Pastor Health Conference Recap

On Friday, Biblical Seminary hosted the first of what I hope to be many “Pastoring though Church Challenges” conference for pastors. We had a nice 75 or so ministry leaders here to hear plenaries and breakouts regarding specific church challenges and opportunities/challenges to their spiritual and emotional lives.

Everything went just about as smoothly as could be. My assistant director (MA Counseling program), Bonnie, gets all the credit here. I had an idea…she made it happen–and happen well at that!

At the end I asked a few anonymous survey questions and over 50% responded. Here’s what we learned:

1. Over half of the respondents are facing high levels of chronic stress
2. Most report they are “managing with struggles” (opposed to managing either “poorly” or “satisfactorily”, or “well.”
3. When asked to write in the top 2 sources of their stress they gave answers that fit in several categories. The categories receiving the most “hits” were personal issues (e.g., depression, anxiety, sinful habits, no passion) and marital distress. Financial stress and church conflict got the next highest level of “hits.
4. 43% did not have regular contact with someone who really knew them and their personal issues
5. Interestingly, respondents were rather wary of joining face-to-face or web-supported support groups of peers. Most rated their interest (theoretical) as maybe to unlikely. Web supported groups (video/discussion) received the least interest.


Filed under Christianity, Christianity: Leaders and Leadership, pastoral renewal, pastors and pastoring, seminary

5 responses to “Pastor Health Conference Recap

  1. That is sad. The stress part seems inevitable, but not having ppl to share with, and the unwillingess to be a part of a support group is what really saddens me.

  2. karenestelle

    I think a lot of pastors don’t want a support group because they really just want someone to care about them as a person. The whole support group thing may be helpful but it would feel as if you don’t have the necessary coping skills to deal with ministry. A real friend who calls you up just to see how you’re doing and not to discuss church politics, that would be radically life changing. But it also would require trusting people with info about our lives which could then be used against us. I know for us, we have probably been most fiercely criticized by others in ministry, so the idea of opening up and trusting in a group of other pastors would be extremely difficult.

  3. Karen, you got it right. Politics and manipulation are key reasons why leaders tend to be wary of support. Funny, though, they tend to be wary of support by peers outside their church context. Does this mean they don’t trust that their peers will maintain confidentiality? That their story will be the gossip of the town? I know some who would tell me that.

    I think there is another reason. Most leaders aren’t all that comfortable being cared for. They know how to feed the sheep but don’t like being in the position of needing to be fed. I think we do buy into the assumption that our leaders have all they need to cope well.

  4. karenestelle

    I think they wouldn’t mind being in the position of needing to be fed if it was more acceptable to be in that position. I’m sure some are prideful, but some are just afraid of ridicule. When we mentioned to our senior pastor that it would be really helpful for us to see him more often and have more of a friendship with him, he said “I didn’t know you needed hand-holding. I kind of count on my staff to be low maintenance.” We thought being on staff at a multi-staffed church would be good because there are other people who understand the pressures & stresses of ministry and could really hold each other up, but if you mention any real need, the others tell you what you need to fix yourself (making you feel as if you are the only one who needs “fixing”).

    • Wow, what a sad experience! I just taught a portion of a DMin class and one of the younger students talked about the desire to be discipled or mentored by the senior pastor in his large mega-church. Unfortunately, he got the same kind of response. So much for following the path of Jesus to disciple…

      Sad. But I can tell you that not all think this way.

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