Whether you are a pastor struggling with depression or simply hope to come alongside one in your life who does, where do you begin?
I’ll admit it. I was a pastor who was simply unqualified to counsel on this subject early in my ministry. If I had been, I wouldn’t have heard these words from an ER physician. He said, “I don’t know what you do for a living. But you either learn to love it, find something else, or die a very young man.”
I was stressed, depressed and didn’t really know what to do about it.
Thankfully, there were people in my life that did. In time, I made changes that have kept me living and leading healthy.
Here are three resources to help you respond in a more compassionate and informed way to the realities that contribute to depression and compound other forms of mental illness among church leaders…
Recent news of another pastor taking his own life has us all hurting and questioning.
How should we approach the reality of depression among Christian leaders, especially among those of us who preach and teach the Good News of Jesus?
Whether you are a pastor, church leader or just happened to be searching the web on this subject, here are a few thoughts about pastors, from a pastor, to help guide your conversations.
Pastors aren’t immune… to anything. We are flawed, failed, tempted and tried, and our calling doesn’t magically make us somehow above the things that challenge others, including an unseen sickness like depression.
Pastors are lonely… at least it often feels that way. We may be surrounded by people, many are even very encouraging. Still, church leadership can leave us feeling very much isolated no matter how many “likes” we get on social media.
Pastors don’t have all the answers… too many think they do (maybe even a few us pastors). We have some education, attended a conference or two and have some experience. The very Word of God is right there at our fingertips on a daily basis.
Make no mistake, there is hope in Jesus Christ.
Still, that doesn’t mean we always know exactly how to prescribe it in the real world to others or even ourselves.
Pastors are a target… and we need a lot of grace and prayer. Sure, the devil is trying to take everyone down with him in the end. Still, everyone knows that in warfare, if you can take down leaders, the impact on your enemy is multiplied many fold.
In short, pastors are people.
What can you do to deal with the pressures and stresses of ministry life as a pastor, or to come alongside one that you care about? We’ll talk about that in Depressed, Part 2.
What would you say about the realities that pastors face? Share your insights below in the reply section. We would love to hear from you!
Need help right now? You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
I went on summer vacation with my family and, for the first time, stayed off-grid, unplugged from work and social media. Crazy, right?
Here’s what I was reminded of and learned from my online hiatus in the mountains…
Lesson 1: I loved it!
I was present and in the moment with family & the Lord like never before. It was awesome. Plain and simple.
Sure, I snapped a few photos here and there to remember and celebrate at a later date. However, it was so good to be authentically in the moment and not feel like it had to be shared with anyone else, at least not right then and there.
Many times there were no pictures taken at all. The memories are that much more vivid in the hearts and minds of those who experienced it in real time.
Lesson 2: It’s okay.
I stayed off-line and, I’ll admit it, it took some getting used to.
After all, “If it happened and no one posted online about it, did it really happen?”
Some won’t get this. Some may even be a little suspicious of what the deal is with someone who dares to not make just about everything about their vacation public knowledge. My advice? Do it anyway. Those that truly know and love you will get it and be fine with it.
It’s also okay to keep sharing.
This goes without saying. Posting on social media has long been a part of the joy of sharing life with extended family and friends who aren’t there. It’s just how an emerging generation communicates. They simply don’t know life any other way.
The world, the church, family and friends all went on without me. This is a healthy, humbling perspective for all of us to have. Call it a reality-check.
Besides, if we have surrounded ourselves with great leaders, everything can and should keep moving forward well in our temporary absence.
I really did miss connecting online & sharing with other family and friends! I also wondered what was going on at church, especially among the lead team. Still, both of these had a way of drawing me to prayer for these same people all the more.
As it turns out, they were all still there, still doing life and work, some were on their own vacations. They were still posting and sharing the latest happenings. All I had to do was jump back into the virtual stream to catch up.
Lesson 4: I’m better for it.
I’m rested. I’m recharged. I’m reset and ready for what the Lord has next. I truly felt like I got away from it all. Isn’t that what the principle of the Sabbath is all about? Isn’t that what “getting away from it all” is for? I’m glad I finally got the memo and chose to experience a little bit of life off-line.
I highly recommending unplugged vacations and even going off-grid for some strategic days, events and moments.
