Burnout isn’t Just a Pastor Thing…

Last week I reposted an article by Ken Sande regarding his first hand experience with a pastor friend who burned out. This week, we hear the story of how easy it is for the spouse of a pastor to get caught in the whirlwind of ministry life and end up toasted as well.  I want to encourage all pastors to read this – and work to protect their spouse. But to the church at large – let’s do a better job of caring for both our pastor AND spouse.

Read here

Pastors’ Wives Can Burn Out Too

 

Hope Behind the Headlines

Starting up the blog again in this new year has been a bit of a challenge. As we all know, life can get in the way of our best laid plans. Anyway, I wanted to begin the new year on a positive note. I hope this little installment gives you hope!

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I really miss Paul Harvey’s “The Rest of the Story.” I used to listen to it daily on the radio, and loved the backstory he would slowly unravel. Behind what we all thought we knew were the details that surprised us. I often found myself wanting to dig deeper into those stories after listening to his broadcasts.

“…we evangelicals now talk about brothers and sisters and our own stories with an eye roll or quick dismissal. We have come to believe that the experiences of exclusion and infighting that dominate the American religious landscape are the norm, rather than the exception, in our faith. Evangelicals have long been painted with a broad brush: moralistic, right-wing, uneducated, and unable to appreciate the earth or beauty, fearful and not a little bit strange. That picture is not accurate or full;” – Laura Turner (Christianity Today, 12/2013)

Laura Turner’s quote above suggests that there is a “Rest of the Story” to the condition of the evangelical church in America – that the ugly truth is not the whole truth.

newspaper I read the headlines, and I meet with pastors who share heartbreaking stories of being wounded by the church. I hear about the “clergy-killer” churches, and the clergy who, being human, add to the mess. All of this exists. It’s real. But it’s not all there is.

Just as real are the stories of deep grace, mercy and courage among churches today. There are believers who are writing the rest of the story. Behind the headlines, churches are becoming “Refuge Churches,” places of healing for wounded pastors and their families. I am working with 7 of these courageous congregations right now. They are the ones who, when a hard working pastor of a small congregation desperately needed a vacation for his family, pitched in generously and made that happen. These are the churches that understand that these are our brothers and sisters in Christ, broken human beings on the same journey of grace and are willing to open their hearts and lives to them.

Recently, I met with a pastor who has been repeatedly run over. At this stage, he is pretty convinced that there are no loving, gracious Christians or churches. All is bad and lost. Unfortunately, the statistics about pastoral exits would be in his favor. I was so grateful that I could fill in the rest of the story for him and assure him that there is hope! It exists as surely as the shortcomings and failures we constantly hear about. The opportunity to point him in the direction of one of those gracious, loving churches of refuge was another line in the rest of his story.

return of prodigal 1There is no question that we have our work cut out for us, and that the stories being told most loudly about the Church are the ones that paint a less-than-flattering picture. But for each headline that makes us shake our heads and groan, we need to hear the “Rest of the Story!” Thought it may never make the 11 o’clock news, in small but real ways, quietly and deliberately, there is evidence that there are disciples of Jesus in this world (John 13:35). Behind the scenes, His grace is writing new headlines.

Healing Our Own!

What a beautiful thing it is when the Church – perceived by many to be a place where we shoot our wounded – becomes the means of healing and restoration for its own! This last weekend I had the privilege of observing, firsthand, how a small suburban church has welcomed a burned-out pastor and his family into their midst and walked with them through the PIR process, finding the hope they so desperately needed. Pastor B had been trying to plant an inner city church for 7½ years. Early last year, he and his family came to the place where they were discouraged and ready to quit – burned out in every way. A call to PIR Ministries resulted in a story with a much happier ending.

Pastor B is in the final stages of completing the Pastor in Residence (PIR) program. It was a delight to meet with him and his wife, as well as the pastor and members of the congregation who make up his support team. Even as a part of this great ministry, I often wonder if the Body of Christ will ever catch on to the importance of offering grace to pastors who have exited the ministry. My hope was renewed as our staff had the opportunity to interact with this couple and the church. Here were a pastor and wife who had gone from feeling like they were dropping into an abyss, to being at a place of growing spiritually and emotionally healthy. Here was an example of how God’s grace, extended in simple but meaningful ways can restore a fellow believer and servant to a renewed relationship to Jesus, the church, and ministry.

Some things that I took away:

The Senior Pastor leads the way – The pastor of the Refuge Church exuded a spirit of compassion and encouragement. There was a total lack of territorialism. Rather, there was an open invitation to the exited pastor to enter into the life and ministries of the church. It was evident that this same spirit was a way of living that, naturally expressed in daily ministry, had become the ethos of the church. The process of healing starts on a solid foundation when this kind of attitude is extended to a wounded fellow pastor.

people make the diffThe people make a difference – As we interviewed the members of the support team, they were actually surprised about the extent of the impact they had on this couple. But their willingness to show up – to be real and present with this hurting couple – made all the difference. Mel Lawrenz, in his new book Spiritual Influence, says “We must put out of our minds any feeling that ‘being there’ is pitifully inadequate. If you have ever been in a crisis, you understand how important the presence of others is.” The process didn’t require a theological education on their part, just the willingness to love and walk alongside a brother in need. Meeting with these folks on a regular basis allowed Pastor B and his wife to be real again: dropping the “pastoral persona” and re-engaging with life.

