How to Get Pastoral Care Training
Published by Calvin Seminary
What Is Pastoral Care?
In the tradition of Calvin Theological Seminary (CTS), pastoral care is bringing someone into an awareness of the presence of God in the midst of that person’s circumstances and offering a vision of the future that is hopeful.
Perhaps Rev. Duane Kelderman said it best when he said, “When you are a pastor, you have the rare privilege of walking with people in the most meaningful and deepest moments of their lives. Births and weddings and funerals, and almost every major life event in between, are the occasions for the pastor to be present, representing Christ, giving hope and courage, bearing witness to the kingdom, offering a way of seeing and interpreting life…. When you are a pastor, you get to witness God’s mighty work in people’s lives.”
Pastoral Care Practices
Pastoral care includes shepherding God’s people wisely, with grace and truth, through joyful and trying situations. Pastors, elders, and others in ministry offer pastoral care to their congregation within all seasons of life. Many practices can be part of pastoral care, including visiting and serving parishioners.
When you show up in the lives of your flock, your caring presence can point others to the presence of God. To do so, it is important to display compassion, showing empathy for the situations your church members are walking through. It is also important to bring the needs of God’s people before Him, praying with and for your church members. In doing so, we as Christians can bear life’s burdens and share life’s joys, together.
Pastoral Care Examples
Pastoral care can include premarital counseling, weddings, marital counseling, birth celebrations, hospital visits, grief counseling, and funerals—and many moments in between.
Consider these real-world examples of God’s transformational work, nurtured through pastoral care:
- Meet Geoffrey, a student who rejected and ran up against the Christian faith all the way through college, until God worked mightily in his life. Through it all, he had a pastor who would talk with him, take his questions, and witness God at work. Geoffrey’s faith propelled him to become a missionary today.
- Meet Paula, a young woman whose family is familiar with the prison system. She became a Christian, broke a generational cycle of crime, and has been a shepherded—and shepherding—member of a local congregation for decades, walking alongside her pastor and others in her congregation.
Pastoral care is a means of grace in the local and global church, and through it, God can use you to minister to others.
Careers & Opportunities for Pastoral Care Ministry
You will have the opportunity to practice pastoral care in the following roles (and many more):
- Church elder
- Hospital chaplain
- Military chaplain
- Prison chaplain
- Christian counselor
- Spiritual director
- Youth leader
Pastoral Care Training from Seminary
Pursue a Pastoral Care Degree
You may decide to pursue a seminary degree to achieve core competencies in pastoral care. The following degrees at CTS include extensive preparation for pastoral care roles:
- Master of Arts in Christian Leadership: Pursue a pastoral care concentration within the Master of Arts in Christian Leadership degree, taking formational courses such as Foundations for Pastoral Care and Pastoral Disciplines for Counseling Ministry.
- Master of Divinity (MDiv): Your Master of Divinity degree will prepare you for pastoral care through coursework, vocational mentoring, and contextual learning within a ministry placement.
- Master of Theology (ThM): Consider a pastoral care concentration in the Master of Theology program, culminating in a capstone thesis or a major research paper on a topic related to pastoral care.
- Doctor of Ministry (DMin): Deepen your commitment to pastoral care through community learning, walking alongside others who are taking on tough questions about pastoral care and other aspects of ministry.
Complete a Certificate Program
If you’re not looking to pursue a degree program at this time, earning a certificate may be a great option for you. Calvin Theological Seminary offers a Certificate in Christian Leadership to empower church, school, and ministry staff and volunteers in their service. The pastoral care concentration of this program can be completed quickly and efficiently, usually within 1–2 years.
Take a Seminary Course
Some seminaries offer individual courses that you can take for graduate credit or audit as a community member. Consider taking the following pastoral care courses from Calvin Theological Seminary.
In this course, students will learn about the basic pastoral theology and theory of pastoral practice that undergirds good pastoral care. Students will also learn how they use themselves as tools for ministry as the Holy Spirit guides them toward effective pastoral care.
This course introduces effective personal and marital counseling within the limits of pastoral ministry and explores the theologies and theories of transformation that underlie these pastoral skills.
In this course, students will learn about the meaning and mechanics of weddings and funerals, including theological, pastoral, and ecclesial considerations. Students will engage in theological reflection on the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ of conducting Christ-centered, pastorally wise weddings and funerals.
This course will expose students to a working definition of what constitutes trauma and complex grief. Students will be exposed to a pastoral, theological, and biblical framework of how we are to understand and engage trauma and complex grief within human experience, and how pastors and faith communities can use both secular and religious (Christian) resources to assist careseekers and communities exposed to trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and prolonged or complicated grief.
What About Care for Pastors?
While pastoral care is usually used to refer to the care that pastors give others, it is also important for pastors to receive care themselves. Calvin Theological Seminary offers a variety of church resources for all pastors and church leaders, and alumni resources for our graduates.
Learn More About Pastoral Care Training
Are you ready to begin your pastoral care training at CTS? Apply today!
Visit Calvin Theological Seminary’s Campus
We can’t wait to host you on campus! Schedule your visit today, or, if you need more time to find a date that works for you, please request information so we can continue the conversation about supporting your calling!