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Basic Concepts That Apply to All Pastoral Care Teams

According to the model we have developed at River Road Unitarian Church, several concepts that are basic to Pastoral Care Teams regardless of the size of the church or the background of the members of the Pastoral Care Team.

Our model is based on a team concept, meaning team supervision, team support and problem solving. The team meets twice a month to go over all the work being done and to discuss each new person being helped. Team members exchange ideas as to how to help the person in need and how to support each other. When the problems are complex or time consuming two-three team members work together.

Pastoral Care Teams we believe, should start with a Mission Statement. The Mission Statement defines what the team promises to do and its relationship with the church. The goals of the Pastoral Care Team should be based on several items: the size of the Pastoral care team in relation to the size of the church, the professional background or training of the members of the team, and the needs of the congregation. If the team has no one who is professionally trained in the mental health or counseling area, the Team should not take on the responsibility of helping people who have emotional problems or family crises. Someone trained on the Team or the minister needs to handle emotional problems or ones that require mental health judgment. Our Team triage is done by someone with mental health training. so that people who need emotional support are assigned only to those members of the Team who have a background in this area. We do not do counseling, therapy, or give advice. We occasionally refer to individual or group therapy.

Based on the following criteria church or Team size, background and time availability of Team member, church needs, also other programs in the church that can support the work of the Team (as Neighborhoods), we suggest that you select a few programs to begin. Included are ten programs we have set up: choose what best suits your needs. Start small and add to them later.

If you have a team in a small church with no minister, send cards for birthdays anniversaries, illness, births, and deaths. Or you can also deliver meals at the time of illness, birth, or death. Just doing a few programs well and consistently will change the attitude of your church community. If you have a church with a large community of older people you might want to visit people in the hospital or nursing home. Also a Medical Equipment Loan Program might be appropriate. In a church with a young population, respite care and meals for new mother, might be most helpful River Road is a large urban church with a wide age range of membership so we try to provide comprehensive services for all ages.

In our church, the Neighborhoods provide meals and transportation for members who live geographically close to one another while the Pastoral Care Team acts as a coordinator of services and case managers.

We believe that what we do is a ministry. We begin our meetings with a spiritual opening and conclude our meeting with a spiritual closing. We have our own Joys and Concerns at each meeting. We help each other during time of illness or life transition. Names of new People in Need of Service (PINS) are given out at the meetings.

Whichever Team member will minister to the new PIN is determined by: how busy that Team member might be, his familiarity with the person needing help (PIN), or the person needing special expertise from a specific team member. The administrative work is done in executive committee which is made up of the coordinator and two co-coordinators. It is important to devise an administrative model or structure that can be bequeathed to succeeding team leaders.

In order to build trust and respect of the Team by the congregation, strict confidentiality must be maintained. People who receive help need to feet secure that the only people who know about their problem are the minister and members of the Pastoral Care Team.

The Team must get permission from those whom they are helping to go to the neighborhoods or other members of the church to get assistance with meals, transportation, babysitting, etc. or to put announcements in the church newsletter.