My current pastoral mentor, Rev. Charlie Thompson, recently gave me a document called “Twelve Times to Call the Minister.” It’s a page he photocopies and hands out to his people whenever he arrives at a church as the new pastor.
Adapted from The Power of God in a Parish Program by J.E. McCabe, orignally published 1959, I found the page quite helpful, but a tad outdated. So, I’ve altered it a bit and added to it, thus the “Fifteen Times” as opposed to “Twelve.”
I post it here with the hopes that my parishioners will find it helpful, and anyone else in a church somewhere may find it helpful too.
Fifteen Times to Call the Minister
Many people have the idea that the only time they should call the minister is when someone is critically ill, or when there is a death in the family. This is a limited and restricted view of the ministry and it is gradually being replaced by a wider understanding of the role of the Christian minister in modern society.
The situations described here do not exhaust the occasions when the minister can be helpful. The purpose is to indicate that there are many times when the minister can bring to people the resources of the Christian faith.
1. Before going to the hospital
If there is to be surgery, the minister will make every attempt to see you at home or at the hospital before the operation and to express in prayer the Christían’s confidence and quiet trust in God. Ordinarily the best time for this call is the afternoon or evening preceding the operation. If you are going for a medical checkup or for tests, the minister would like to call sometime during your period of hospitalization.
2. When alcohol, drugs, or pornography become a problem for you or someone you love
Many people in our community, and some in our church, struggle with addictions. Several million people in our country are in the same situation. The minister is equipped to help you, and can connect you with resources that will help. There is no need to be embarrassed.
3. If you’re having marriage or family troubles
It’s important to seek help from a spiritual and Biblical perspective. The minister can meet with an individual, a couple, or a whole family for counseling. If he feels ill-equipped to meet your needs, he can connect you with good professional counseling. If you are thinking of engaging a lawyer for separation or divorce, you should always speak with your minister first.
4. When a baby is born
When a baby is born the minister would like to visit while the mother is still in the hospital. He will rejoice with her and ask God’s blessing upon the child.
5. Before a young person goes off to college
Our church wishes to maintain a close relationship with our young people during their college years. We correspond with them, pray for them, try to help them plug in to Christian environments in their new communities and welcome them back into our fellowship and worship when they return home. The pastor would like to visit and pray with them before they leave.
6. When you would like to talk or pray about a difficult decision
The big decisions of life are so important that they should be “talked out and prayed through.” Whom shall I marry? What shall I do as my life’s work? Should I change jobs? God never intended any of us to make these decisions alone.
7. When you know someone in need of spiritual help
It is a curious fact of human nature that people are often reticent to seek help just when they need it most. It is part of our Christian responsibility to be alert to the needs of others. Your names need not be revealed if you think it best that this not be done. The minister’s first responsibility is to the members of the church, but he receives many calls to serve people who have no church relationship and he is glad to respond. The New Testament puts this quite clearly: “We are members of one another” and this means that we should be sensitive and responsive to the needs of people.
8. When you need some help in understanding Biblical revelation or Church teaching
People often need help understanding Biblical passages, theological ideas, or church doctrine. The minister can help here by direct instruction and by recommending books and literature.
9. When you want to know what it means to be a Christian and a member of Christ’s Church
Your minister is always ready to talk to you about your relationship to Jesus Christ and what it means to accept Him as Savior and Lord.
10. When there is a death in the family
For some people this is the only occasion on which the minister should be called, but as we’ve seen, this is a limited and restricted view of the Christian ministry. Nonetheless, you should call your pastor right away if there is a death in the family.
11. Where there is prolonged reaction to grief
Grief and sorrow at the loss of a loved one are perfectly normal. However, when there is prolonged reaction to grief it is an indication that the person needs help. God does not intend us to live in the valley of the shadow of sorrow, but to pass through it into the sunshine and strength of normal life.
12. When you are spiritually depressed
Remember, help is available! The finest Christians who have ever lived testify that they had their “midnights of the soul.” Don’t try to fight it through alone. No one suffers with an inflamed appendix or a broken arm without seeking help. The minister understands that spiritual depression can come upon anyone.
13. If you are being abused
Abuse is a reality. It can be embarrassing to admit when you are being abused because you may feel like it’s your fault. This is not true. Abuse is never excusable and you need to ask for help. Call your minister and he will make sure you are safe.
14. If you are badly in need of a drive
The pastor is not a taxi service, but his flexibility of schedule does mean he can be available if a drive is needed badly.
15. If there is an accident or other emergency
Naturally, call 911 first. But, you should also notify or have someone else notify the minister. He will come immediately to be with you and help provide a calm presence and practical assistance to you in your moment of need.