Pastoral Care During the Pandemic

Even in the midst of pandemic, we church leaders have to continue providing pastoral care for our sheep. Here are some reflections on this task in these unusual days:

1. The telephone has become a greater tool of ministry. Actually calling someone and talking to someone has become a much more significant approach to ministering to people. Voices over the telephone can be more comforting, encouraging and motivating than email or texts.

2. Personal visits occur much less often—and they sometimes occur sitting in socially-distanced chairs in a driveway. We don’t just “drop by” someone’s house these days. Now, visiting requires permission, and social distancing requires planning.

3. Zoom counseling sessions have increasingly become the norm. The needs of our members are even more acute these days, and we don’t have the option of delaying our response. They may not be as effective as in-person meetings, but Zoom meetings are a means to continue pastoral counseling.

4. For churches that offer a “come forward” response time at the end of the service, little decision counseling is taking place on the spot. Again, social distancing makes it hard for a pastor to put his arm around a member and pray for that person. The current situation is forcing us to come up with other means to respond to spiritual needs on the spot.

5. Hospital visits, if they occur at all, require much more permission and coordination. Gone are the days when we pastors could stop in during most hours to visit a parishioner. If hospitals allow visitors now, we must follow protocols to secure permission to visit and to guard everyone (including ourselves) against COVID-19.

6. Church office “drop in” visits for ministry are occurring less often. In some cases, churches still aren’t open during the week. In other cases, they’re open but require masks and social distancing. Some members, too, are still hesitant in general to come to the church building.

7. Pastoral care sometimes requires us to ask some folks not to come to church. We’ve not typically done that in the past, but now we must remind the vulnerable and the ailing that gathering with a congregation may not be best.

8. Leading funerals and weddings now can be more stressful. Some weddings have been changed dramatically. Some funerals have been severely limited in the number of attenders. Both events have sometimes been delayed by COVID—and we still must minister to these hurting families.

9. Good pastoral care has required being more proactive than reactive. In the past, pastoral care usually assumed we would respond to a need when we heard about it. That’s still the case, but we’ve also been pushed to check on folks proactively when we don’t see them regularly at church.

What are you experiencing as you do pastoral care?

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This article originally appeared on and is reposted here by permission.

Chuck Lawless
Chuck Lawless

Chuck Lawless is dean and vice president of graduate studies and ministry centers at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, and global theological education consultant for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.