Plan on it and plan for it. Let those that need to know, know, and then trust the Lord and them with everything else.
It may be hard to imagine life without play-by-play commentary as you live it. However, maybe you will discover that it’s worth it every once in a while.
I dare you.
Live life a little more off-grid and a little more in the moment.
What are your thoughts on living and leading off-grid? Share your insights in the comment section below!
This doesn’t change when we become Christians nor does it suddenly go away when we answer the call to serve the Lord in vocational ministry.
No one knows this better than the pastors reading this. You know, and, thankfully, so does the Lord. When we feel lonely as followers of Jesus, regardless of our role within His kingdom, we have the opportunity to identify with Him.
No one knows what it is like to not only feel forsaken, but be forsaken, like our Lord.
The Apostle Paul got this and shared this sense of connection to Christ in his letter to His followers in Philippi. (See Philippians 3:10.)
When it comes to loneliness, we all go there. None of us should stay there.
Pastor, here’s the BIG POINT: DON’T BE LONELY ALONE.
When we stay lonely alone, too long, we risk the real problem, isolation.
Proverbs 18:1, “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.”
The root word in this verse is פָּרַד paw-rad’; to break through, spread or separate: disperse, divide, be out of joint, part, scatter, separate, sever self, stretch, sunder. (Strong’s, H6504)
We all face loneliness. However, isolation is a choice.
How do you know if you are choosing isolation as a leader? Isolation is characterized by numerous symptoms. These symptoms come on slowly but very surely.
Join us in The Lonely Leader – Part 2 coming soon as we uncover these symptoms together.
Lead the way in encouraging people to keep gathering when they aren’t enjoying their vacation or weekend get-a-way. Be creative in providing opportunities for this not only in your main weekend worship experiences, but at other times for just getting together for fun and fellowship. Cookouts and/or tailgate parties never go out of style and can be done by churches large and small!
Our Need to Grow! This is all about spiritual growth.
Lead the way in encouraging people to continue in personal and family spiritual growth.
You need to come right out and say it, “We don’t need a vacation from growing in Jesus.”
Start at the most basic place. Talk about having a daily time reading God’s Word and praying and how fundamental this is to us as followers of Jesus. Share from your heart what this has meant to you and/or have others share what it has meant in their lives and families.
Don’t “pound the pulpit” about it. Instead, talk in simple terms and transparent ways about our temptation to do this over the summer. Then, provide some practical ways to grow in a personal/family devotional life.
Here are a few reminders you can give and resources you can offer:
Download the YouVersion Bible App and follow a personal daily reading plan. Offer plans for groups and/or as a congregation. https://www.youversion.com/
Provide a subscription to RightNow Media. This resource provides an amazing amount of video teachings, messages, conferences, and entertaining choices for all ages! https://www.rightnowmedia.org/
Our Need to Give! This is all about stewardship.
Lead the way in encouraging people to stay out of debt personally and as a family over the summer.
Start with caring about their personal finances and debt so they know you truly care about them, not just what they can give! Then, lead the way in encouraging everyone to continue (or start) tithing and giving.
Here are a few suggestions for your staff/lead teams and resources you can offer:
Who wouldn’t love to partner with more great volunteers? Getting and keeping them doesn’t just happen. You have to give great people a great reason to partner with you. Let’s get more specific about this by answering a simple question from the perspective of the volunteer… “Why should I?”
1) Answer the “why?” first. Don’t just show them the need, give them the reason. Paint the picture for them of what their effort means to the the need at hand and, more importantly, the people involved. Show and tell people how their involvement will make a real difference.
2) Crunch the numbers of the need. The more specific, the better. How many people are being affected? How long has the need existed? Where is “ground central?” What will the stats be in 3 or 5 years if nothing is done about it?
3) Set a clear goal. You may not be able to meet all of the need. However, what is your part as a church or organization? Again, be specific with your goal. How much money do you hope to raise? How many homeless care packets do you hope to make?
4) They need to “see it!” in person or at least video (or both). This is all about painting the picture of the “Why?” for those you hope to engage in the effort. Find those gifted at this and enlist their services from your hard-copy literature to your on-line presence, be sure to promote with honesty (don’t oversell it… people will see through this!), excellence and consistency.
