September 5, 2012 · 7:12 pm
This question is a bit like asking if you know whether the sky is blue. Of course you know a ministry leader couple who could use a retreat specifically designed to encourage them! The Haft, situated in the Northern Poconos, is running just such a retreat for no more than 7 pastor/leader couples on October 2-4, 2012.
I have had a part of developing this retreat format and highly recommend it for anyone who might wish to catch their breath with a few other like-minded couples. Going doesn’t mean you are burned out (though you might be) or that you are on the verge of collapse (though you might be). Going means you want to sustain your ministry trajectory.
Check out the link above to see more information about the location and some great pics of the place. I’ve been there a couple of times and find the buildings and the surrounding countryside very refreshing. Even if you are unable to attend this event, you can work with them to set up your own personal retreat.
October 3, 2011 · 12:48 pm
I’ve spoken on this topic for the past several years and have shared thoughts on this blog about the unique stresses of being a pastor or being in a pastor’s family. During the AACC conference I was able to attend Michael and Kari MacKenzie’s presentation (Marble Retreat counselors). Here’s what they had to say…very much mirroring what I had just taught on several days ago.
Michael’s dissertation research on the topic resulted in the following list as the “top 6” most significant struggles in ministry
1. Stress, 2. Burnout, 3. Marital Problems, 4. Sexual Problems (infidelity, porn, etc.), 5. Depression, 6. Conflict (family or ministry). Interestingly, if you are on a missionary team, #6 is really #1.
What are the prime causes, according to their research?
1. Isolation, 2. Unrealistic Expectations, 3. Poor Boundaries.
I would comment here that these are not really causes but deeper layers may need to be discovered. Just why does the ministry leader have unrealistic expectations, poor boundaries, etc.? What is driving these issues? Some of those reasons can be found in the culture as well as in the desires of the pastor/leader. For example, a refusal to be vulnerable may be causal…as well as a congregation’s expectation that pastors never need help.
What helps protect pastors from massive stress? According to Mark McMinn: 1. a Personal Devotion to Christ (outside of sermon prep), 2. Hobbies, 3. Exercise, 4. Regular Time Away, 5. a Good Marriage.
The 64,000 question:
Why don’t pastors (why don’t we all) do the most basic things we know are good for them? Why don’t we exercise and eat well? Why don’t we take time away? Why don’t we get enough sleep? Why don’t we maintain a healthy devotional life? Rarely is it a matter of not knowing how to do these things. If you find yourself not doing basic self-care, ask yourself this: what other motives take priority in my life? Some other goal/motivation is getting in the way. What is it? When you can answer that question then you have a greater chance to decide what you are going to do about it.
July 20, 2011 · 5:35 am
Over the last couple of years I have gotten to know Dr. Charles Wickman. He is the founder of Pastor-in-Residence, a ministry to exited and at-risk pastors. He has a huge desire to see pastors flourish in their called locations. Currently, Rev. Ed Lochmoeller is PIR’s national director. This is a wonderful ministry for pastors who may have been forced out of their churches or are about to leave. The ministry places these pastor families in churches where they are “in residence” and being cared for while regaining their ministry footing.
What are the two main reasons for being “at risk” of being forced out? Vision conflict with leadership and burnout.
I tell you all this because Dr. Wickman has just published Pastors At Risk: Protecting Your Future, Guarding Your Present (Peoria, AZ: Intermedia Publishing Group, 2011).
This is a perfect, simple book. It is a simple read for those who are confused. And most pastors I know who meet the definition of being burned out are easily confused by complex details. They get bogged down into rights/wrongs, second-guessing their calling, angry, depressed, embittered. Dr. Wickman puts the issues on the table and then gives some good directions for both the pastor and spouse. I think most will find this small book clear and to the point on the main issues. Interspersed among the chapters are small vignettes of pastors and pastor’s spouses in their own words.
