Pastors provide spiritual support

Column by Dan Hettinger


I just hired a publicist to help me take my book sales and the Big League message, “Your Life Matters” to more people.

Now I am surprised with the fact that I have a publicist and an agent. It always seemed that rich, famous people were ones with publicists and agents. Now I know that is not always the case.

I also have an accountant that does my taxes and keeps my 501 c (3) in compliance with the government. My dentist and doctor help me keep my mouth and body healthy. It is quite a team that I have to help me live life and take on challenges that are bigger than I am.

Another important member of “Team Dan” is my pastor. Recently a situation reminded me how important my pastor is to me and what an important part of my life he is. This experience exceeded the normal Sunday sermon, as important as that is. Each week he seeks to hear from God in a way that is faithful to the Holy Scriptures so that he can bring a message that strengthens the lives of those who listen.

It is not that I need to be told how to live as much as his message so often matches what has been stirring in my spirit because of the challenges of everyday life. When I hear his message it is a confirmation to me, often expressed in a way that is memorable, of who God is and how important He is to me and my circumstances.

There was a situation at work that troubled me. I was upset and could not find peace as far as what to do. Thankfully I ran into him at a coffee shop. Our relationship began at a coffee shop when the only empty seat on a busy Monday morning was next to him. That suits my lifestyle as I feel like the Lead Pastor at the “St. Arbucks” parish. I am at the coffee shop so often. He took time to listen to me for a few minutes then offered a perspective that I had not thought of, but was exactly what I needed to hear. I left, thankful that I had such a wise, Godly and caring influence in my life.

Throughout most of my adult life I did not have a pastor — I was the pastor. It was an honor to be called Pastor Dan but that side of the relationship did not give me the vantage point to appreciate the enormity of the contribution of a pastor's work to the life of a parishioner. As a Hospice chaplain, there are more times when the benefits of my efforts in the lives and circumstances of the recipients are more quickly apparent. It is not easy work to stand with people at the dramatic time of their loved one's sickness and passing from this life to the next, but it is rewarding to feel the value of my work.

Nearly all of the churches in our town have a priest or pastor. Many have a staff of pastors with specializations. Youth pastors make it possible for students to have a pastor who they can go to with concerns that their youth pastor understands. Pastors of men's or women's ministries focus their efforts on subjects and settings that minister to their target audience.

A relatively new specialization that comes in a larger church is a minister of Pastoral Care. Gifts of compassion and insight guide this person to listen, comfort and be present in the lives of the church family during sickness, divorce, traumatic accidents and problems that are too complicated to share with the general public.

While some Pastors have been derelict in their duties or disappointed their parishioners with ethical or moral failure, the vast majority sacrificially minister so that their congregation receives inspiration, insight and even correction so that God will be real and relevant in the lives of their parishioners.

My taxes are too complicated for me to do them by myself. I can't work on my teeth or prescribe meds to treat an infection. I need my dentist and doctor. My agent knew how to get a book published and his expertise benefited me and I hope my publicist will benefit me as much so sales will grow and the message will spread. But not everybody needs a publicist, but everyone needs a pastor and they are all eager to add another parishioner to their care.

Dan Hettinger is director of pastoral services at Hospice of Saint John and president of The Jakin Group, a ministry of encouragement, especially to Christian workers. You can email him at or


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