These guidelines are intended to establish good practice for pastoral care and discipleship within the church, especially in 1:1 situations.
Many pastoral matters can be dealt with by church members ministering to each other and we want to encourage such ‘one anothering’ within the congregation. There may be circumstances where additional pastoral support is required involving pastoral staff and church leaders e.g. elders and LIFEgroup leaders and ministry leaders.
These guidelines have been produced to prevent the misuse of authority or the use of control and coercion in regard to inter-personal relationships that are formed in the context of the church, whether formally or informally. Also, following these guidelines should provide some protection for church leaders and church members against false allegations of emotional or psychological abuse that may be termed ‘spiritual abuse’.
These guidelines are to be read in conjunction with the church’s safeguarding policies for youth and vulnerable adults.
These guidelines were agreed by the elders of the church on 13 April 2021 and they will be reviewed and revised as necessary and annually.
- 1. Generally, when meeting someone 1:1, a man should meet with a man and a woman with a woman. If a woman is to meet with a pastor or elder, then another person, preferably a woman, should be present, or the meeting should take place in a public place or where other people are around.
- 2. Be humble and gentle in your interactions with individuals. Be loving and compassionate and gracious towards others.
- 3. Exercise particular care when meeting with someone with an over-sensitive conscience or with low self-esteem, mental health issues or who has memory loss or confusion.
- 4. Let one of the elders know if you are meeting regularly with someone for discipleship or if you are providing pastoral care to an individual.
- 5. Let the person you are meeting with know that they can contact an elder or the church’s Safeguarding Co-ordinator if they have any concerns.
- 6. Keep a record (e.g. a diary entry) of when you meet 1:1 with someone for pastoral care or discipleship with a note of topics discussed.
- 7. Wherever possible meet in a place where other adults are in the vicinity.
- 8. Where you are giving advice in regard to significant life choices or any financial decision, involve someone else in the discussion, so there is a witness, or if this is not practical, tell somebody else afterwards.
- 9. If someone is distressed or upset or angry by advice you give to them, inform one of the elders or the church’s Safeguarding Co-ordinator.
- 10. Don’t be overbearing. Ensure that the advice and counsel you give to others is Biblical. At times, this will require you to challenge someone over thinking and/or actions that are clearly non-Biblical, but this must be done gently.
- 11. Ensure when you discuss guilt and shame over sin, to speak also of God’s grace that offers full forgiveness where there is sincere repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.
- 12. Discourage dependency and encourage personal independence and responsibility in decision-making. Avoid exclusivity in relationships. Encourage fellowship with other believers and informal accountability with peer group.
- 13. Set a time scale for 1:1 discipleship. At the outset, agree how long and how frequently you will meet and set an achievable goal or specific focus such as a set number of Bible studies or to read through a Christian book. Continually review the arrangement and when the set timescale or task is completed, either set a new goal or conclude this discipleship relationship as appropriate. Both parties should have the opportunity to express a wish to continue or complete the arrangement, so people don’t get stuck with something unhelpful or burdensome.
- 14. Do not make decisions for other people or force them to do something they do not want to do. You can give Biblically-informed and wise advice/counsel, but decisions must be made by the individual and they should accept personal responsibility for their actions.
- 15. Exercise caution when discussing what the Bible teaches about same-sex relationships and gay marriage and transgender issues so as to avoid malicious accusations or charges of homophobic or transphobic hate crime.
- 16. Be aware that some cultures are very deferential towards those in authority or senior to them in age and are eager to please and will not always say how they are really feeling if they are finding a situation awkward or uncomfortable.
- 17. If someone is not very proficient in English, check that they have understood clearly what you have said.
- 18. If you are meeting 1:1 with someone you know is experiencing same-sex attraction, ensure you meet with them in a public place or where another person is around and ensure someone else is made aware of the situation or is involved also.
- 19. If you have any safeguarding concerns about an individual, these should be reported as per the church’s safeguarding policies. In most circumstances it is appropriate to tell the person you are raising those concerns.
Version: 13 April 2021