If you are a pastor, it is worth the 13 dollars for a read and hopefully some new directions for preventing a crash and burn. If you are an elder or deacon, I recommend you read it as you can learn much about the special pressures of pastoring. Don’t assume that somehow you or your church is different. That would be like knowing there is an epidemic of the flu and thinking that your constitution is somehow stronger than the rest thus negating your need for a flu shot.
Get the book. Read the book. Take the survey (p. 135). Talk to someone about the results. Make a plan for prevention.
March 15, 2011 · 5:45 am
I’ve run across a conference topic that is so important I want to pass it on to the rest of you. I have not been asked to hype this and I don’t really know the people doing it (know them by name, not by person).
If you are a pastor…especially if you are a church planter…where do you go to talk about failure? Ask a pastor if he or she talks about failure at pastor’s conferences. Nope, not usually. Most just keep quiet about it.
Enter Epic Fail Pastor’s Conference. Check out their plans and times. Hey, it only costs about 80 bucks. Cheaper than going to 1 hour of therapy and you get the benefit of not being by yourself.
December 31, 2010 · 6:04 pm
I’m just beginning to build a new blog/info site for ministry leaders at: http://pastorrenewal.wordpress.com. While I am building the site, I am looking for others to provide me links and information we can post there. I want it to contain free stuff and links to services that might be helpful for those in ministry who are feeling burned out.
This blog (Musings) will still be my main focus but I want to have a site that will be more attractive to pastors, missionaries, and their families.
December 20, 2010 · 1:43 pm
Want to bless your pastor family this year? Consider giving the gift of a renewal retreat. If you can’t afford to cover the whole costs (see below), consider going in on the gift together with some of your friends.
Here’s what I’m talking about. A group of like-minded individuals meet on a regular basis to consider how to promote pastor renewal. Last year, we developed and ran a pastoral renewal retreat for pastors and spouses. It was successful and so we are planning a second retreat for April 26-28, 2011 (the week after Easter). The retreat runs 3 days and 2 nights in the Poconos at the Haft. During the retreat couples will meet together, alone with a ministry mentor, and have time alone as they consider how to grow spiritually in the face of ministry challenges. We will cover issues such as discouragers, marriage enrichment, and renewal practices.
The cost to the ministry couple is $250. for room, board, and retreat. We’ll be posting registration materials but if you know think this is something you want to do or you know some couples who are interested, email me [pmonroeATbiblicalDOTedu] to get on a first ask list. There are only 7 couple slots available.
August 12, 2010 · 5:24 am
I’ve written here several times on the topic of pastoral burnout and the need for prevention and renewal for ministry leaders. I came across this opinion piece in the NY Times suggesting that congregants may be a big part of the problem. Consider some of the following quotes by the author (a pastor who may have had problems in his own congregation that bias him a bit). Emphases are mine.
The pastoral vocation is to help people grow spiritually, resist their lowest impulses and adopt higher, more compassionate ways. But churchgoers increasingly want pastors to soothe and entertain them. It’s apparent in the theater-style seating and giant projection screens in churches and in mission trips that involve more sightseeing than listening to the local people.
As a result, pastors are constantly forced to choose, as they work through congregants’ daily wish lists in their e-mail and voice mail, between paths of personal integrity and those that portend greater job security. As religion becomes a consumer experience, the clergy become more unhappy and unhealthy.
Ouch. His words about the demand for experiential highs are pointed, especially the ones about missions trips as sightseeing events.
The unspoken message in such instructions is clear: give us the comforting, amusing fare we want or we’ll get our spiritual leadership from someone else.
I suspect this is one part of the pie. But let us not blame the congregants too much. They want to be part of something great and most pastors want to be something great. The two sides mutually support this kind of problem.
If you read the full-text you will see a link for another recently published editorial about clergy burnout. You can read that one here. There are a number of other resources you can find as hot links embedded in that essay. One factoid is a recent study of North Carolinian Methodist pastors are found to be significantly more obese than the general population of the state. Makes you go hmmm.