5) Finally, remember that information is inspiration! Consider using some type of graphic that tracks the giving or effort toward the goal and keep it updated. Don’t wait until the end to thank people for their investment of time, resources or money. Thank them for every step achieved towards the clear goal and then… celebrate the win!
Great volunteers will more often respond to a clear call for a worthy cause. Your job as a leader is to give them the reason why they should!
Need help discovering the “Why?” of your next effort or for your overall ministry or organization? Respond below with your contact information and let’s talk about how we can partner to take your volunteerism viral!
Non-profit organizations, churches and para-church ministries all require one thing to succeed… great volunteers! One of the common questions I hear in conversations with other leaders across the country is, “Why can’t we get more volunteers?”
Let’s talk about some practical answers to this pressing question…
Ask yourself as a lead team, “Is it a worthy cause?” And, before you insist, “Of course it is!” Think about it from several different angles (besides your own)…
Don’t assume your cause is THE cause. Could the group of volunteers you are trying to engage be otherwise invested in another or even several other causes outside of your ministry at the moment? Have you asked? Would the timing be better when other initiatives have run their course?
How many other causes are being championed within your own organization? In other words, could there be a conflict of causes? Maybe it’s time to apply the “less is more” principle? What would it look like if, instead of doing a little for a whole lot, you did a lot for fewer? I would suggest that making a greater impact less often for fewer is more impactful in the long run!
Does your cause meet a need not already being met? Let’s face it, charity has become big business. Is the organization or need you are seeking to support already well funded? Are there others in your area (another church or organization) already effectively addressing the need?
Who told you it was a worthy cause to begin with? Just because its a worthy cause and making headlines in one part of the country (or world) doesn’t mean it will rally support in your unique area or culture. Are their causes that may hit closer to home for those you hope to partner with?
If you are trying to sell an unfamiliar cause to your volunteer base, you better do your homework… we’ll talk more about what this means in an upcoming post.
There are many worthy causes. Make sure it is a cause worthy for all of the right reasons.
Need some help engaging your volunteer base? Let us help you. Reply below with your best contact information for a free coaching call! Let’s explore how a coaching partnership might help you create a Viral Volunteer culture in your ministry or organization!
Leadership can be a lonely life. Beyond the online image of big events, conferences, retreats, lunch meetings, speaking engagements and more… leadership can leave you feeling isolated and wondering if anyone “gets it” or the world you live in. It’s easy to find yourself increasingly lonely and longing for something missing in all of it.
My wife and I find ourselves in just such a season as I have “moved” to a new assignment while she finishes teaching at a university in another state. Not fun. So, I came up with 5 Ways to Beat Leadership Loneliness while battling a little loneliness myself…
1) Admit you are lonely. It’s okay. While you may be surrounded by busy people in the course of your work, you can still be starved for meaningful relationships that have nothing to do with meeting your next goal or pulling off that upcoming event.
Admit to yourself, your family and a few trusted friends if you find yourself growing isolated. And, while there is solace in solitude with the Lord, isolation is a different matter. Someone has said, “Isolation is the devil’s home court.” Admit it… you miss people. That doesn’t make you weak, that makes you human.
2) Know your limitations.
You crave relationship.That’s okay. We were created for it! No, you don’t need more work related interaction, you have probably had enough of that. You need people to share the real stuff of life with. You may actually find the extremes of busyness increasing right along with isolation in a bizarre and dangerous irony. How do you know when you are reaching an unhealthy place? Read on…
3) Know your temptations.
Loneliness can lead to lesser things, much less and much worse. Let’s face it, we are all tempted to self-medicate when we are in pain. The enemy knows this and will be right there to “help” with temporary “fixes” that distract from or make the pain of loneliness go away for the moment. Everyone is tempted by some of these… from comfort eating to extreme sports/exercising, pornography to workaholism, binge watching favorite shows to substance abuse, “retail therapy,” and more. How do you keep from falling into these traps?
Know what really tempts you and let a few trusted people in on it (Hint: They may already know!). Draw close to the Lord through worship and the Word. Bring others around who will encourage and hold you accountable. You can live above these temptations! Speaking of accountability…
4) Stay open.
