Category Archives: pastors and pastoring

Know a ministry couple who needs time away to retool or refresh?

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.


Filed under pastoral renewal, pastors and pastoring

Abuse Reporting: What you DON’T do can get you into trouble

As I write this Monsignor William Lynn has just been convicted of child endangerment for not adequately protecting children by removing priests he had evidence had abused children. No one accused Lynn of perpetrating abuse by his own actions. But now he stands convicted for what he failed to do and is looking at some years behind bars.

Bottom line: if church leaders knowingly cover up sexual abuse allegations or allow other leaders to remain in ministry when they have abused children, there is now a track record of prosecuting those who didn’t take action to protect children–either those who have been abused or those who could be abused.

Frankly, it shouldn’t take the threat of prosecution to get us to do the right thing. For the sake of the purity of the Church and the care for the least of these, we should always protect children over the organizational reputation. If you or someone you know wants to know more about how to deal with abuse allegations in the church, join us on July 20-21 for our seminar on the topic. For only $50 dollars for 9 hours of training, you can walk away with some great ways to protect your church and care for victims and offenders. (FYI, the $50 rate is for anyone not wanting graduate credit…you don’t need to be a church official to get that rate!)


Filed under Abuse, christian counseling, church and culture, News and politics, pastors and pastoring

2 Reasons Why Every Church Needs an Abuse Response Plan

We all know that we shouldn’t wait until our house is on fire to purchase insurance on our home. We all know that a will is necessary before we die. But, do you know that most churches do not have any plan to deal with an allegation of child or adult abuse? While no plan is foolproof and almost every abuse allegation contains unique features requiring difficult decision-making, a basic plan usually contains directions for who will make sure plans are carried out and how the church will handle both victim and offender.

Why Don’t Churches Have a Plan?

Maybe one of the reasons many churches fail to have a plan is that they aren’t really convinced a plan is central to the work of the Gospel–as central as a doctrinal statement or the preaching of the Word. Maybe such a plan is seen as a necessary evil like unto car insurance, something you know you should have but are annoyed to pay such a large bill even though you haven’t needed to use the benefit.

2 Better Reasons!

Read my faculty post here  over at for 2 Gospel reasons why every Christian organization needs an abuse response plan.


Filed under Abuse, biblical counseling, christian counseling, church and culture, counseling, pastors and pastoring, Psychology

Upcoming pastor couple retreat option

If you know a pastor couple who could benefit from a 3 day pastor couple retreat (with a few other pastor couples) here in the mid-Atlantic area, check out the following link for information about the next retreat in April at The Haft.

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Filed under pastors and pastoring

Summer counseling courses announced!

Biblical is offering 2 fantastic summer counseling courses for your consideration.  In both classes, you will walk away with practical tools! Both classes are hybrid (meaning you have both online and in person portions) and can be taken for 1 or 2 credits or for continuing education. Click the attached PDF  for more details: BIB-0112-BFINAL. The classes are:

One Session Coaching: Action Focused Change

Taught by Pam Smith, VP for Student Advancement and Coach

When? July 6-7 at Biblical Seminary: Who should take the course? Counselors and church leaders.

Abuse in the Church: Biblical, Legal, & Counseling Perspectives

Taught by my self and Boz Tchividjian (Liberty Law School, founder of GRACE, and a former child abuse prosecutor)

When? July 20-21 (at BranchCreek Church, Harleysville, PA) Who should take this course? Anyone who wants to see the church a safer place. Breakout sessions will focus on counselors and also church leaders.

Both courses are expected to fill up fast given their practical focus. Sign up ASAP by contacting either,

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Filed under Abuse, biblical counseling, Biblical Seminary, christian counseling, christian psychology, Christianity, counseling, counseling science, counseling skills, pastors and pastoring, Psychology, Uncategorized

Ministry to Sex Offenders? post on blog site

I have another post on our Seminary’s faculty blog site today. You can read it here. In it I give a few very initial steps a church might take when considering starting a ministry to sex offenders.

Such a ministry is good, sorely needed, but should not be taken without concern for the entire church, including victims of abuse. as well as the family members of the offender. Any ministry we undertake should put spiritual protection–the very soul of our ministry targets–as a primary objective. Thus, helping an offender to limit access to vulnerable peoples would be seen as part of their spiritual care. As I have said on this site before, the grace of limits is a very good thing. When I accept boundaries, I am accepting God’s grace.


Filed under christian counseling, christian psychology, Christianity, church and culture, counseling, pastors and pastoring

Causes of Pastor Struggles?

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.


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

Safe churches for sufferers of PTSD?

A friend recently asked me about the characteristics of the kind of church someone with PTSD should seek out in looking for a safe place to heal. I’d like to ask that of my readers. What special characteristics might someone look for as a good church family when they suffer from hidden damage? If YOU were looking for a church and wanted to find a safe, compassionate, sensitive church, what would you look for? What characteristics would tell you that the church was what you wanted?

Preaching and teaching? Interpersonal characteristics? Resources? Characteristics of leadership?


Filed under Abuse, pastors and pastoring, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Psychology

Book for pastors at risk

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.

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

The real damage done in abuse?

I’ve written before on the damage done when a community fails to respond to abuse in a justice oriented way. But here is a more succinct and apt quote by Miroslav Volf:

If no one remembers a misdeed or names it publically, it remains invisible. To the observer, its victim is not a victim and its perpetrator is not a perpetrator; both are misperceived because the suffering of the one and the violence of the other go unseen. A double injustice occurs—the first when the original deed is done and the second when it disappears. (italics mine)

Abuse victims sometimes tell us that the most significant damage to them is when community members (family, leaders, peers) fail to “see” or act justly when they hear of the abuse. It was bad enough to be sexually abused (yes, that is real damage too) but far worse to be told it didn’t happen or be told to take it for the sake of the larger community (e.g., you wouldn’t want to harm his reputation, destroy the family, cause others to fall away from Christ, etc.).

I saw this quote in the first pages of The Long Journey Home: Understanding and Ministering to the Sexually Abused, to be released soon by Resource Publications, an imprint of Wipf & Stock. I have the typeset PDF and the editor, Andrew Schmutzer, says the book will be released in August. This book (over 500 pages!) may become the place to turn for Christians seeking to understand the scourge of sexual abuse in all its ugly forms. Chapters are written by those who are expert in the social sciences, theology, and pastoral care. The line up is phenomenal. You can see the title page/table of contents (TOC Long Journey Home) to see the gamut of chapters and authors.


Filed under Abuse, christian counseling, christian psychology, Christianity, Christianity: Leaders and Leadership, counseling, counseling science, pastors and pastoring, Psychology, ptsd, Uncategorized