12 Divine service, acts of blessing, and pastoral care

688 What is pastoral care?


The significance of pastoral care can be recognised in the conduct of Jesus: without regard for the person, He turned to sinners and allowed them to feel His love. He listened, helped, comforted, counselled, admonished, strengthened, prayed, and taught.

689 How do the ministers of the Church fulfil their pastoral care duties?


The pastoral care provided by the ministers has the objective of supporting the believers and preparing them for the return of Christ. The ministers accompany the members in the various situations of their lives. This also includes praying for them.

Every New Apostolic Christian is offered personal pastoral care. This primarily takes the form of visits from priestly ministers, but pastoral care visits can also be made by Deacons.

690 What is the function of the pastoral care visit?


The main focus of the pastoral care visit is the endeavour to deepen love for God and His work, to promote faith life, and enhance understanding for God’s activity of salvation. This is primarily achieved by way of discussions about matters of faith. Praying together is also an important part of the pastoral care visit.

In cases of sickness, New Apostolic Christians receive special attention through visits either at home or in hospital. The responsible minister strengthens them in faith, comforts them, prays with them, and, if possible, celebrates Holy Communion with them.

The model for this personal pastoral care is the activity of Jesus Christ, who repeatedly made such visits, for example, to Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, or to the tax collector Zacchaeus: “And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house’” (Luke 19: 9).

691 Do we have confession in pastoral care?


Yes, we have confession. By this we mean a person’s admission of sins and acknowledgement of guilt before a church minister.

Although no confession is needed for the forgiveness of sins, there is still an opportunity for confession in the event a person still feels burdened by guilt and is unable to come to peace despite the forgiveness of sins. Confession can be made before an Apostle. In urgent cases, when no Apostle can be reached, any priestly minister can, as an exception, take confession and proclaim absolution in the commission of the Apostle and in the name of Jesus Christ.

692 Is the task of providing pastoral care only reserved for the ministers?


In an expanded sense, pastoral care is also a task for the entire congregation. It also relates to practical help in life.


Here the words of Jesus apply: “...for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me. [...] inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me” (Matthew 25: 35-36, 40).

693 How is pastoral care provided for children?


The pastoral care of children is primarily the task of parents. They are to impart the fundamental values of the gospel to their children. This includes teaching them to love God and their neighbour, and being an example to them in prayer life and faithfulness in offering.

The ministers and brothers and sisters commissioned as church teachers are there to support parents in this responsibility so that the children may develop into convinced and self-responsible New Apostolic Christians.

694 What is the objective of church instruction?


Church instruction familiarises children and adolescents with the content of our faith and teaches them to conduct their lives in personal responsibility toward God. This objective is derived from the gospel of Jesus Christ. In addition, church instruction cultivates a sense of community and a feeling of belonging among the growing children.


The offer of instruction is tailored to the age and development stage of the respective children.

695 What is the objective of Pre-Sunday School?


The objective of Pre-Sunday School is to instruct children about God and His activity at a level appropriate to them. In this manner, children who do not yet attend school can already develop a trusting relationship with God. Imparting knowledge is not the primary objective of Pre-Sunday School. Rather, it is intended to impart a feeling of security, and instil joy of faith in the hearts of the children.

696 What is the function of Sunday School?


Children attend Sunday School when they begin school or reach school age. The objectives of Sunday School are:

  • to awaken and strengthen joy in fellowship with God’s children and in the divine service,
  • to impart understanding of God’s activity to the children in an ageappropriate manner through Bible stories,
  • to reinforce belief in divine promises,
  • to explain to the children the sequence of the divine service, the meaning of the sacraments, acts of blessing, and church holy days.

697 What is the content and objective of divine services for children?


In addition to Sunday School, there are also divine services for children from time to time, in both smaller and larger circles. The word of God is imparted by priestly ministers in a manner corresponding to the understanding of the children. The ministers thereby help the children understand God and His work. That which the children can comprehend on the basis of their own experiences will become a foundation of faith to them on their path of life.

The children’s service goes into the needs of the children. They are to feel understood, secure, and loved. It is a special experience for them to participate in a divine service in their own circle and celebrate Holy Communion together in the process.

698 What is the function of Religious Instruction in church?


In Religious Instruction the children learn from the accounts of human experiences with God: the history of salvation is discussed in reference to the faith life of the children. Contents of faith are deepened, knowledge is promoted, and the interconnections within God’s plan of salvation are explained. In this manner, enduring values are imparted to the children.

Moreover, Religious Instruction should enable students to freely profess their faith.


Plan of salvation, salvation history: see Questions 243→ et seq.

699 What is the function of Confirmation Instruction?


In Confirmation Instruction, adolescents are prepared for their confirmation day, when they will give their vow to God in the presence of the congregation and take responsibility for their own faith life as Christians who have come of age. The content of Confirmation Instruction focuses primarily upon the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments.

700 How is pastoral care provided for young people?


Young people receive age appropriate care and support. Youth leaders are available to assist our young members as personal contacts for confidential conversations in various situations of life as well as for questions of faith.

701 What is the function of pastoral care for youth?


Pastoral care for young people serves to help them develop into personalities with strength of faith and a sense of personal responsibility. The young people are to be firmly anchored in the values of the Christian faith and are to be inspired by them. In this way they receive a good foundation for making decisions in their lives. They are encouraged to practise, profess, and stand up for their faith in their surroundings. Beyond that, their willingness to involve themselves in the congregation is cultivated. Another important objective of youth care is to cultivate fellowship among the young people themselves.

