How Pastoral Care Stunts the Growth of Most Churches

shutterstock_62970499Of all the mysteries that shouldn’t be mysteries, why most churches remain small is perhaps the greatest.

I’m sure there are a few leaders who want to keep their churches small, or who don’t care about growth.

But most small church leaders and pastors I meet actually want to reach more people. They want to see their mission fully realized. They hope and pray for the day when they can reach as many people as possible in their community.

But that’s simply not reality.

The Barna group reports the average Protestant church size in America as 89 adults. 60% of protestant churches have less than 100 adults in attendance. Only 2% have over 1000 adults attending.

As a result, the dreams of pastors of most small and even mid-sized churches go unrealized. Why?

I outlined 8 reasons most churches never break the 200 attendance mark in this post, but today I want to drill down deeper on one that kills almost every church and pastor: pastoral care.

If pastors could figure out how to better tackle the issue of pastoral care, I’m convinced many more churches would grow.

Here’s why. And here’s how.

How Pastors Die Trying

When the pastor has to visit every sick person, do every wedding and funeral and make regular house calls, attend every meeting, and lead every bible study or group, he or she becomes incapable of doing almost anything else.

Message preparation falls to the side, and providing organizational leadership for the future is almost out of the question.

The pastoral care model of church leadership simply doesn’t scale.

It’s somewhat ironic, actually.

If you’re a good pastoral care person (and many pastors are), people will often love you so much that the church will grow to two hundred people, at which point the pastoral care expectations become crushing.

Inevitably, pastoral leaders with larger churches can’t keep up and end up disappointing people when they can’t get to every event anymore.

Caring for 30 people personally is possible. Caring for 230 is not.

Many pastors burn out trying.

The pastoral care model most seminaries teach and most congregations embrace creates false and unsustainable expectations.

Consequently, almost everyone gets hurt in the process.

The pastor is frustrated that he or she can’t keep up. And the congregation is frustrated over the same thing.

Eventually, the pastor burns out or leaves and the church shrinks back to a smaller number. If a new pastor arrives who also happens to be good at pastoral care, the pattern simply repeats itself: growth, frustration, burnout, exit.

It’s ironic. They very thing you’re great at (pastoral care) eventually causes your exit when you can no longer keep up.

Or, if you stay for a long time, your church settles down to around 100 people and you simply can’t grow it beyond that.

Why? Because you haven’t structured bigger to grow bigger.

Complication 1: Pastors Who Won’t Let Go

Several other factors make pastoral care complicated.

Many pastors I know are people-pleasers by nature (if that’s you…read this). Wanting to not disappoint people fuels conflict within leaders: people want you to care for them, and you hate to disappoint them.

In some respect, pastoral care establishes classic co-dependency. The congregation relies on the pastor for all of its care needs, and the pastor relies on the congregation to provide their sense of worth and fulfillment: the pastor needs to be needed.

Complication 2: Congregations That Won’t Let Go

Many congregations define the success of their leader according to how available, likable and friendly their pastor is.

It’s as though churches want a puppy, not a pastor.

Since when did that become the criteria for effective Christian leadership?

By that standard, Moses, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, the Apostle Paul and perhaps even Jesus failed the test.

The goal of Christian leadership is to lead, not to be liked.

That’s no excuse for being a jerk or insensitive, but still, leadership requires that at times, you need to do what’s best, not what people want.

If a church is going to grow, congregations have to let go of the expectation that their pastor will be available for every medical emergency, every twist and turn in their lives, every family celebration and every crisis.

That’s a tough sell for many congregations, but if a church is going to grow, it has to happen.

How to Break Through

So how do you deal with this?  Have the courage to shift care to the congregation.

The best answer I know of for pastoral care in a larger church is to teach people to care for each other in groups.

Groups based care isn’t just practical. It’s biblical.

It’s thoroughly biblical: going back to Exodus 18, when Jethro confronted Moses about doing everything himself.

Even Jesus adopted the model of group care, moving his large group of hundreds of disciples into groups of seventy, twelve, three, and then one.

I have been the pastoral care giver in a small church. Some of those original people are now part of our much larger church where care happens in groups. In the process, both they and I have made the transition.

As a result, here’s what I’ve come to believe about pastoral care: 98% of pastoral care is having someone who cares. It doesn’t have to be the pastor.

2% of the time you’ll have situations where the need of a member exceeds the ability of the group to help. That’s what trained Christian counsellors are for. The tool kit of a trained Christian counsellor is deeper and better than the counselling ability of the vast majority of pastors.

I rarely if ever counsel people. Why? Because I care about people too much. Instead, I send them to people who can actually help them.

If you’re wondering how to start the discussion, I started it with my elders and leaders when we were about 100 in attendance and told them my role would be changing.

The journey was tough, but we made it.  We now have a church of 3000 people with 1500 in attendance on weekends.

It’s tempting to say I’d be dead if I was still trying to do pastoral care personally, but that’s simply not true.

I’d be alive, very tired (it’s not my key gifting) and our church would be under 200 people. I also likely would have quit. We would never have grown. That’s the reality.

It’s simply impossible for a church to grow beyond 200 under one person’s direct care and leadership.

That journey has been so powerful for us (and I get asked about it so often) that I created a course to lead you and your team through it. The course is called the Church Growth Masterclass.

Too Scared?

Too scared to have the conversation?

If you’re a people pleaser, do what you need to do to get over it. Go see a counselor. Get on your knees. Do whatever you need to do to get over the fear of disappointing people.

If you’re afraid to have the conversation, have it anyway.

Courageous leadership is like courageous parenting. Don’t do what your kids want you to do; do what you believe is best for them in the end.

Eventually, many of them will thank you.

And the rest? Honestly, they’ll probably go to another church that isn’t reaching a lot of people either.

I’m convinced that if we changed how we do pastoral care, we’d reach more people. And in the process, we’d care for people much better than we do now.

What do you think? Scroll down and leave a comment.

How Pastoral Care Stunts the Growth of Most Churches


  1. Don Davies on August 11, 2021 at 12:12 am

    I really pray for churches experiencing this. A good pastor can lead a ministry to the right path. Pastor Henderson who authors Christian books for men, is also good in preaching and leading our community!

  2. Edi Stephenson on June 4, 2021 at 7:12 pm

    Our first step was to change the name of the ministry. Pastoral care can only be done by a pastor. We called our expression “care ministry” which is done by others in your life group or others in the church especially those gifted to care. Changes the expectation. We taught on this and how unreasonable the sum total of the expectation is on one person.

    • OKPURHE, Justice Okiemute on June 5, 2021 at 5:52 pm

      Great and insightful presentation. I am really blessed.

    • Tom Rath on July 2, 2021 at 2:36 pm

      Actually the trend of leaving Pastoral care to others is very good for the members. We have become self sufficient and take care of each other. Pastors can soon book their study cruise ships. Don’t forget that the sun block.

  3. elise on May 8, 2021 at 7:41 pm

    Do you have suggested resources for churches looking to build up a pastoral care team? There are some great training options available for how to *minister* in this area, but are there examples of the steps congregations take to implement it?
    Thanks for all your blogs Carey!!

  4. thomas nunez on March 10, 2021 at 7:02 pm

    its amazing the things you can learn on the internet. i never would have thought about this. now i understand how it really works.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on March 11, 2021 at 12:18 pm

      So glad to help!

      I’ve got a lot more on this subject if you are looking for more!

      • Kumar jay on April 24, 2021 at 2:01 pm

        Greetings in the mighty name of Jesus Christ. We are excited to partner with you to show forth the love of Christ Jesus the people here in north India, right now we reached to three states Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi this is the most unreached area for the gospel of Jesus Christ we have some leaders who are leading those places.we are also working amang widows, children who are not able to go to school we are teaching them and youth as well by knowing their talent and skills. We have many youth to be trained for the work of God as our vision is to reach whole north India some of the places here people never heard the gospel of Christ ,after teaching the crowd for many days Jesus moved with the compassion and asked his disciples to arrange food for everyone. Dear brothers and sisters as we all are aware the fact that many people lost jobs in here and struggling for even basic needs ,our God taught us to help the needy and poor. We ask you to partners with us to share the love and word . It is possible , You may not have time but resources that we don’t, please come forward as we invite you for the great harvest in the midst of this pandemic. Hoping to hear from you .for more information pls contact us.
        In the service of God
        Pastor: Jai kumar and team

    • Barnabas Otieno on March 12, 2021 at 7:58 am

      I’ve learnt a great deal here

  5. Mike Megginson on October 12, 2020 at 11:10 am

    Thank you Carey for coaching us to have this conversation. I would just add that Ephesians 4:11-13 teaches us that as church leaders we are to “equip the saints for the work of ministry” and who are the “saints”? Those are the people, not the staff. Sure, as pastors, we are to be engaged in pastoral care, that’s what we do and who we are, but let’s also be equipping our saints to share the load. I would encourage pastors to do that regardless of the size of your church. Ephesians 4:11-13 is true whether you pastor 50 or 5,000.

    • John Vilseck on March 7, 2021 at 9:34 pm

      I don’t consider this article as legitimate guide in teaching the body of Christ. Accusing Jesus himself for failure to minister to those who followed Him misses the Salvation message of God Son’s sacrifice on the cross. To attribute human failure to meet God’s will is preposterous and imposes the human depravity upon Christ. Christ was the pure lamb of God and sacrificed for our eternity. What a ridiculous supposition to even consider the Christ as a mere man. This is man’s folly for watering down the Salvation message and declares Christ was not spotless before God’s eyes or for sinners to even rely on faith in Christ’s sacrifice. Disturbing how cliques impose so much power in a church instead of measuring the health of the church on scripture. God is love and Paul was never afraid to speak directly to church leaders about their incapacity to remove chronic sin out of their body and to be motivated by vanity in power derived from a church position. Very unsatisfactory I am sure in the eyes of the Lord that the body keeps permitting secular attitudes to bring down the salvation message and disrupt the growth within the body itself. One thing that could be adopted in certain roles of church leadership is term limits. Building the congregation to spread God’s word through their life, not adopt world behaviors which are meant to be stepped away from after salvation. If the flock is not fed, it will stray.

      • Wes Chaffin on July 28, 2021 at 8:44 am

        TO me pastoral care is actually first. Jeremiah 23:2. I find this URL loaded with fallacy. “I rarely if ever counsel people. Why? Because I care about people too much. Instead, I send them to people who can actually help them.” Dear God in heaven you are one fallen soul. I pray God convicts your heart with compassion and you learn to love the flock. Honestly, I believe the complete opposite. Pastors are not leading from the front and encouraging others to assist. They are not discipling or teaching him to help others and its killing our churches. Feed the flock, protect he flock and grow the flock. The numbers, are irrelevant.

        • Janel Holaday on September 5, 2021 at 5:27 pm

          Bless you for speaking truth Wes. I agree 100%. The Shepherds need to Shepherd instead of acting like they’re rock stars or being people pleasers. I’m so saddened to hear that this author just doesn’t get it- it’s all too familiar to me, which is why I came across this post. 😢
          May Pastors read your post and understand so they can change. Amen. 🙏 Thank You Jesus for being our Good Shepherd! All glory, honor and praise to You! Have mercy on Your bride- intervene. Thank You for always interceding for us. Amen and Amen. Shalom ❤️🕊

  6. Bob Willis on October 10, 2020 at 9:13 pm

    This pastor of 41 years, who enjoys and passes on most of your blogs to my staff, thinks you’re full of crap on this one. There is no greater responsibility and privilege to minister directly to those in need. I hate this COVID restriction crap, but our church of 1,000+ is surviving this pandemic (I’m in CA where the governor is not letting us meet) because of personal pastoral care.

    • Dee Gee on October 11, 2020 at 4:15 am

      Crap, more correctly described as organic waste, is a traditional and effective manure. Manure well applied promotes growth, so do not be surprised to find such material, correctly labelled, in these parts, liberally applied with an industrial-scale spreader in the hope that some will stick.

      Is it possible that you have successfully delegated a lot of stuff that CN may well have retained? I imagine personal care for 1000 might get in the way of his lifestyle & ministry. Perhaps you could say more about how you (or somebody else perhaps!) organises your congregation to grow to the next thousand. What does the succession plan look like?

    • Isaac maosa oyaro on October 21, 2020 at 2:05 am

      Dear Servants of God!

      Greetings in Jesus Name our Lord and savior the soon coming King.

      We are very much impressed to discover your ministry and your excellent teachings of Jesus Christ that you provide to your saints for effective and comprehensive Christian faith- based. And on behalf of our young independent Fellowship [ GETACHO CHRIST FAITH FELLOWSHIP ] , we send a prayer request to consider us of receiving your Ministry’s printable teaching materials and welcoming you to visit us as well as conduct a seminar in our young fellowship & communities here in East Africa when the Lord’s right time.

      We are a small fellowship that is interesting on spreading the truth from the Holy Bible to unreachable souls who’re many again do reach house to house to pray for widows , poor in faith and needy children who’re under our fellowship also we have a small Scale farming & few chickens that supports us to meet some of the needs of those we meet. We need a spiritual leader and guidance for the Spiritual growth as it is written in the Bible.

      We do meet and share the word of God from the Holy Bible.

      Will be happy to read from you when the Lord our father allows you!


      God bless you!

      Many thanks,

      Yours in His Holy Service,
      Brother Isaac & Sister Evelyn

    • Moojava on December 15, 2020 at 7:25 pm

      As a physician, I would suggest that if you can’t get behind this “COVID restriction crap” , you are an inauthentic Christian. Get on board with life matters at all stages! Even the Pope stated not being able to gather to worship was a perceived grievance.

    • Ted Martens on June 4, 2021 at 12:53 pm

      I agree with Bob Willis! Carey’s post is a SAD post seeking to comfort what too many pastors are not doing already. It is the personal care and concern that gives weight and influence to the public preaching of God’s Word! Covid-19 has proven how disconnected too many pastors are from their own people!

  7. Terry on October 10, 2020 at 12:31 pm

    Thank you very sir for uncompromising dedication, I personally I have really benefited from your teachings a lot. May God richly increase you.

