All posts by Mark

Dealing with depression

If you’re feeling blue, you’re not alone. A recent study by the World Health Organizations and the Harvard Medical School found that 9.6 percent of Americans suffer from depression or bipolar disorder – the highest rate of the 14 nations surveyed. This confirms the figures quoted by the National Institute of Mental Health, which states that “Depressive disorders affect approximately 18.8 million American adults or about 9.5% of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year.” A study by the Australian Government (where depression rates are similar to that in the US) stated that everyone will at some time in their life be affected by depression – their own or someone else’s.

People are not seeking treatment for depression
Depression is especially problematic because many people refuse to seek treatment for it. It is estimated that 80% of depressed people are not currently having any treatment for it. Why? Because of the stigma attached to depression, and the fact that people think they should be able to snap themselves out of it. 54% of people believe depression is a personal weakness, and 41% of depressed women are too embarrassed to seek help.

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Survey says – pastors “very satisfied” with their jobs

The National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago recently published results of their recent study, exploring “satisfaction and happiness among American workers.” They found that clergy scored highest on both counts: 87% said they were “very satisfied” with their jobs, and 67% said they were “very happy” with life in general. What?

If you look at the statistics from an earlier post, and from the page on my site about leadership, you find a very different picture. What’s going on here? Continue reading Survey says – pastors “very satisfied” with their jobs

Top 10 things you should know about anti-depressants

Want a brief overview of anti-depressant drugs? There’s a brief article on the HALT Recovery web site, called “Top 10 Things You Should Know About Antidepressants.” Inexplicably, the points in the article are not enumerated, but I’m guessing there are ten there! Many people I work with — both recovering addicts and leaders working on self-care issues — still deal with an aversion to using drugs to deal with depression. It’s time to let that go.

People sometimes ask: “Why do we think everyone needs anti-depressants today? Our ancestors didn’t have those drugs, and they got along fine.” My answer is always the same: First of all, I’m not so sure our ancestors ‘got along fine.’ Take a look at the picture here … somebody get these people some Prozac! Second, and more important – because we could argue all day about the mental health of people from the past – we have to remember that life is different now. The fast pace, alienation, and media saturation that characterizes life in the 21st century world creates unique and overwhelming pressure on people. If we don’t recognize this, we won’t appreciate the challenges we face, and we won’t take the steps we need to care for ourselves. And we’ll wind up looking like these people, just without the pitchforks and bad haircuts.

Reason for clergy shortage? Just ask why pastors leave churches

A growing challenge in many denominations is finding enough pastors to serve the churches that are vacant. More people are leaving the ministry ranks (through resignation or retirement) than are joining them. In my own denomination, the Christian Reformed Church, plans to start new churches are repeatedly scaled back because we can’t find enough qualified pastors to start these new churches. Our denomination is having a hard enough time finding enough pastors to fill vacant churches, let alone finding pastors to start new ones. Why the shortage of ministers?

Several years ago, consultants Alan and Cheryl Klaas were hired by the Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod) to investigate this issue. They were tasked to find the root causes of the clergy shortage that many denominations are facing. The problem they uncovered was unexpected (to them) and troubling. The reason for the drop-off of new ministry recruits matched the reason for an increase in people leaving ministry: the conflict, criticism, and ill-treatment that has become an all-too-common aspect of ministry life. What follows is an excerpt of an article in the Baptist standard:

“[This research study] was intended to be a traditional recruitment and retention study,” Klaas said. For example, he thought he’d be recommending changes on issues like seminary communication with potential students.

“We wondered if students got good services, if seminaries were recruiting the right people,” he explained. But in the end, the Klaases concluded the problems are 20 percent institutional and 80 percent behavioral.

“The fundamental finding is that people beating on each other is the main issue,” Klaas said.

One telling statistic from the Klaas study is the decrease in the numbers of pastors’ kids who become pastors themselves. Klaas estimates that pastors’ children made up about 40 percent of seminarians in the 1950s and ’60s. It’s a much different picture now at the two seminaries in the denomination Klaas was working with. Last year, pastors’ children made up only 5 percent of seminarians at one and 17 percent at the other.

The bottom line is that churches need to do a better job at caring for and supporting their pastors. Another way of looking at it — from the vantage point of the pastors themselves — is to say that pastors need to do a better job of caring for and supporting themselves (through training, taking time off, participating in support groups, etc.). Instead of sitting back and hoping that the church will do it for you, create a plan and insist on the church’s support for you to take the steps you need to care for your physical, emotional, and spiritual health.

I sometimes wonder what would have happened in my case, had I done this. I tried to do it, but was not clear enough about what I needed, or insistent about getting the funding to get help. To be honest, I don’t think I really understood what I needed or how badly I needed it until it was too late. Don’t make that mistake.

Overview of Life Coaching – and what it can do for you

Life-CoachingHere’s a link to a great general article about coaching by Leni Chauvin. I’m often asked about coaching, and am constantly on the lookout for metaphors to help people understand what I do, and how I can help them. (“It’s sort of like counselling, but not really.,” “It’s kind of like having consultant to help you with your own personal life challenges, with some important differences.” “It’s sort of like working with a personal trainer, in your own recovery,” etc., etc., etc.) I give up! Read this article!

Continue reading Overview of Life Coaching – and what it can do for you

Leaders on the edge of breakdown: statistics

I say elsewhere on this site that The emotional and spiritual health of leaders in churches today is dangerously low, and the stresses and temptations they are facing is dangerously high. You don’t have to look far to find stats to back that up. Here are some, gleaned from articles by Darrin Patrick and Mark Driscoll:

  • 1500 pastors leave ministry each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout, or contention in their churches. This means that every hour of the traditional work week, almost 9 pastors somewhere are leaving their ministry post.
  • 80% of pastors and 84% percent of their spouses feel unqualified and discouraged in their role as pastors.
  • 50% of pastors – so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.
  • 80% of seminary and Bible school graduates who enter the ministry – leave the ministry within the first five years.
  • 70% of pastors fight depression.
  • Almost 40% of pastors said they have had an extra-marital affair since beginning their ministry.
  • 50% of pastors’ marriages will end in divorce.
  • 80% of pastors’ spouses wish their spouse would choose another profession.
  • The majority of pastor’s wives surveyed said that the most destructive event that occurred in their marriage and family was the day they entered the ministry.