Prescriptions for the epidemic

Used with permission from my article in Sharing The Practice: The International Quarterly Journal of the Academy of Parish Clergy. Autumn 2003. 


John M. Crowe, M.Div. D.Min.


 

I. The Epidemic.


Jim was weeping when a member of Focus on the Family’s Pastoral Care Line staff answered the phone. In between sobs, the all too familiar story unfolded. Multiple issues had turned into overwhelming stress. Stress had turned in burnout; burnout into despair and defeat. Jim, a talented and gifted pastor, was considering leaving the church for secular employment. In his devastation, he called wondering if all hope was gone. Was there a reason to continue? Calls like Jim's are all too common at Focus on the Family (London).


Every week, we hear of some US soldier(s) fallen in Iraq. However, hardly anyone reports on the epidemic of clergy health problems like Jim’s in the North American Church. For the last several decades, anywhere from 1,300-1,600 ministry leaders leave the church every month. Some of these leaders are pastors, associate pastors, youth pastors, Sunday school teachers, and more. Sometimes they become de-churched disciples of Christ. About 10% leave any kind of ministry completely. Some leave the church entirely. Only recently have we seen books published concerning the spiritual and emotional abused caused by such friendly fire within congregations.


One of the great tragedies of our day is the increase in forced pastoral resignations. Two of the leading causes of the crisis of clergy burnout, dropout, and kick-out involve conflict over who is in charge and the lack of unity in churches (Ross).


The director of the Virginia based, Ministry to Ministers, Dr. Charles Chandler, article, “Why is There Such an Epidemic of Incivility Toward Ministers?” shares not only why but also its impact on congregations. In his article, Chandler says, Dr. Charles Chandler, article, “Why is There Such an Epidemic of Incivility Toward Ministers?” shares not only why but also its impact on congregations. In his article, Chandler says,

Not only does the incivility damage ministers and their families, churches suffer in the process. Many experts believe that it takes an average of 10-15 years for a church to heal following the forced termination of the pastor. The spirit of the gospel is dampened and the Christian message suffers.


Some clergy are often guilty of unrealistic expectations upon the church and of unhealthy motivations for ministry that are neither biblical nor healthy. We can say the same of some churches whose projected responsibilities of clergy and their families are a prescription for burn out.


Unfortunately, the lay leadership and members of unhealthy churches desires the pastor to do their ministry instead of leading them in the ministry of all Christians. Such a passive church becomes an audience and not a body. Then the audience becomes the critic of the latest pastoral performance. Ogden confronts such an unhealthy attitude by stating “the biblical emphasis is not on the ‘omni competent’ pastor, but a ‘multi-gifted’ body” (75).


Unhealthy churches also frequently abuse their pastors by “cutting their salary or slicing away at their integrity with gossip” (Hansen 124). As Rediger bluntly states in his book, Clergy Killers,


The growing abuse is also a significant commentary on the mental and spiritual health of the church, for how the church treats its leaders reveals even more about the church than about the leaders. Only a sick and dying church batters its pastors. (20)


What are Christians doing about this epidemic? Are there prescriptions available to treat it?


II. What are denominations doing?


The Baptists are calling this problem their dirty little secret—a lack of honor for God and God’s ministers.


The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is making clergy health one of its top priorities.


Southern Baptists are addressing depression among the clergy.


Duke’s study on clergy health calls for a major change of outlook within local churches for clergy health to improve.


A United Methodist Clergyperson has started a mental health ministry. Read her article from The Circuit Rider “The Face of Depression.” by Rev. Susan Gregg-Schroeder See the resources available from Mental Health Ministries


Bob Wells reported in Duke’s study “Which Way to Clergy Health?” the following:


In the Episcopal Diocese of California, church officials have established guidelines setting the expected work week for clergy at no more than 45-50 hours, with a five-day work week and two full days off. The diocese's Clergy Wellness Commission has developed sample job agreements and health agreements that set out expectations about job duties, work hours, sick leave, vacation, and the steps that clergy will take to maintain their spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical well-being.



The agreements are part of a broader effort to make congregations see ministry as a shared task between clergy and laity. Rather than viewing pastors as the hired chaplain and service provider, healthy congregations should see themselves in mutual ministry with the clergy.


I rejoiced to discover that the Oklahoma Conference of the UMC is working for more than just longer pastoral tenures. They are encouraging churches to see the benefit of giving their pastors a six month paid sabbatical during a long term of pastoral ministry there. What a creative way of helping pastors and churches benefit from something The Book of Discipline says United Methodist clergy may do every seven years.