The program works if you work it – I am borrowing from AA here, but it is the truth. Having been trained and prepared, the pastor and support team followed the PIR process laid out for them, adapting it here and there as needed. In the end, Pastor B and his family avoided the risk of remaining in unhealthy patterns of life and ministry and potentially drifting far from God and the church. The safety net that Pastor B and his family experienced, though far too often lacking in the church world, is what PIR Ministries is all about.

I am greatly encouraged today. Tomorrow, I may see another example of the carnage and pain that results from a pastor exiting ministry. But today I have hope – a hope I can confidently declare – that the church can truly heal its own.

If you know pastors like Pastor B, burned out and on the verge of abandoning their calling, let them know there is hope. To the ones who have been forced out, the fallen, the wounded and discouraged, let them know that the church really does care. Put them in touch with us. Our calling is to do all we can to create the same opportunity that Pastor B had: to experience the grace of God through the lives of His people.

Pastor B is on a path that will likely see him move into a different aspect of ministry – and that’s OK. That option may not even have existed apart from a faithful and loving band of believers who took up the call of Jesus to love one another, and applied that to a hurting pastor and his family. We can truly heal our own!Hope

CareGivers Forum 2012 – Gathering Together Those Who Serve God’s Shepherds

While the task of ministering to pastors can be daunting for those of us involved, it is encouraging to know that we are not alone. When I began the process of coming on board with PIR Ministries, I shared what God was doing in my life with a friend, Charles Shepson. Dr. Shepson entered my life as a counselor and encourager during a time in my pastoral ministry years ago when the depth of my own personal issues was just beginning to emerge. He is the founder of Fairhaven Ministries in Roan Mountain, Tennessee. Charles and I corresponded with some frequency over the years, and when he heard about the new direction of my life, he immediately said, “You need to go to CareGivers in November!” I had no idea what he was talking about at the time. But, on his recommendation, Deb and I signed up. Afterwards, we discovered that PIR Ministries has been an active part of CareGivers for a number of years.

The 2012 CareGivers Forum was held last week, November 4-8, at the WinShape Retreat Center on the campus of Berry College in Rome, Georgia. Deb and I had the privilege of attending, along with Ed Lochmoeller, the National Director of PIR Ministries. We met with 164 others, representing over 65 different ministries that share in the mission of caring for God’s shepherds. It is an annual gathering of people from across the United States, and “provides opportunity for personal relationships, professional networking and shared learning.” This year’s speaker was H.B. London, formerly the director of Focus on the Family’s Pastoral Care division.

I have been to my fair share of conferences and denominational meetings, where pastors and Christian workers meet together for a variety of purposes. And while there are times at those conferences where true connections are made, it was deeply refreshing to be a part of a gathering where the usual posturing and one-upmanship was completely absent. The willingness to share personal stories, resources and strategies for caring for pastors was remarkable. The work of helping and restoring those in full-time ministry can seem (and really is!) quite overwhelming. Yet we were reminded, through the teaching of H.B. London and the interactions with those who attended, that our ability to serve those who need care begins with our own personal rootedness in Christ. How fitting, since we often advise pastors that taking care of their own soul is the chief component in staying healthy in ministry.

A number of workshops were conducted by several of the members of the Forum, and will prove to be quite helpful as we chart a course through the waters of pastoral care. Deb and I particularly appreciated hearing from other couples who were working together in their ministries, as husband and wife.

Some significant new relationships developed for PIR Ministries during this year’s conference. Among those, we enjoyed getting to know Matthew Parker of the Summit Group in Detroit, and gaining a clearer picture of how to bring the resources of ministries like PIR to the pastors of the inner city. In a clear “God moment,” Deb and I were able to reconnect with a couple we had known and worked with during the years of our ministry in the pastorate. Ken and his wife Bonnie are working in a pastoral care ministry in Grand Rapids; we hope to partner with them and several other ministries in the West Michigan area in the coming months. We recently found out that Ken’s brother, is a pastor that has been in touch with us at PIR, taken the PRO-D, and has found help in dealing with some significant burnout issues.

All of this took place against the backdrop of the amazing hospitality and 5-star facilities of WinShape Retreat, where we were treated royally! This time of refreshment and encouragement is unparalleled in our experience. The fact that this was the largest gathering of attendees the Forum has ever seen is due largely to the generosity of the Cathy family (of Chick-Fil-A), who underwrote the bulk of the cost. We are very grateful for that generosity, and it seems to highlight for us that this ministry we have to ministers is taken seriously by many.

