The Pastoral Care Case: Learning about Care in Congregations

by Donald Capps, Gene Fowler. Wipf and Stock, 2010.

Pastoral theologian Donald Capps and Presbyterian pastor Gene Fowler explore the use of case study methods in learning pastoral care. Noting that case studies have usually emerged from clinical pastoral settings, the authors make it clear that congregational life is different from the clinical setting and requires other approaches. The facts in clinical cases typically leave out much care experience that pastors and church members gain during the normal course of life in the faith community. The authors’ proposed model, which they call the “pastoral care case,” is more complex and detailed than the clinical case study. It advocates including more information about the pastor, the ministerial context, the history of the relationship in question, and the theological meaning of the case. In addition to revealing the limitations of previous case study methods, Capps and Fowler acknowledge the limitations of their own method—including the difficulty of engaging theology with social science and the danger of overlooking the most troubling and humbling experiences. Even so, they are confident that their method will encourage increasing skill in self-reflection, a key requirement for all who wish to grow in their ministry.