Tag Archives: care of pastors

New information site for pastors and ministry leaders

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.




Filed under pastoral renewal, pastors and pastoring

Are congregants at fault for pastor burnout?

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.


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

Pastors and burnout

Just returned from a wonderful time with a group of pastors on retreat in the Poconos. I was invited to speak to them about burnout, the stress of ministry, and the need to be preventive in caring for their own souls (and their family as well). What makes for a good retreat? Competitive volleyball, good meals, laughter, singing, and open sharing of struggles as well as ideas for maintaining one’s emotional and spiritual health.

Singing. My first experience at Westminster Seminary (as a student) was in a chapel. I thoroughly enjoyed the hearty singing of hymns and songs in a male dominated environment. No weak and lame sounds. It was the same at this retreat. What good treatment for the soul. They sang before meals as well as at each session.

One of the challenges they addressed was the finding of regular and frequent support/accountability/discipleship. While they like each other they are all too busy to be regularly connected to each other in a deep way (beyond retreats and other business meetings).

What if churches and their boards really took seriously the need to care for (directly or indirectly) the spiritual needs of the pastor family? How might that change the dynamics of church life?

I have to say the highlight for me was the surprise laying on of hands to pray for myself and my family. Utterly moving.

And if there are those of you who have grown suspicious that pastors refuse to be human, and are frauds…I can tell you this bunch is a healthy, albeit worn out, set of pastors. And they love Jesus to boot 🙂


Filed under Christianity: Leaders and Leadership

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

The secret life of a pastor

No, not that secret life…I’m talking about the private worship life of the pastor. Diane Langberg lent me a book by one of her favorite dead pastors: Rev. Handley C.G. Moule, Bishop of Durham. The book, To my Younger Brethren: Chapters on Pastoral Life and Work, considers three arenas of the young pastors life: their “inner and secret life and walk with God,” their “daily and hourly intercourse with men,” and their “official ministrations of the Word and ordinances of the Gospel.”

Here’s what he has to say in the first chapter about the hindrances to private worship (I removed some archaic language):

My…reader…knows as well as I do, on the one hand, that a close secret walk with God is unspeakably important in pastoral life, and, on the other hand, that pastoral life…is often allowed to hinder or minimize the real, diligent work (for it is a work indeed in its way) of that close secret walk [with God].

Moule makes it clear that the primary work of the pastor starts with their relationship with God–not their beliefs, exhortations, or activities. Moule goes on to identify some of the hindrances:

The new [pastorate], the new duties, and opportunities, if the man has his heart in his ministry, will prove intensely interesting, and at first, very possibly, encouragement and acceptance may predominate over experiences of difficulty and trial. Services, sermons, visits to homes and to schools, with all the miscellanies that attend an active and well-ordered parochial organization–these things are sure to have a special and exciting interest for most young men who have taken Orders in earnest. And it will be almost inevitable that the [pastor]…should find “work” threatening rapidly to absorb so much, not of time only but thought and heart, that the temptation is to abridge and relax very seriously indeed secret devotion, secret study of Scripture, and generally secret discipline of habits, that all-important thing.

Like Chambers, Moule sees “spiritual success” as dangerous (My Utmost, April 24). But he doesn’t stop with this danger. He points to another: loneliness. The young pastor leaves University and its social life to comparative aloneness. Yes, he may have friends and elder brothers in the Lord. But ministry brothers are busy and congregants, though friends, are one of many needing ministry. He says,

So the sens of change, of solitude, in such part of his life as is spent indoors, may be, and, as I know, very often is, real and deep, sad and sorrowful, and in itself not wholesome….Solitude will not by itself, If I judge rightly, help him to secret intercourse with God. A feeling of solitude, under most circumstances…drive a man unhealthily inward, in unprofitable questionings and broodings, or in still less happy exercises of thought. Or it drives him unhealthily outward, quickening the wish for mere stimulants and excitements of mind and interest.  (he goes on to broach the subject of masturbation, I think)

Moule exhorts his reader to watch for the dangers of pastoral activity and the dangers of pastoral loneliness and not to avoid his private, intentional devotional life. He says, even 10 minutes of deliberate devotions are better than long and mismanaged time. He provides this warning

Your life and work will, in the Lord’s sight, be a failure, yes, I repeat it, a failure, be the outside and the reputation what they may, if you do not walk with God in secret.


Filed under book reviews, Christianity, Christianity: Leaders and Leadership, Great Quotes, pastoral renewal, pastors and pastoring

Pastor revealed

Probably several of you guessed it. The wonderful preacher with mental health issues is…..

Charles Spurgeon. Want to read more of his thoughts, pick up any one of his good books or check out this one from Amazon that weaves together his thoughts on despair, anxiety, and other dark nights of the soul.


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

Ask your pastor this question: Who disciples you?

Recently I’ve taken to asking my pastor clients this question: Who disciples you?

Typical responses? “Hmmm. I’ll have to think about that…don’t know…nobody, I guess…does —– count (nationally-known preacher they listen to or read on a regular basis)” I used to ask, “Where do you feed spiritually?” However, the discipleship question moves beyond that of being fed to being discipled and mentored.

Our shepherds are also sheep like us. They need discipleship and mentoring. One wonders if ministeriums could be resuscitated to provide true discipleship.

I’m writing a piece about pastors and their need for care. One study found that while a goodly number of pastors would be open to getting counseling, most do not think their stresses and needs reach a level where counseling is needed (It could be useful but I don’t think my problems are that big). Another study found that most pastors do not have close relationships with others outside their spouse.

If this is true, then most of our pastors are without any discipleship. Is it any wonder then that problems like pornography and other misconduct are frequent among pastors?


Filed under Christianity: Leaders and Leadership