When All Else Fails by Wayne L. Menking

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The text When All Else Fails-Rethinking Our Pastoral in Times of Stuck by Wayne Menking was published in the year 2013. The writer argues that the way out of a stuck situation is not via accession of pale strategies but rather, through a serious rethinking of our pastoral vocation and duties. Leadership and pastoral care are distinguishable just the way prophetic work cannot be separated from priestly work. For that matter, leadership and pastoral care are supposed to be about helping the people to be able to engage the powers that they have to abandon the old and adhere to what is new instead of helping the people relive their anxiety by offering comfort and being sympathetic. The main aim of the author is for the reader, especially leaders and pastoral caregivers to be able to rethink their pastoral calling and vocation with honesty and candor, in particular, if found in condition of stuck.

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Chapter One: Our Vocation challenged-Rethinking What We Are About.

A quest for vocational rethinking is launched immediately. Menking elucidates the stuck condition and is also able to reflect on the ways whereby pastoral care often leads to a condition of stuck. Change that is most likely to occur can as well be sabotaged. He encourages us to think, to learn and further implement pastoral care in ways that might be effective in moving the soothing comfort to an amalgamation of leadership at the same time, care. The author stresses that pastoral care is what leads people to what is new from what is old, by simply relying on the narratives of the Bible of the exodus and life in the Wilderness in order to illustrate his reflection. The chapter offers stories, which have also been achieved from his other book Clinical Pastoral education where he relates.

In such an engagement, the caregiver is supposed to have encountered powers against unconditional love and niceness will fail. Menking also uses images from the Bible which depict God as a compassionate God who is very empathetic. Al though, no one is really sympathetic in a manner that is adaptive. The author insists that leaders and pastoral care givers must drop their niceness and sympathy adaptively in order for them to be able to employ the powers that are God given so that they can be able to help people effectively to leave that old for what is new.

If a pastoral caregiver and leaders are driven on empathy and sympathy, then they get stuck on their feelings. Once they are stuck on their feelings, then the entire congregation will remain stuck too. Nevertheless, empathy is basic, as even God was empathetic but it should not hinder the power of the pastoral caregiver to carry on with guiding the person stuck. He states, A key driver of sympathetic protection is the need to keep everyone in the emotional system content, happy and together.

Chapter Two- God Cares Deeply-But You Wont find Much Sympathy

The title is puzzling in itself. In this chapter, the author tries to compare the expression in terms of theology of the love of God and His compassion as it was revealed in the written scripture with a very egotistical conception of the God that is commoditized and simply worshipped by the cultures we have that seems to express that God is sympathetic and that He feels sorry for us. The narratives from the Bible tend to offer that vision and insight of a caring God, a God who acts. A God that liberates and who is able to move the person suffering to a good place that is new from the old one. In five Biblical texts mentioned, God in his power calls for new life instead of the old one. The books are Matthew 5:1-12, 5:38-42, Mark 16. John 3: 16 and Kings 19:1-18. The chapter summarizes that pastoral care is more like being a truthful leader; a leader who is able to tell the truth even during the stuck condition no matter how difficult the situation might be. It is about being able to help someone into a new pace instead of sympathizing for them. Pastoral care is about leading all the rest so that they can live in a new reality.

Chapter Three: Called to Care- But It might Not Be What You Thought

This chapter takes up the enlightenment that occurs with the numerous expectations about ministries getting crushed into the factual knowledge of ministry. The author state that the numerous efforts imposed for pastors to be good pastors sprint head first into the actuality of the general congregation, the life of the congregation, the needs it has, the complaints of the congregation and eventually, the congregations stuck condition. He further addresses the myths that are related to the chapter. First was the myth of data. This is a myth about getting it right. The second myth is of empathy. This initiates the belief that everyone is kept together and happy. The final myth is that myth of self, which is on humility that is false. According to the author, all these myths are what might be though but not what might be real. If these particular myths keep on being pursued, then there are more chances where the condition of stuck may arise. Finally, the author calls for a rethinking of the good pastors in the light of real pastoral caregiving.

Chapter Four: From Niceness to Power-Rising to the Occasion.

This is the final chapter of the book where the author calls for regular practice of leadership and pastoral care that leans and is purposed by the power of God. He offers four case studies whereby each one of them illustrates the move of the pastors from being nice to being initiative of the power that they have been given by God. Through that, it is much easier from the pastoral caregiver and the person being guided and cared for to be able to move from their stuck condition.

With regard to the theory of family systems, his words are true. The author calls for the leaders and the pastoral caregivers to be able to operate out of the authenticity of self-differentiation. In addition to that, he also calls for the leaders and the pastoral caregivers to act out of the power of God and deep confidence so that they can be able to effectively take anyone from the congregation to a new place in their life.


Menking, Wayne L. 2013. When all else fails: rethinking our pastoral vocation in times of stuck.

Eugene, Or: Wipf & Stock.

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