  8. Sermons on July 6, 2020 at 10:40 am

    Just like you rightly said, some men of God do not care about growth.

    • Matthew Whiten on August 10, 2020 at 6:43 pm

      I experienced severe spiritual abuse at a church with no pastoral care. They only cared about growth. You are right that I only needed one person who cared so walk me through a season but the church turned its back on me.

      • Glenda Dudley on August 28, 2020 at 2:18 pm

        I know what you mean. I was a member of a church and my husband was ill. We were struggling. The pastor never once called much less visit to provide encouragement. My husband committed suicide. Preacher did call after to tell me my husband went to a dark place. No, a dark place came to him.
        I now belong to a different church.

        • Matthew Whiten on August 28, 2020 at 6:50 pm

          I am very sorry to hear your story. It says a lot about your faith that you still go to church at all. Praying for you.

          • Jesslyn Ramlal on October 10, 2020 at 9:20 am

            The Reformed Church/Presbyterian (based in the idea of ‘presbuteros’ (elders) taking on leadership roles in keeping with John Calvin’s notion of ‘teaching’ and ‘ruling’ elders is the solution. It is strongly Biblical (see Acts 6:1-7).
            The question of failing in Pastoral Care goes beyond having the right model for it, though. We tend to bring secular understandings and modes of organisation as priority go-to ‘solutions’ nto our church situations, and often this is inimical. Further, we must consider a kind of ‘clergy culture’, which we see, whereby the Minister/pastor is considered as the ‘magical’ person for dealing with problems, doing counselling/special prayer situations…and yes, lack of (ongoing) training of elders is another factor

        • Angie L. on October 13, 2020 at 2:33 pm

          Oh Glenda!
          I can not imagine what you have gone through. I am sorry! I am sorry for your pain and your loss! I am sorry that your previous pastor was not there for you in your desperate time of great need.
          May God supply your every need as He knows exactly what and how . May you find comfort in His closeness! I am pausing right now to pray for you.
          You are loved Sister!

    • Ezekiel Abdul Koroma on September 26, 2020 at 6:39 am

      So we have to be totally be focuse in our spiritual life at our Area of study

    • Jamie Hiscox on October 10, 2020 at 11:08 am

      Very thought provoking and packed with practical and biblical wisdom on not burning out in ministry.

  9. Michael Mammi Ijah on June 27, 2020 at 1:23 pm

    This is a great piece!

    • Tom on July 24, 2020 at 9:48 am

      Just a numbers game right? During covid coming to the conclusion pastors are becoming irrelevant and are currently protecting jobs. Back to home church. Yay!!!

      • Cathy on October 10, 2020 at 9:18 am

        I believe the church has never been more relevant. Politicians are not going to fix our brokenness—-only God can do that…..through His church. His message has never changed…Love one another. I disagree about your numbers comment…. most church growth can be attributed to sharing Jesus’ message of love and actually acting on it. That’s for sure what young people seem to be looking for. Shame on those pastors who aren’t looking at growth through the Great Commision.

  10. sonu on June 8, 2020 at 8:38 am

    I was thinking that in Matthew 6:9 Jesus taught his disciples to pray to the
    Father and for the Father’s name to be glorified or sanctified.

    What could be that Name?

    Please help me to know.

  11. Timothy Eaton on June 7, 2020 at 9:45 pm

    The pastor role, as practiced, is unscriptural. Early churches were elder led. Jesus is supposed to be the Head of gathering. The pastor is monopolizer of Sunday is spectator Christianity. It produces lukewarm deadwood.

    Read 1Corinthians 14:26. ….when we gather…all must be done for strengthening of church.

    HS is grieved that the divinity inside believers is extinguished by false ecclesiastical practice. The disgusting role of believers on Sunday is sit down and shut up. It needs change back to the priesthood of all believers.

    Pastors are also victims of the institutional church. That is another reason for their high burnout rate.

  12. Alvin Smith on March 24, 2020 at 8:16 am

    What an amazing article. that’s totally true I agree with this statement that caring for 30 people personally is possible. Caring for 230 is not. Many pastors burn out trying. well said.

    • Clement on April 27, 2020 at 12:29 pm

      Wonderful experience. It is an eye opener.

  13. Faith Bogdan on February 8, 2020 at 9:26 pm

    You said you have a church of 3,000 with 1,500 in attendance on the weekends. Where are the other 1,500? Am I missing something? Just curious. Thanks.

    • Kevin Herrin on February 25, 2020 at 4:00 pm

      Faith, churches rarely, if ever, run on 100% attendance. For our town, shift work is a reality with 8 major refineries. The law of averages also comes into play when you consider vacations, family visits, anniversary weekends, little league and select league baseball/soccer/softball tournaments, etc. Just because someone considers a church their church doesn’t mean they’ll attend every Sunday.

    • Sam Elijah on March 20, 2020 at 8:23 am

      Thanks so much for this wonderful insight into Pastoral care. But I still like to know more. Could you please send more detailed articles on how to use small groups (Home Cell groups) to achieving this pastoral care in our church work? Thanks.

      Pastor Sam Elijah
      Lagos, Nigeria.

  14. office setup on December 13, 2019 at 12:14 am

    Mostly i don’t use to read blogs on regular basis,but after reading your blog i would like to say that your website is just a pulling factor for me to read more and more. your website amazed me .Thank you for such a great post.

    • Sheila Reese on December 24, 2019 at 2:31 pm

      Thank you for a great post. This was a much needed conversation in society and church. In order to change and grow we must first understand and admit there is a issue and the question is Why. Thanks I enjoyed this and I learned something. Again thanks…..Sheila

  15. Apostle Danson on November 1, 2019 at 9:37 am

    My names are Danson Kasosala senion Pastor of the Local church called Community for Jesus Ministries in Zambia Looking for People to support me as a Pastor Please support want God is doing I remain yours in Christ hoping to hear more from you

  16. Martin on October 18, 2019 at 11:26 pm

    There is a post which has been floating around Facebook for a while – “Management is about Principles; Pastoral Care is about people”. I see modern churches struggling with the subject you’ve written about as they fail to see the difference between Leadership & Ministry. Leadership is much more about overseeing the church from a managerial position: ie leadership, culture, finances, boards, projects etc. so that a social structure exists for the body. Many principles might be borrowed from corporate isms, but will work in large churches as they address similar scenarios. Ministry is about God and the congregation; ie doctrine, preaching, teaching, counselling etc relating to the body itself. For this, scriptural application is a definite requirement. You can’t pastor a church with cultural principles, not build a organization with spiritual verses. You need to recognise and acknowledge the different types of people, skills and positional requirements. These two areas should compliment each other for growth, development and vision rather than be the cause of burn-out, stagnancy or failure.

  17. Justin on September 30, 2019 at 10:55 pm

    THIS {98% of pastoral care is having someone who cares. It doesn’t have to be the pastor} IS JUST WRONG ON SO MANY LEVELS.

    In my years of full-time ministry I have seen this become the attitude and perspective of so many “pastors”. I am not an old man either, not even close.

    Here is the truth:
    1. Many who are evangelists, end up being pastors. Sure, you want your pastor to want to grow the church and be evangelistic, but that isn’t his primary focus. These are two different callings, and many of today’s’ new age pastor’s don’t get this.
    2. These evangelists end up being pastors for a variety of reasons, but the main reason is because the money/career is more stable. Let’s face it, when is the last time an evangelist came to your church?
    3. Some of these pastors are also church-planters. Again, not a pastor and after they grow numerically they hand it off to the next person.
    4. If the author of this along with the rest of the movement of today’s “pastors” find it burdensome and a recipe for burnout to engage in pastoral care, then they should re-examine their own calling.
    5. These pastors are judged or graded on the numerical count, they get caught up in numbers. Coincidentally that’s exactly what their members become, a number. Sure, there are people around him that are on board with his/her vision, but there are also people dying inside sitting on the back row just wanting 10 minutes with their “pastor”.
    6. Pastors are supposed to be leaders and there is a certain amount of delegation that goes along with that, but putting the responsibility of pastoral care on the congregation, small groups, etc. is a neglect of responsibility. However, you wouldn’t expect them to feel this responsibility because of articles just like this one.
    7. If you are a visionary leader and have an evangelistic heart, but still want to be a senior pastor, at least have the guts to hire an assistant pastor ( maybe several are needed) and assign them to a certain number of people. This author as well as the new age pastor would be surprised at the amount of resources that would be given for this if they were honest with themselves and the congregation. People today are starving for pastoral care.
    8. I will say again I am not old, barely 40. Prefer contemporary worship, read books by all the latest church planters, etc. and I am a visionary leader as well. However, all the above stated things are true. I’ve not only seen it as a member but as a staff member sitting at the table with these new age pastors.
    9. Last, actually the pastor should encourage and teach his congregation whether it’s 50 people or 5,000 to be evangelistic, so that he/she can focus on being a pastor. The bigger the congregation, the more resources that need to be spent to hire more pastors, not more evangelists or church planters on staff.

    If your pastor doesn’t know your name, that’s his fault, not yours. It’s part of a lazy new age idea of pastoral care. I’m not saying these are bad men/women, but the public should know the truth. Find a church where you can not only be taught, you can serve, but also get pastoral care. So, to answer the original question or unlock the mystery of why these pesky little churches are still around, it’s because they still have pastors in them and people need pastoral care from a person called to be a pastor. Truth.

    • Gabe on November 28, 2019 at 2:07 pm

      Thank you for explaining this. I came here looking for an answer as to why my Pastor seems impossible to talk to. Almost like he is protected. But I am still stuck.. If you were to have a church of 2500 people, how would you lead them with pastoral care?

    • Gabe on January 2, 2020 at 7:37 pm

      First of all, putting “pastor” in quotes is very rude, since you don’t know the people you’re generalizing. Secondly, point 9 allows for a 5,000 member congregation; then you go on to say the pastor is responsible for knowing every name in the church. Knowing 5,000 names would be a part-time job in itself. Your standards are completely unrealistic.

    • Tim Thomas on February 2, 2020 at 2:26 pm

      Justin you make some very good points however as someone who was a pastor for 14 years I believe you’re making bold statements about a few things that you have not walked in. I respect your opinion because you have a right to see life from your own perspective and experiences i’ll just say this at 53 years of age with 23 years in ministry 14 of those years as a Senior Pastor I have found that it is wise to agree to disagree rather than tell people ( especially when you have not walked in their shoes) that they’re wrong on so many levels. Again although I disagree with some of your points I respect your opinion and I pray that God continues to bless you on your journey. Be Blessed !!!

    • Kevin Herrin on February 25, 2020 at 4:17 pm

      Justin, I believe you’re “straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel” here. I don’t see Corey saying that a pastor shouldn’t perform the mandates spelled out in the verses you quoted. I see him saying that one person cannot possibly do all of these things by his or herself as the excellence of pastoral care produces healthy saints that continue reproducing – that they need to follow Moses’, Peter’s, and Jesus’ example and begin to replicate their values and anointing in their team and small group leaders, encouraging them to except the call upon their lives as well. The elders laid hands upon a new generation of leaders and imparted gifts and ministry anointing into their lives so they could expand the reach of the pastoral ministry. At one point, I’m sure Peter knew all of the names of the widows receiving food distribution, but I doubt he was able to keep up once the seven elders were established and released into action so that Peter could get back to prayer and study of the Word.

  18. Justin on September 30, 2019 at 10:35 pm

    THIS {98% of pastoral care is having someone who cares. It doesn’t have to be the pastor} IS JUST WRONG ON SO MANY LEVELS.

    In my years of full-time ministry I have seen this become the attitude and perspective of so many “pastors”. I am not an old man either, not even close.

    Here is the truth:
    1. Many who are evangelists, end up being pastors. These are two different callings, but don’t tell any modern day pastor this.
    2. These evangelists end up being pastors for a variety of reasons, but the main reason is because the money/career is more stable. Let’s face it, when is the last time an evangelist came to your church?
    3. Some of these pastors are also church-planters. Again, not a pastor and after they grow numerically they hand it off to the next person.
    4. If the author of this along with the rest of the movement of today’s “pastors” find it burdensome and a recipe for burnout to engage in pastoral care, then they should re-examine their own calling.
    5. These pastors are judged or graded on the numerical count, the get cauht up in numbers. Coincidentally that’s exactly what their members become, a number. Sure, there are people around him that are on board with his/her vision, but there are also people dying inside sitting on the back row just wanting 10 minutes with their “pastor”.
    6. Pastors are supposed to be leaders and there is a certain amount of delegation that goes along with that, but putting the responsibility of pastoral care on the congregation, small groups, etc. is a neglect of responsibility. However, you wouldn’t expect them to feel this responsibility because of articles just like this one.
    7. If you a visionary leader and have an evangelistic heart, but still want to be a senior pastor, at least have the guts to hire an assistant pastor ( maybe several are needed) and assign them to a certain number of people. This author as well as the new age pastor would be surprised at the amount of resources that would be given for this if they were honest with themselves and the congregation. People today are starving for pastoral care.
    8. Last, I will say again I am not old, barely 40. Prefer contemporary worship, read books by all the latest church planters, etc. and I am a visionary leader as well. However, all the above stated things are true. I’ve not only seen it as a member but as a staff member sitting at the table with these new age pastors.

    If your pastor doesn’t know your name, that’s his fault, not yours. The only way for this terrible trend to end is stop going to and giving our resources to “pastors” who see shepherding a church through this lens. So, to answer the original question or unlock the mystery of why these pesky little churches are still around, it’s because they still have pastors in them and people need pastoral care from a person called to be a pastor. Truth.

  19. Rev. Betson Sevetu on July 11, 2019 at 3:13 am

    Thank you for a very helpful toll for Church growth. Many pastors think they can accommodate big number of members; that is impossible. Delegate your power but don’t obligate.

