‘Excellence in pastoral care and oversight in and through Life Church Southampton’
All vision is aspirational in nature. It is a preferred picture of what the future could look like. With our pastoral care we are casting a new vision of what we have the potential to accomplish together.
From March 2023 the oversight of our pastoral care will move from a central ‘Pastoral Team’ to site representatives who will make up a new ‘Pastoral Forum’ which will meet monthly.
The aspirations for this way of working are threefold:
- To serve our Elders
- To meet the needs with gifted people
- To release others into pastoral ministry
1\ To serve the Elders by developing excellence in pastoral care and oversight, ensuring that needs are met and releasing the Elders to the Word and Prayer (Exodus 18:13-23; Acts 6:1-7)
Elders (overseers/shepherds) are those responsible for leading and feeding the flock of the church. In Exodus 18 Moses received a word of wisdom from his father in law, Jethro. Up until then Moses had been carrying much of the care for people himself, and Jethro encouraged him to look for other trustworthy leaders who could handle most of the situations that arose, but who still had the freedom to take complex situations to Moses. As Jethro pointed out – to keep to an old structure ‘is not good’ (Ex 18:17)
Similarly, in the early church, as it was growing, there came a point when their structures for caring for different groups in the church were stretched to breaking point, resulting in complaints. In order to make sure that people were cared for, without the senior leaders neglecting their responsibility to be men of the ‘Word of God and prayer’ – a new group of leaders had to be identified and released to avoid overwork in a few leaders, and neglect in the congregation.
Similarly, wisdom says that we are at a significant point in our journey of church growth, and need to consider how as elders we can effectively maintain a clear oversight of the flock whilst not doing all the work.
Please note, this is not an abdication of this responsibility by the elders. It is our expectation is that where gifted and practically able to do so, elders will serve on the Pastoral Forum and will always retain overarching responsibility as a team for the pastoral care of the church.
Our hope is that we will experience what both Moses and the early church experienced. People will be cared for better (Ex 18:25-26), and the word of God will spread (Acts 6:9)
2\ To equip and release a group of pastorally gifted leaders to serve the needs of a growing multi-site church. (Romans 12:6-8)
We recognise that God has given us gifted leaders to enable us to continue to develop the pastoral care we offer.
In a small church of up to 50/100 people, one or two elders, with others helping, can personally bring and oversee most of the pastoral care. As the church grows more people are needed to fulfil this task. Our previous structure was good for serving the church up to about 200 people, but the wineskin has been outgrown, as we now have between 250-370 people who consider Life Church to be their home.
We need to add to that the complexities of structure in a multi-site church. Pastoral care is relational, and so there is a measure to which we need to ‘know and be known’ by those we are caring for, hence the transition to site based ministry.
Moses entrusted much, but also retained the option to be consulted on the tougher cases. Part of the reason for adopting this new model is that it will give us a forum to consult and seek the expertise and experience of others.
The forum will be made up of pastorally gifted leaders, who will meet monthly to achieve three aims:
- To be trained and to grow in pastoral gifting through input and discussion.
- To share (and potentially escalate) complex situations that will benefit from the input of others.
- To pray for each other and the needs of the church.
3\ To meet the needs of the current congregation and beyond by identifying and releasing pastoral gifting within each site, releasing members into their works of service, and encouraging the church to care for one another (2 Tim 2:2; 1 Cor 12 / Eph 4:11-12)
Our expectation is that those who serve on the forum will be active not just in spotting and meeting pastoral needs within their site, but that they will also be those who identify and release others within the site who may have developing pastoral gifting and will encourage the members of their site to outwork the biblical model of body ministry, and genuinely be a community that care for one another. Site Representatives are active in overseeing, not doing, all the pastoral work in their site.
Our members have works of service that God has prepared for them, ant our privilege as leaders is to try and help people identify and use their gifts for the good of the church.
Increasingly we desire to pastor those who surround our community. One of the results of the Acts 6 moment was that the number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly. We are to be God’s answer for those in the community around us, both geographically and relationally.