Too often, pastor's lives aren't as they appear when they're behind the pulpit. And I'm not talking about moral issues...although I could. I'm sure each of you could cite examples of pastors who have had affairs or been exposed in some sexual sin. But what I want to talk about is how pastors are hurting or are weighed down or overwhelmed with life and feel like they have nowhere to turn. It's becoming more and more common. We could talk about the broken structure of our churches, but until it's fixed...we have a problem.
I read an article tonight of a pastor who took his life, and although it happened two years ago, the seriousness of the situation is just as pertinent today--if not more so. You see, pastors are givers. There's a reason many are called "ministers"--because that's what they do. They minister to you and to as many members of their congregation as they possibly can. And they feel like they're failing much of the time. There's always one more person to see, one more counseling session to schedule, one more committee meeting to mediate, one more hospital visit to make, and one more disagreement in the church to work out. And their problems grow in proportion to the size of their church although they may be more glaring in a small church. If they miss seeing someone in the hospital, they're upset with themselves. They're afraid that sick person will feel unimportant or overlooked. And that's the last thing they want. Pastors give and give and give...and many times never get filled back up.
There's also a growing dilemma. Many pastors have no one to talk to. Who ministers to the minister? Typically, they don't know who to turn to. They don't know who they can trust. Many pastors feel like they should "have it all together" and they're going to look like less than a leader if they ask their church for help. For most, that's not even an option. And honestly, there are churches who perpetuate the notion that pastors should have it all together and never need help. Or pastors feel like they should just be able to pray and have God "fix" their problem. They're afraid they'll make God look bad if they go looking for help. Many pastors feel like they're between a rock and a hard place which can bring about sadness, depression, despondency and even hopelessness when it goes on too long.
As Andy & I reach senior adulthood and the highlight years of our ministry (don't you like my new term?)...we have such a passion for younger men and women in the ministry. When I read the article tonight about the pastor who took his life, I felt the need to reach out. First, I wanted pastors and their wives to know there is help. Andy & I want to help. There are other older pastors--who've seen and heard it all and won't be stunned by your problems--who want to help. Andy & I have also become a part of a wonderful ministry which recognizes the needs pastors face. And they are helping. If you feel called to help these pastors, I highly recommend supporting this ministry! It's called Double Honor Ministries and it is a very worthy ministry to support. Please go to their website and read about what they're doing. They are having retreats for pastors in a safe environment where they and their wives can safely share their needs with leaders who can help. It's a "filling-up station."
I want to end with this: please, PLEASE seek help if you're a pastor who is struggling. Or if you're a pastor's wife and you're struggling--or recognize your husband isn't himself--contact us. Andy & I are available to help you. And if your need is bigger than all of us, we have resources who can help you. It's not necessary to keep your needs a secret. Satan would love for you to think you're the only one experiencing this. God wants to set you free. If you are a pastor and wife and you are doing well, let me suggest that you continue finding ways to stay "filled up!"
God bless our pastors and their wives! Encourage yours today.