III. Betrayal and Respect.


Some of this epidemic in North America reminds me of the Scottish people in the movie “Braveheart.” My ancestors were the only people whom the Roman Empire could not conquer. They even built a wall to keep the Scots out. However, in the movie, many Scottish people died more from the betrayal of their nobles than from the British army. By the way, my ancestor, Robert the Bruce, did not betray William Wallace as portrayed in the movie. He in fact finished what Wallace began.


My Lutheran colleague in ministry and friend, Rev. Tom Fischer, wrote a very bold article concerning the stewardship of clergy and their families. In “Protecting And Investing God's Pearl--The Pastor,” he writes concerning pastors,


Let’s not take God’s "talents" and bury them in a hole of multiple dysfunctional congregational dynamics when opportunities for maximizing such gifts abound.” What does it say about the respect for this divine institution when denominational officials allow such betrayal to occur like the Scottish Nobles did their own people?


As Tom says in very intense language,


Certainly God’s servants deserve, as Paul indicated, . . . . . more respect than the "legendary" Rodney Dangerfield!! If the denomination and those placing pastors won't respect the worth of pastors, but send them to places of certain failure anyway, Is it any wonder that the congregations won't respect them either? After all, is it the congregation’s right to have a pastor—regardless of how they will treat him—or is it a privilege that God gives to a local expression of the Body Christ so that they can be mutually edified and grow together unto maturity?


Let’s stop casting our pearls--God's Called Pastors--"to the swine." Let’s use divine principles of stewardship in the stewardship of the divine call. Let’s not take God’s "talents" and bury them in a hole of multiple dysfunctional congregational dynamics when opportunities for maximizing such gifts abound.


Instead, let’s begin asking, "How would God invest these ministers—the precious pearls—in His church?" Are there churches toward which we ought to shake the dust off our sandals until they demonstrate repentance and genuine desire for healing? If we ask these basic question firsts, maybe addressing these questions would be one of the most important first steps toward congregational health we could take. Let’s treat the divine Office of the Ministry the way it’s meant to be treated—with a greater sense divine reverence and respect.


See also: A Sick Body


IV. Six Prescriptions.


Truly, pastoral ministry rotates on the axis of personal wholeness. This calls for you to grow first in your own personal well-being as pastor, spouse, and children. We can gain much by asking God to show you what needs to change in you first. What is your primary focus? What is hindering your holding to a biblical primary focus? See ("Motivation, Meaning, and Ministry")


A close study of Christian leadership helps one begin to understand your need as pastors to grow healthier yourself. Then you can developer leadership teams and  act as change agents for the sake of building churches focused on healthy church growth. In light of these observations, Rick Warren contrasts the skills needed for growing a church and those needed for building a healthy church.


The skills may not be all that different, but growing a healthy church depends on the personal character of the leader. It is possible for an unhealthy pastor to lead a growing church, but it takes a healthy pastor to lead a healthy church. You can’t lead people further than you are in your own spiritual health. (“Comprehensive Health” 22)


 1. Spiritual Life (Spirit-Soul-Body)


The Apostle Paul included various admonitions about Timothy’s own well-being as a leader of the Ephesian Church (1 Tim. 4:12-16; 6:11-16, 20; and 2 Tim. 1:6; 2:3-7, 22-26; 3:14-15; 4:2, 5). Also, the pastoral epistles express great concern for those selected to church leadership in light of their personal character, relationships at home, reputation outside of the church, and the spouse’s character. His concern for integrity, character and relationships is expressed to everyone in the congregations Paul wrote to as well. Such biblical concern for the individual living their Christian life by God’s grace in every arena of life addresses the circulatory system of the local church.


The Holy Spirit calls you to keep maturing in your intimacy with God through a growing devotional life (Curtis, Brent and John Eldridge). This priority helps keep you and your families focused on the Lord of the Church instead of on problems or popularity.


A growing spiritual life leads you to honestly face your dark side and empowers you to receive grace to overcome. This includes your “personal issues that may plague us in the exercise of our leadership” (Gary McIntosh and Sammuel Rima 9; Galloway, "Have You Been Broken"; "Have You Been Set"; Oates, Wayne; Pate, C. Marvin & Sheryl L. Pate; Martyn, Stephen; Semands, Steve; "Turn Your"). Clergy like martial artists must use much wisdom in dealing with issues related to power.


With the current emphasis on spirituality and given the increase of broken people in society today, postmodern people hunger for authentic spirituality in those who preach, and lead worship. For the sake of wholesome ministry leadership relationships, healthy worship, and holistic preaching, you will do well to examine your own inner drives. (see "Motivation, Meaning, and Ministry").


Thus, ask yourself questions, such as:


(1) What drives me?