You will continue hear about some of the new ministry partners we met over the coming months. There are rich resources available to bring hope and help to God’s shepherds, and our hearts are joined with others who share the same burden. It is good to know you are not alone!

Doing Church in a Facebook world – Guest Blog

The pastoral world today is different in many ways from when I was serving in that capacity. As a result, I thought it would be good to invite some of the younger guys to jump in and talk about some of the unique challenges they face in trying to live out the call of God as pastors in today’s church. Today, I want to welcome a guest post by Dan Rose, assistant pastor for several years at Grace Chapel, and now a church planter. You can see what he is up to at “The Antioch Movement” http://acts13.net and on his own website at http://danielmrose.com

 If Facebook were a country, it would be the third most populous country in the world. Did you actually read that? Yes. Facebook has changed the way that people live their lives. The word “Facebook” has transformed from simply being a noun, to being a verb. People say, “I will Facebook you” and you know exactly what that means.

People spend hours and hours on Facebook, Twitter, and yes, even Google+. Instagram and Foursquare allow us to document our lives in pictures and locations. Everything we do and everything our friends do is out there for us to interact with and engage.

We live in a world of immediacy with a constant flow of information. We are able to interact with one another more efficiently than ever before, and through the rise of social media we are able to take messages around the world to anyone we want.

Facebook has changed everything, including the church.

Here’s a dirty little secret: I don’t like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, what have you. I really don’t. But, I am convinced that they are critical tools for doing ministry in today’s landscape. Therefore, I use them. Gutenberg’s printing press required the people of that day to completely change the way that they thought about sending the message of the Gospel to those around them, and so has social media.

Social media is not a neutral tool. It demands that we change the way we communicate. We must communicate in brief, in summary. The problem is that the things that we are concerned about in the context of the Church demand time, space, and true community.

Time is lost when it comes to social media. Responses are immediate. We see a comment or receive an email and fire off a response without taking time to consider or pray. This is dangerous in the context of the Church because we are dealing with people’s lives. When we feel that we don’t have time to consider and think, we respond from our flesh. When our responses are from the flesh, they typically lead to problems and misunderstanding.

Space is lost. Everywhere I go my phone beeps with social media and email notifications. Text messages flood into the device. My phone will ring and ring with people who want to talk to me. Social media has driven the mobile communications sphere (yes, text messages and email are social media). With the advent of the “smart” phone, we have lost space because now we are able to carry our entire relational sphere in our pocket. This loss of space means that we think we have less relational capital to spend on real people in our domains, and actually makes it that much more difficult to build the kingdom of God.

True community is lost. Community is ultimately formed through conflict and resolution. When those two things occur, people have the choice to either move forward in light of forgiveness given or received, or end the relationship. With most of our “community” occurring in the social sphere, the communal process of conflict and resolution is short-circuited. When conflict occurs, responses come fast and furious (loss of time) and the conflict is ever present (loss of space) so that we cannot process and pray. Often the “conversation” ends without any resolution. True community is not developed.

Doing church in a Facebook world means that Christ followers, as the Story-telling representatives of Jesus, need to subvert the entire culture. It means that we must choose to engage in person. Face-to-Face, not FaceTime. It means that the Church needs to subvert the immediacy mindset and easy connect. In my opinion, the church growth model of the 80s and 90s simply feeds the beast. It embraces instead of subverts.

The reality is that social media is here to stay. The Church has to engage with it in such a way that subverts its individualism and immediacy. We cannot run away from social media, for if we do we are running away from the world with which we are called to engage. We must understand social media needs to be subverted in such a way that we move from the virtual to the real. From image to substance.

How do we do that? I don’t know. I’m still figuring it out. I am certain of one piece, though. That is, we must “move into the neighborhood,” just as Jesus did. In practice, I think we can simply open our homes and embrace again the biblical principle of hospitality. I am convinced we change the world one good meal at a time.

Dan Rose

Just passing through…

Many of you probably know about the blog site “Internet Monk”, but it has been a recent discovery of mine.  While it is not my intent to simply be a re-poster of the works of others, I am always delighted to share insights and resources that I think will be helpful. Today’s posting from the Internet Monk highlights concerns that are reflective of many who are engaged in ministering to pastors and their families.  See:  “If it seems like your pastor is crazy”

 

How do you feel when you have committed a ton of effort and time into making something happen, only to feel like you’ve come up short? My friend Glenn offers his personal insights on this very issue in today’s post from his blog “Road Report – Farmington Glenn” titled, “Nothing to Show”.

 

One more for this Monday! I have been a subscriber to Leadership magazine since its inception. More often than not, each issue is spot on with the trends I have run into in the church. The most current issue is on Transformation, and contains many good articles related to encouraging growth for church member and pastor alike. Here is one I found particularly enlightening, by John Ortberg : A Life to Die For.

 

Be challenged!