There are special divine services for young people. These generally take place on a district level or a multiregional level in the case of youth weekends.

702 How is pastoral care provided to the terminally ill and dying?


The terminally ill and dying require special care.

Even believing people are afraid of dying and death. This fear must never be interpreted as a sign of lacking faith. The minister should accept the dying person in all his fears and needs as he embarks on his difficult path.

It is important to keep alive the hope in a life with God and the comfort associated with this hope.

This support for the dying also entails that the minister proclaims the forgiveness of sins and the peace of the Risen One, and celebrates Holy Communion with them. Partaking in the body and blood of the Lord imparts fellowship of life with the Son of God. In this manner the dying are comforted and strengthened, making it easier for them to proceed along the last steps of their path of life.


The assurance of a reunion with those who have already gone ahead into the beyond also helps carry the dying through the phase of bidding farewell.


Holy Communion: see Questions 494→ et seq. Life after death: see Question 531→

703 How is pastoral care provided to the relatives of a dying person?


It is also important to provide pastoral care to the relatives of a dying person. In this phase when they begin to realise that they will have to lose a loved one, they are to experience the secure feeling that they have not been abandoned. Praying together is especially strengthening to them in this situation.

The certainty of a reunion helps to bear the heavy burden of bidding farewell. It is also helpful to family members when they are made aware of what they can do for the dying.

704 What does support for the bereaved entail?


Grieving must be allowed. The important thing is to seek contact with the bereaved, express sympathy, and pray with them. It is important to impart a feeling of genuine sympathy to the bereaved. Despite any fears of saying the wrong words, it is important to reach out to them. “Fail not to be with them that weep, and mourn with them that mourn” (Ecclesiasticus 7: 34).

In coping with grief it can be especially helpful to point out that Jesus Christ also suffered and died. The resurrection of the dead is also founded on His resurrection. They share in the victory of Christ over death (cf. Romans 14: 7-9).

705 What is the purpose of support for the bereaved?


Support for the bereaved serves to encourage the bereaved to talk about their loss and give expression to their feelings. It should be possible for the bereaved to speak with their minister openly about sadness, fear, anger, feelings of resentment toward God, and feelings of guilt.


In coping with grief it is often helpful to remind the bereaved of the positive and cheerful experiences they have made with the departed.

Providing comfort to the bereaved through pastoral care may require weeks and months, and perhaps even years, after the death of a loved one.

706 What holy days are celebrated in the New Apostolic Church?


The following holy days are celebrated in the New Apostolic Church: Christmas, Palm Sunday, Good Friday, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost, and Thanksgiving Day.

707 What is the significance of Christmas?


At Christmas we remember the birth of Jesus Christ. This celebration refers to one of the central events of salvation history. Our commemoration of the first coming of the Son of God also reinforces our belief in His imminent return.


Salvation history: see Questions 243→ et seq.

708 What is the significance of Palm Sunday?


Palm Sunday commemorates Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem during the celebration of the Jewish feast of the Passover.


Passover: see explanation of Question 496→

709 What is the significance of Good Friday?


On Good Friday, believers look back on the crucifixion and sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. Through His sacrificial death, the Son of God broke the power of Satan and of sin.

“...He said, ‘It is finished!’ And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.”  John 19: 30

710 What is the significance of Easter?


The basis of this feast is the fact that Jesus Christ resurrected from the dead.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ took place on the first day of the week, namely on Sunday. Later, a specific Sunday in the course of the year was set aside for the celebration of Easter. With His resurrection, Jesus Christ demonstrated that He has also broken the power of death. The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is also the basis of our belief in the resurrection of the dead, and the foundation of our hope in eternal life.


Resurrection of Christ: see Questions 184→, 535→ Resurrection of the dead: see Questions 92→186→535→579→

711 What is the significance of Ascension Day?


On Ascension Day we are reminded that Jesus Christ ascended into heaven out of the circle of the Apostles on the fortieth day after Easter. “He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.” Through two angels the Apostles received the promise: “This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven” (Acts 1: 3-11).

712 What is the significance of Pentecost?


On Pentecost—fifty days after Jesus’ resurrection—we commemorate the day on which the Holy Spirit was poured out. We also speak of Pentecost as the “birthday of the church of Christ”. After the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, Apostle Peter delivered a powerful sermon which centred on the crucified and resurrected Christ, who had ascended into heaven.

Moreover, Pentecost is a celebration of joy over the fact that the Holy Spirit is present and active in the church.


Pentecost: see Questions 209→422→520→582→

713 What is the significance of Thanksgiving Day?


Thanksgiving Day is the celebration when we give thanks to God as the Creator.

On one Sunday of the year—Thanksgiving Sunday—a divine service is held which focuses on expressing gratitude to God for all the good gifts He grants to us human beings.

Out of thankfulness to Him, believers bring a special offering to Him: “Whoever offers praise glorifies Me; and to him who orders his conduct aright, I will show the salvation of God” (Psalm 50: 23).

714 What is the format of divine services on church holy days?


The divine services on church holy days are generally celebrated like any other divine service with Holy Communion.

The respective historical event is highlighted with Bible readings and its significance for the salvation of mankind is illuminated.


Salvation: see Questions 243→ et seq.