1. Be Hope to people: Never look shocked, disgusted, angry, confused, apathetic, panicked or repulsed by the things people share with you. Look them in the eye and be the light at the end of the tunnel for them. Re-assurance is key at the beginning of a pastoral journey.
2. Ask God for wisdom: As you listen, ask God silently for wisdom to answer. If you’re not sure what to say, assure the person you are with them, and arrange future meet-ups. This will buy you some time to think it through / get advice.
3. Listen and ask questions: Don’t just listen to what you’re being told, listen for insights into the emotional, mental and spiritual well being of the person. Form in your mind questions that get to the bottom of these areas. (How do you feel / What do you think about…/ What do you think Jesus thinks…/ what would you like…?)
Often pastoral care is uncovering layers over time, not just a simple a+b=c and done. Often this leads to keys for breakthrough.
4. Help the person to help themselves: Don’t provide all the answers – try and take them on a journey wherein they come to some of their own conclusions.
5. Use scriptural examples: Showing them stories where God met with people in trial, failure, suffering etc can provide enormous comfort and encouragement. It’s a great relief to know you’re not the first, and won’t be the last to go through these kinds of things. It’s important to see God working in our valleys.
6. Set a realistic goal / strategy for ongoing support. Pastoral care has to lead people somewhere healthier, stronger and ultimately to fruitfulness. So set into motion 3/6/9 further meets, and assess progress. People who want a pity party and aren’t interested in moving forward need a rebuke and an opportunity to change. Not endless sessions. Don’t give them a tissue – throw the tissue box at them. Get people on a journey to wholeness.
7. Get specialist help where necessary: Some things need specialist advice / experience. i.e. Addictions, grief, coping with ongoing health issues, anger, life-controlling issues. Signpost people to care when it is beyond your capacity to help. Go with them by all means.
8. (Dealing w/Under 18′s) Learn some basic safeguarding rules:
Where issues of abuse (whether physical, mental or neglect) are found,
1]Go directly to the Child Protection Officer. Do not share with anyone else.
2] Take some notes after talk so as not to forget details.
3] Don’t push hard for information, just record what the person chooses to tell you.
4] Don’t be shocked, re-assure, comfort and give hope.
9. Don’t be afraid to offer prayer:
This person will ultimately need God’s help – not just your advice. Pray for the Holy Spirit to do His work, His way.