Thursday, December 29, 2016

Pastoral self-care

I've had the good fortune for the past 15+ years of working with many pastors. As a judicatory leader in our region and in the various conferences I led for small church leaders I have worked with thousands of pastors. Most are hard working and totally committed to their calling. They are focused on serving the people in their churches through providing content-rich messages and faithful pastoral care. Unfortunately, many of them are not very good at caring for themselves as well as they do others.

That is why I wrote the book The Healthy Pastor: Easing the Pressures of Ministry. It was designed to help pastors identify problem areas in ministry and ways to address them. While it's not possible to eliminate the pressures associated with ministry, we can ease those pressures making our lives and ministries much more enjoyable.

I saw one pastor struggling with depression while trying to serve a difficult church and care for his family. When I asked him if he had seen a doctor he admitted he had not but knew he needed to. I asked if I could speak to his wife. When he agreed I told her that I was concerned that her husband was battling depression. Immediately, tears began to run down her cheek. She knew long before I said anything. I encouraged her to see that he talked with his doctor. Several months later I was told he had still not seen a doctor and was not any better.

Another pastor called saying he was going to retire. He did not want to, but the pressures he felt from his church was causing health problems. He was only 62 and wanted to pastor a church for several more years, but his doctor had expressed concern that he was doing permanent damage to his health if he didn't get out of that church. He did retire and was out of the ministry for several months. His health began to improve. I was able to help him find a healthy bivocational church that would have minimal stress, and he has enjoyed a very fruitful ministry in that church.

There are fourteen chapters in the book addressing different areas of potential ministry-related stress. I have experienced some of them in my own life and have worked with pastors who have struggled with each of them. These stressors are real, and they drive a lot of good pastors out of the ministry. That does not need to happen. There are healthy ways of dealing with each of them, and I try to point them out to the reader.

To be perfectly frank, this book has not sold nearly as well as I thought it would. Because I am aware of how many pastors struggle with the pressures associated with ministry I would have thought they would seek out a resource that would help them address those pressures.

If you know a pastor who is struggling right now with stressors related to the ministry, this might make a wonderful resource to give him or her. They will understand that they are not the only ones that have to deal with their particular problem, and they will find suggestions to help them address their pressures. It might just save their ministry.

No comments: