No one knows the mix of feelings and emotions that are behind the scenes in a pastor’s mind other than a pastor or perhaps their spouse. Sometimes, more often than not, these feelings and emotions are not positive or healthy; but certainly most all the time, these span a distance of extreme feelings of joy and self-worth to a very low tone of defeat and regret.
As the old saying goes, “it takes one to know one.” I can reverberate having filled the shoes of pastor myself for better than 30 years. I know what those highs and unfortunately the lows are like. Ultimately, I am always comforted in knowing that God, who is continuous and unfailing in His love for His shepherds is the common denominator bringing peace and solitude no matter what my experience and burden is from day to day.
You see, pastors many times become isolated on their own island. This may seem strange as most of the time they have so many people all around them, all of whom are appreciated and loved. Pastors are the most dedicated and loving people I know who will be there for you through thick and thin, even when no one else will.
But sometimes, having poured out their hearts and souls into others, the pastor feels a mental, physical, and even spiritual vacuum space inside. The pastor will give of themselves until there is nothing left inside, jeopardizing their own livelihood and survival. Trust me, it is easy to fall into that and be consumed by helping others. It can even come to the point after a long period, that you don’t sense the gaping hole inside you because you are so focused on helping fill in the hole in others’ lives.
Pastors Need Support
Over the last several years, I have felt the Holy Spirit calling me to support other pastors. I think so many times of the story of Moses who stood with his staff raised high over the children of Israel when they were in battle. (Exodus 7) According to scripture, the Israelites would begin to lose their advance when Moses lowered his tired arms; but as long as he kept the staff raised high, they would progress. To remedy, the people around Moses came in to support his arms propping them up so the children of Israel would prevail. There’s a sermon in that that I love to preach from time to time! You see, pastors need people and support especially in such a day and time as this where there is extensive need in our communities.
It is necessary and of upmost importance for a pastor to have parishioners, but a pastor also needs a friend, one who is not under their care to be able to share openly. I know many times that person can be our spouse, but due to confidential information, a pastor doesn’t feel comfortable to share with their spouse and certainly not anyone else in the congregation. Therefore, if we don’t have someone to be our counsel, we hide it inside, and therein begins the problem. There usually is no better confidant than another pastor who shares in the same walk.
Cared for While Leading
Two years ago, God opened a door for me to begin to manifest what He was preparing my heart to do. Bishop Lynn Thrush invited me to sign up for specified training with Dr. Bill Beachy and Ashland Theological Seminary for a “Thriving in Church Ministries” course. This was the first step in Bishop Lynn’s vision for a program called “Cared For While Leading,” a pastors’ community to support each other. Those of us who completed the course would guide, organize, and lead a cohort of other pastors to support each other mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
My experience thus far in leading our pastors’ group has been phenomenal! I have seen pastors with many years in the ministry open their hearts and share the depths lurking therein. I have seen new and young pastors who are just now coming to the “brick wall” point lean upon the encouragement and advice of the older pastors. When the group comes to a spiritual moment of transparency and connection, then God can work, and what happens then is just wonderful!
If we can focus on recovering and renewing our pastors, then all of the church will benefit just like when the Israelites prevailed when they helped relieve Moses. My heart will forever be for the pastors who give their all no matter what and will be there for the people that God has placed under their watch.
To any pastor reading this: if I can ever be of assistance to any of you, please feel free to reach out to me: firstname.lastname@example.org