    • Rev. Betson Sevetu on July 11, 2019 at 4:27 am

      It should read “… helpful tool…”

    • Mike Brady on September 18, 2019 at 9:39 pm

      Realistic and has philosophical attitudes, approaches, and agility. I like a thinking- style that is out of the box, yet Scriptural and relevant… Looking forward to reading and reflecting upon some of your practical insights.
      ~ mike b.

  20. rohit aggarwal on June 14, 2019 at 2:47 am

    Thanks for the information

  21. Peter on May 24, 2019 at 7:40 pm

    Jethro explained to Moses the need to build team to help him handle the needs of the population
    Jesus taught his 3, 12, 70 and 120 a model of discipleship
    In Acts we read about how some assisted the people while the Apostles concerned themselves with prayer and study
    Paul planted churches, raised up leaders – he communicated to everyone effectively, but he did not handle all pastoral care matters, though he did write on it.

    Pastoral Care is vital – but there is no way that it can be completed by one person and church growth occur. See Great Commandment as to why we need to see church growth – this is NOT an endorsement of Mega-Churches, but it is also NOT an argument against them. People are subjective by nature, they will be drawn to a church that has appeal to them (for whatever reason), some will be drawn to large churches, others to smaller churches – our job as pillars in our church is not to be pointing the finger at what others are doing or not doing – we are to carry the culture and serve the vision that God has given our local church. To encourage each other within our local church, within our regional church community and to do all that God has called us to do…

  22. Veronica on April 29, 2019 at 9:21 pm

    WoW. I notice you didn’t use ANY scripture to support your ideology.

    ACTS 20:8 “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.”

    1 Peter 5:2-4 “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.”

    Ezekiel 34:1-10 “ The word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals. My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them. “‘Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, because my flock lacks a shepherd and so has been plundered and has become food for all the wild animals, and because my shepherds did not search for my flock but cared for themselves rather than for my flock, therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them.”

    Im pretty sure the Pastor should be the closest reflection of Jesus. He was liked by his followers … He was their friend, their brother. He was their teacher, healer, encourager, mentor and the true representation of love. He was approachable.

    And let’s not forget this … James 3:1 “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.”

    • Janet Sauve on July 3, 2019 at 5:47 pm

      Glad someone has a Bible still!!!

      The best example of delegation which I’ve seen was done by a leading Catholic priest, who had 100 volunteers in groups of 20 (we then had each other) to help a staff of 2 priests instruct inquirers into the R.C. faith. There were 2,000 converts from around a large city each year who used this network. The secret was the closeness of the groups of 20 and our training. We did some of the teaching with 2 people at a time, and followed them along in their first 6 months in that denomination. If a problem was beyond the lay person, then we referred the person to one of the two priests.
      We certainly took discipling more seriously than Protestant churches, but that was an outstanding ministry. I never got enthusiastic about Protestant methods.

      • Nancy Hollo on July 26, 2019 at 7:47 pm

        That’s interesting. In Protestant churches you will sit silently and listen to a single man speak at you for at least 30 minutes and up to an hour. You will not ask questions. You will not disagree. You will not add your remarks or testimony. You will pay when the basket is passed. And when the worship team sings hymns you will not sing too loudly. You will come in on time and you will not leave early. The man with the mike on stage, the king with his scepter, the “shepherd” is watching the flock and he will not allow misbehavior.

        • Janet Sauve on August 1, 2019 at 6:17 am

          Usually Catholics are just as passive as Protestants and I’m no longer in that faith, but delegation worked very well under a gifted leader. Passive, spectator churches probably developed when Christianity became a state religion under Constantine, and running churches became a profession instead of everyone expected to use his gifts from the Holy Spirit. We are now mostly an audience, it seems to me. Personally I don’t find much in churches for that reason. If I’m not trained and not actively involved, I’m probably sound asleep in the pew, doing my duty to sit there. I don’t even expect to have any gifts used there.

    • Akinyinka on July 15, 2019 at 9:43 pm

      Veronica, your biblical texts to support the topic are excellent. The writer (Peter) did a wonderful analysis. God bless you.

    • Robin on July 19, 2019 at 6:00 pm

      Maybe you have forgotten the rest of God’s Word, whereas Jesus called some to be Apostles, Prophets, Evangelist, Pastors, Teachers Ephesians 4:11-12, who are to EQUIP the FLOCK to do the ministry, NOT HOLD THEIR HANDS and BABY THEM. See 1 Timothy Chapter 3, for Elders and Deacons. Read the Book of ACTS and see the Apostles appointed men to be ELDERS which ARE the OVERSEERS, THE SHEPHERDS of the CHURCh, and the APOSTLES over saw the building of the church. They appointed Men and Women as Deacons/Deaconess, to take care of NEEDS in the Church, NOT PASTORS. The Word Pastor is ONLY FOUND ONE PLACE, Ephesians 4:11-12 and THEY are WAY DOWN on the leadership line (Apostles first, Prophets second, Evangelist third, and then Pastor & Teacher are fourth and fifth) IF you go and study Church History, you will find when Protestants split from Catholic, we took their model (NOT GOD”S) to build the church…. WRONG WAY to do this,

    • Amanda M. on July 31, 2019 at 7:16 pm

      Jesus only had 12 disciples…. not 120 or 1200. The point was that one person cannot assist in growing the church if he is in the weeds doing the work of ministry at the same time and all the time. Up to a certain number of people they can handle this but when you look at the number of pastors who quit in the first 5 years of ministry, you will understand that the mindset people have (the pastor should know my whole life, etc etc) is a large reason they quit….too much burden for one person to handle. This article is clearly stating that a pastor must step back and disciple people who can disciple others in his place so the church can grow and help more people. A pastor/teacher should be spending a good amount of time in prayer, reading/studying the Word of God, and putting together messages for the congregation as a whole.

    • Jason m Norton on September 10, 2019 at 9:30 am

      i have to add just one thing here. Jesus was not liked by all who followed him. at one point Jesus looked at the apostles and asked them do you want to leave also? because he was confrontational at times and said things hard to hear. people walked away from jesus all the time along with even his own disciples at the end. lets not forget all the people he healed and served and how only at times 1 out of ten came back to thank him. so lets stop defending being a shepherding over protective, leader. i believe their is truth in what both of you have said and we need to glean during the different seasons that we are in and grow where the lord needs us to. personally im a people pleaser and hate confrontation and that has cost me members because i refused to have tough conversations with them. soo again i agree with truths that you both have said.

    • Laurie on September 21, 2019 at 11:14 am


    • Kevin Herrin on February 25, 2020 at 4:13 pm

      Veronica, I believe you’re “straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel” here. I don’t see Corey saying that a pastor shouldn’t perform the mandates spelled out in the verses you quoted. I see him saying that one person cannot possibly do all of these things by his or herself – that they need to follow Moses’, Peter’s, and Jesus’ example and begin to replicate their values and anointing in their team and small group leaders, encouraging them to except the call upon their lives as well. The elders laid hands upon a new generation of leaders and imparted gifts and ministry anointing into their lives so they could expand the reach of the pastoral ministry.

  23. t. on April 15, 2019 at 3:46 pm

    I wonder if Jesus, the Good Shepherd, the One who would, and did, lay down His life for the sheep, would agree with you. I realize that He made the ultimate sacrifice for the salvation of our souls, but He modeled great love and care for people. He invested in them, and they in turn invested in others. I do not expect my pastor to be the only one responsible for care ministry, but I do expect that I can know my pastor loves me. I’m pretty sure that breaking the 200 mark in a specific local church would not be the primary focus of Jesus were He physically here today. So, since He is Spiritually here today, I cannot believe that is or should be the primary focus of the local church. I actually do believe in birthing new churches who can and will model the church in Acts. That does not minimize my belief in and responsibility for growing the universal church through evangelism and missions.

  24. MJ Rogers on February 19, 2019 at 1:36 am

    The very title of this article”How Pastoral Care Stunts the Growth of Most Churches” illustrates how most churches have their priorities backwards. Churches are supposed to show forth the love of Christ, but at most that love shown is extremely superficial. A better article would have a title something like this: “How the constant emphasis on numbers attending church (and the money they bring in) misses the whole point of having a meaningful impact on people’s lives.” My neighbor refuses to go to church because he is convinced the are all after his money. I thought eventually I’d find a church that wouldn’t be that way and would be able to show him that some are different. But after going to many churches over the past 17 years, I am sad to say he is right. Pastors are the among the most entitled, spoiled, and presumptuous people (with superiority complexes) on the planet. There is no pastoral care to speak of at most churches. I believe a pastor’s main job is pastoral care, discipling, and mentoring others to do the same, but as some have said they are more like corporate CEOs. If the house churches are the only ones showing love and care to people why not just go with house churches like the pattern of the Apostles time, and abandon the large churches and their worthless money grubbing pastors? It is such a presumptuous, disrespectful, and insulting turn-off when a pastor doesn’t know you, your spiritual condition, your level of Biblical knowledge, your gifts, your goals, or obstacles. and they don’t care if your soul is lost due to their neglect, but yet they have the colossal nerve to expect “sacrificial” giving, going towards God knows what, practically as soon as you step in the door. And what happened to men like the Apostle Paul who worked making tents so as not to burden others? It is a pathetic state of affairs especially when half the population has bought the non-biblically supported political idea that care for the sick and underprivileged should always only the job of the church, not the government. But until the Church starts acting like the Church instead of a corporation, that is totally unrealistic. The modern Laodicean church brings shame to Christ. The gospel is supposed to be “‘good news’ to the poor,” but it has been made very bad news to anyone who needs love and help, and so many are so cold-hearted, if they had their way, they would cut off help from government and leave people dying in the streets, and the Church would be little help. The Church leadership is so blind most have no idea how badly they need to repent and get their priorities straight! Since Jesus said the gospel is supposed to be good news to the poor, them pastoral care and help should not be left to chance.

    • Kelly Cochrane on May 16, 2019 at 8:07 pm

      Wow. You really seem to have it figured out. Three questions, in your mind what is the church? Do you really know and care about your pastor or does the pay cheque take care of that?

      I hope you will channel your energies by taking time to get to know and care for your pastor so that he/she can care for you.

      • Ochieng Ogara on March 12, 2021 at 5:38 am

        Dear Kelly,
        This is my 12th year since the church plant was done, I left my home city for a small far away but for 12 years the membership hasn’t reached 20!
        I am not yet conversant of the local mother tongue, but I preach in the national language, ( Kiswahili). By God’s grace, we have acquired a church plot and put in a structure, but am so sympathetic to the needs of people that the congregation does support me yet am also in need!
        So say that we are an old fashioned church because we sing with hymn books alone minus musical instruments. We don’t dance in the church or pray very loud… We are associated to Seventh day Adventist. Am A reformed Baptist Church. At times I have been tempted to compromise to let others stay and here the gospel, but many times, I get self condemnation.
        We are now to elders by God’s grace, but my fellow comes from an almost similar background of loud prayers….
        I have spent the little I had on my theological training, now am looking for a ways to support my family. None in the church is earning a salary or any stable business. Guide on how to let this church grow.

      • Ochieng Ogara on March 12, 2021 at 5:43 am

        I mean, the congregation does not support me….
        I meant to write that some say…. Not so say, I beg to correct!

    • Phillip Chrimes on May 18, 2019 at 6:26 pm

      I pastored a Church about 10 years ago, I had a break down because of the overwhelming workload of a growing church. The church grew because I am gifted in caring for the poor, but my strength became my weekness. The issues are real! I’m thinking of going back into ministry, and have the same concerns as many of you. Growing a church to thousands is not my goal. Caring for people and helping them to know Christ and experience transformational salvation is. I intend to support myself and never take up offerings, if people want to give they can plan it and do it direct to the bank. Please pray that God will help us plant a church that would be pleasing to Him.

    • Vico Re on August 10, 2019 at 9:50 pm

      Amen to MJ Rogers… blessings, brother!

      • Barbara on October 18, 2019 at 4:26 pm

        Amen and Amen Rogers. Pastors must stop showing off their jets, porch, extremely huge beautiful houses to the poor in the name of Gods blessings what about God blessing the poor too????? Please STOP misusing tithes and offerings to enrich yourselves and neglect us

    • Shane on September 7, 2019 at 10:40 am

      With sheep like you they have to be! You have been to 17 churches? Seems as though those 17 churches are better without you.

      • Janet Sauve on September 11, 2019 at 1:11 pm

        And this reply by you illustrates why the person went to 17 churches. There he found sweet souls like you. Picture these words in the mouth of Jesus Christ!

      • Evelyn Torres-Gonzalez on January 18, 2020 at 3:03 pm

        Wow, this type of comment is exactly what supports her position. And exactly why so many churches are closing.

    • Tom Rath on March 13, 2021 at 1:50 pm

      I agree with this post. Three examples: Approached pastor 1 about a marriage of some friends that was on the rocks. Response: nothing I can do. Pastor 2 told me God had informed him that I was to lead a musical group but provided zero support once I took on the role. Pastor 3 made a request that some members donate puzzles for the pastor to build during COVID. Pastor 4 indicated that they had an open door but are only available for coffee (member buys) Thursday afternoon.

      Do better!!!!

  25. Amanda Hougas on December 11, 2018 at 9:59 pm

    I appreciate this post and absolutely agree that one man can’t do it alone. This post made me thankful that our Pastor leads the way that he does. Balance is so important to the ministry. We currently have several men in our church (along with their wives, if needed for ladies) who assist our Pastor in caring for our church members. It is a comfort to know that yes, even though he is a busy person in the ministry, he has set up people he trusts to help us in his stead. Thank you for sharing this post!

  26. john w. saylor on November 5, 2018 at 10:46 pm

    The church try to hold down the truth of what is. like the earth is only 6000 years old and more .The learning of things that the church says is not true when science show it is true.
    The people need to know the truth but it is hard to tell the truth when on one will belive the truth. So the best way is to kill each other that do not know the truth so that the truth is left.

    • susan on November 19, 2018 at 8:49 am

      What would you say about a pastor that uses the congregation for self gain.He even expects them to build a new house for him.Anything he wants he expects the congregation to supply.You notice I said WANTS.Vacations to Florida etc.
      But if someone needs money for food or money the answer is NO.

