EFFECTIVE PASTORAL CARE METHODS IN MEGACHURCHES

A CONCEPT PAPER SUBMITTED TO
DR. WILLIAM UDOTONG

IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR
ACADEMIC WRITING

BY
AREMU, OLUSHOLA AYODEJI

AFRICAN CENTER FOR THEOLOGICAL STUDIES
LAGOS, NIGERIA

SEPTEMBER 16, 2018

CONTENTS
Table of Contents………………………………………..…………………………… 2
Introduction.………………………………………………………..………………… 3
Defining Pastoral Care.………………………………………………………..……… 3
Defining The Mega Church……….………………………………………………….. 4
The Tasks of Pastoral Care……………………………………………………………. 4
Biblical and Contemporary Models of Pastoral Care……………………..…..……… 5
Factors that influence Pastoral Care Methods…………………………..……….…… 7
Suggested Framework for Effective Pastoral Care in Mega Churches………..……… 7
Conclusion……………………………………………………..……………………… 9
References………………………………………………………….……..…………. 10

Introduction
Pastoral care is an essential element of spiritual growth in the church. It can be “instruments of healing and growth” that helps to develop “depth of relationships” (Clinebell 1984:15). The proliferation of large-congregation churches around the world makes it important that care for the members of the church be sustained in an impactful manner. With large congregations, a disconnect between the pastoral leadership and the church members may occur as witnessed in the early church in Acts 6:1, where murmurings of neglect arose as the number of the disciples multiplied; and as shown in the apostles’ response to the problem in Acts 6:3-7, effective pastoral care must be strategic and must take center stage.
In this paper, I shall discuss models of pastoral care, examine some of the factors that influence effectiveness of pastoral care and suggest frameworks for effective pastoral care in these large churches to foster growth and fellowship.
Defining Pastoral Care
Caring for God’s people is a theme of the books of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Ephesians, 1st and 2nd Timothy and Titus, and the word “Shepherd” is recurrently used metaphorically to reflect the concept and distinctive of pastoral care; we therefore must define what a shepherd is. A Shepherd, as read in Jeremiah 3:15, Ezekiel 34:12 and Ephesians 4:11, from its Hebrew ‘râ’âh’ and its Greek ‘poim?n’, is referred to as ‘a feeder’ or a ‘spiritual overseer’. (Orr, 1915; Strong, 1890; Briggs, 1906; Thayer, 1886). The shepherd’s office represents God’s tender care of His people (Faussett, 1888). Pastoral care gives the idea of seeking out the overall wellbeing and growth of individuals or groups of persons, of mutual healing and growth within a congregation and its community, “utilizing one-to-one or small groups relationships to enable healing empowerment and growth to take place in individuals and in their relationships” (Clinebell, 1984:25-26).
Defining the Megachurch
Kuzma, Kuzma ; Kuzma (2009:2), Wade (2015:4), Warf ; Winsberg (2010:34), and Chaves (2006:329) describe the Megachurch, in terms of its numbers, as a large protestant congregation with 2,000 or more persons in weekly worship attendance. The Megachurch is also identified in terms of its multiple programs tailored to people’s needs and its quest to achieve a broader cultural importance (Eagle 2015:3). According to the report by Stoyan Zaimov (2016), the largest congregation in the world attracts 180,000 worshippers.
The idea of the Megachurch is to offer the community a single organization that meets its spiritual, educational, emotional and recreational needs (Eagle, 2015:1). Megachurches are also identified by large auditoria, elaborate worship sessions, sophisticated worship technologies and “community anchors” (Wright 2017:73), which are poised at improving the life experiences of their members and the community.
The Task of Pastoral Care
In order to discuss the appropriate method of pastoral care, we must understand its tasks. The core task in pastoral care is “enabling spiritual healing and growth” (Clinebell, 1984:103, 109). Since the metaphor of a shepherd is used to illustrate the concept of pastoral care, then the tasks of pastoral care can be likened to those of a shepherd.
Nave (1896) describes a seven-fold task of a Shepherd namely: (i) caring for the flock, (ii) causing the flock to rest, (iii) numbering the flock, (iv) knowing the flock by name, (v) keeping the sheep and the goats apart, (vi) watering the flock, and (vii) keeping the flocks in folds.
White (1998: 99-102) describes a five-fold task, which are (i) spiritual nourishment, (ii) collecting and keeping the flock of God together, (iii) protecting God’s people from the “pull of the world”, (iv) healing of the spiritually sick, faint-hearted and crushed, and (v) providing spiritual direction for the church members.
