Pastoral Care of Leaders

Published February 27, 2014

Greetings,

8 years ago I started ministry in Asia. It was in response to a request to the ISAAC International office asking for someone to go to a particular city in China and do some teaching on addictions with a team of people working amongst trafficked women.
Since that first trip I have now been to various parts of Asia teaching on addictions, counselling and other teaching from the Bible. I have been to Mongolia, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Nepal and Cambodia. In each place I have gone with the main purpose of teaching or running training sessions with the staff of various organisations who are doing amazing work in difficult circumstances. In each place I have also found myself spending time with the leaders of these organisations providing Pastoral Care or counselling. This was something that, although I feel equipped to do, I was surprised by.

What I have found is quite often the leaders of these ministries, and some of their staff, feel isolated and with no access to someone with a pastoral ministry, who is also independent of the ministry that these people work in. Quite often the organisation provides some oversight for the leadership but this is more in the area of administration, not for personal issues. At times people have expressed to me that they want to speak to someone not attached to their organisation because they feel that this may somehow compromise them.

This issue of pastoral care for leaders and staff of the many groups working throughout the Asian region is, I believe, an issue that needs to be addressed in each organisation. This is not just about whether some people are having a bad day or not. Some of the issues that have been raised with me are:

  • Marital problems, including one lady who was so uptight that she was considering walking out on her husband.
  •  Other relationship issues,
  •  Dealings with the board of the organisation,
  •  abuse from staff members,
  •  loneliness and isolation
  • finances both personal and for the ministry,

and I could go on further.

Many organisations think they are providing pastoral care but in fact they actually have a very limited view of what pastoral care is. One couple, working in a very difficult country, expressed to me a few months back that their organisation sends out someone from head office twice a year for that specific purpose. Twice a year is not good enough. They need to find another option.

It seems that for too many people the method of dealing with these issues is to get super spiritual and try to tough it out on their own because they are the leader, or staff member, and they think they have to be seen to be victorious. Can I just say here that response is contrary to Jesus teaching. The tools he has given us are humility and relationship. Humility to be honest with ourselves that we are struggling, and relationship to be able to reach out to someone else for help.

One of the benefits of being involved with an organisation such as ISAAC is that we are a network of people. We are not just here to facilitate conferences and make new friends. We are also here to support each other in whatever way is needed. If you have things that you are struggling with you need to reach out. If people are not feeling cared for they will eventually either break down, or leave.

How do you, or your organisation provide pastoral care for you and you team? Can I encourage you to begin to open this subject up and give it some prayerful thought. There is much more that I could say about this but let me finish on this note. Some personalities deal with problems quickly, and seemingly, easily. If that is you fantastic, but please be aware that we are all different and in grace we need to allow that other people will not deal with things the same way that we do.

Thank you. I hope this post causes some thought.

Warwick Murphy.

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