In the Bible Christians are encouraged to care for one another, and although in many ways this is an all-believer responsibility, God calls and gifts some to go a little further in this area of service, to spend specific time in helping others.
Inevitably, if people exercise their gifts in helping people they will be interacting with people who are often quite vulnerable and sometimes needy, and at Markethill Presbyterian Church we want those relationships to be appropriate and safe at all times.
Therefore, whilst not wishing to restrict or hinder helpers, it would seem prudent to provide guidelines for those in the fellowship serving in this way, to help them to work within the policies, advice and procedures that have been agreed and implemented within the church.
As members of this church we operate under the ‘Taking Care’ guidelines of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and we commit ourselves to the nurturing, protection and safeguarding of all.
As Christians the Bible teaches us that it is the responsibility of each one of us to care for one another and to seek to help others when they are experiencing hardship or problems that, at least for the moment, seem beyond their ability to cope.
We recognise that this people-helping is the responsibility of the whole church.
The church is also committed to supporting, resourcing, training and supervising those who work specifically within the area of Pastoral Care.
Each worker within the area of Pastoral Care must agree to observe the guidelines and policies contained within this booklet and comply with the PCI ‘Taking Care’ guidelines.
Pastoral care may involve giving practical assistance as well as helping people through difficult times or helping them cope with difficult situations. It involves relationships, befriending people and getting involved in their lives, even if only for a particular period of time.
Although any church member may be involved in visiting others, this particularly refers to the regular visiting of those in need, those who are sick or otherwise not in routine contact with the church.
Pastoral visiting is then, the meeting of people, typically in their own home by prior arrangement, to extend the fellowship of the church to them, to spend time in conversation, to offer companionship, to ensure that if they are struggling with issues that the church could help with, those issues are brought to the attention of the appropriate person and to share some scripture and pray with them.
Those serving as members of the Pastoral Care team will have completed the “Pastoral Visiting Skills Training’ course delivered by @LeeGriffen Training. (Sept/Oct 2016)
Pastoral visiting will be coordinated by the minister and elders.
In all these activities, the cared-for person’s autonomy and responsibility for their own actions is to be respected at all times, as is the maturity of their faith. Care must be taken at all times not to invade people’s personal space and permission must always be sought before physical contact. Physical contact must always be appropriate.
An important distinction needs to be made in these guidelines and that is the distinction between Counselling and Pastoral Care. The church does not offer Counselling support to individuals other than by referral to an independent, professional accredited Counsellor.
All information from people (clients) received by those engaged in Pastoral Visiting (Pastoral Care workers) will be held in confidence unless specific permission is given to share that information with others.
The desire to uphold others in prayer must not be used to excuse the obligation of confidentiality.
It is recognised that some workers may need to discuss issues raised with them for the purposes of supervision or seeking advice on how to proceed, but an individual is not to be named or readily identified by the details revealed.
Confidentiality is not the same as secrecy, and is defined as follows:-
The Pastoral Care Worker will treat as confidential all information given by the client except:
(a) Where the Pastoral Care worker has a legal obligation to disclose information to other authorities.
(b) Where the Pastoral Care worker needs to refer to and receive guidance from their Supervisor,
providing that the identity of the client is not revealed.
(c) Where there is a risk of serious physical harm to self or others.
(d) Where the client agrees that information should be given to another party or agency.
The Pastoral Care worker may keep a brief record of their meetings with the client. However, the client will not be identified from these records, which will be kept securely and will only be available to the Pastoral Care worker, unless subpoenaed by a court of law.
The church shall exercise reasonable care and diligence in the selection, appointment and supervision of persons undertaking pastoral care work on behalf of the church.
The church will not seek volunteers in the area of Pastoral Care by general invitation, but will only consider people on an individual basis after due reflection on their gifting in this area.
As those working in the area of Pastoral Care may well be involved with those who are vulnerable to abuse, it is the church’s policy that those members of the pastoral care team obtain clearance from Access NI.
All members of the Pastoral Care team will have received training prior to commencing service. This training was delivered by @LeeGriffen Training (Sept/Oct 2017). In line with ‘PCI Taking Care’ policies, Pastoral Care workers will be ‘Access NI’ approved.
Support for those specifically involved in Pastoral Care comes via the regular meetings when support may be sought from other members of the Pastoral Care team or the church Elders at any time.
The members of the Pastoral Care Team will hold group supervision meetings, chaired by the Pastoral Support Leader, where issues of concern may be raised, within the boundaries of confidentiality.
All Pastoral Care workers are encouraged to pray for the people they are seeking to help, not only privately but also when they meet together, within the boundaries of confidentiality.
Praying with the people they are seeking to help must only be carried out with their permission, and then in a sensitive way, giving due consideration to their spiritual maturity and churchmanship.
The church recognises that in this area of people-helping, workers act only as God’s assistants; it is only He who achieves change and healing in someone.
Boundaries exist so that we can confidently experience freedom within them. There are many aspects of a Pastoral Care relationship around which we may draw boundaries. Pastoral care workers should not enter any situation which they are not comfortable with. They need to be clear within their own mind what their boundaries are and ensure that they still permit a viable relationship with the person they are seeking to help. Any concern in this area should be discussed with the Elders or minister.
Pastoral Care workers also need to take care of themselves. This involves ensuring that someone knows what they are involved in, and prays for them. They should make sufficient time for rest and relaxation and time alone with God.
An important aspect of Pastoral Care is that workers must not offer help beyond their competence or ability. If the issues presented by an individual are beyond their ability to help, then they must refer the individual to a person with those abilities.
In particular, the Pastoral Care of children and young people (those 18 years old and younger) and vulnerable adults should be referred to the appropriate designated person for safeguarding, who will be familiar with the Taking Care Guidelines.
Should the pastoral care worker wish to discontinue visiting or where the pastoral visitor, client or session believe that there needs to be a change in a visiting schedule; these will be done with proper consultation with all parties.