The task of pastoral care also involves crisis management (Borchert ; Lester, 1985:127); this describes pastoral responses to events in the lives of members of the church such as childbirths, conversions, vocational crisis, marriages, physical illnesses and bereavements. Pastoral Care Office (1985:68), sees pastoral care as both crisis and preventive care – crisis care involving response to serious illness, deaths, family conflicts, job losses and accidents, and preventive care, that is building a consistent relationship of care and love with the church. The ideas of sheepfolds, keeping God’s people together in relationship, crisis management and preventive care suggest pastoral care “accompanied by a structured plan” and a “utilization of different models and approaches to address the many complicated issues” of the church (Janse & Breed, 2011: 2).
Biblical and Contemporary Models of Pastoral Care
The Bible gives us various models of pastoral care as it relates to rapidly growing populations. Moses’ model of pastoral care in his leadership of Israel was first to provide guidance for them in their knowledge of God and their relationship to one another. Secondly, when his physical strength began to wane as a result of ministering to thousands of people, upon God’s instruction (Numbers 11:11-17), he dealt with the large population using 70 elders who acted as his proxies in counseling and judicial matters.
David’s model of pastoral care can be seen in two phases of his life: before and after he ascended the throne of Israel. During the first phase, faced with the task of leading a group of 400 broken men (1 Samuel 2:2), he assumed the responsibility of ‘captain’ over them. His pastoral care meant being a custodian of their total wellbeing, leading them to restoration from misfortune and taking responsibility for discerning God’s will for the entire group (1 Samuel 30: 1-9, 21-25), David’s model of pastoral care throughout his reign as king over Israel was his authenticity shown in either his successes or failures.
Jesus Christ’s Model of pastoral care can be seen in three forms: (i) He modeled personal contact with likes of Nicodemus (John 3), Peter’s Mother in-law (Matthew 8:14), Jairus daughter (Luke 8:41, 51-56), Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10), Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-41; John 11:1 -44; (ii) He empowered his disciples to act as His proxies when it involved thousands of persons, as seen in the account of His feeding of 5,000 men (Luke 9:10-17); and in order to effectively reach the crowd, He instructed His disciples to have the crowd sit down “in groups of about fifty each” (Luke 9:14, ESV); (iii) the theme of His discussion in John 10:1- 4 centered around a shepherd’s personal care of his sheep. He says that a shepherd “calls his own sheep by name and leads them out” (John 10:3, ESV), he “goes before them”, they “follow him”, and his sheep “know his voice”, (John 10:4, ESV).
In the early Church, as the number of disciples multiplied, there was the need for the apostles to change the model of pastoral care, by empowering lay leaders called deacons, who took charge of the tasks of pastoral care at the grassroots.
Describing the pastoral care model of Apostle Paul of Tarsus, White (1998:103-104), discusses a two-fold model, first was Paul linking his teaching of the gospel with the “explication of its behavioral implications”, and second was his openness about his own experiences and needs.
In Clinebell’s (1984:26) “Holistic Liberation-Growth Model”, he describes pastoral care and counseling as a “shared ministry of the pastor and the whole congregation”, which must be holistic, “seeking to enable healing and growth in all dimensions of human wholeness”.
Factors that influence Pastoral Care Methods
The experience of Apostle Paul’s pastoral care shows us that pastoral care methods are influenced by a number of factors, which must be put into consideration when implementing these methods. White (1988:104) opines that a study of the pastoral care methods provided by the New Testament writers provides tools for us to choose from in different contexts and integral to developing such methods must be a living knowledge of the people we are leading, which stems from a burdened concern for their rounded wellbeing.
