Pastoral Care in Hospital

1       Caring for the vulnerable

People in need, especially so in the hospital, are mostly very vulnerable people. The spirit and heart of the gospel is one of respect for people (and the whole of creation). Pastoral care thus takes respect for people seriously and wants to be supportive to the whole person in all his/ her needs. It is of importance to note, that there is to a certain extent a difference between doing care work and evangelising people. Our action of service, to a person in need, is our main witnessing tool. By caring, we show the love of Christ. If a person has a strong need (calling) to focus on evangelising, the sick and the hospital is the wrong context to do it in. Then you are encouraged to become part of an evangelising team. Surely, you will get opportunities in the hospital to share the gospel, but then it is because that is what the patient needs and not what you set out as your goal.

2       Being present

Pastoral care is in the first place to be available for those in need. Available in terms of “being present” and to be an ear for others. This sounds simple, but this is often the most difficult thing for the majority of people. Most people are much better in giving advise rather than to listen. Often Christians are much better in praying and reading from the Bible, rather than just to listen and be present. Hospital care and support does not mean that we go with a “ready made parcel” that we want to deliver from bed to bed. The focus is to be available and be supportive through our presence.

3       To let go

Part of the training of hospital care is not to teach what to go and do, but how to leave behind that what we think we are going to do. This is the hardest part and the most difficult skill to master. It is only in confidence in our own skills and in the power of the Holy Spirit that we can let go of all pretension that we are the experts on what others need and must do in a situation to make it better.

4       Being a Facilitator

You may ask whether such an approach leave any room for training of pastoral care workers? The understanding is that it is much easier to go and just dish out advise and read a passage from the Bible and pray, than to be an expert facilitator that listens and facilitates a conversation. The training as pastoral worker want to play a role in developing facilitation skills that help us to be respectful facilitators sharing the love of Jesus Christ through the way we are with people in need.

Frederik Nel

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