      • Jen on January 31, 2019 at 3:15 pm

        I am just wondering if your board is strong enough to let the pastor know that it’s not the congregations job to build, pay for vacations etc. if your board of directors is strong, they should let him know that this is not what he is here for.

      • Peter Boulder on April 21, 2019 at 2:55 pm

        Are you a socialist, putting down church to discredit christian faith and their leaders? You are talking about a minority. Most pastors take their vocation seriously and spend their lives, sweat and blood for the benefit of the church.

    • Kevin on December 26, 2018 at 6:24 am

      John, I think you are confusing the Crusaders’ model with the biblical one. We serve a God is is able to change hearts and mind, restore broken relationships and bring people back to Him. Our job, as Christ followers, is to live in the tension of speaking the truth with love/ grace and boldness. Let’s let God do the work of keeping the truth (and people) alive.

  27. Polly McCaul on October 29, 2018 at 5:59 pm

    What about hiring a Care Pastor who’s specific job is care? I totally agree with small groups being the first line of care for a large congregation, but the small groups and small group leaders may not be prepared for some of the things they may encounter. By hiring a Care Pastor to step in when needed sounds to me like a possible answer as well. I would also make sure the person hired has a degree in counseling in order to handle the “bigger stuff”.

    • Ron on November 4, 2018 at 9:17 am

      Yes, but that is why you need a structure. When the problem is too difficult, then it is referred to the Pastor or some other designated care person – some training in self care makes sense.

  28. Denise on October 17, 2018 at 4:03 pm

    We are having many families leave our church. For the most part we all disagree with the Pastors leadership.
    He has cut out anything to do with Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Holidays such as Veterans Day and wanted to stop Sunrise Service. The Deacon Chair advised him he can’t keep taking away and not giving back. We have now an average of 20 in Worship and 13 -15 in Sunday School. No youth but the Pastors son. Unfortunately when member leave so does the money…. Our finances are not good. Our Pastor salary is 110 a month retirement. and 900 a week Salary….We can’t keep this up… what are our options. He says no pay cut and he says he will not resign.

    • jenny boado on November 3, 2018 at 5:22 pm

      there is some sort of knowledge,skills and attitude deterioration of your pastor. your pastor needs to re-assess himself. poor governance is due to poor leadership. culture events are only means to catch not something we teach. but how can we catch if there is no bait? it takes years to enlighten this world. Jesus came as human although He is God so that He can reach us. your Pastor must know how to reach the world by beginning where it is/unbelieving.and finally, are you praying or you Pastor?

    • Jen on January 31, 2019 at 3:22 pm

      Our church recently went through the same thing. The pastors salary dried up and we are down to nothing. With a lot of prayer, some legal advice and strong people in the 16 members we had (most siding with the pastor), the pastor abruptly resigned. All it took was a letter from a legal firm asking for strengthening the board and questioning some of the practices of the pastor and that the bylaws weren’t being followed. Now we will have people coming back. It’s not easy to see a church go under like that but if God wants it back, he Weill put things in front of you to make it happen! Good luck!

  29. Artie Stapp on June 12, 2018 at 9:10 am

    what about a pastor that is NOT a people pleaser? He is poor with pastoral care but we have a large group of lay people that administer pastoral care(after proper training), Our church has remained the same for 6 years.Even at about 450. From a high of 800+. We have not grown due to demographics. And large mega churches do a great job of helping their members and the greater community. They have the funds and man power for food pantries,free clothing, living expense assistance, helping the homeless, feeding children, funerals, all with the numbers in the congregation that want to help. I feel this was written by a very small town person. Live in a city 35 years and see what goes on.

    • MK KOMI on August 21, 2018 at 1:20 pm

      We should never forget that biblically speaking- church growth is a combination of an organized prayer-word team and the above tactics mentionned. Even those churches that have grown to 5000 members , most of them have struggles becoming incarnational in terms of affecting deeply their communities. I wonder how a mega church of 20000 people can b located in a community where drugs, crimes and many other vices are still climbing faster? The need for church today should not be growth, to me it is rediscovering the power of the Holy Spirit in order to respond to creation cries. Organizational structure of the church is needed- however it is not the beginning nor the end- it is somewhere in the middle among many other necessary elements we establish for proper church life.

  30. sarava on May 9, 2018 at 6:35 am

    A different model of reaching people/growth: keep congregations growing, but small and intimate. When a congregation reaches 200 adults, equip a launch team and start a new church. Still keep the mutual care model — it helps everyone to grow in Christ-likeness.

  31. Matt on April 22, 2018 at 2:59 pm

    We do pretty well if getting people in groups that provide care having about 50% of people in groups. It’s the other 50% that we struggle to provide care for. Anyone have any thoughts

    • Dr. John W. Bosman on November 5, 2018 at 6:15 pm

      Order the book, “Care Revolution” by Dr. John W. Bosman from Amazon. You will find most (if not all) your questions answered.

  32. […] So when you grow, all your systems break. In a church pushing 200, one of the first things to completely break down is the pastoral care system, which simply can’t scale past 200 if the pastor is the primary caregiver. […]

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  34. […] How Pastoral Care Stunts the Growth of Most Churches by Carey Nieuwhof – really, really good wisdom from Carey for every Pastor and church leadership team member. […]

  35. […] How Pastoral Care Stunts the Growth of Most Churches […]

  36. […] down. The pastor is not the only one called and qualified to demonstrate care. There has been a lot written about how the pastor doing all the care stunts a church’s growth and inhibits […]

  37. Jeff Robertson on January 7, 2018 at 11:11 am

    Great article! Another option is to have multiple “pastors.” Scripture refers to pastors, elders, shepherds, and other terms interchangeably in the New Testament. I believe there is wisdom in that call to have multiple “shepherds” to lead a church flock. In Ephesians 4:11-12, Paul writes “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…” So there are also lots of talents in the “body” that contributes to building it up. Not just one “pastor.”

    • Mike on November 19, 2018 at 6:44 pm

      This Only Works if both Pastors are maintaining the same message and not engaged in a Power Struggle to be Top Dog.

  38. Peter Moxham on December 9, 2017 at 12:47 am

    Thank you

  39. Scott W on November 26, 2017 at 8:59 pm

    The growth at all cost that drives our current churches is woefully wrong. Our church today is impotent … just survey the society that we live in to witness that. We don’t need to go a mile wide and a foot deep, rather, we need to go a foot wide and a mile deep. We need to start meeting people’s needs and provide non-verbal witness through our love.

    That’s what gets people’s attention and what will bring people to church. Sam Shoemaker wrote a lot about this.

  40. Steve on November 6, 2017 at 7:29 am

    Do you have these articles in a pdf format where they can be downloaded and printed for further use. This one, and others like it, are of utmost interest to me at this time.

    Thank you and God bless.

  41. […] How Pastoral Care Stunts the Growth of Most Churches […]

  42. Nicholas on October 18, 2017 at 2:02 am

    Please pray that the loan application process for our housing estate in Nairobi for West Point Properties Development Ltd will be successful.

    Waiting upon the Lord.

    Nicholas Nganga

  43. […] In this post, I outline more about how pastoral care stunts the growth of so many churches. […]

  44. […] Carey Nieuwhof   |  How Pastoral Care Stunts The Growth Of Most Churches […]

    • H.Lengo Wilson on August 10, 2017 at 10:05 am

      Thanks to God praise the Lord

    • Racheal Lawrence on August 19, 2017 at 8:36 am

      I appreciate the article. Good points of discussion.

      Is growth typified by the membership roll of local churches? It’s sad that we are looking at numbers and not souls. Numbers does not mean true conversion (Romans 9:6).

      In the quest to be men and women of renown, we assume that having a large membership roll means we are reaching more people. Is that really true? Can a elder be comfortable with doing the work of God and not having that person become a member of “their church” but another? The Church is the whole Body of believers. It doesn’t matter the mechanisms used, there will be some 1000, 200, and 100 member churches. Are elders ok with that or do we have to eliminate functions of pastors to achieve the 1000s. Now I totally agree, Pastors should not have to attend every member child’s birthday party, that is utterly ridiculous. However, God has called them to a work and its identified in Ephesians 4.

      A pastor or any other fivefold gift is called to do the work of God, which is equip the body of Christ. When they equip the body, according to the will of God, growth of that particular church will be determined. However, the goal is not local church membership, especially when many pastors are overwhelmed with the volume of work at the 100 level; it’s about souls in God’s kingdom rather than a specific church.

      John the Baptist had the right attitude. Here was a man called from birth to a great ministry. On the onset of his ministry, people were coming to him like crazy to hear God’s Word and be baptized. But the moment Jesus came on the scene things changed. And guess what, John’s disciples started complaining (John 3) about why the people were leaving them to go to Jesus (what irony since these disciples of John were supposed to be pointing people to Christ). You see they were concerned about their ministry and numbers, rather than souls coming to God, which in this case, was through another vessel than themselves.

      Out of all the issues we can talk about in these last days, it’s numbers? Why do churches need to break 200 members if the goal is that people become mature in the faith, and then they to go out and make disciples. I think it’s important to evaluate why this quest is important.

      • Jay on October 5, 2017 at 9:20 am

        “Why do churches need to break 200 members if the goal is that people become mature in the faith, and then they to go out and make disciples. I think it’s important to evaluate why this quest is important.”

        Faith without works is dead. The right heart motive is important when desiring church growth, and similar to the parable of the talents, to whom much is given–much is required. Larger churches with more tithes and members would be better positioned to expand and fund ministries impossible for many smaller churches. For example, I’ve heard of large church that in some instances provides lodging (real housing–not motels) for families of cancer patients at no cost to the families. Most smaller churches have enough trouble providing for their own pastors in the first place. Discipleship may be the only focus in those particular cases, but I would want to encourage church growth that was meant to expand ministry opportunities.

        • John on October 19, 2017 at 6:07 pm

          I tend to agree. Maybe rather than growing beyond, the answer is to plant new churches with a portion of the current church forming the new core.

      • Scott W on November 26, 2017 at 9:01 pm

        I agree 1000% with you.

      • Pam Osborn on January 23, 2018 at 11:34 pm

        Very well said. You made some very valid points here. We are all the body of Christ. Leading souls to the Lord and helping them mature in the Lord at your Church or another should be a main focus, more than numbers. I love the reference to John the Baptist. 👍🏼

      • Walker hartman on February 9, 2018 at 8:33 am

        Hi racheal

        I think you have hit the nail on the head as to the purpose of the church being spiritual maturity or transformation. I have found much interest in an organizational concept called self managed organization. “Reinventing organizations” by Frederick laloux documents it’s user in businesses and describes what can happen when employees bond with the corporate purpose and are able to find their niche where there talents and a ilities can be expressed. In a secular frame, self actualization is part of what goes on. Is this not similar to gaining spiritual maturity or being transformed?

      • Shane on February 9, 2018 at 2:14 pm

        The article didn’t come across as setting a goal of getting the numbers, but rather being positioned correctly when those numbers come. The example of Moses was great because he was put in a position of responsibility for a vast number of people. He didnt strive to grow the numbers if the nation of Israel, it was already growing because God gave the increase over the past 400+ years.

        The kingdom of heaven is at hand, people are believing, the church is growing. We need to be ready to lead well those who come to our churches. If someone goes to another church, great – they are in a body of believers! But this article is encouraging our personal preparedness to lead well, not to go and try to make bigger churches. It is God who gives the increase, we need to be ready for it.

  45. Christina on July 9, 2017 at 10:48 am

    While working as youth pastors and unofficial associate pastors, I noticed that my husband and I naturally fell into different foci in our ministry: he gravitated toward honing vision, teaching, devising strategies to reach students and I gravitated toward pastoral care and its varying aspects. My husband still knew our students well; it merely fell within my realm to enact and facilitate care. It allowed our ministries to grow without putting too much pressure on my husband or myself.

    My question for you, Carey, is if you can point me toward a previous post of yours or other resources about effectively raising up the laity within a local congregation? That area of disconnect has often plagued ministries I’ve sat under. Or, in our most recent experience, we have high involvement from laity but if we transition to other areas of ministries or to another church, the highly involved members fade away in their commitment (both in church activity and spiritual fervency) no matter how much we have tried to decentralize the pastoral focus so that we are not the epicenter of our congregants’ involvement and commitment but rather, Jesus is.

  46. Pauline Loughhead on June 17, 2017 at 11:23 pm

    We were inspired to move away from the model of Pastor does Pastoral Care some twenty years ago when we read a book called, “Can the Pastor do it alone.” We now have a Lay Pastor system as well as Pastoral Care managed by Home Groups. It seems to work! Our Church roll is nearly 1,000

  47. Christoph on June 15, 2017 at 12:58 pm

    You touched the issue of “Small Churches” just in a little corner. As I follow FB is the “Small church movement” really a new trend? They put a dangerous focus, that Small is better, small churches are more in the community, and these small churches actually do not want grow big. Obviously i have questions about that movement. Any insight from anybody? I believe in some rural communities there are “small” churches.

    • Lee on June 16, 2017 at 10:47 am

      It is amazing how God gives us directions in His word, Exodus 18:18-23

    • Kenneth Howard on August 10, 2018 at 10:15 am

      I believe there is more love among a few than trying to love and care for the massive.

