Three ways to handle pastoral care in the age of coronavirus

We’re all looking for creative ways to care for people whilst we’re not allowed to see them. The reality is, with great difficulty. The teaching side of things can be managed. Most people seem to be about the business of live streaming their Sunday sermons and Zoom seem to be making a killing on all the churches (including mine) who are now looking for ways to connect their Community Groups (or whatever you call those meetings that happen in people’s homes midweek).

The much harder thing to resolve is pastoral care. How do you meaningfully care for people when you can’t see them? I was chatting with somebody today (by phone, obviously!) who wondered allowed just what we would do if somebody was seriously sick? Would we really not go an visit them? Seems hard to imagine. But even for those who are not, and taking account of the advice, what are some of the ways we can care for each other pastorally?

Voice call

It doesn’t really matter which medium you use. Whether it’s hardwired landline telephone or the voice feature on a messaging app. In lieu of your actual, bodily presence a real life voice must be the next best thing. It is our intention as elders that we will each take a set of church members and call at least one of them a day to see how they are doing and to get some specific points for prayer.

Whatsapp groups

Most of you don’t live in areas as technologically challenged as Oldham. Most of our town are still scared of card machines (“it’s hard cash or nowt!”) But even we manage to have most people on whatsapp, barring the few holdouts who refuse mobile phones and insist on contact by carrier pigeon. But a whatsapp group is a simple way to keep in touch with church members and offer a bit of human interaction even whilst we can’t be with one another.

Social media

For all the scorn poured on Twitter, and the view that Facebook is now passé, I have never been convinced it is more bad than good (see here and here for instance). But it now presents us with a real opportunity. Not only is it another means of maintaining contact with people but it is also a way of sharing best practice in these strange times quickly and easily. It seems to me that Facebook and Twitter particularly, but other platforms too, offer us a good way to keep up with church members. People already post up what is going on with them, perhaps setting alerts to follow your church members particularly may just prompt your prayers and your desire to get in touch.