I'm not a guy much given to 'rules'. (Ask any bishop I've ever served!)
Not that all rules are bad--it's just they tend to get in the way.
But in my ministry, I've learned the hard way that I have one absolute rule. NEVER ACT ON SECOND HAND INFORMATION.
A member of one of the three churches I serve told me I should talk to another member who they thought was very 'down'.
I had to tell the person suggesting that to me that it's against my 'absolute rule'.
I didn't have this rule when I first started out. If someone in my first church had made that suggestion I would have immediately sought out the 'very down' parishioner....And all hell would break loose!
The person I approached would say they were 'absolutely fine' and ask who had told me they weren't. If I told them who that was, then they would be furious with two people.
I never approach anyone in a pastoral way until they approach me.
Of course, I visit the sick and bereaved, but even then, I just listen and only act if they ask me to.
Second hand information in a church is a time-bomb. Better to leave them be until the person, themselves, approaches me to talk.
In life, most 'down' times lift of their own accord. And if they don't, the person who is 'down' has to reach out for help. You can't reach out for them. If you do, the bomb will go off....
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