March 26, 2010 · 9:00 am
I received a free copy of You Can Still Wear Cute Shoes: And Other Unlikely Great Advice from An Unlikely Preacher’s Wife from the publisher (David C Cook, 2010). The author is Lisa McKay. You can find her at http://www.apreacherswife.com.
Since there are few books out there for pastor’s wives, I decide to check it out. Right out of the starting blocks, Lisa addresses two common concerns:
1. Is his calling my calling too? I’ve heard a number of pastor’s wives who appreciate their husband’s ministry calling but do not own it for themselves. Others do. Is this essential?
2. Appearances. What are the pressures for appearing as a pastor’s wife? Can I be me?
To the first issue, she says one of the reasons is this (quoting another pastor’s wife): “The hardest thing for me is everyone wanting a piece of my husband and not acknowledging me in the least…I feel like the person in the background who is here only to take care of the kids so he can be free to take care of everyone else.” (p. 24). Lisa goes on to articulate through story and verse that the wife is called too. Don’t get hung up in the how but that the calling, at a minimum includes trust, obedience to Christ, and hope. To the second issue, no you don’t have to wear doilies. Be more concerned with cultivating Godly character.
The books won’t knock your socks off with new ideas. However, Lisa does a great job identifying the key challenges pastor’s wives face, pointing them to Scripture, focusing on simple truthes and being wary of the stuff that can build up inside her heart. She covers everything from parenting to having friends in the church to not defending pastor husbands (not having hissy fits in the church). This is an easy read and a good reminder for all on how to live under pressure.
Her final chapter is written for the pastor. My only disappointment in this book is that she didn’t triple the length of this chapter and really speak boldly to pastors about their care of their wives.
One great aspect of the book is that she includes so many quotes from other wives and application questions at the end of each chapter for the reader to consider. On top of that, she’s quite humorous. No bitter pastor’s wife here!
January 18, 2010 · 10:54 am
A couple of people sent me links to a recent news item out of Britain concerning the value of teaching counseling skills to pastors. Researchers there found that pastors who do a lot of emotion laden work with parishioners bear a heavy load (pretty obvious so it is nice to see that research doesn’t say otherwise). Those pastors with counseling skills training seem to cope better with the distress. I’ve not seen any in-depth description of the study so I can’t comment on why this might be the case. It could be that pastors with counseling training are more self-aware. It could be they are more positive on the benefits of talk therapy and so utilize it for themselves. It could be they feel more effective in their counseling work and therefore feel less helpless.
Whatever the case, I’m happy that it supports my coursework teaching counseling skills to pastors.
Read about the research: CT’s news blurb, Medical News blurb
December 4, 2009 · 5:56 am
Ran across a new set of stats about pastor health in the last few weeks. Nothing surprising, just more confirmation of the same story. A Cheryl Shireman reports on data from over a thousand pastors who attended 2 conferences. Some of her stats…
- 57% of pastors would leave if they had a better place to go–including secular work
- 77% report not having a good marriage
- 72% felt they were unqualified or poorly trained by seminaries to lead the church or counsel others
- Only 38% report personal devotions outside of sermon prep
- 38% are divorced or going through one
- 30% admitted a sexual encounter with a parishioner
Let’s assume that most pastors enter the ministry fit (false assumption!) for the trials and tribulations and spiritually mature. What can a church do to maintain that pastor’s health (and his/her family as well)? We surely don’t give them combat pay. While most get vacation and health benefits, few report getting ongoing discipleship or training beyond the annual preaching conference.
Here’s an idea I’ve surfaced here before. What if pastors were required to have a mentor? What if churches provided $1000 a year for use in preventative counseling or confidential spiritual direction? What if pastors had to complete a confidential “check-up” each year? On this last item, I suspect that I could provide an assessment (cheap, easy to complete questionnaires for pastor and spouse plus 3 hours of follow-up interview and goal setting) for under $400.
If these recommendations came before your congregation, what would the reaction be? Would there be resistance? Worry about expenses? Openness? I’m curious…