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By Paul Beasley-Murray.

Pastoral Care Today

I have in front of me a beautifully-presented copy of Pastoral Care Today: Practice, Problems and Priorities in Churches Today (published by CWR, Farnham, Surrey, 2000; ISBN 1 85345 169 X), an interim report from a survey, initiated by CWR/Waverley Christian counselling in association with the Evangelical Alliance, and conducted by the Centre for Ministry Studies, University of Wales, Bangor. The analysis of the responses of the first 754 pastors who completed the survey make for instructive, and at times fascinating, reading.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, only 5% of pastors in the survey are female. This tends to confirm my suspicion that there is a clear bias in evangelical churches against women in ministry, even although women clearly out-number men in the congregation. On the other hand, in a survey some four years ago of ministers subscribing to Ministry Today, an even lower percentage (3%) were women!

Only 2% of pastors are divorced, while only 3% are single. The report makes the interesting comment that "the low number of divorced pastors raises questions about the churches' pastoral responsibility to those pastors who experience marriage break-up. Many seem to disappear both from ministry and from the churches' pastoral concern".

Only 36% of pastors have a degree in theology - indeed, 53% have no university qualification in theology whatsoever. Somewhat surprisingly, as many as one in five have received no formal or recognised training for their pastoral ministry. I find this deeply disturbing. It would appear that many evangelical churches give little importance to the training of the mind for Christian ministry. By contrast the majority of these pastors are charismatically committed - only 22% do not speak 'in tongues'. This in turn reflects the way in which the Evangelical Alliance has become identified with the charismatic movement.

The size of their congregations varied. Some 17% were pastoring churches with less than 50 people, but 25% were pastoring churches with more than 200 people in the congregation. Does this reflect the fact that evangelical churches tend to be numerically strong churches?

Two out of every five pastors feel overwhelmed by pastoral care demands, and over half have considered leaving the ministry. The report comments: "The fact that 53% of pastors have considered leaving the ministry should be a matter of considerable concern, given the view that many others may already have left". Comparatively few pastors appear to be provided with the appropriate professional support to maintain the delivery of effective pastoral care. The majority of pastors (64%) said that their spouses were the main source of their pastoral care. This in turn raises the question: what happens when both the pastor and his/her spouse are in need of pastoral care?

The following needs were identified as the six key pastoral issues facing pastors today: stress (66%), marriage guidance (62%), bereavement (56%), unforgiveness (54%), loneliness (49%) and depression (49%). Second tier pastoral issues were identified as following: single-parent families (37%), debt (37%), conducting funerals (37%), marriage preparation (36%), dying (436%), family counselling (34%), terminal illness (33%), visiting hospitals (32%) and divorce (32%). Low priority pastoral issues included victims of bullies (9%), eating disorders (8%), abortion (7%), rape victims (3%) and abuse of the elderly (2%). The report comments: "These figures suggest that pastors may not be listening carefully enough to some of the issues of pastoral concern which are of growing importance in today's society".

In terms of ministry priorities, the pastors in the survey wanted, above all, to be preachers of the word and people of prayer. Interestingly, in a list of eight priorities, the task of leading public worship came last, while being a visitor or manager did not feature at all!

Needless to say, this is but a taster of the information to be found in this interim-report. It is clearly a significant report. This being so, it will be on the agenda of the next meeting of the RBIM Board. For, as RBIM members will know, RBIM is not in the business of promoting itself, but rather in the business of meeting the needs of pastors and other church leaders. As we state on the inside back cover of the journal, "the aim of the RBIM is to provide a supportive resource for all in pastoral leadership so that they may not only survive, but also grow and develop, becoming more effective in the ministry to which Christ has called them".

In this respect let me introduce this particular issue of Ministry Today. We are especially pleased that the Most Revd Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Wales, has given us permission to print a transcript of an address given by him at Greenbelt 2000. In this article, Archbishop Rowan explores the relationship between our present culture and our understanding of the soul. The pastoral significance of his reflections will be immediately obvious as a way of understanding, among other things, the loss of self-esteem among so many of our contemporaries.

In addition, Geoff Colmer reflects on lessons learned over 10 years in pastoral ministry, James Lawrence talks about the very successful Arrow Leadership Programme, John Simpson offers advice on managing an over-busy lifestyle and there is a thoughtful and caring article on how to cope with church 'alligators'. Alun Brookfield has recently moved his personal library and has come up with an unusual collection of books he would risk his life to rescue, and if you were wondering what to give up for Lent, Hedgehog has a radical suggestion.

I hope you enjoy this edition. Whether you do or you don't, why not tell us about your own pastoral experience through our new website discussion group (see page 19 for details)?

Paul Beasley-Murray

Paul Beasley-Murray

Senior Minister of Central Baptist Church, Chelmsford<br>and Chair of Ministry Today

Ministry Today

You are reading Editorial by Paul Beasley-Murray, part of Issue 21 of Ministry Today, published in February 2001.

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Ministry Today aims to provide a supportive resource for all in Christian leadership so that they may survive, grow, develop and become more effective in the ministry to which Christ has called them.

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