Is pastoral care relevant today? asks Michael Hopkins
As congregations shrink in number, and fewer ministers of Word and Sacrament are available, it is inevitable that congregations see less of a minister than might once have been the case. The amount of legal compliance is, rightly, greater than it once was, so it takes more time. Society and culture have changed beyond recognition, and many younger people are horrified at the idea of a ‘visit’ from a minister. Those in Generation Z (born roughly 1995-2010) conduct amounts of their life online that those born in the 1920s-1950s cannot begin to comprehend.
In this changed world, is pastoral care still relevant? My answer is an emphatic yes – though the way it is organised and delivered has changed significantly as the world has changed and continues to change.
In the middle of the 19th century Elizabeth Gaskell described very formal visiting at set hours in Cranford. In my first pastorate, one of my first visits had been planned a few days ahead, and I arrived to see that the silver teapot had been polished and a cake had been baked. We now live in a digital age and I minister to four congregations across two denominations. We admit, and celebrate the fact, that people, families and households come in a far wider variety than was once the case. And yet, despite all that, I believe that healthy churches are ones where people are known and cared for. The nature and form of pastoral care has changed, in some ways dramatically. Whether it has a place has not…
Michael Hopkins is a United Reformed Church minister serving in Surrey.
Pastoral Care in Practice will be available from urcshop.co.uk for a special price of £13.99 +p&p
This article was published in the October 2023 edition of Reform