At “Church Possible” this week we had an interesting moment on pastoral lists. One minister told us that three people in their church have responsibility for the pastoral list and they have got into difficulties with one of them adding names and another crossing them off. We were told they’ve now agreed on a procedure for adding and removing names. But perhaps what they have missed is that there should be two quite different categories of association with a congregation.
There’s one group of people who are, one way or another, own some “connection” to the congregation. They attend or contribute in some way or are clearly interested in it. That’s what I would call the pastoral list. They are people who are happy to be drawn together into the church and its mission and the church takes special care to nurture them and keep them together.
But I would have a separate list that includes other family units who are known to have had some connection but choose not to be active in any way. Perhaps their parents used to attend; perhaps they attended a Sunday School of our denomination; perhaps someone a couple of generations ago gave money for the building of our church. But, for whatever reason, they now decline to engage themselves in any way in our mission. However, they may feel that they have the right to seek my assistance in a crisis such as a funeral. As pastor, I need to know who and where they are.
I call this the church’s “responsibility list”. It may even include people who are known to be under the pastoral care of another denomination. Mostly it consists of people who are, simply, not interested. And the record needs to contain basic information. For nobody knows when such a family, in time of crisis, may seek my congregation’s support. I need to know that this enquiry does not come “out of the blue” and does not necessarily involve infringement on the pastoral rights of another pastor.
Families on this “responsibility list” would not normally receive the newsletters and other information that would be distributed regularly through the pastoral list. But they might be regarded as an “opportunity” group for invitations to special events or for newsletters that highlighted the church offerings in community service as distinct from its promotion of its “church” life.
An interesting feature of Local Shared Ministry congregations - or perhaps most small congregations these days - is that pastoral care seems to revolve more and more around the people who are "connected". It seems too demanding to maintain a meaningful "opportunity" list.