I've been reading a lot lately about how people get counseled, how they change, and what role the church plays in that. While I admit I don't have it all figured out, I decided (& was encouraged) to write what I've learned so far because there isn't a lot out there on the topic of soul care.
What we are talking about
Sometimes this function of the church is called "pastoral care". I prefer the term "soul care" because it seems once we attach the word "pastoral" to it, this ministry becomes the exclusive responsibility of the professional, vocational pastor. The more I read, the more I'm becoming convinced that "soul care" is the responsibility of the whole church.
But what exactly is this work? It's simply offering help to those around you for the good of their soul. Sometimes that means simply listening. Other times it may mean offering support and encouragement. Basically it means being a friend.
Where this happens (or where it should be happening)
This happens best in community; when we are involved in each other's lives (and in each other's business). Being a friend and walking with someone through a difficult time should be happening all the time as we do life together. Offering to listen and giving good, Scripture-based and Gospel-centered advice should happen all the time. We all have a need for both soul care and for community. We all have something to offer. It will require us to be vulnerable. But even that doesn't have to be scary. Soul care should be part of discipleship (being a disciple that makes disciples).