens, but also allows them to learn how to help others.