Pastoral care 101

Below is an excerpt from the eBook Pastoral Care ( in a nutshell series) by Nick Gwynn. For a copy visit and leave a message for Nick

The word ‘Pastor’ is an ancient term that derives from a Greek word poimēn usually translated as ‘Shepherd’ or ‘To Shepherd.’ It is from this basis that our definition and understanding of pastoral care comes from. Typically, the term ‘pastoral care’ has been used to describe the action of church leaders and workers, looking after the spiritual wellbeing of their congregation members. Today, ‘pastoral care’ is a term used in various settings, both religious and secular (i.e. Educational Institutions, Hospitals etc.) to describe the skill of assisting people to improve the ‘inner resources’ of their spirit, emotions and thoughts and subsequently their lives. It is not necessarily counselling or therapy but it is a care model and profession nonetheless with the motive and intention of support and care.

There are particular activities that aid and help to replenish these ‘inner- resources’ of people’s lives. The primary vehicle through which these come is relationship. Pastoral care is in great demand wherever there are people. The bottom line is, wherever there are people there are needs. The fundamental need that is common to all people is the need for relationship. In short, human beings are relational; and pastoral care at its core is all about relationship. Everything that happens in the context of pastoral care begins and ends with relationship. If we are involved in pastoral care work, we must have the foundational understanding that ‘relationship’ is the central focus. This includes the relationship between the pastoral carer and the client and relationships the client has with others.

The health of a person’s relationships is directly proportional in many ways to a person’s mental, emotional, spiritual and even physical health. The relationship you build with your client itself has an enormous capacity to bring change, strength and resilience to them. In a world where loneliness is epidemic, especially in the Western World where individualism and independence are often emphasised at the expense of community, don’t ever underestimate the significance and power of relationship, including your relationship with your client.