  48. Morigan on April 16, 2017 at 2:36 am

    My business partners needed to fill out DEQ 606-002A last year and used a web service with a searchable database . If others need DEQ 606-002A too , here’s

  49. Kathy Jackson on April 9, 2017 at 11:49 pm

    I once heard a mega church assistant pastor explain the senior pastor was taking several years to solve various problems because the church had grown to 5,000 from 500. The pastoral staff stayed about the same size, however, although the senior pastor acquired a plane to get things done faster. Another pastor of a mega church, in contrast, had about 30 pastors on staff. They knew the sheep and met with them. The Jesus Model would be 12 disciples for one God. Is there any reason why the church doesn’t take on a model where 12 or so believers are discipling 12 or so…discipling 12 or so? Does the great commission to go forth and “make disciples” mean anything to anyone… in reality and practice? Jesus had 12. One God. Twelve disciples. One American pastor. How many Associate SHEPARDING/DISCIPLING pastors? As few as possible. An interesting note: within the ancient Jewish communities, there was 1 rabbi for every 30 families. It was the mega synagogue pastor/rabbi’s in pre-Herodian Jerusalem who were keeping all the tithes for themselves and failing to send the money into the smaller synagogues in the suburbs and country. These fat cat rabbi’s were the ones being rebuked by Malachi by the way….not you congregants!!! These mega rabbi’s were the ones robbing God, who would not speak to them for another 800 years until Christ appeared. Shall a man rob God? A big church pastor who doesn’t biblically provide discipling pastors is really robbing God by keeping all the tithes to himself, all the while preaching “you, the sheep are robbing God if you don’t pay us your tithes.” Of course you won’t ever get to speak to a pastor unless he’s a group leader untrained volunteer to lead a psychology group based on the beliefs extraneous to scriptural doctrines. Self-help group leaders do not normally meet biblical qualifications for church leaders… pastors… who are the ones who should be discipling you when you join their church and give them 10%. You should be able to have a discipling pastor in your life or a qualified church leader. You should be trained in the scriptures and sound doctrine of the scriptures.

  50. David Morrow on March 22, 2017 at 9:28 am

    I took time to read many of these discussion posts before writing. Granny to us boys to walk a little while in another’s boots… Our initial perspective of someone else’s reality is likely short sighted at best. That being said, disscussion is only as beneficial as it aids the greater good.
    I am sharing this article with everyone I can,not because I want to pastor a couple 1000 people, but because it offers a (not the only, but a) solution to a major epidemic facing the rural churches all over Appalachia. How we tailor this mans plan is up to us, he doesn’t know us, or our area, we do. We would be foolish to just follow some 10 step process without modifying it to fit our feet. As I see it, “the taking of the prescription without knowing why”, is one of the biggest problems all the churches who move and shake or those who encompass a large group of dead Christians have. To much today is set up in a one size fits all way (and sometimes for good reason) , at the trunk they are inflexible because of track record of past success or failure and or the headaches flexibility causes; while at the branches people are to obediant and good at saying yes sir yes mam to alter or challenge what’s decreed (that’s the better of the reasons). None of it is solved here anyway and I have barn chores I should be doing, so I leave with Jesus words to John…chill brother, stop sweating the differences, if they aren’t against us we can work with it. (Paraphrase) Soli Deo Gloria

  51. Jon Pickens on March 18, 2017 at 7:40 am

    What I find interesting about the discussion board is everyone’s definition of pastoring. If you study in the New Testament where the word pastor/shepherd is used, it is connected to protecting the people under their care from false teaching, or as Ephesians says, “to equip God’s people to do the work of the ministry.” The caring piece of the church should happen through “one another” in the Scriptures. To entrust the care ministry to others and equip them to do so is much more effective (and in line with the Scriptures). If a pastor thinks that this is only his responsibility, then his pride will either lead to frustration or disobedience to the Great Commission.

    • Pamela on August 1, 2017 at 5:16 pm

      Excellent comment. I’d also point out that even with 12 apostles, the church in Acts had to delegate the pastoral care to the deacons.

    • Janet Sauve on July 3, 2019 at 6:20 pm

      I like this view. Lay people do well working and being trained in small groups. It’s important to know exactly what our lay job is and to have leaders delegate in specific terms. Pastors seem to do all the work when the sick “call the elders to pray for them”, but elders are not usually grouped for the task. The job isn’t properly delegated. At my last church I didn’t even know who the elders were, much less think they had jobs to do. Delegation has to be specific, detailed and duties known.

  52. Tony Audia on March 18, 2017 at 2:15 am

    Excellent blog Carey! Over the years I’ve struggled with the mega church concept but ultimately realized this life is about bringing the hurting to Jesus. The goal is to touch as many lives as possible and that’s why I support you. Your skill is to lead and communicate the message; ours is to care for those in our circle and to bring the unchurched to church. A place where great decisions can be made! Thanks for doing what you’re best at!

  53. Joel Pitman on March 17, 2017 at 11:57 pm

    I would rather see 20 churches with attendance numbers in the 100 area with great Pastoral care than 1 church with an attendance of 2000 with little to no Pastoral care. If 89 is the average that would be the norm the mega church (2000+) is an oddity an not realistic more churches means more served.

    • Suzanne Wheatley on March 18, 2017 at 6:49 pm

      Pastoral care remains just through the 100 members called to minister to one another making it a church of 1000. Now you have 20 churches with great Pastoral care and 20,000 members of the The Church of Christ.

  54. Ryan McKinnon on March 17, 2017 at 11:00 pm

    How well does this apply to a chapel setting, particularly a hospital chapel? In my military hospital we have six chaplains on staff and we have a pulpit supply for preaching/presiding but our regular attendance is barely more than the families of each chaplain. For a service that exists primarily for patients I assume that church growth principles won’t work.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on March 18, 2017 at 8:48 am

      Great question…it doesn’t really. If you’re hired explicitly to be a chaplain, that’s different. 🙂

      • Von M. Griggs-Laws on March 18, 2017 at 7:31 pm

        @Ryan McKinnon,
        Is it possible and permissible to evangelize and reach out to the unchurched in the hospital’s neighborhood? We did while I was stationed in Germany and England and also at Dallas VA Medical Center.

  55. Gary L. Coleman on March 17, 2017 at 7:59 pm

    Wonderful business model, but not the Scriptural model of a pastor/shepherd. Check out Ezek. 34 and measure your model against it.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on March 17, 2017 at 8:51 pm

      Perhaps it’s also a good idea to read Exodus 18 of Ephesians 4. Ezekiel 34 has nothing to do with pastoral care and everything to do with pastors who had lost their heart for people and for God.

      • Gary L. Coleman on March 18, 2017 at 9:27 am

        Oh, I am very familiar with both of those passages, and you too quickly dismiss the Ezekiel passage. The context is prophets of God who stop caring for the flock in order to pursue their own interests. Instead of personally caring for the flock, they just use the flock to build themselves up. Now I am not suggesting that that is true of you – I do not know you or your ministry – however, I see that evident in many of the larger churches, in which the “pastor” is no longer the shepherd, but rather the CEO. If that is what God called you to, blessings upon you, but stop insulting the rest of us who take our calling to shepherd the sheep seriously. In regard to Ex. 18, the principle is delegation, but not dereliction. In Eph. 4 (Rom. 12 and 1 Cor. 12, as well) we see that the flock has their responsibility, as well, but that does not negate the pastor’s responsibility. I’m curious…exactly where does God say that He desires churches to be big? Or that we are less in His eyes for not expanding to over 1000? Or that you are more blessed because you have? If bigger is better, then Joel Olsteen is really great.

        • Samantha Butler on March 25, 2017 at 9:46 pm

          I would also argue that you can always plan to grow your team as you grow your congregation. I agree Gary that pastors have a role to shepherd, but not at the risk of losing great teaching or burning out – so hire as you grow & delegate, is that the solution maybe?

          • Gary L. Coleman on March 26, 2017 at 5:19 am

            Well, I just hired an assistant pastor 2 weeks ago, so I must agree in part. However, my example is the Good Shepherd in Jn. 10. In verses 3 and 14 Jesus states that he knows His sheep by name. My question for those who “pastor” large churches is simply this: do you know your sheep? Do you know them by name and occupation? “Well, that is impossible with over one thousand sheep.” That ought to tell you something.

          • Robin Baldwin on May 4, 2017 at 10:09 pm

            The word pastor is only mentioned once in the bible, Ephesians 4:11-12. They are teachers, which is what it says they are. They equip the saints (disciples) to be ministers of the gospel.. No where will you find that one man is to be over all of the sheep of God. Read 1 Peter 5. It clearly states in this scripture that Elders
            (more than one who has been appointed by the people) are to be the overseers, the shepherds of Jesus flock. The word shepherd has been twisted to make it into pastor, although you will not find it any the bible that says a pastor is the shepherd of the flock. Study it, you will not find it.

        • Robin Baldwin on May 4, 2017 at 10:03 pm

          I am agreeing with you, and let me add…. The elders 1 Peter 5 says the elders has the responsibility to overseer and shepherd the flock. Those who equip the disciples are in Ephesians 4:11-12 are they are “Called” by Jesus, who are the Apostles, Prophets, Evangelist, Pastor, Teacher. they are not ministers, they are equippers of the disciples so they can go out and make more disciples. Not sit around being fat sheep, nor being fat equippers, or fat elders…. Ezekiel 34 speaks volumes to the Elders (overseers) shepherds, as out lined in 1 Peter 5.

  56. Jeff Borders on March 17, 2017 at 7:23 pm

    Spot on, brother. The pastor’s job is to train the congregation to minister to one another. There’s a lot of lazy church members who think the pastor should do it all.

    • Von M. Griggs-Laws on March 18, 2017 at 7:36 pm

      Amen, and many Pastors that are fearful to trust delegation, and run a one man show, perhaps due to insecurity.

    • Robin Baldwin on May 4, 2017 at 10:11 pm


  57. John Whitten on March 17, 2017 at 1:26 pm

    I think that you do not know what “pastor” means. You are discrediting the work of shepherding. Numerical growth is of God. Spiritual growth is the work of the pastor.

    • Robin Baldwin on May 4, 2017 at 10:13 pm

      Sorry dear one.. read 1 Peter 5, the shepherds are the elders of the church, and the apostles, prophets, evangelist, pastor, teacher are the EQUIPPERS of the church. They are called by Jesus to be the equippers of his sheep, not the care takers, that is the elders job. Wear more than one hat can be a problem and a conflict of interest.

  58. Andy Pauwels on March 17, 2017 at 6:29 am

    Excellent stuff. How did you go about teaching your members to shift the mindset, and training them to shift their pastoral care to groups? What was your process? (Sermons, small groups training, etc?)

  59. Christopher Morris on January 12, 2017 at 8:37 pm

    I think the heart of this is that the church needs to realize that it’s needed. Yes, formal roles in church life are needed, but the informal roles within the church are the most important. Just because 3 people on staff can do good ministry isn’t impressive. It’s when you have 40% of your attenders who care enough to ministry to others in the church.
    I agree. Pastors are expected to do more than they were called to do. But they need to teach their congregations to actually be the church. Thanks!

  60. Jason on May 15, 2016 at 10:23 pm

    This article demonstrates the blindness and darkness that the Christian Church is under, in that they falsely believe they are part of the one true church the Messiah Jesus setup, failing to see the truth right in front of their eyes that Jesus didn’t setup the Christian Church but rather the kingdom of heaven on earth, which is his assembly of called-out-ones (Ecclesia, NOT CHURCH). The many various individual christian churches all have their own congregations (flocks) with their own pastors (shepherds) and teachers, all claiming they are part of the one true church and that they are working for Jesus. But rather, the christian pastors and Bible teachers and theologians are simply the blind leading the blind, and have led the religion of Christianity into a pit of darkness.

    The truth is that Messiah Jesus is the only good shepherd, the One Shepherd (Pastor) of his one flock; our only Master and Lord; our One Teacher, and we are all brothers and sisters with One Father who is in heaven (John 10:14, 16; Ezekiel 34:23, 37:24; Isaiah 40:11; Jude 1:4; John 13:13; Matthew 23:8-10) – we are disciples of Jesus, not members of the religion of Christianity. We are the true worshipers who worship the Father in spirit and in truth, rather than in church buildings and with empty rituals. (John 4:21-24; Isaiah 58:5-9)

    The pastors of the churches are not disciples of Jesus, but hired hands who care nothing for the sheep (the one true flock, the kingdom of heaven) – imposters who “crept in unnoticed”, who, “for pay, pour out deceit”, preaching Paul’s “gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24; see Romans 2:16, 1 Corinthians 15:1-2 “the word I preached to you”) rather than Messiah’s gospel of the kingdom (Matthew 24:14; see John 12:48, Matthew 13:19 “word of the kingdom”) – imposters who take the title of and assume a position of authority reserved to One, Jesus the Nazarene, the one and only true shepherd/pastor; whose sheep hear his voice and follow him alone as their spiritual leader, and his words alone as the foundation of their faith. (See John 10:11-13, 27; Jude 1:4, 11; Matthew 7:24-29)

    Any true follower of Jesus will obey Messiah’s commandments and teach others to make Jesus their One Shepherd/Pastor, Teacher, Lord and Master; so that they too may have the opportunity to hear his voice, join his one flock, and enter the kingdom through the door – the small/straight gate (rather than following those climbing up some other way) – by following him on the narrow way which leads to life. But the christian pastors teach you that God’s church is made up of many flocks with many pastors, and teach you to follow traditions and doctrines of men rather than the commandments of the One True God; thereby taking away the key of knowledge and locking the door of the kingdom in people’s faces, neither entering the kingdom themselves, nor allowing those who are attempting to enter to go in. “These are the ones who CAUSE DIVISIONS, who are worldly and DEVOID OF THE SPIRIT”. (Jude 1:19; see also Matthew 12:25, 30)

    If we wish to enter into life, we would be wise to listen to the voice of truth, and leave the blind guides:

    “Leave them; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”

    And then come follow the Light of the world, so that you might have the light of life, and no longer walk in darkness; for his words will set you free from the darkness and deception if you are willing to listen and obey them. (John 8:12, 31-32, 51)

    • Joel Pitman on March 17, 2017 at 11:22 pm

      You Said AMEN

  61. The Sanity Inspector on April 29, 2016 at 1:10 pm

    A big church maybe oughtn’t to be the ultimate goal, though. If people duck out of the services during the final hymn in order to beat the crush in the parking lot, that church is too big for me.

  62. Wilson Harp on April 22, 2016 at 9:32 am

    Let’s look right to the scriptures to examine this:


    Romans 12: 4-8

    For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

    1 Corinthans 12: 28-30

    And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues ? Do all interpret?

    Ephesians 4:11-13

    So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.


    If we believe the Bible and we can understand the clear language that Paul has given to no less than three of the early churches, then we see that Christ himself has give different gifts to different people.

