My door is always open.

open door

The boys troop in, not knocking, launching themselves into chairs beginning a conversation which had already begun in their heads. I quickly try to catch-up. They jabber about trivialities but know I enjoy their company, they know my office is a safe place.

glassesHe calls to say his glasses broke. Living on a fixed income, I know he does not have the funds to buy anything beyond his small budget. I ask him to meet me at Target where he obtained his last prescription. We talk about life in between eye tests and trying on new frames. He leaves the store, sight renewed.

strollerA mom pushing a stroller with her little one peeks into the office to see if I’m there. She smiles as I kneel down to greet her toddler. We chat about the child’s latest exploits, her husband’s new job, her neighborhood, and why she wonders about life’s meaning.


writingI stop by a colleague’s office to congratulate him on the publication of a journal article. We discuss how hard it is to write, even harder to secure a byline. We laugh about the latest movie we saw and he mentions how he will take his son to the theatre on Saturday.

streetsA civic group calls with a need to dialogue about partnering. They are concerned with the most recent spate of violence on their streets and wonder how we can unify our efforts to bring peace. A group of us walk the same boulevard where a young man died in a shooting, showing solidarity and resolve.

restaurantWe meet in the afternoon to discuss next steps in this business man’s vocational search. He is hesitant. I encourage. He is reluctant. I uplift. He is questioning. I give affirmation.

emailShe sends an email inquiring about the best doctoral program toward her future interests. I enthusiastically offer a few options. The email chain grows lengthy with her questions, observations, and my exhortations to continue.

pasturePeople need pastoral care. The word “pastor” has its origin in shepherding. Shepherds guarded sheep but also brought sheep to pastures where animals could feed in peace. Pastoral work is not limited to the office of a pastor. Everyone should set the atmosphere of security which allows folk to feel safe. The tone, the mood of a person matters to people.

“Ambiance” is the tone sought by restaurateurs whose focus is how patrons feel in their eatery. “Hospitality” is the welcome one feels when invited into a home, a group, an office. “Serenity” is the air of acceptance to feel at peace, wherever the place, because of the person. “Availability” is the offer extended to anyone who wants to be with us because they know we tend to peoples’ need.

handshakePastoral care is not only found in church; it is found with us.

Dr. Mark Eckel is president of The Comenius Institute where he cares for students.

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  1. Very accurate description of a week’s pastoral duties, even though it may vary. And notice not once mentioned is prep for preaching, speaking, writing, “representing”, etc. – which many feel are the main things a pastor does. The frustration comes when we care, but cannot fix the problem. We can buy glasses, but we cannot create the next job for the banker, etc (a reality in my ministry right now.)

    I thank God for many around me who share in the caring load, though they are not a pastor. It blesses my heart and encourages me and others to see Jesus lived out through them!

  2. Bro. Teacher you have said a mouth full. We need more Pastor’s with a big heart for serving God’s people with no motives or strings attached. We need to stop serving from a distance.

  3. Dr. E,

    The parallels between your blog post on “shepherding” and my daily interactions with the parolees on my faith-based and InPAcT (Indianapolis Parole Accountability Team) caseloads are uncanny. Some of these men have never had anyone in their lives that really cared about them, and supported them let alone offered counsel that equips, encourages and builds them up toward Christ-likeness. Some call, proud to share that they have gotten a job, for some, the first job they have ever had. Other conversations intentionally center around how many days clean, or how to transition from an “offender” mentality to one of a “returning citizen”.

    Thanks for the reminder that “pastoring” is contextual, my pulpit just so happens to be the urban core and includes one of Indianapolis’ focus areas.


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