Pastoral Care: Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD

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30 Responses

  1. Gabby says:

    Thank you so much for this. I’m currently in graduate school studying clinical psychology, and over the last three years of being in this program, I’ve been wrestling with how well (or not) I fit in the psychology world.

    I was speaking with one of my professors about how I love my theology classes and topics around spiritual formation, and he looked at me and said, “Have you ever thought of being a pastor?” My initial/gut reaction was, “Absolutely not!” After taking time to figure out why that was my first response, I realized it was because my examples of “pastor” usually emphasized teaching/preaching without any modeling of pastoral care. When I think about pastoral care, I can see myself doing that kind of work because it brings together my therapeutic skills and love of theology. Still trying to figure out what I’m going to do once I finish this grad program, but this article is really encouraging to me in the meantime. Thanks again for sharing!

  2. Michael says:


    You would make an excellent priest or pastor…hopefully in my tradition and my area… 🙂

  3. Michael says:

    A number of years ago, I visited a city where we had chronicled the scandals surrounding a mega church pastor.
    Word got out that I was present in a service at another church and I had the opportunity to meet a number of our readers in the church lobby after the service.
    The one I’ll never forget is an elderly gentleman, tall and dignified, who greeted me warmly and with tears.
    He had given much money to the megachurch, and had been a foundation stone of building a mans empire.
    He had a serious heart ailment and ended up in the hospital…where he waited and waited for the man he helped establish to come and bring him spiritual comfort.
    The “pastor” never came.

  4. Gabby says:


    Thank you for your kind words! I have spent the last fifteen years of my life in Pentecostal/charismatic spaces, but I’ve been drawn to more liturgical practices as well (which makes it a little tricky to find a denominational “home” at this point 😂). I guess I’ll have to wait and see where the Lord leads… and manage the suspense in the meantime!

  5. EricL says:

    Post-pastoral Protestantism is one of the saddest developments in the last 100 years. I fear it is a sin of neglect that will be held against so many church leaders. They think they will be lauded in heaven for their fine orations and crowd gathering skills, but I think they are mistaken. I think the Great Shepherd expects disciple-making and loving care in His name.

  6. Duane Arnold says:


    I was hoping that you would share that story. I’m afraid, however, that it is all too often a common experience in more places than we can imagine…

  7. Duane Arnold says:


    Agree absolutely. Additionally, I think some shrink from pastoral care because it is private, not public, and it forces one to engage real issues of life and death…

  8. Xenia says:

    This is the joy of small parishes, where the priest/pastor knows everyone. If you want anonymity, that is, you don’t want to be put on committees or stuck in the nursery, you can go to a mega church where no one need ever know your name but if this is your choice, then you can’t gripe when the pastor doesn’t visit you in the hospital. (This obviously doesn’t apply to the gentleman in Michael’s story, who was very involved in his church.)

  9. Xenia says:

    Our family was one of the minority of folks who decided not to attend church services when our county was in the top tier of restrictions. Our pastor still visited us, his wife brought us homemade cake and bread, and he invited my husband to play golf a few times, all to show they still loved us. And when we came back a few weeks ago, there were no recriminations, just “We are so glad you guys are back.” All the anti-mask people welcomed us back with open arms and no snide remarks. O how I love my parish!

  10. Duane Arnold says:


    Just to say, the church I served in NYC had 1300+ in our three Sunday morning services. Parishioners in the hospital were visited, the homebound and those in nursing homes were visited. Pastoral care was exercised because pastoral care was a priority…

  11. Xenia says:

    It just seems that so many American Christians prefer big churches with professional-sounding bands and a cool pastor who preaches relevant sermons. Lots of programs for the kids, lots of money spent on many things. This appeals to people, although it has never appealed to me. But when you choose this type of church, there are trade-offs, no getting around it.

    In my case, I attended a mid-size Calvary Chapel with a very good pastor. I wanted to get to know him and his family better, as well as the rest of the leadership, who seemed to me to be very interesting people. So my besetting sin of AMBITION rose its ugly head and I began to volunteer for everything that would bring me closer to the center of the church’s leadership. because that’s where the interesting stuff was happening, that is, I wanted to do something besides help the toddlers color pictures down in the children’s ministry. I did manage to accomplish all this, but at great personal cost (long story) but it has a happy ending because I became so miserable I left them.

  12. Xenia says:

    Duane, I think it’s possible to have a really large church without having the mega-church mentality.

  13. Duane Arnold says:


    “I think it’s possible to have a really large church without having the mega-church mentality.”

    I agree. In Detroit, we had two Sunday morning services with an attendance of around 700. Once again, from the Dean of the Cathedral to the newest member of the Chapter (that was me) we all had our lists. Indeed, if we had failed to exercise pastoral care, we would have been looking for another job! It was taken that seriously…

  14. EricL says:

    To add to my previous comments: I think preaching and gathering are two vital skills for any who minister. (Personally, I’m working on my skills in both those areas.) However, when you leave off discipling and pastoral care, I think you not only fail at half your responsibilities, but you hinder the other two as well.