    Let me emphasize that again.

    Different gifts = different people

    So why are some so determined that

    one person = all gifts

    That simply is not Biblical. A man who has been given the gift of being a teacher may not have the same gift of being a pastor. A man with the gift of being a pastor may not have the gift of being a preacher. The man who has the gift of leadership may not have the gift of being an encourager.

    Now does that mean that a teacher can’t also preach or lead? Of course not, but if that isn’t a gift they have been given, then they are not as suited for it as others.

    But in our modern churches, many people are of the assumption that if a man is called “head pastor” he must also be in charge of every ministry personally. And that simply isn’t true.

    If the head of a local church is given the gift of leadership and guidance, and he appoints someone to preach the word on Sundays and another to be in charge of visitation, how many would accept that in our church culture?

    And yet, if he is using his gifts and he is allowing others to use their gifts, he is doing the right thing.

    Putting the pressure of running a church on a single man is not what is taught in the New Testament. The New Testament teaches that various gifts are given to various people so that the church can run effectively. Even near the very beginning of the church, the Apostles appointed seven men to run some of the pastoral duties of the church in Jerusalem.

    That should be our model.

    • RWilliams on August 25, 2016 at 11:24 am

      Amen! May the Scriptures guide our practices!

  63. Ali Griffiths on April 17, 2016 at 9:26 am

    If a leader of a church doesn’t have a pastoral heart then they should go and work in a secular organisation doing good works or a para church organisation.
    The assumption that large and growing churches are the ones which are ‘healthy’ and ‘successful is patently nonsense biblically – it’s a worldly concept that suits many a church leader who needs his/her sad ego massaging.
    Good pastoral care is the main reason why broken, vulnerable and needy people come to church in the first place and stay. The idea that it stunts church growth is nonsense – it’s the most mission focused and loving thing the church does – offering the love of Jesus to people who need it and that includes fellow Christians. The world watches how we deal with each other.
    I am utterly fed up with silly headlines putting pastoral carers down and implying that bigger is always better. If all those people who travel miles to go to a mega church where they can hide in plain view actually committed to living their lives in the communities where they physically live, showed true loving pastoral care to those who will also know them through and through, THEN the Church will be known by its love of each and love of others and actually be noticed for all the right reasons. But that’s too hard. So people who call themselves Christians will continue to totter off to large churches where they can stuff themselves with teaching that they won’t put into practice themselves and go home to neighbourhoods in which the small churches struggle to cope because of their lack of resources. However, the smaller churches can love people so that is what they do and then they get criticised because that is ‘all’ they do. Actually, that’s the main thing, showing the love of God for people. Stop knocking it.

    • w84harpazo on April 26, 2016 at 10:53 am


      I can sense your aggravation with this topic and I understand your view. I will try and answer your response with respect and with the love of Christ—knowing we are brothers.

      I cannot answer for Carey; however, I am not sure that you understood Carey’s article.

      He never stated to do away with pastoral care, to the contrary, the article states to build a pastoral care team and not to alleviate the pastor from making calls, but so that the pastor doesn’t burn out, can focus on preaching, reaching, and representing the kingdom of God to the community.

      As an ex-church planter, current church planter trainer, a pastor, and now a revitalization pastor, I agree with Carey. But, I think that you are equating Carey’s article as “success=mega-church.” Having read Carey’s work and knowing his heart for discipleship, he’s not presenting pastoral care as bad, or a small church as unbiblical (surely there are rural congregations where growth cannot occur). He (I believe I am reading his article correctly) is stating that to further the gospel, churches can reach more people by making sure that pastor is focused upon leadership training (which includes pastoral care training), preaching the gospel, and intentionally being a part of community.

      As a pastor, I have to work hard and deliberately to set aside time to meet new people (non-believers), outside of my circle of influence. I do this in many ways, but understand fully what Carey is stating. I could be reaching even more people with gospel, if I were training members to reach and serve the community, and while doing that, having a pastoral care team that can effectively care for the needs of the flock. The problem is our broken clergy model–which heightens the role, expectations, and duties of the senior pastor—to do it all. If more laity were empowered (Eph 4), the church would be reaching and connecting to a far greater amount of people. Instead of surviving, the church would be thriving. IMHO.

      His servant and yours,

      • Ali Griffiths on April 29, 2016 at 10:12 am

        First, we are not brothers Matt. I am not male.
        Second, the title of this article is deliberately downgrading the importance of pastoral care in churches. If Carey isn’t meaning to do this then he should think more carefully about how he presents his material.
        Third, I did understand the article but I don’t think you do understand my reply.
        Fourth, the point that we can agree on is that the over reliance on the clergy to essentially do the work and ministry of the laity should be doing ( as well as the leaders not instead of) is a big problem in many churches. Empowering the laity is a major challenge and many of us now are reaping the fruits of teaching and practices that elevated the ordained leader to a position they should never have had.

    • Christoph Koebel on April 29, 2016 at 6:48 am

      What is a “pastoral heart”? And what make you think serving in a “para church organization” does not require a “pastoral heart”?

      • Ali Griffiths on April 29, 2016 at 10:04 am

        Never said it doesn’t require a pastoral heart – not sure where you get that from. I am clearly responding to an article that is downgrading the importance of a church leader having a pastoral heart. You need to read replies in the context of the discussion.

        • RWilliams on August 25, 2016 at 11:26 am

          I think you missed the whole premise. We have been given a Great Commission to go and make disciples. This means that we are seeking to reach people far from God with the Gospel. Expecting a Pastor who’s primary role is equipping the saints for that work to do all pastoral care is damaging.

          Also, a “pastoral” heart would mean a “shepherd’s”. A shepherds job is to care for the sheep, yes… but he should also be making sure his sheep are reproducing.. if not… the flock will die. Just a thought.

    • John Whitten on March 17, 2017 at 1:28 pm

      On target.

  64. Truthbtold on April 4, 2016 at 8:42 am

    Today’s modern churches don’t have Pastors, but instead CEO’s who delegate responsibilities to other people. Let me give you an example of what CEO teaching Pastors do now .. A man in his church has to have emergency open bypass surgery but CEO Teaching Pastor cause he is too busy on his twitter, blog ect. relays a message to someone on his staff to go visit them. Well that visit is never made, nor does the CEO Teaching Pastor never call himself or come cause he thought his assistant to the assistant did it for him. But who does come a Pastor of a local Baptist Church stays with the family cause their CEO Pastor was working on his image. If the only time you hear from your CEO Teaching Pastor is on Sunday Mornings when he teaches then you don’t have a Pastor.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on April 4, 2016 at 9:38 am

      I think we have very different definitions of pastors. Your’s never allows a church to grow beyond 200 people. Maybe caring for more people (by scaling your church) means you actually care more.

      • John Whitten on March 17, 2017 at 1:35 pm

        Carey, I really think that your definition of pastoral care is more in keeping with the corporate structure than it is with Biblical truth. My 48 years as a pastor convinces me.

    • John Whitten on March 17, 2017 at 1:30 pm


  65. Joel Bader on March 16, 2016 at 10:28 am

    Complication 2 applies to other groups–such as the Jaycees or the Lions Clubs. I used to belong to Jaycee and Lions Club organizations, and they wanted me to serve as a puppy–not as a leader. The Jaycee chapter to which I belonged is now defunct and the Lions Club to which I belonged is dying. I failed at being a real leader, and so did my groups.

  66. Benjamin on March 16, 2016 at 3:03 am

    Hi Carey,
    Sorry to say that I don’t necessarily agree with your points, and here is why. Pastoral care is a fundamental aspect of church ministry which should not be neglected. Many of the revivalist and evangelical movements, with huge gatherings, tend to be a ‘flash in the pan’. With as many as 40% of those participants having fallen away from faith, or no longer attending. Other churches seem to maintain their numbers, but do this by continually bringing in a constant stream of new followers. There are so many people to relate to in a +100 church size, that inter-relational interactions are quite stinted. Clicks form, and ultimately, the churches exit door is just as big as the entrance.
    Obviously, neither of these outcomes are suitable for the growth of God’s Kingdom. As living the Christian life is much more akin to a marathon than a sprinting race. It does not matter how many people you have sitting on seats, in your church, if there is no longevity.
    Pastoral care, is often critical, but also overlooked aspect of ministry. It is essential for maintaining the Church. From many examples of those situations sighted (weddings, funerals, illness, relationship problems, etc.) these are almost always too late. Good pastoral care should be happening continually, everyday, and before people reach these life stages. Hard to do, and impossible for one person. The real key is to enlist the help of others. By encouraging, and equipping the lay community to take on leadership and ministry roles for themselves. I think most Christian communities need to let go of the personality cult.
    The church pastor is not superman, and he is not the only pastor. He is the churches ‘paid pastor’, but there are many others who go unpaid. His job is not to minister, but rather, to train others in how to do it.

    • Ed Taylor on March 19, 2016 at 2:19 pm

      This is exactly what Carey said. He said you train people up to do the pastoral care in the trenches through grouplife initiatives. We care for each other, not the pastor cares for everyone. That’s all he was saying. And he’s right…

      • Benjamin on March 29, 2016 at 10:51 pm

        Oddly, I had’t gathered this from the article. The author seems to suffer from the presupposiiton that a 200+ intended congregation size is the intended aim. Sighting, at the begining of his article, that the vast majority of churches with congregations smaller than 100 people is a problem. I would firstly like to ask the author why he believes that a 100 person church is undesirable. It seems clear to me that if 100 people is the optimum size for pastoral care, then this is a good size to have. Kingdom growth simply means that you have more of them.

        Another point which I picked up from the language is the general lack of emphasis on training and equiping. The author seems to be advocating the wholesale delegation of pastoral care; but not giving a clear picture on how those needs are now to be met. The subtext seems to suggest that, “it is easier to grow a church (numerically) if you just don’t do pastoral care”, so don’t bother with that… If that is the message here: Then I wholeheartedly disagree.

        It is true that the head pastor, in a church, can’t do all things. But in restructuring a church, careful consideration needs to be given to how these needs are now to be met. I do appreciate that the author could have perhaps been deliberately provocative with the title of this article. But I do also detect a subtle idolatry creeping into this line of argument. An idolatry which should be identified and addressed.

    • cathyulrich on March 26, 2016 at 2:18 pm

      Agreed. Leader’s primary goal & responsibility is to mature the flock to take the baton when they’re ready. Raising up other followers of Jesus who do the same is the goal. We need to do this in smaller groups and one on one whenever possible. Having home groups in a larger church is a good way to do this. Healthy accountability, as opposed to disfunctional accountability is the way to do this. Jesus said to make disciples & teach them what He taught you. Also in Ephesians it speaks of our primary goal being to raise up people to be mature followers who don’t fall when the waves get rough. A big part of staying power for individuals or churches to stay the course is to help people see what their particular gifting so are & then encourage them & allow them to be placed in the body whee they are needed. The Holy Spirit’s guidance in this & teaching people to hear God speak & learn to search the Bible for themselves is crucial so they are no deceived. Worshipping one personality @ the top is dangerous & leads to all manner of deception.

      • Truthbtold on April 4, 2016 at 8:56 am

        Mature followers are not produced by having Sunday night home groups lol

  67. Sam on February 17, 2016 at 11:33 am

    Thank you Carey! Your podcasts really touch so many realms of ministry and life.

    Regarding pastoral care, it seems pretty simple. Those with the gift of leadership… lead. All the “one anothers” are for all of us, regardless of our specific gifts, to fulfill. However, each has our unique calling. Just like all of us give, not all have the gift of giving. All of us are to serve, but for some, it is their principle gift. All of us are to show compassion (mercy) but some have this in abundant measure. If the entire body fulfills their calling, we have… the body of Christ. If someone primarily is called to pastoral care, it might be difficult to adequately fulfill other role such as teaching, vision casting, etc. Get all believers on the right seat on the bus, and it will go as far as God intends. This is why he gives us spiritual gifts!

  68. Kirk T. on February 11, 2016 at 4:40 pm

    This is a good article, but an even more fascinating discussion. The basic question seems to come down to what God wants for the church. Obviously, we don’t know the mind of God, but we can find some clues. Perhaps love God, then neighbor and self? Perhaps feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give water to the thirsty, shelter to the stranger, and visit the sick and the prisoner. Perhaps go into all the world, make disciples, baptize in Jesus’ name, and teach them everything Jesus has taught us?

    Many churches have turned these directives upside down. Love us, pastor. Feed, shelter, and visit us, pastor. Don’t go, pastor, stay here with us. A church that follows these clues will be active in its community and will attract new people through its service, and grow. A church that demands its pastor be active only within the church won’t grow. The size of the church really doesn’t matter all that much. What matter is how the church cares for the community in which it lives.

    Corey is absolutely right. The church as a whole is called to provide pastoral care for the entire community which includes but isn’t limited to the church members themselves. The pastor is called to lead and model and equip the church for this service.

    • cathyulrich on March 26, 2016 at 2:35 pm

      One person serving all others leads to stagnation just as a body of water w/ no fresh water moving into it & back out again is sure to dry up & smell. True in our personal life & in the church. Givers w/ pure motives who allow others to speak into their lives become mature & the River of the Life of God flows out to bring more of the life of God to others.

    • John Whitten on March 17, 2017 at 1:39 pm

      No, not for the whole community, but for the flock of believers.

    • anthony g. on December 7, 2017 at 8:09 pm

      on point!

  69. Brenda North on February 11, 2016 at 2:37 pm

    Thanks Corey for this article, this is so true. I serve a church that was wise enough to realize that congregational care could reach much further than pastoral care alone. I, as senior pastor, still provides care in urgent and important situations, but trained, gifted lay persons provide the on-going care. Thanks to the faithfulness and leadership of these lay leaders and the power of God, our church has been able to grow well beyond the 200 barrier, and God willing, will keep growing and reaching new people. Programs like Stephen ministry, trained home Holy Communion servants, a lay minister for visitation or parish nurse, and a system for friendly visitation have provided great care for our congregation, developed more trained and caring lay leaders, and has allowed for pastoral time and energy to focus on those who are/were outside the church. It allows this congregation to more fully live out the Biblical witness of the early church “See how they love each other.”

