Pastoral care survey: women for women

Is there a need for women in pastoral care? There sure is! This is the conclusion reached by an official work group in the New Apostolic Church Western Germany—and the group has concrete figures to demonstrate the need for a response to this demand in the congregations.

The name of the group engaged by the New Apostolic Church of Western Germany is “schWESTern@work”. The name is a word play combining the terms ‘West’ and ‘Schwestern’ (the German words for “west” and “sisters”, respectively). And the “at work” portion represents their whole agenda: the group is looking to motivate more women and girls to engage their abilities and competencies in the Church.

The first project groups comprised of women from this region were already formed in the then Regional Church of Hesse/Rhineland-Palatinate/Saarland, as well as in Belgium and Luxembourg, following the International Church Convention 2014. When the Regional Church of North Rhine-Westphalia merged with other districts to form the new Regional Church of Western Germany, District Apostle Rainer Storck advocated that the group be expanded to include the entire area. Today there is thus a representative from each Apostle area in the core team.

Pastoral care—what and how?

This coordinating group is not only the point of contact for all topics relating to women and girls. It also provides information on tasks and services that women perform in the New Apostolic Church. This includes, for example, an extensive survey that was conducted during the International Youth Convention 2019.

This opinion poll was part of the concept behind a 900-square-metre exhibition and discussion area focused on the matter of pastoral care. The offer was organised by a project group comprised of New Apostolic women from all the Regional Churches of Germany, Switzerland, and France. The team members were appointed by their respective Apostles. The survey was intended to explore what pastoral care means to young people and which communication channels they would prefer for pastoral care discussions.

Not only women are asking for women

The central result of the two-day study was that a whopping 93 per cent of those surveyed responded that they would like an officially appointed sister to provide pastoral care in their congregation. This main question received 1,233 responses on the first day. Some 54 per cent of the yes votes came from women while 46 per cent of them came from men. The small minority of no-votes were 72 per cent comprised of women.

solid 90 per cent of participants would like to see pastoral care offers tailored specifically to women. This question from the second day received 1,502 responses. Fifty-eight per cent of the yes-votes were female, as were 56 per cent of the no-votes. This information was taken from the documentation of the final survey results, which are available to nac.today.

A question of understanding

The reasons for this clear demand are shown by the question inquiring into the issues that might be associated with female pastoral care. By a considerable margin, many respondents—namely 43 per cent—would prefer to speak to a female caregiver about issues specific to women. Some of the specific issues mentioned were:

  • problems in marriage, partnership, or family
  • loss of a child
  • unwanted pregnancies
  • abuse and rape
  • domestic abuse
  • and separation of parents.

In this context the participants made it abundantly clear: women feel better understood by other women than by men.

Other important issues of pastoral care for women that were mentioned included: everyday worries and problems at work—with a share of 29 per cent—and questions of faith and congregational issues—at 11 per cent. The topics of raising children and living in partnership or marriage with a minister were ranked at the bottom end of the scale.

Initial work results submitted

Under the theme “Pastoral care—yesterday, today, and tomorrow”, the survey collected insights about the what and how of pastoral care in general. The results in a nutshell: one quarter of those surveyed viewed the formal pastoral care visit familiar from past years as predominantly positive, while the rest viewed it as rather negative. Two thirds of those surveyed were satisfied with the current situation and one third were dissatisfied. And for the future, nearly 60 per cent would prefer more informal, spontaneous, and open pastoral care.

The preferred communication channel is clear: 77 per cent of those surveyed preferred face-to-face conversations and ongoing contact. By contrast, some 20 per cent were able to envision pastoral care via social media, messenger, or video call. The respondents were between 13 and 75 years old, and more than half were under 30. Most of them came from the four German districts and Switzerland.

Die Erhebung bleibt nicht ohne Wirkung. Das berichtet die Website der Gebietskirche: In der ersten Jahreshälfte präsentierte die Koordinationsgruppe „schWESTern@work“ der westdeutschen Apostelversammlung erste Arbeitsergebnisse.

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Andreas Rother
13.07.2021
Congregational life