    I was talking with a large-church pastor earlier this month about the temptation to avoid your congregation and how that can be stronger for introverts. You can let the busyness of your week squeeze out any unplanned ministry time. To help fight this, he makes it a practice to leave openings on his calendar that the secretary can fill with whoever calls in, without ever checking with him first. Planning for unplanned opportunities.

  15. EricL says:

    The large church I mentioned takes it’s care ministries seriously as well. All pastoral staff (and those in training) are expected to be involved in their food pantry, small groups, visitation/outreach, and prayer ministry. Like Duane said, it just needs to be taken seriously.

  16. Duane Arnold says:


    What we prioritize says much about what we value – as individuals and as institutions.

  17. Jean says:


    I met my pastor this afternoon for some pastoral care. I really value the care too.

  18. Duane Arnold says:


    It’s a two way conversation…

  19. Jean says:


    Providing a lay perspective, one big thing that makes it very difficult to seek (and be vulnerable in) pastoral care is the message from the pulpit of the model Christian as godly, victorious and triumphant.

    The popular discipleship programs circulating in American Christianity, for example, go by the names, Authentic Manhood and Top Gun.

    How does one remove his mask in such an atmosphere?

  20. Linn says:

    I think we need to look at pastoral care a bit differently in our changing culture. I’ll always prefer an actual visit, but I have found that phone calls, texts and emails can be very encouraging as well. Recently I was having a mild crisis about whether or not to return to my church of 20 years due to some issues over it being open when it wasn’t supposed to be (per local health regulations), and the attitude taken from the pulpit towards those of us who weren’t attending. I contacted a former pastor via email, and he called me. His input was invaluable, and he prayed that God would give me wisdom. God did-I’m back at church since we changed tiers (I’m in California), and the rhetoric has really changed and county guidelines are being followed to the T. i think we really need to look at pastoral care in the 21st century. Not that in-person isn’t wonderful, but it may not always be the most expedient or possible.

  21. Duane Arnold says:


    We’ve gone a long way from pastoral care enabling people to live holy lives and, at the end, to have a good and holy death…

  22. Duane Arnold says:


    I think pastoral care can be exercised in many ways and making use of many tools. That being said, there is no substitute for “presence”.

  23. Just one of His lambs says:

    2 years ago, when my husband was in hospital, the only visitor he had (besides me) was the priest from the Anglican Church in our village. Her visit was a balm to our souls and we will never forget the pastoral care she gave to us.

  24. JD says:

    I was immediately reminded of Matthew 25:31ff.
    In these days when one can rot before anyone cares, let all of our hearts be encouraged to minister unto the least of these as Jesus says.

  25. Duane Arnold says:


    Actually, your reference to Matt.25 is appropriate for pastoral care.

    “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

    Some things I might be able to “fix” – if you need food, water, or clothing. Some things I can’t “fix” – one’s identity as an immigrant, or the illness you are suffering from, or one’s being held in prison. I can, however, be present and bring what comfort or support that I can in that circumstance of life. That is also pastoral care…

  26. Muff Potter says:

    From the article up top:

    “He had a serious heart ailment and ended up in the hospital…where he waited and waited for the man he helped establish to come and bring him spiritual comfort.
    The “pastor” never came.”

    Said “pastor” has a serious heart ailment too…

  27. The New Victor says:

    Does anyone have experience with Stephen’s Ministers? I looked into this when my mother was living with us, but didn’t pursue it due to her becoming increasingly… difficult.

  28. filbertz says:

    I had an intriguing meeting with an old pastor connection yesterday, an Episcopal priest I worked with years ago, who, though stiff and rather socially awkward, took his role with pastoral care very seriously. I worked with him coordinating services at a youth correctional facility and a few other matters locally. His health and mind are fading and I had the opportunity to visit with him and his wife. At every mention of scripture, or God, or ministry, he brightened and said ‘amen’ or ‘that’s right’ or ‘bless the Lord.’ The care he gave so faithfully is so necessary for him now. I only hope others are so faithful.

    Which brings me to the broader question. What about the “priesthood of all believers” angle on this topic–are the expectations of the minister also the duties of the faithful? It wasn’t uncommon in my church growing up for the deacons & elders to accompany the pastor on many of the visits–and the congregants often were invited to volunteer. No more?

  29. Michael says:


    Part of the problem today is that there are those who do not feel cared for unless the main man shows up.
    The other side is that we’re so isolated that many people do not want to be close to the pastor/priest…church is for Sundays or funerals…

  30. Duane Arnold says:


    In three of the churches I served, we ‘supplemented’ visitation (especially to Nursing Homes) with lay people. In my tradition, however, there are often sacramental aspects of pastoral care which remain the work of a priest – the Eucharist, anointing with oil for healing, confession and absolution, extreme unction, etc. Additionally, there are issues of privacy. One of my regular calls in NYC was an elderly lady whose son was a governor of a northeast state. She used to say she enjoyed my visits because she knew she could gossip, or talk about her art collection, and it would go no further! When we said prayers together, she knew all the prayers and responses by heart.

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