Draft Pastoral Care Policy for Churches or organisations

The following work was undertaken when I was leading a workshop on developing a Pastoral Care Policy at the ACC conference in Derby. Thanks to everyone there for their contributions. Please feel free to copy this document and amend it for use in your own setting. Add helpful ideas in the comments section and we can revise it together. God Bless. Will.
Pastoral Care Policy


1 Peter 5:2 “Be shepherds Of God’s flock that is under your care”
Aims: The purpose of the pastoral care policy is to inform and support the development of best pastoral practice in churches and Christian pastoral settings. It is not intended to be an exhaustive document and should not be implemented without significant adaption and development for use in specific contexts.

Definition: Pastoral care is the term that we broadly apply to a ministry of compassion, encouragement and transformation within the Christian life. The breadth of the pastoral ministry is such that strict definitions are insufficient however the ACC working group have applied the following intentions to the pastoral encounter.

To care, support and impassion. To demonstrate unconditional love, acceptance and encouragement. Bringing hope, biblical truth and practical advice. Being present with, listening to and journeying alongside. Reflecting Jesus, sharing burdens and praying for those in our care.

Context: The consideration of context is essential in providing effective pastoral care. Different contexts demand different approaches to the PC that is offered. However in all contexts similar approaches to safe care, boundary setting and best practice should apply. The value we seek to elevate here is respect for Context, Client and Confidentiality.

Suggestions on relating to the 3C’s are listed below.

i. To think about the appropriateness of the setting. Is it safe, open, populated, quiet and uncompromising Consider inviting a supporter for initial meeting or if you are unsure about safety. Be aware of and close to exits.

ii. Always carry a mobile phone or some means of contacting support, even if meeting in a neutral area or visiting someone well known to you. Being able to make quick and easy contact is essential.

iii. Be aware of issues of sexual attraction and co-dependency. If you sense that a pastoral encounter could prove unhelpful for either self or client make new arrangements for their support.

iv. If home visiting is necessary ensure that the meetings are diarised, that a third party is informed of the meeting length and nature of the meeting.

v. Stick to the pre-agreed time frame for pastoral meetings. Only in exceptional circumstances should they be longer than 50mins.Keep the frequency and setting the same each time if possible.

vi. Have a developed strategy for responding to client crisis calls or breaching of normal boundaries.

vii. Confidentiality should be defined carefully. Pastoral Carers should caveat the circumstances in which it cannot be offered (Child Protection, criminal activity, potential danger to self etc). Explain the structures of reporting and supervision, who will be kept informed etc. Never offer personal details of other team members etc unless permission has been granted to do so.

viii. Have a no-tolerance approach to violent, threatening or abusive behavior at all times. Terminate any meeting in which you consciously or instinctively sense your safety or well being is being threatened. Report such activities to your team leader and take further action if required.

Reporting and record keeping are important means of maintaining client continuity and personal safety. Records of pastoral meetings need not contain detailed accounts of the pastoral encounter but they should log the time and date of the meetings held as well as significant concerns the Pastor has about the clients welfare. All reports should be held securely and confidentially. These should be reviewed by the team leader at regular intervals.

Supervisions and Self Care:
Every Pastoral Carer should receive regular personal supervisions with either the lead pastoral carer or a trained external supervisor/counsellor. The supervisor or Pastoral Team Leader should determine whether the PC needs to reduce their client contact for their own well being or associated concern. Each team should take a Pastoral Carer first approach to ministry not a client first approach. The regularity of the supervisions should be apportioned to the amount of pastoral work undertaken but any ‘regular’ pastor would need supervision no less than once per month.

Each Pastoral team should encourage developing healthy attitudes towards ‘self care’. This includes time off, retreats, leisure activities etc. PC’s should aim to develop high levels of self awareness and be freed to respond to their own emotional state without concern of letting others down. A rich prayer life, accountable relationships and small group input is also essential to the PC’s well being.

Pastoral Carers are particularly liable to burn out, or suffer stress reactions. Seek to build longevity and health into your overall approach.

Policy and Guidelines:
Every pastoral carer should have a personal copy of the implemented Child Protection and Vulnerable Adult protection policies. These should be explained in detail either by the Pastoral Team Leader or by the settings Child Protection Officer.
It is preferable that each Pastoral setting (esp. Churches) have a clear set of guidelines that respond to the policies themselves. These should clarify the exact nuances of good practice in relation to the specific context and setting. PC’s should be given clear instructions as to how best respond to these guidelines in their area of Pastoral Care.

All Pastoral team members should have access to a signposting contact book. This should include the contact numbers of local authorities and other secular organisations that can be used as a referral when there are concerns about individuals well being. For example a local G.P., homeless shelter, and NHS referral clinics. Consideration should be taken over the use of cash alternatives when people in need ask for money, shelter vouchers or food vouchers for example.


i. Be clear about specific roles and responsibilities amongst your pastoral team. Ensure good communication to avoid overlapping responses. Be aware of clients who would attempt to draw in the attention of a broad number of PC’s. If there are specific areas of ministry responsibility have a pre-agreed client hand over approach.

ii. If possible designate specific ‘safe’ places where pastoral interactions can take place. Set aside useful allotted times within your building when PC’s can schedule pastoral meetings with clients.

iii. Schedule PC’s meetings and supervisions centrally within the church diary or organisational schedule.

iv. Seek to provide internal and external training for PC’s and pay for that training on their behalf. At the same time ensure that the approach all PC’s take is broadly similar and that it is in line with your organisations vision and values.

v. Be clear about the difference between pastoral care and clinical or therapeutic interventions. Whilst many Pastoral Teams include trained counsellors, it may not be appropriate for this work to be classified within the normal remit of Pastoral Care within your organisation. Be sure everyone operates only within their level of training and expertise.

vi. Offer a range of different activities and avoid a one size fits all approach to the style of care you offer. Whist the substance of the work may be similar (point iv) the approach can be varied and challenging. Think about welcome, encouragement, signposting, prayer, bible study, sport.

vii. Listening Skills central to good implementation. Practice developing excellent listening skills.

viii. Ensure that there is excellent liaison between the Pastoral Care Team and the Church or organisational leadership team. Increase the profile and significance of the Pastoral Care Team in the life of the organisation. Invite the leadership to occasional meetings and be forward in offering suggestions about how the overall pastoral response of the organisation can be improved.

Finances: Many pastoral ministries lack any provision of finance or investment. The reasons for this particularly in churches, is that it is presumed to be a ‘free’ ministry. Pastoral ministry is essential to the life, health and growth of the church. Seek a budget for the department to fund training, supervisions, a hardship fund and some form of annual team recreation. Value your team and they will value themselves and God’s people!

Concluding Remarks: There are infinite additions that could be made to this working outline PCP. However our intention here is to get you to develop and improve upon this work for the sake of your own pastoral ministry. Pastoral Care is not just about crisis, but it is about joy too. Share in the delight of seeing the broken hearted bound up, the sick healed and the emotionally lame begin to walk. Bless you in your ongoing ministry.
Will Van Der Hart, 25/03/2017
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