Pastoral Care

"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.

Jesus' example

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

Other resources

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

Conversations That Transform - Kevin A. Miller (Small

Courses available

Our Daily Bread University

SoulCare - Dr Larry Crabb. A series of four free courses:

Ministering To People In Pain - Alice Mathews, PhD. (10 lessons)

Other resources

  1. Pastoral Care Handbook - Graham Redding (Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership)

Small Groups and Christian Community

  1. Pastoral Care: Small Groups - Dave McDonald (The Gospel Coalition)

  2. Pastoral Care: Doing Life Together - Dave McDonald (The Gospel Coalition)

When There Is A Crisis

  1. Pastoral Care: In Crisis and When It Is Chronic - Dave McDonald (The Gospel Coalition)

How Not To Do Pastoral Care

Identify the problems illustrated by these video.