“Touch” is a sticky topic, not only in our culture as a whole, but also in our churches. In fact, many people in our day avoid touch altogether, out of fear. The sad reality is that many people have distorted God’s gift of touch in order to satisfy sinful desires. This sinful, abusive touch has brought unspeakable pain to countless individuals, both inside and outside the church. It is yet another example of how things in this fallen world are not the way they are supposed to be.
And yet, at the same time, the Lord created us to both give and receive healthy, loving touch in our relationships. Healthy touch is a primary way we can show care and comfort to others. All you have to do is look at the life and ministry of Jesus to see this is true. Jesus Himself was constantly demonstrating the importance and power of healthy touch – what you might call “ministering touch.” Whether in placing his hands on the sick and diseased, comforting the bleeding and the unclean or befriending the happy and healthy, touch played an important part of Jesus’ earthly ministry.
When it comes to our own ministries, the same must be true. Healthy, ministering touch is an important, yet often neglected aspect of effectively shepherding a church. Of course, we must use great discernment in this. Generational distinctives affect what touch looks like in a congregation. Moreover, the cultural demographic of a congregation will often shape how a pastor practices ministering touch. For example, if your church is made up primarily of Hispanic brothers and sisters, it may be quite normal on Sunday mornings to see your people greet one another with joyful hugs and perhaps even kisses on the cheek. This differs greatly many conservative, traditional Anglo congregations, which can be less warm and less open to physical touch beyond a formal handshake. Again, we must be wise and discerning as we try to navigate this. However, while it may look different from church to church, healthy, ministering touch is not only appropriate, but important to biblical pastoral care.
Regardless of whether you naturally are a “touchy” or “huggy” kind of person, when trying to build trust in your church, be mindful of the power of touch. Whether it is through a warm handshake, an appropriate hug, a gentle pat on the back or holding someone’s hand in prayer, the Lord will use your ministering touch to bring encouragement and comfort to His people. He also will use this display of love in your efforts to build trust and credibility with your congregation.
This post originally appeared on Mark’s blog.
Published January 12, 2023