  70. aPEON on January 16, 2016 at 2:22 am

    The discussion reveals the Fundamental problem in today’s Church——-The Seminary Production of church leaders. The Seminary approach to providing church leadership is contra-biblical——-Disciple Making is the Biblical method. If you do not understand that, you have much learning to do.

  71. Steve Simms on January 8, 2016 at 10:46 am

    Another way to through the pastoral care trap is to embrace the New Testament concept of ekklesia where Christ-followers serve and minister to one another.

  72. Adam Kilner on January 4, 2016 at 9:22 pm

    Dear Carey:

    Thank you! I am very thankful for the ongoing thoughtful posts you offer! 😀

  73. Steve Nelson on December 7, 2015 at 9:54 am

    Thank you so much for this article. Something I’ve learned about myself in 18 years of full-time pastoral ministry is that a 30 minute hospital call takes the same amount of energy – emotionally, mentally, and physically – as about 4 hours of sermon prep or developing leaders or designated prayer time or dreaming/visioning/strategizing. I know this isn’t true of every pastor, but it sure is for me. Getting a church that has a 100 year history of pastoral care, as opposed to congregational care, that this shift is a must for the health or the church, and for my health (and my family’s health), is like telling my dog, “Hey, don’t bark.” My weekly workload is typically 50-65 hours, and when the majority, or even half of that, is on pastoral care, I have nothing left for my family, I’m drained and beginning to burn out, and those in the congregation with the spiritual gifts of caring, empathizing, and meeting felt needs, lie dormant. Equipping the church to do the work of the church is often viewed as “self-serving,” which is the saddest part to me, as the reality is the exact opposite. Much of the problem lies in the language we use. The vocational title for who I am is “pastor.” But the Biblical title for who I am is “Apostle/teacher.” EPHESIANS 4:11-16. We’ve created this 5-headed monster staff position called “Pastor” which is an apostle/prophet/evangelist/pastor/teacher. I believe the word for this is abomination. 🙂

    • cathyulrich on March 26, 2016 at 3:02 pm

      Steve- Your articulation of the burn out of pastor & subsequent death of the church is prevalent & must be addressed. I used to go to a church just like this. After 17 years, 5 different pastors, prayer meetings giving way to the pastor teaching instead, I realized I had to leave in order to come alive spiritually again. I warned the pastor in love of the danger he & the church were in to no avail. Also my children needed to see a more Biblical model so they could live too. After a year & a half we are thriving in a more Biblically-based model church. Our Pastor has an open handed attitude & congregants are sent out to serve, as well as given opportunities to use their God-given gifts in the church & community. My youngest daughter, 18 years old, is now following hard after Christ after several years of rebellion & is going on the mission field. She now wants to go to Uganda for a long-term mission. The best part is she now loves & respects us & has a vital relationship w/ Christ. Our son is also turning from believing there was no God to learning that Christ is real & is allowing God to transform his mind & actions. Our oldest daughter is still away from God & overdosed, yet survived 4 years ago. However, we are standing on God’s promises & speaking & believing those things which are not as though they are!

  74. […] care/ministry was not clear enough, Nieuwhof went on to write a follow-up article called “How Pastoral Care Stunts the Growth of Most Churches“.  More money […]

  75. […] I recently wrote a post about how having the pastor do most or all of the pastoral care in a congregation permanently stunts the growth of most churches to 200 people or less. […]

  76. Charles Pritt on November 21, 2015 at 9:47 pm

    “…and told them that we would never break 200 in attendance unless I stopped doing pastoral care.” Ouch, I just don’t believe Exodus 18 should be pitted against 1Peter 5:2 and Hebrews 13:7. Sure, leadership is an important part of pastoral work, and delegation is a good part of leadership. It is perfectly fair to criticize pastors who fall into the trap of loving to be needed (pastoral idolatry?). Yet I don’t think those things make us free to renegotiate the biblical job description of pastor/elder.

  77. Trent Tanaro on November 21, 2015 at 6:32 pm

    Very disappointed in this….blessings!

  78. Mark on November 21, 2015 at 4:52 pm

    Some people get too dependent on the pastor. Others like me never see the pastor nor any care. There is a thing as too little pastoral care. I have never really seen it unless I was at the hospital visiting a (grand)parent when clergy came. If a pastor is struggling to do it all, why does he/she not train some more people? For all the committee meetings and time consuming nonsense, there needs to be some care about ordinary people.

  79. […] Cary Nieuwolf: How Pastoral Care Stunts the Growth of Most Churches […]

  80. mshelby1 on November 20, 2015 at 2:16 pm

    Couldn’t disagree more with this article. It appears to be more justification for the “dress for the wedding” nonsense. “You can’t be expected to ‘shepherd’ like an old-school pastor from (gasp!) 25 years ago…. You’re about growth, man!”
    You could study the successes of PLENTY of traditional pastors who’ve been faithfully serving the same mid to large sized congregations for 20 years or more…
    But I suppose that doesn’t support the narrative here. Yet why should my opinion count? I’m not a multi-campus pastor in trendy plaid shirts and nerd glasses. Heck, I’m not even a pastor… Just a regular Christian. Heck, I don’t even have a dream destiny. Wonder what I’m doing wrong?

    • Joel Pitman on March 17, 2017 at 11:29 pm

      I am a pastor and I agree with you we need more old school truths

  81. Russell on November 19, 2015 at 4:08 pm

    I see your premise as flawed. 1.) The institution of the church does NOT exist to further or to help realize the pastor’s dreams or mission. 2.) If the church does exist to further the pastor’s mission, it is no longer God’s church, but the pastor’s church. 3.) The Church exists for God’s will and purpose. 4) Success is NOT measured by how many are in attendance. It is NOT measured by programs or buildings. 5.) Biblical success, according to Jesus when speaking to the church at Philadelphia, is holding fast to His Word and to Him and His Name. 6.) One who loves Jesus obeys His Word. In the pastoral epistles the directive is to feed His sheep. Preach the Word. Feed the sheep–not the goats. Feed the sheep–not entertain the goats. Don’t waste your time counting numbers. Spend your time preaching the word of the Cross which is the power of God for salvation. 7.) Get over yourself. You are not Christ. You are not the reason the church exists. You are not the one that saves anyone. You are to serve Christ and obey His Word (The Bible).

    Repent of your self-serving nature and return to your first love, if it is. God will add to the number of the church. The pastor’s job is to care for those He has brought to the church.

    • Ryan on November 19, 2015 at 5:40 pm

      Good points Russell.

  82. Church Growth: Pastoral Care | on November 19, 2015 at 12:01 am

    […] explicit enough in Carey Nieuwhof’s list, he has followed up with an entire article called “How Pastoral Care Stunts the Growth of Most Churches,” where he writes, “The pastoral care model of church leadership simply doesn’t […]

  83. Marc Brisebois on November 18, 2015 at 7:50 pm

    Great article! As the senior leader of a congregation I have frequently seen Pastors do the inverse of what God is doing. It may seem odd but I see true pastoral care like Paliative Care – comfort them while they die. God is trying to lead us to the cross and die to ourselves but instead, many are busy trying to keep alive what ought to die.

    • Jason Whitehead on November 19, 2015 at 11:01 am

      Without diving too deep into the atonement; I see the cross as helping us understand how we can overcome realities that seek to denigrate, demoralize, and destroy us. The focus should not be on the cross, but instead on the redemptive and empowering message of transforming the stories and symbols of our lives so that we may serve in our fullest capacity. We don’t help people die, they are already doing that (or it is being done to them), we help people wonder about the emptiness of the cross and what it means to overcome so that they might lead in their lives.

      • Marc Brisebois on November 19, 2015 at 11:51 am

        Are we denying the call to deny ourselves and carry our crosses?

        • Jason Whitehead on November 19, 2015 at 11:58 am

          I am flabbergasted by this response. Let’s carry that to the natural conclusion, because that particular attitude and theological statement says that pastoral care is merely looking at a hurting person and saying “buck up soldier, this is your cross to bear, you must be doing something wrong if it is too heavy.” If that is the type of care you want to offer, then by all means, delegate it.

          Pastoral care is not evangelism, nor should it be, ever, ever, ever. To evangelize during a crisis is an abuse of power and abusive to those who hurt, and that is nowhere near leadership in my book.

          • Marc Brisebois on November 20, 2015 at 9:57 am

            God bless you Jason but you might be confused. Are you responding to me or someone else? Palliative care is by nature comforting and loving. Buck up? These are your words. My initial point was to underscore the call to deny ourselves and carry our crosses. How can you say, ‘the focus should not be on the cross’. Yes resurrection into new life is the goal, but ‘death ‘ must come before resurrection. No one is denying proper relational care, it is the Christ Complex too many people walk in which is being addressed in this article.

          • Jason Whitehead on November 20, 2015 at 12:13 pm

            Thank you for your clarification. I appreciate your ability to stick to the topic at hand. I do not deny the importance of death in order to imagine redemption, and the “I have to do it all” mentality of pastors can sometimes get in the way of good care and growth. While I do not consider myself confused (generally speaking of course), I do still think the characterization of pastoral care as only attending to certain events in the lives of people is over generalized, and that care is an embodied response and orientation towards the world that is derived from one’s faith, and that regardless of who attends an event, the pastor should always strive to live in ways the exude their care for others, however that takes place in their lives.

          • Marc Brisebois on November 20, 2015 at 1:50 pm

            Thanks for your reply. I see a lot of defensiveness in some of the negative responses to this article. Like we all often do, some of these have drawn from other conversations and interactions not present here. This results in an unfair polarizing as we assign to others dimensions of meaning not contained in their response.Just to clarify what I am saying – there is a model of ministry driven by a needy self-serving people which is happily being filled by others who want to be needed.

            This does not necessarily invalidate anyone unless the shoe fits. The motive of everyone who serves is the pivotal issue here. I am not deciding for you or anyone else, but simply recognizing we have a problem with leaders who want to be ‘all things’. Like the mother who does everything for their children there comes a time to call people to own their lives. This is not uncaring but an expression of selfless courage, assuming it is being done properly… (Granted a large assumption). But just because some are not doing it correctly does not suggest it cannot or does not have to be done.

      • eli on November 19, 2015 at 12:28 pm

        “We preach Christ crucified”. The Bible is not a book of inspirational stories for people to apply to their own lives. It’s the story of God who loved poor, miserable sinner so much He died an agonizing death to atone for their sins. Turning the Bible into a self-help book is mere idolatry.

        • Russell on November 19, 2015 at 4:10 pm

          Amen, Eli.

        • Amy Zucker Morgenstern on November 20, 2015 at 9:26 am

          I don’t understand. God died an agonizing death on the cross? Are you saying God is dead now? Or that he thought he would be?

          Here’s what happens to a person who is crucified: they suffer agonies in their injuries, they can barely breathe, it becomes impossible to hold up their head, their bowels loosen and they die in their own diarrhea. As this is happening, they feel forsajen and hopeless. The only body they have is broken and a source of torment. They wonder if these are the last moments of their existence. They might hope that a pain-free and peaceful life awaits them on the other side, but they don’t know.

          Heres what happened to Jesus, according to what you wrote: he suffered physical pain for a few hours, knowing all the whole that his mockers and murderers were wrong and that after this orderal, he’d go back to being utterly free of pain and loss, and rule the universe and everyone in it, including them. His body hurt horribly, but it was just a costume and would soon be shed and never borne again. He just had to hold on for a little while longer.

          These do not sound like the same experience to me. Can you please explain to me how God can suffer like a human being?

          • aPEON on January 16, 2016 at 2:04 am

            Are you requiring Eli to provide the extended details of your two paragraph description of being crucified each time he mentions Christ Crucified?

            It seems that Eli was responding to another’s post, and that you attacked him for not giving a complete description of crucifixion. Which is not relevant to his comments.

          • Amy Zucker Morgenstern on January 17, 2016 at 9:33 am

            What is relevant is that Eli is trying to make the argument that we should not view the Bible as “a book of inspirational stories for people to apply to their own lives” because to do anything but read it as “the story of God who . . . . died an agonizing death to atone for [our] sins” is “mere idolatry.”

            I beg to differ. Reading the Bible as a book of stories that are often fictional but nevertheless inspiring stories is exactly what I do, and the reason is because claims such as that the Creator of all that is could possibly experience the same suffering as mortal, embodied beings make no sense to me. If you’re going to tell me that my way is idolatrous, you’re going to have to support your own reading of the Bible. Eli has not supported his claim, IMO.

          • aPEON on January 17, 2016 at 8:30 pm

            Then you do not consider the Bible as inspired by God? If so, then it has no authority than any other book, and all that is written there does not have the signifigance that millions of believers have accorded to it.

            Your opening statement,

            “I don’t understand. God died an agonizing death on the cross? Are you saying God is dead now? Or that he thought he would be?”

            Reveals, as you said, “I don’t understand.” , that the true message of the Gospel, that God, Who can do what He desires, became a man, lived a sinless life, willingly gave Himself as the Perfect Sacrifice, for ALL the sins of the world, was in the grave for three days, and was raised from death by His Father, and that life is available to us through HIM.

            If you do not believe that, you do not believe the Gospel, or God.

            May He make himself known to you.

        • Jason Whitehead on November 20, 2015 at 12:28 pm

          This will be my last reply, as this does not feel like a sacred and safe place to disagree and talk about those disagreements, while feeling heard and valued. This is the reason why I usually delete these articles from my facebook feed, and for now I will return to that practice.

          I can appreciate the different ways that we all approach faith, approach God and Jesus; I am glad you find value in the words you speak and that it gives you life and passion. I happen to approach faith in God differently, for that I am labeled idolatrous, sad, and that I “should be ashamed.” While I would like to talk with people who differ in the ways they make sense of their faith and how that works in the world, I am pretty sure that can only happen if we agree to respect people that espouse those differences. If I communicated anything differently, then I accept responsibility for that.

