The purpose of pastoral care is to generate stories that promote growth in love of God, self, and others.
Christian pastoral care is a narrative, ecclesial, theological practice (NET). As a narrative practice, pastoral care attends to the inseparable interconnection between our own lifestories, others’ stories, the larger cultural stories, and God’s story. As a ministry of the church, pastoral care is an ecclesial practice that derives its motivation, purpose, and identity from the larger mission of the church to bear witness to and embody God’s mission of love that extends beyond the church for the transformation of the world. As a theological practice, pastoral care is grounded in God’s love story. God’s profound love for humankind heals our brokenness when human love fails and invites us into an ongoing process of growth in love of God, self, and neighbor.
Intended for those who provide care with and on behalf of religious communities, author Karen Scheib focuses on listening and “restorying” practices occurring in the context and setting of congregations. By coauthoring narratives that promote healing and growth in love, pastoral caregivers become cocreators and companions who help others revise and construct life-stories reshaped by the grace of God.
What Karen Scheib has done in this book is to reposition pastoral care as a theological activity performed in the context of the church. She draws deeply upon her Wesleyan theological heritage, upon an understanding of life in its fullness as growth in love and grace, and upon a “communion ecclesiology” undergirded by a communal understanding of the Trinitarian life of God. Thus grounded, she envisions pastoral care first as a rhythm of the life of the whole church and secondarily as a work of trained pastors.
In her vision, pastoral care is rescued from a narrow understanding of it as exceptional acts of intervention performed only in moments of dire crisis. Instead, it becomes a “daily practice of pastoral care,” an attending, in love, to the stories of others and a “listening for ways God is already present in a life story.” Solidly theological, grounded in the life of the church, and eminently teachable – Karen Scheib has given us a great gift in this book.” from the Foreword -Thomas G. Long, Bandy Professor of Preaching, Emeritus, Candler School of Theology, Emory University, Atlanta, GA.
“In a wonderfully engaging, reflective, and useful way, Karen Scheib captures something absolutely essential to pastoral care and yet often overlooked—the utter centrality of storytelling/listening, the power of stories to heal, and their vital connection to bigger stories told within religious communities. This book is a real milestone, reclaiming the importance of “narrative knowing” and grounding care not only in community but also within a comprehensive theological framework.” –Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore, E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Professor of Religion, Psychology, and Culture, The Divinity School and Graduate Department of Religion, Vanderbilt University Divinity School, Nashville, TN
“Implementing narrative personality and therapy theories and anchored in ecclesiology and Wesleyan theology (NET), Karen Scheib’s book advances a long awaited and holistic approach to pastoral care. Her NET approach presents the embodiment of pastoral care by emphasizing both narrative and paradigmatic knowing, proposes the subjectivity of our stories in pastoral care by pointing out the interchangeability between us and our stories as subject and object, and underscores the dynamic process of pastoral care through the interconnection of the storyteller, listener, and context. Scheib’s image of story companion contributes to the field as a new paradigm of pastoral care and promises to be a significant resource in generating hope and growth in love for both pastoral caregiver and receiver.” —Angella Son, Associate Professor, Drew University, Madison, NJ
“Pastoral theologian Scheib describes a narrative, ecclesial, and theological approach for listening to people’s life stories in such a way as to engender spiritual formation and growth in love. Scheib clarifies the connections between caring conversations and Christian theology. Clear and accessible prose as well as helpful exercises and discussion starters make this a fine teaching text.” –The Christian Century, Sept. 29, 2016.