We all need some “alone time.” However, again, it’s easy to become a “hermit” and simply shut out the rest of the world. Resist the temptation to get comfortable with being alone. Stay open to friendships and the accountability they bring. Seek out conversations about things that truly matter. Be willing to ask and, more importantly, be asked questions about your life and leadership. Be there for others as much as you need them to be there for you. Whatever you do, don’t get too used to leading and living as a “party of one.” We were made for fellowship with God and others!
5) Be active.
Don’t be busy, be active. Find a few things that fuel you spiritually, emotionally, physically and relationally. Find some things you and your spouse, kids or friends also enjoy and get into it! I like to hike, write, work out, read, and a new hobby of kayaking… anything outdoors! Be intentional about carving out regular time to restore, even rest. You will be a better person for your family and leader for your church/organization as you stay active and healthy.
I’ll admit it… I don’t get lonely sometimes, I get just plain pathetic. I need the company of the Lord, my wife, my friends, and a long trail to wander on with them!
What about you? How are you actively beating leadership loneliness? Share your thoughts below…
I’ve saved the best for last piece of leadership advice for rookie to veteran pastors…
Lead your Family.
I love to remind pastors to, “Pastor your home church first and best!” Most in the room assume I’m talking about the congregation they lead. I’m not. This isn’t a plea to shepherd more diligently, to make another call, schedule another meeting or preach a better sermon. I’m not talking about church people at all. I’m talking about the gathering of people that meets daily in the sanctuary of your home… your spouse and kids.
Statistically speaking, close to half of the pastoral leaders reading this won’t finish their careers in full-time vocational ministry.This simply may or may not be God’s will for your life. What is God’s will for your life is to keep cultivating an amazing marriage and invest in your kids at every stage.
Here is something to help put things in perspective. Remember this phrase, “Fried chicken and potato salad.” What?!? That’s right, repeat it like a mantra. “Fried chicken and potato salad.” Face it. If you die today your staff, elders, and congregation will be eating fried chicken and potato salad in the fellowship hall within 30 minutes of your graveside service. Soon after they will have an interim pastor and, in no time, they will call someone else their pastor and move on with God’s greater plan for the church. That’s just how it goes and deep down you wouldn’t want it any other way.
But, what about your family? What legacy are you creating now and what will you be leaving then? What memories are you making? Don’t give me that bit about “quality time.” Quality time is quantity time! Especially for those of you with young kids (ok… or grandkids!) don’t miss the moments for the sake of another meeting. I promise you, I have never sat with a broken pastor who has lamented not spending more time at the church office or making another visit.There will always be another meeting but your kids won’t always be at home. And your marriage will not survive, let alone thrive if “the church” is your mistress and not your ministry. Never stop dating your spouse! Make those memories. Take the time, make the time and invest, invest, invest in your family. This is leading by example. This is leading well.
Yep… I saved the best piece of advice for last. “Pastor your home church first and best!”
Here is my second piece of advice for pastors at any stage of your leadership journey…
Lead Your Team.
By leading your team, I’m not talking about visioning, strategizing, planning, resourcing, training, etc. There is no shortage of books, conferences, coaching, and more to help you lead well on these fronts. I’m talking about something far better… and far riskier.
I was a young, eager pastor, attending one of my first national general assembly sessions. I was a little in awe of seeing some of the leaders I had heard about and was determined to glean from their insights. I saw one such leader, Dr. Carl Flewellen, across the crowded lobby and walked up and said, “Hi, I’m Tom and I’m a new pastor. What advice would you give to a young pastor just starting out?” Without hesitation he put his hand on my shoulder and looked me straight in the eye and said, “Love’em. Just love’em!” This wasn’t the advice I expected, but just what I needed.
Anyone can attend a leadership simulcast and implement the latest in leadership principles with their teams… and I’m a big fan of stuff like this! However, if you aren’t wise enough and brave enough to truly get to know your lead team, their hurts and hopes for themselves and their families… you aren’t really leading to potential and your team is far less than they can be. You may be managing well, but you aren’t leading like Jesus. Dare to develop a relationship with them.
Know your team and care for them personally with the love and compassion of Christ. No, you can’t do this with an entire congregation (although you can die trying!). What you can do with your lead team (staff or lay-leaders) is to partner in far more than your organizational vision and values. Share their lives and they will be far more likely to share your vision.