As part of my regular reading diet, every year, I read a book a week. This reading habit helps me feed my desire to continue to learn. It also helps me become a better leader, pastor, husband, father, and friend.
This week I read The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor's Heart by Harold L. Senkbeil. As I read through the book, this quote really stuck with me: "You never “fix” souls; you care for them." As a pastor, it's comforting to know that we aren't in the fixing business. We need to care for the people God has called us to shepherd and lead.
Here are 7 other takeaways that I found really helpful from this book.
1. The best pastors among us are the ones who realize how little they actually know and how much more they have to master concerning the art of the care of souls.
I think pastors get a little nervous about actually revealing how much we really don't know. This is especially true of caring for congregants. Seminary does little to prepare you for congregational care. Admitting that is the first step to doing it well.
2. The most important ingredient in [pastoral ministry] is often overlooked: the promised personal presence of Jesus by means of his word and sacrament.
Knowing you aren't in this alone helps pastors shepherd their congregations well. Beyond all the tools we have, the presence of Christ through His word and sacrament is necessary to succeed as a pastor.
3. Pastors offer both...care in public worship and cure in private pastoral care as needed.
You know us pastors like alliteration. Care in public and cure in private. So good and exactly what effective pastoral ministry looks like.
4. The process of the cure of souls has two phases: attentive diagnosis followed by intentional treatment.
This quote really made me think about what neglecting one phase or the other looks like in my life. It's impossible to treat people's souls without being attentive to the specific need they have.
5. Probably the most important skill to acquire is the art of listening to the conscience—listening accurately and spiritually, beneath the surface.
As pastors, we speak with congregants all the time. Listening with intention is the key. Behind people's words lurk their conscience. Listen for that, Senkbeil says, and you've picked up a skill that will help you care for them well.
6. Both the gathering [missions] and the tending [shepherding] comprise the proper care of souls.
Some pastors, especially those who love preaching, tend to forget the dual call of pastoral ministry. We are called to both gather and tend. Gathering means that we need to know and engage the culture around us with the gospel. Pastors should be the lead evangelists at any local church. Unfortunately, that isn't always the case.
7. You need to seek out care for your soul; you need to place yourself under the care of another pastor.
I think this last quote is the hardest for many pastors. In some instances, finding a pastor to pastor you is difficult. But in other instances, some pastors are too prideful to admit that they still need care for their own souls.
I really enjoyed reading this book and it helped me put language around the need for both attentive diagnosis and intentional treatment for those who are entrusted to my care.
Watch the video below to see the seven takeaways from this book: