Pastoral Care

The Ministry of Pastoral Care

The ministry of pastoral care is a compassionate presence in imitation of Jesus' care of people, especially those who were hurting and in need. The ministry of Pastoral Care involves promoting positive adolescent and family development through a variety of positive (preventive) strategies; caring for adolescents and families in crisis through support, counseling, and referral to appropriate community agencies; providing guidance as young people face life decisions and make moral choices; and challenging systems that are obstacles to positive development (advocacy). Pastoral care is most fundamentally a relationship—a ministry of compassionate presence. This was Jesus' caring stance toward all people, especially those who were hurting or in need. Pastoral care enables healing and growth to take place within individuals and their relationships. It nurtures growth toward wholeness, and it provides guidance in decision making and challenges obstacles to positive development.

The ministry of pastoral care with adolescents has several distinct features that provide direction to comprehensive ministry efforts. Specifically, pastoral care

  • develops the life skills of adolescents, such as relationship building, assertiveness, nonviolent conflict resolution, decision making, and planning;
  • guides young people in making important life decisions, such as career and college choices, and discerning their particular Christian vocation;
  • fosters the spiritual development of young people and the healthy integration of their sexuality and spirituality;
  • creates networks of care and support for young people and their families;
  • provides programs and resources for parent education and skills for effective parenting that incorporate understandings of adolescent development and family life cycle tasks;
  • strengthens family life by assisting families to improve family skills, such as communication, decision making, problem solving, and reconciliation;
  • provides and connects adolescents and families to support services, referral resources, and self-help groups to promote healing during times of loss, sudden change, unexpected crises, problems, and family or personal transitions;
  • provides support and enrichment for adolescents and parents experiencing divorce, separation, or family problems; and connects them to appropriate counseling resources;
  • collaborates with the wider community in providing direct aid to youth-at-risk in the form of programs, services, and counseling.

Special attention should be given to young people who engage in high-risk behaviors that endanger their own health and well-being. These young people often have multiple problems that can severely limit their futures—fragmented family life, poor school performance, antisocial behavior, eating disorders, sexual activity, sexual confusion as they struggle with identity, and alcohol or drug use, to name several. The Church is called to work with the wider community to address the needs of these young people. Ministry to these young people may be the most important way they will ever come to know and feel the love of God—through people who love them and care for them just at the point when they themselves feel least worthy and lovable.