          Thank you for time and effort in these places, for expressing your points of view. I hope they continue to provide you with the sustenance you need to experience the active love and presence of God in the worlds you reside.


          • Russell on November 20, 2015 at 1:07 pm

            I’ll clarify: if you’re reducing the cross the mere life principles, my comment stands. If not, then I regret misreading your ambiguous stance.

          • aPEON on January 16, 2016 at 2:15 am

            and Jason—-and ALL “Leaders”—A review of the ‘comments’ and ‘replies’ to a great extent, explains the ‘powerless modern church’——Leaders fight, churches die.

          • aPEON on January 16, 2016 at 2:18 am

            A basic ‘Passive-Agressive’ response——Paul, Peter, Timothy, Jesus–never!

      • Russell on November 19, 2015 at 10:51 pm

        Are you serious, Jason? Are you seriously reducing the cross as an allegory that “fits” our lives today as it is an example of how to overcome?

        Please tell me you are joking? If you are not you are taking the greatest demonstration of God’s love and justice and prostituting it for examples of life principles.

        Upon that cross the King of Kings, out Sinless Savior laid down His life and our sins were the nails that were driven into His body. He suffered and died willingly for us, so that we may be forgiven for our sins and reconciled to the Father, as sons and daughters.

        You should be ashamed for smearing the cross with your “transforming stories and symbols of our lives.” You, sir, have a narrow, small and dim, at best, view of the cross.

  84. RWilliams on November 18, 2015 at 12:05 pm

    Love this!

    I don’t think that Carey is asserting that pastors become CEO’s at all. What I think he is asserting is that they become ranchers instead of simply shepherds. They don’t neglect the needs of the people of the congregation, they simply delegate them. Think of the early church in Acts 6. The apostles recognized as the church grew, they could no longer handle being fully involved in the care aspect (food distribution) and also remain fully committed to the teaching of the word. So they became ranchers. They didn’t say, we are done with pastoral care (as we are calling it here). They simply said we need to delegate so it is done well. What was the result? verse 7

    “So God’s message continued to spread. The number of believers greatly increased in Jerusalem, and many of the Jewish priests were converted, too.”

    The word “so” there is crucial. Because they created a structure conducive to growth, growth occurred.

    • eli on November 19, 2015 at 12:29 pm

      The Bible calls pastors shepherds, not ranchers. If the church is too big for a pastor to adequately care for all his flock, a new church should be formed.

      • RWilliams on November 19, 2015 at 1:51 pm

        If you’re going to use that specific definition for the word pastor, then I’m assuming you would say that the lead pastor (or elder, teacher etc….) who is over teaching should not be in charge of care (did you look at Acts 6?) This is a huge problem in the church. Every member of the church is a priest with Christ as our high priest. To expect the pastor of a church to care for you and not be expected to also be a minister of care is unbiblical

      • Marc Brisebois on November 20, 2015 at 2:22 pm

        ‘A new church should be formed.’ This reduces ministry to mere caregiving and nuturing (necessary but not the job of some leaders). Where would that leave the early leaders who appointed others to do the serving so they could give themselves to prayer and the word. This model makes room for only one dimension of ministry.

  85. Chad Richard Bresson on November 18, 2015 at 11:02 am

    Plurality of elders/pastors. Problem solved. No church was meant to be led by one pastor. IMHO, that’s the “distinctive” of pastoring that has been lost in the centuries since the early church (esp. among Baptists). And so, burnout, pastoral malpractice, neglect of sheep, etc. Plurality isn’t simply pastoral care delegated (group model), but pastoral care shared.

  86. Jason Whitehead on November 18, 2015 at 9:02 am

    Thank you for this, I read it a couple of days ago and while there are some points to be made about what it means to lead, I have issues of how pastoral care is characterized. As I understand how the term is used, its description is antiquated, especially in relationship to how I understand and teach pastoral care today; care is as much about comfort as it is about challenge, support as it is about empowerment. It is meant to help people find their place in a community of faith when crises or tragedies befall them, as well as remind them of their strengths and empower them to speak and lead in these moments as well. A good leader empathizes, is compassionate, loving, leads from their strengths while recognizing the strengths around them. Good leadership begets good pastoral care, mainly because of the empowering way that good leaders help people understand their own gifts, talents, strengths, and resiliency as a community in these times of trouble.

    Pastoral care is not hand holding, that is not empowered care and asset-based thinking. Furthermore, good leadership is not devoid of empathetic and compassionate care for people in crisis. Good leadership and pastoral care is honest about our own gifts and strengths as pastors, and helps people find the right resources they need for support, rather than assuming all duties for all people (I think you are right about this to some extent, and those commenting are right about their suspicion of the CEO type leader as well).

    • Dedangelo on November 18, 2015 at 10:10 am

      I had the same reaction, Jason. The article is condescending about pastoral care as a profession. The “puppies” remark is a good example. I suspect it’s a gender role thing: Men want a “big church” rather than providing care for his flock. If you don’t have pastoral care skills, fine. But hire someone who does. Don’t denigrate the role — or parishioners who would benefit.

      • RWilliams on November 18, 2015 at 12:08 pm

        I don’t think he is denigrating the role at all…. I think he is asserting that the pastor in charge of teaching and leading a staff shouldn’t try and take on the care themselves. When that happens, people tend to do just as he asserted…. they expect the pastor to be at every surgery, counseling session, football game for Johnny etc…. If our passion is to see more people come to Christ, we need to create an environment where this can happen.

        If the ministry of care is delegated out to smaller groups, the care will be handled much better anyways.

        • Jason Whitehead on November 19, 2015 at 11:11 am

          That said, the pastor while s/he may not do the function of pastoral care (I, too, believe that my role as caregiver is for planned obsolesce; that is, the community cares for each other so well that I am not needed except in acute crises). However, the pastoral leader must embody values of care in order to create community. We have enough messages in the workplace about a lack of care for employees, seeing them only as assets or problems rather than people with strengths who are struggling, that they should not see that in their pastor as well. What is missing from this post is the type of leader who empathizes, empowers, emotes, and engages people, but rather someone who delegates (which can be healthy, as long as they understand their ultimate responsibility for what they delegate to others and don’t blame them if something goes wrong) the responsibility of care without taking on the role of community caregiver through an embodied stance in preaching, teaching, service, and fellowship. Where is the illumination of these qualities in the pastor, rather than just the ceding of pastoral care duties in the service of greater numbers in the church? There is a difference between attracting members and creating disciples… have we learned nothing from the examples of megachurches? There is a difference between a cult of personality and community of faith…

  87. Brent on November 17, 2015 at 8:16 pm

    There is a lot of truth in here. However, I wonder if maybe the point of church is actually providing care (Heb. 10). I have pastored churches in the 100-300 range and the pastor doing all the care can be overwhelming at times. However, I have noticed that care extends to not only those in the church but often those who have left for mega-churches. When it is time for a wedding…I am called and not one of the mega-church pastors. When a funeral rolls around, the small church pastor almost always gets the call. I am more than happy to help because I know the people because I spent time with them…I did life with them.

  88. Big Picture: Day 321 | Elim Church Selly Oak on November 17, 2015 at 3:02 pm

    […] I read a blog post by Carey Nieuwhof, a Canadian pastor who has become something of a leadership guru for us. In this […]

  89. Brian William on November 17, 2015 at 2:09 pm

    I think Reilly highlights an essential point when he says “my concern is pastors becoming CEO’s instead of shepherds.” That’s critical. No matter what, pastors need to care. I’ve been in a church where the pastors don’t care, and it ain’t pretty. (And the ironic part was the pastors did pastoral visits quite well, they simply didn’t exhibit *care*.) Ministry becomes efficiently running a program or managing a staff or hitting numerical goals or whatever, at which point it isn’t really ministry at all. Ministry is caring — caring about their personal wellbeing and caring about their spiritual growth.

    That said, I’m totally on board with what Pastor Nieuwhof is saying about the *manner* of pastoral care having the potential to limit a church’s growth. That’s because if a pastor believes visiting every shut-in weekly and visiting the hospital daily is what pastoral care is, they have much too narrow an understanding of care.

    Pastors need to show care in a multitude of ways. We’ve had 3 high school students commit suicides this year in the community, so I met with our youth group this past Sunday to pray with them for these families and for other students who are struggling. That’s care. We start every Bible study or adult class with 10 or 15 minutes of prayer concerns. That’s care. I just finished a sermon series called “Caregivers” about ways we care for others who are hurting. That’s care. I carry around prayer cards with me, and when I become aware of a need, I can offer to pray with them right then, right there, as well as hand them a card they can fill out so the prayer team will support them. That’s care. The other day I heard that the drummer missed praise band rehearsal because their baby is sick, and it took me 20 seconds to send them a text. That’s care.

  90. Josh Evans on November 17, 2015 at 9:34 am

    Excellent post. How would you respond to a church member who is upset with the pastor over not visiting her in the hospital or something similar like that. Do you explain “he cant visit everyone” or how would you go about practically responding to someone?

    • eli on November 19, 2015 at 12:31 pm

      He should visit everyone. If he can’t, the church should either get another pastor or form a new congregation to ensure everyone has access to pastoral care.

      • RWilliams on December 19, 2015 at 9:17 am

        Where are you getting these stances from? You said something similar below. Explain scripturally why you hold to this stance: that the pastor should keep the church small so he can individually care for and visit every sick or struggling person.

        • Beth on May 16, 2019 at 5:33 am

          I was in a church that turned to small group leadership in a big way. The pastors would barely say hello in passing and the small groups easily became cliquish and controlling. The small group leaders thought they were appointed by God and tried to exert a huge amount of influence over my life. They had favorites in the group and would hardly speak to others. This is just one experience with small group leadership, and my own perspective, but these are some dangers in this church model. I’ve since moved to a church that is more pastoral in its approach, and I love it. Of course you’re correct, it’s not a huge mega church, but it’s a vital outreach oriented church and I love it.

  91. Rielly McLaren on November 16, 2015 at 10:14 am

    I certainly resonate with much of the explanation about how pastoral care can become dysfunctional and codependent, hence limiting the growth of a church community. The struggle I’m having with your post is that pastoral care is not a separate function from being a pastor, it is being a pastor. If one isn’t doing pastoral care, one isn’t a pastor. Of course, as a church grows, the delegation of pastoral care must creatively spread out in order to maintain the health of a faith community; but this cannot be to the exclusion of a pastor being a pastor. For example, a lead pastor could easily transition from being on-call, to providing pastoral care for pastors who are on-call. In other words, care for other caregivers is pastoral care.

    Messiah complexes and co-dependency aside, my concern is pastors becoming CEO’s instead of shepherds. The most powerful spiritual leaders, speakers, and pastors I’ve ever met are healthy Shepherds that continue to connect and care for people on the ground and in the mess of life – but they do it with tact, wisdom, boundaries, and delegation. They do not step out of the pastoral care function to grow their church, yet they may shift how and who they care for.

    Thanks for your post. I hope you receive my thoughts not as over-inflating the issue, but perhaps contributing or adding an addendum.

    • Frankly on November 16, 2015 at 3:20 pm

      I have mixed feelings about this, like you. I think the article has a lot of wisdom and raises important points. I’ve seen congregations where the pastor does not effectively delegate, which ends up disempowering the congregation either through control issues or sheer bureaucracy. I think small country/neighborhood churches perhaps are the way to go–Christianity works better on that scale, I believe, even though all the fancy departments seem like a good thing and a great way to support emerging leadership–youth ministry, social outreach, etc. A pastor needs to know her/his sheep.

    • Dave Richmond on November 17, 2015 at 8:55 am

      I think what you are having trouble with is a confusion of terminology. The term “pastor” originally referred to the elders of a congregation. It was a team effort by multiple people that were “home-grown” within the local body. The preacher/evangelist was charged with preaching. Centuries later we have lost this distinction. This divide in responsibility was evident in the book of Acts when the Grecian widows were being neglected; the Apostles said it was unwise for them to neglect the “ministry of the Word”, so they delegated the care to the first deacons of the Church.

      This article nails the problem. The modern “Pastor” is charged with too many responsibilities by many smaller churches. It’s nearly impossible to find a leader who is a skilled communicator, excellent teacher and has visionary leadership that is also skilled pastorally. Most are naturally inclined towards one area, while only adequate in the other. A healthy church, and a healthy leadership, realizes the natural skillset of their minister and sets him up to win by making sure his responsibilities lie where he is gifted.

      • Marc Brisebois on November 18, 2015 at 7:55 pm

        Well said…

        • Eric Cepin on January 24, 2018 at 6:14 pm

          6 Reasons Why Most Churches shouldn’t push past the 200 person Attendance Mark
          1. Pastoral Care is important.
          Being a pastor is a lost art. No, pastors don’t need to be at every party, at every hospital stay, every birthday or funeral, but they do need to be knee deep in the manure of their community. Life is messy and it takes time. The point of being a pastor is not to free up your time so you can manage and administrate better – healing happens one person at a time.

          2. Strategic Planning is not the point
          The larger you get, the more strategic you become. People’s stories become a means to an end instead of the point. Yes, the church is an organization, and it should be organized and the mission should be clear and the question of how something is going to be a accomplished is important. But, Holiness is much more substantial than a few more buts in the seats.

          3. Developing leaders is a tricky art that takes a long time, and it is prone to failure
          Jesus took 3 years to develop his leaders, and I suspect he spent time with them before the three years we have recorded in the Gospels.

          4. Volunteers need the opportunity to mess things up
          Excellence is not what the church is about. Yes, we need to do things well, but if we are hindered by quality control, we will never give people the opportunity to learn through practice.

          5. A church ruled by small groups is dangerous!
          Yes, small groups are important in the life of the church, but they are not the answer to all the church’s problems. They are not a substitute for pastoral care, and they are not what gives you church a better sense of community. Discipleship, life on life irritation, is best served over coffee over many weeks.

          6. Your analytics change for the worse
          The way you understand success changes as you get bigger. There is a point when people take a back seat to a hyper focus on the implementation of the mission for each event.

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