We are all called to offer pastoral care to one another whether we are young, old, married, single, widowed, divorced, a church leader, a professional helper, a friend or nominated group leader. In her book Growing a Caring Church: Practical Guidelines for Pastoral Care Wendy Billington presents a clear guide to help us all fulfil this call. The book provides a scriptural basis to pastoral care as well as the ways in which it might happen. Chapter by chapter it covers particular areas of pastoral need and response - crises, bereavement and loss, marriage, singleness, older age - supported by ideas, examples and stories from Wendy's pastoral and personal experiences. It is not a long book and is written without jargon thus making it very accessible. Whilst primarily aimed at the home group context with suggestions at the end of each section for members to reflect upon, the book is flexible enough to lend itself to pastoral care teams and an individual study, none of which is arduous. Helpfully the book acknowledges pastoral care can happen in different ways, whilst underpinning the value of good listening, thus encouraging those who may be more practical helpers than polished listeners. Wendy challenges us to reach out to one another - no matter what - and inherently acknowledges we are both all called to pastoral care and all in need of it at times. Further, she underlines how pastoral care and mission are partners as the former seeks to demonstrate what the latter preaches as 'facets of the same gospel'. Whilst the book does address the need to attend to boundaries, particularly as we seek to encourage people to take responsibility for their own lives, it does not elaborate on some of the complexities we can encounter in navigating these between pastoral church, pastoral team and church leadership. This said I would certainly recommend this book to churches who want to enhance pastoral care in their fellowship which values and challenges each person within it to develop a loving healing community. Reviewed by Teresa Onions From the ACC magazine accord - October 2010 Reviewed by Jonathan and Sheila Stephen, Wales Evangelical School of Theology The author co-ordinates the pastoral care programme at a church in Sevenoaks. In this book she outlines practical guidelines for pastoral care in local churches. She writes with church leaders in mind and particularly home group leaders. The book is short, written in an accessible style and is biblical, practical and warm. The book covers a number of subjects including those most common in churches. The author has been particularly insightful and helpful in the advice she gives on 'how to listen' and how to deal with boundary issues. This book is a must for all home group leaders and members of pastoral care teams. Students in training for Christian ministry will find it a valuable addition to their growing libraries. Jonathan and Sheila Stephen Wales Evangelical School of Theology A review from Jackie Girling, Waverley Operations Manager, CWR - July 2010 I must say there is something about BRF's books that always draws me to pick them up ... perhaps it's knowing that the content can usually be relied on to be relevant, down-to-earth and helpful plus their good design too! Growing a Caring Church did not disappoint me. Practical guidelines for pastoral care, its sub-title, is exactly what it is. Wendy Billington brings the home group to the fore, ideally a 'small loving family' which can offer its members a sense of belonging and provide care and spiritual nurture. As well as looking at ways in which we can all care for each other, Wendy puts a spotlight on particular situations, such as caring for the older person, supporting those facing a life-threatening illness and nurturing the single person. Written in an easy-to-read style, the book is packed full of helpful suggestions, insights and 'how to' do the stuff of caring - the basic principles of listening skills and how to maintain boundaries for example. In every chapter Wendy helpfully weaves in her own experience - from her personal journey through loss and cancer and from her years of pastoral work both in the community and the church. The message throughout is very much that pastoral care is a shared ministry - it is not something that should or indeed can be just done by the leadership or those especially given to pastoral care. A reminder that we are all called to show each other Jesus' love and care. And an encouragement that much of what we could do, whatever we feel our resources might be, is so 'do-able' and that this is a task that we can trust God to equip us for. A book for every Christian, whatever their place in the body of Christ and whatever their calling. From The Good Bookstall - June 2010 As I am involved in pastoral care and home group leading in my local church, I began this book with a great deal of enthusiasm. The author's special emphasis throughout the book is on givng pastoral care in the context of home groups. In her introduction Wendy writes 'This book is written with leaders in mind, and particularly leaders of home groups.' She goes on to write out of her own wide experience as a counsellor and carer in the local church. The book is full of practical suggestions and helpful guidance in such areas as listening, coping with bereavement and loss and responding to a crisis. For me reading it gave positive affirmation of the way we handle things in our own church, but it did also show me ways to adjust and improve our care. A practical, well written book which I can thoroughly recommend. Reviewed by Jackie Rowe Review by Margaret Killingray, part-time lecturer at the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity I have known Wendy for many years now and I am so glad that she has written this book giving a distillation of her own personal experiences as well as all that she has learnt over the years coordinating the pastoral care at St Nicholas, Sevenoaks and being part of the Sevenoaks Christian Counselling Service. Wendy carries a great deal of the caring with her church, she cannot do everything, although some sometimes expect her too! Nor can the professional counsellors. But the everyday care of ordinary people meeting the ups and downs of an ordinary life can be met to a significant extent by other ordinary people. There are two important processes; firstly we need to become aware that we can and should help each other along - that is one of our calling as Christians; secondly we need the kind of helpful, affirming, manageable and practical advice that Wendy provides in this excellent book. Reviewed by Margaret Killingray
About the Author
Wendy Billington coordinates the pastoral care programme at St Nicholas Church, Sevenoaks, which includes providing training in pastoral skills, listening to people's concern, bereavement care, marriage enrichment and supporting cancer sufferers and their families. She is a director of the Sevenoaks Christian Counselling Service.