"Pastoral" refers to the role of the shepherd. It speaks of the way the shepherd relates to, and cares for, the sheep.
Jesus was called "the Good Shepherd" and He commanded His followers to love one another. In terms of both being like Jesus and obeying His commands, pastoral care is a central responsibility of all Christians.
Defining Pastoral Care
We can analyse Jesus' example, the role of a shepherd and other biblical passages to discover what pastoral care is.
The role of a shepherd
feed the sheep
lead the sheep
protect the sheep
tend to ill or injured sheep
seek to restore lost sheep
Pastoral care has, in many instances, come to mean caring for people facing some crisis (i.e. tending to ill or injured sheep). The above list makes it clear that the role is far bigger than that. In fact, looking after hurting sheep is necessary and important but it is not the main function of a shepherd. His/her primary role is to grow healthy sheep ensuring that there is regular reproduction.
In other words, pastoral care seeks to grow healthy, mature disciples of Jesus Christ who are reproducing. Sometimes that involves dealing with crises.
A second erroneous assumption is that pastoral care is the role of the pastor. In fact, we are called to love one another. Pastoral care is the responsbility of every Christian.
Given that the role of the Shepherd is much more than dealing with sick sheep, when considering Jesus' example, we need to think not only in terms of His meeting people's needs but also the ways He called people to follow Him and made disciples.
Dangers of a wrong understanding of pastoral care
Pastoral Care: Definitions and Background - Dave McDonald (The Gospel Coalition). N.B. this is the first in a series of articles on pastoral care. It contains links to the other articles.
The Ministry of Shepherding - David C. Stancil
Appropriately for a hospital, the focus here is on people in need. Even so, it does talk about a wholistic approach.
What key points made here apply to the pastoral care you are called to?
Pastoral Care Skills
Our Daily Bread University
SoulCare - Dr Larry Crabb. A series of four free courses:
The Basic Model (10 lessons)
Undertanding People and Problems (10 lessons)
Provisions and Practices (10 lessons)
Community - Where SoulCare Happens (10 lessons)
Ministering To People In Pain - Alice Mathews, PhD. (10 lessons)
Small Groups and Christian Community
Pastoral Care: Small Groups - Dave McDonald (The Gospel Coalition)
Pastoral Care: Doing Life Together - Dave McDonald (The Gospel Coalition)
When There Is A Crisis
How Not To Do Pastoral Care
Identify the problems illustrated by these video.