Pastoral care has many expressions, from joyful visits with an elderly parishioner to painful conversations with an adolescent having suicidal thoughts. From the tough work of addressing division and disunity to the tender work of shepherding over the long haul. Here are seven new and recent books that engage and equip pastors for the deep and multifaceted ministry of pastoral care.
Aging: Growing Old in Church by Will Willimon (Baker Academic)
Will Willimon invites pastors to think intentionally about their own aging and the vocation of their elderly parishioners in this comprehensive and engaging text. While old age brings with it a certain loss of control for many, it also provides a new set of freedoms that Christians should view as an opportunity to invest more fully in their walk with God and in the lives of those they are called to serve in this new stage of life. Pastors in turn should consider how they can help their aging parishioners transition well by providing both practical opportunities to prepare for financial and health care challenges and opportunities for continued ministry within the life of the church. Willimon offers fantastic illustrations from his own experience as a septuagenarian pastor and vivid anecdotes from a lifetime of faithful service within various intergenerational congregations.
—Michael Niebauer is rector of Incarnation Church in State College, Pennsylvania, and a teaching fellow at Trinity School for Ministry.
The Beautiful Community:Unity, Diversity, and the Church at Its Best by Irwyn L. Ince Jr. (InterVarsity Press)
Irwyn Ince Jr. is convinced that diverse local churches are a natural outworking of a ministry of reconciliation—but diversity isn’t where he chooses to begin. Ince starts with theological explorations of beauty and relationality. This sets the tone for the entire book, which cites historic Reformed confessions far more frequently than any social-scientific concepts. Ince doesn’t ignore racial theorists as he considers how to care for people’s souls while cultivating a multiethnic church. He shows how patterns such as white normativity and white structural advantage impede authentic diversity. His solutions, however, remain steadfastly biblical and theological.
This book is unlikely to find a hearing with those who refuse to admit the ongoing impact of systemic racism on American churches. But, for those who see these problems and yearn to shape people’s souls in diverse contexts, Ince has given the gift of a practical guide for building more beautiful communities.
—Timothy Paul Jones is chair of the department of apologetics, ethics, and philosophy at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and serves as a teaching pastor at Sojourn Church Midtown in Louisville, Kentucky.
A Burning in My Bones: The Authorized Biography of Eugene H. Peterson by Winn Collier (WaterBrook)
Pastoral care can be achingly lonely work, making faithful companions essential on the journey. Winn Collier’s biography—A Burning in My Bones—portrays Presbyterian minister Eugene Peterson as a thoughtful, kind, fiery, and whimsical man of God and a consummate storyteller whose love of Scripture deepened his commitment to practical care, the pursuit of wisdom, and the common good. Peterson’s deep knowledge of the Bible, open heart for wounded and wandering souls, and wise boundaries around his family life and Sabbath rest are an encouragement to all who seek to love God and neighbor well while caring for a community of faith. This biography is a love letter to those who pastor locally, reminding them that “honoring the presence of God made visible in one place” is perhaps the hardest, holiest, and best work of all.
—Courtney Ellis is associate pastor at Presbyterian Church of the Master in Mission Viejo, California, and the author of Uncluttered and Happy Now: Let Playfulness Lift Your Load and Renew Your Spirit.
The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart by Harold L. Senkbeil (Lexham Press)
“I’d like you to be as infatuated with soul care as I’ve become. . . . [T]here’s great joy in this work—if we just have the eyes to see it.” These words frame well the way of seeing that Harold Senkbeil heartfully lays out for his reader. My own early days as a pastor were filled with excitement, and then the reality set in that I did not have the habitus needed to offer the cure for souls. Joy eluded me for a long time. Had I known the tenets Senkbeil proposes, I might have recovered earlier and been able to see the joy.
Senkbeil offers the “sheepdogs” of God an even-tempered way of being present in ministry: keeping one eye on the sheep and one eye on the Shepherd. Senkbeil’s writing helps us care for our souls while offering guidance in the habitus needed to care for the souls of others. Rich in scripture and story, The Care of Souls has staying power. Would that I had it 30 years ago! Fortunately, now I can share it with those who share in this work.
—Juanita Campbell Rasmus is co-pastor of St. John’s United Methodist Church in Houston, Texas, and the author of Learning to Be: Finding Your Center When the Bottom Falls Out.
Not Uninformed: Sure and Certain Hope for Death and Dying by D. Eryl Davies (Christian Focus)
People are uncomfortable with the idea of death. This prevalent discomfort with death can stunt the spiritual growth of aging believers and keep families from mourning departing saints in a healthy way. As a pastor, preparing a saint to step into eternity can even be seen as unwelcome by families who won’t entertain the idea of death until all life-saving options have been exhausted and the dying person’s body moves into its last hours.
In Not Uninformed, D. Eryl Davies addresses the misinformed ways in which many believers today approach death. He shares from his own experience how pastors can care for, counsel, and prepare saints for death. Davies finds the balance of building a theologically astute case while also offering practical application for daily ministry. Not Uninformed would be beneficial to any pastor as it helps to correct nonbiblical modern views of death and equips one to minister to the dying and their families.
—Wes Faulk is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Vidalia, Louisiana.
Preaching Hope in Darkness: Help for Pastors in Addressing Suicide from the Pulpit by Scott M. Gibson and Karen Mason (Lexham Press)
There are at least two myths about suicide. One, don’t talk about it. Two, leave it to the experts. This book corrects both of these. Cowritten by a preacher and a suicide preventionist, it is especially for pastors and is eminently practical. It will give you words to say along with much more. It includes case studies, sermon ideas, liturgies, plans to equip the church in order to prevent suicide and help those who have lost a loved one to suicide, and a curriculum for high school students. Given that suicidal thoughts and acts are increasing, pastors will want to read at least one book on this critical matter. This book does not try to make you an expert. Instead, it reminds you that the preaching of the gospel of hope and ordinary expressions of wise love, when refined with a basic understanding of suicide, can have a profound effect on our church communities.
—Ed Welch is a counselor and faculty member of Christian Counseling & Education Foundation as well as an author of several books, including Created to Draw Near.
Soul Care in African American Practice by Barbara L. Peacock (InterVarsity Press)
Christianity is more than an academic venture; God should be the chief object of our affections and the source of our joy. Believers run the risk of seeking only facts about God at the expense of knowing God, which does not lend itself to effectual spiritual formation. In Soul Care in African American Practice, Dr. Barbara Peacock stresses spiritual disciplines that orient our lives toward God. She underlines habits that nourish the soul and sustain us during trying times. Admirably, she approaches the subject by highlighting the spiritual practices of African American men and women who, by God’s grace, left a lasting mark on American history. Her use of biographies makes the subject relevant; her words have real-world viability. I commend this book to all who desire a surrendered walk with the incomparable King.
—Brandon Washington is a church planter and the pastor of preaching and vision at The Embassy Church in Denver, Colorado.