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Original Research

Pastoral ministry in a missional age: Towards a practical theological understanding of missional pastoral care

Guillaume H. Smit

Verbum et Ecclesia; Vol 36, No 1 (2015), 8 pages. doi: 10.4102/ve.v36i1.1382

Submitted: 03 September 2014
Published:  11 June 2015


This article concerns itself with the development of a missional ecclesiology and the practices that may accept the challenge of conducting pastoral ministry in the context of South African, middleclass congregations adapting to a rapidly changing, post-apartheid environment. Some practical theological perspectives on pastoral counselling are investigated, whilst Narrative Therapy is explored as an emerging theory of deconstruction to enable the facilitating of congregational change towards a missional understanding of church life in local communities. Subsequently, the theological paradigm of missional ecclesiology is investigated before drawing the broad lines of a theory for pastoral ministry within missional ecclesiology.

Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: In this article, a missional base theory is proposed for pastoral counselling, consisting of interdisciplinary insights gained from the fields of Missiology, Practical Theology, Narrative Therapy and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. The implications of this proposal for the development of a missional pastoral theory focus on the following three aspects:

• re-establishing pastoral identity: exploring Christ

• pastoral development: intentional faith formation

• pastoral ministry: enabling Christ-centred lives.

In such a missional pastoral theory four practices should be operationalised: first of all, a cognitive approach to increasing knowledge of the biblical narrative is necessary. This provides the hermeneutical skills necessary to enable people to internalise the biblical ethics and character traits ascribed to the Christian life. Secondly, a pastoral theory needs to pay close attention to development of emotional intelligence. Thirdly, this should be done in the context of small groups, where the focus falls on the personality development of members. Finally, missional pastoral theory should also include the acquisition of life coaching skills, where leaders can be adequately mentored in their roles as coaches of nonequipped people. In taking the research to a further level of normative reflection, attention should be turned to developing specific areas of pastoral care:

• formal clinical education and subsequent accreditation of pastors (in the South African context pastoral care is not legally recognised as a valid area of psychological therapy) – specifically pertaining to Narrative Therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy

• basic counselling skills for non-theologically trained congregational leaders

• qualitative and quantitative research methods

• organisational theory for congregational ministry

• crisis counselling skills for congregation members serving in a community context

• marriage and family therapy

• emotional intelligence as outcome of a spiritual growth cycle

• leadership development and personality assessment

• personal growth by confronting and crossing emotional and cultural boundaries.

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Author affiliations

Guillaume H. Smit, Discipline Group for Old & New Testament Studies, Stellenbosch University, South Africa


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ISSN: 1609-9982 (print) | ISSN: 2074-7705 (online)

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