In developing frameworks for pastoral care, we must consider contexts such as culture, education, age group, marital status and employment status. Because these contexts are dynamic, pastoral care methods must also evolve with every changing context. Janse (2011:8) opines that pastoral care should be culturally contextualized. This resonates with Clinbell’s (1984:16) perspective that “in each period of history and every new environment”, the church must “find fresh ways of meeting the needs of the troubled persons”. Paul’s letters to the churches that he founded suggest different contexts, as a result, his pastoral care methods was peculiar to their needs, their context and the personal relationship that he had with them.
Suggested Framework for Effective Pastoral Care in Megachurches
Eagle’s research (2016:7) suggests that there is a tendency of being lost in the crowd in a very large church. In order to effectively carry out the tasks and fulfill the goals of pastoral care, which is “facilitating spiritual wholeness” (Clinebell, 1984:103); it is important that large churches consider the concept of Active Small Groups. Apostle Paul oftentimes in his ministry, placed emphases on home churches, such as the church that met in the home of the Christian couple, Aquila and Priscilla (1 Corinthians 16:19). Clinebell (1984:349) opines that small groups are a natural and time-tested methodology in the church, while noting that the use of small groups has been a dynamic factor in every major surge of new spiritual vitality in the church. Anderson (1992:56), describing house churches as small gatherings of Christians in homes that cater to family relationships or special interests, notes the durability of house churches. Eagle (2016:7) argues that smaller groups have an “easier time promoting group cohesion and participation” and this is due to the greater density of social relationships that they have. Paul Yonggi Cho testifies regarding small groups:
“I don’t think I could take care of more than 500… I have related only to a relatively small number of leaders. Those leaders have others under them who shepherd the cell leaders, and it is the cell leaders who perform the bulk of the ministry in our church. (Cho, 1981:61).
Pastoral care is more successful using active small groups; spiritual growths are observed more within these small groups; they generally create a climate for spiritual and social nourishment in the most natural setting. Small groups improve personal contact, fosters fellowship, discipleship and watchfulness over one another. Donahue & Robinson (2001:55) opines that small groups are built on authentic relationships, they experience healthy conflicts and they provide well-balanced shepherding, so people are well cared for and discipled. Small groups are better positioned to fulfill the goal of Hebrews 12:15, which reads:”Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God… (KJV, emphasis mine)
Another form of small group care is the Specialty Groups or Special Interest Support Groups; these groups can be marriage groups, bereavement groups, educational groups, health care groups, recovery groups, gender groups, peer groups and status groups. Activities of these groups are tailored to meet specific need. Hughes (2015:81) describes this in terms of support and recovery groups, which serve as a type of group counseling and care. He postured that people who have experienced the issues that these support groups hope to address lead such support groups.
In this framework, emphasis is also placed on lay leadership of these small groups. Spann (1957:58) observes that a program of pastoral care cannot be extended to the whole church except through the assistance of lay helpers. Cho (1981:121) emphasizes the success of home cell groups, which is dependent on the guidance of the pastor, trained lay leadership and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
In developing small groups dynamics however, care must be taken to prevent exclusivity among members of any small group; with exclusivity, new persons may be prevented from joining these small groups, which would defeat its purpose.
Conclusion
In conclusion, I have established that active small groups and specialty groups are the most effective ways of achieving the goals of pastoral care in large congregation churches. As the dynamics of Megachurches increase, the discussion about appropriate pastoral care methods will also continue. Megachurches should place more emphasis on, and encourage lay leadership of these small groups, with people who bring experiential knowledge into these small groups. This would strengthen the faith and spiritual vitality of the church as the church recognizes mutual efforts of both the pastoral and lay leadership of the church.

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