You don’t have to look very far to find scary stats and gloomy pronouncements about the health of church leaders today. In fact, just look at some of the articles on this site! I want to be honest about the concerns I have, which are based on my experiences working with pastors, and my own experience in ministry. But more than that, I want to offer solutions!
Here are three bottom line “must do’s” for church leaders:
1. End denial. Pastors need to be honest about their vulnerability to discouragement, sexual temptation, and burnout. Many pastors are trying so hard to project an air of “having it together” that they manage to convince themselves. At least until they face a crisis and realize how stressed-out, unhappy, and unbalanced they really were. This is what happened to me. I would never had admitted the depth of my internal struggle, even though people around me could sense it and were worried about me.
2. End isolation. Pastors need to be extremely intentional about creating safe relationships where they can have fun, be real, and get honest feedback. This won’t happen in their churches, it has to come from outside. That’s why I am a coach … I want to provide that kind of relationship to pastors, and help them establish other safe friendships.
3. Start taking ownership. People don’t like hearing this, but it’s the truth: pastors have to take ownership of their own self-care, because nobody else will. Pastors who believe that their parishoners will provide the right kind of care for them will always be disappointed. People who haven’t lived the 24/7 life of a pastor don’t understand what it’s like, and the lay-leaders in any given church will always have the church’s interests in the back of their minds, even when they want to help you.
Remember that when Jesus took time to be away from the crowds, people (including the disciples) were often confused and even upset with him. “Where have you been?” they would ask, with an undisguised air of exasperation. Just like those unhappy church people who seem frustrated because it’s so hard to reach you on your day off.