A Web of Care: External Resources

Here are five strands of external care (building upon the internal strands) that can be leveraged to strengthen the pastoral ministry in your local church.

It is important to note that there are professionals in various areas who may or may not attend your church. As best you can, know who they are and get a sense of how they might be utilized in ways that can strengthen your web of care. This will require humility and wisdom. If some of these people attend your church, get them to help you identify the resources available in your community.

Strand One: Specially trained counselors. If you have professionally trained counselors in your church, they can be a rich resource for helping you care for and equip other people. The obvious challenge is recognizing what models are most influential in their care. Make every effort to pursue them and begin a conversation that moves in the direction of mutual understanding and appreciation. Most professionally trained counselors have not been adequately exposed to Biblical and theological categories that are essential to distinctively Christian counseling. It is also true that many pastors and leaders have not had adequate exposure to helpful diagnoses and skills in discipling ministry with more complex struggles. Strive to bring these two together.

Strand Two: Doctors and Psychiatrists. The physical body is complex. While doctors and psychiatrists are not omniscient, their training does provide insight into how the body influences the person. The same situation that exists with professionally trained counselors is true of doctors and psychiatrists. If you want a stronger web of care, do the same with them as you would do with the group in strand one. 

Strand Three: Social Workers. People in the helping professions, including counselors, can be a rich resource for the local church. Hospice care, those who care for the elderly, crisis pregnancy providers, suicide intervention, coroners, nurses, EMS, substance abuse and police officers are some of the many people who can play a role in very specific ways in the body of Christ. Often, they can be leveraged to do significant training for highly active lay people. Their experience and case wisdom is invaluable. Capture it for the good of others.

Strand Four: Every Member. One of the main aspects of a web of care is the daily relationships of each and every person in your church. As important as trained professionals are, there is no replacement for a person's daily friendships. These are the people who really know the person and are there around the clock. Every member in the local church should be equipped at some level to wisely care for those closest to them. You would do well to spend time equipping this group with basic skills for listening and a knowledge of where they can be helpful and where they may be over their heads.

Strand Five: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It goes without saying that within the context of the body of Christ, there are many strands of the web of care that can be found outside of the local church. One aspect that can not be found or manufactured anywhere else is the presence of a personal God who is graciously involved and working His good purposes in every Christian's life. We do well to remember that the local church has a "resource" that no other organization or institution has; a gracious, personal redeeming God who has revealed Himself in the person of Jesus and works mysteriously through the Holy Spirit.

Finally, it is helpful to remember that the primary metaphor for the church used over and over again in the Bible is that of a body. There are many parts and each part is needed in order for the body to function well. As you consider both internal and external strands within the body of Christ, you begin to see how very important each strand is. You also see just how important it is for each strand to be connected wisely to one another. The strands cannot exist as parallel entities. It is the role of wise leadership to strengthen the interconnectedness of the various people who represent these multiple aspects of care. This will only happen if wise leadership encourages and facilitates this connection. Once it does, a web of care will emerge that will provide a more safe, secure and wise context to provide care for the people who attend your local church.

Copyright © 2014 Timothy S. Lane 

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Tim Lane

Dr. Timothy S. Lane is the President of the Institute for Pastoral Care and has a counseling practice in Fayetteville, GA. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), having been ordained in 1991 and a member of Metro-Atlanta Presbytery. Tim has authored Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace, and co-authored How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. He has written several mini-books including PTSD, Forgiving Others, Sex Before Marriage, Family Feuds, Conflict, and Freedom From Guilt.

He has experience in both campus ministry (University of Georgia, 1984-1987) and pastoral ministry where he served as a pastor in Clemson, SC from 1991 until 2001. Beginning in 2001 until 2013, he served as a counselor and faculty at CCEF in Philadelphia, PA (Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation). Beginning in 2007, he served as its Executive Director until 2013.

In 2014, Tim and his family re-located to his home state, Georgia, where he formed the non profit ministry the Institute for Pastoral Care. His primary desire and commitment is to help pastors and leaders create or improve their ability to care for the people who attend their churches.  For more information about this aspect of Tim's work, please visit the section of this site for the Institute for Pastoral Care. He continues to write, speak and travel both nationally and internationally. Tim is adjunct professor of practical theology at several seminaries where he teaches about pastoral care in the local church.