(2) Why do I want to please God?


(3) Do I want to please God or do I want God to please me by doing it my way (Galloway, "Leadership Competency")?


(4) Am I a leader who operates out of a theology of the fall?


(5) Am I a leader who operates out of a theology of creation (Hunter, "Theory X")?


(6) Do I find my identity primarily in what I do as a pastor or in who I am in Christ (Galloway, "Great Leaders"; "God's Mission"; "Staffing")?


(7) Is my daily walk with Christ based on grace or works?


(8) Is God's love and approval of me enough (Semands)?


Being clear and biblical about what drives you as clergy and sets your values places you in a better position to lead. This happens when you find your own sense of identity, significance, and security in who you are in Christ and not in what you do as pastors (Anderson and Mylander 49-53; Anderson, Neil; "God's Mission"; Galloway, "Great Leaders"; "Posture in Leadership"; "Staffing"). The same is true for individual members of a pastor's family.


Sad to say but the American Dream might be keeping you from seeing that abundant life and eternal life in Christ are synonymous. In John 17:3, eternal life is defined as knowing God and his Son whom he has sent.  The next time your prayer life consisting of complaints about problems and demands for blessings ask yourself a question. How different do you sound than the prodigal son? Maybe there is a more grace filled answer to why God is not fixing your most painful problems and not showering you with blessings upon blessing? Is it because you did something wrong or you have failed to get something just right? Legalistic Christians living in the flesh instead of in the Spirit and judgmental friends like Job’s love to ask such a question with a pointing finger. (They fail to think that while they point one finger, four fingers point back to them.) Most of the time when God seems to be the most absent is the very situation God is using to wean you away from a focus anywhere but on being content with knowing God! Many years ago, the late Rev. Wade Goldston told me, “always remember, you are a Christian first and a pastor second.”


Your high visibility makes you vulnerable to all sorts of cancerous temptations. If you perform your pastoral calling only for personal gain, you are as valuable to the leadership team and to the church as a cancer cell is to a human body. Such diseases enter the body of Christ whenever you fall prey to various spiritual cancers such as winning or losing acceptance in the applause syndrome, one-upmanship or seeking to manipulate God through magical presumption.


Part of becoming more whole in Christ means working on pastoral integrity (Peterson, Eugene). Another part of a growing spiritual life also includes faithful physical exercise and intellectual development (Fit, Rediger).


Quotes to ponder:


Pastors are abandoning their calling for a focus on how to keep the customers happy. No wonder clergy morale is low…Many pastors are lusting after people’s approval. Today, more than ever, we need a carefully thought out theology of ministry. Either the path of least resistance or the path of faithfulness has pain. The first leads to burnout or anger and the other to redemptive pain (Hart, "Coping").


If you get caught in the doing mode, you fall into the comparison trap. In the doing mode, you will never find peace. The comparison game is sin. If you can build a few healthy relationships at the center of your life, you’ll have the emotional energy to minister to unhealthy people. If you don’t you will have trouble” (Galloway, "Great Leaders").


Your inner spirit will you to make you or break you in the ministry. Many pressures try to squeeze us into the negativeness around us. The person who is surrendered to God can be comfortable, and feel good about him/herself, and can be him/herself (Galloway, “Staffing and Teaming”).


Success is offering our best to God, and not being in competition with others. We are not responsible for others actions and attitudes. We are only responsible for our own actions and attitudes (“Ten Characteristics”).


 2 Mental and Emotional


Today, startling statistics abound concerning clergy health add-nauseam. While statistics don’t lie, but you can lie with statistics, they do not tell the whole story. Other issues contribute to the poor health of clergy, clergy spouse’s and their families. Too often clergy, their spouses and their families fail to heed God’s call to tend to their mental and emotional wholeness.


Is it is always the church’s fault? No. Very often it is not an either or situation but a both and.


Another part of the clergy health problem involves the breakdown of the home. London and Wiseman share the following startling information:


Now dysfunctional family relationships are so common that a high percentage of individuals in every congregation carry scars from a fractured childhood. They look to the church as their most convenient help. When churches ignore these pains in persons in their fellowship, the unresolved issues pop up in strange and unexpected ways. Like an acre of dandelions, the crop gets worse when ignored. (45)


Also, Carder et al. writes,


Since churches are made up of families, it only makes sense that they often operate exactly like the family-of-origin pattern of the dominant leader and/or of the congregation [denomination, conference, synod, diocese, district]. Many of us select the church system we do because of the unfinished business we carry from our family of origin. (18)


The dysfunctional issues of either clergy, spouses and/or their families sometimes express themselves as different dysfunctions behind various religious masks as well (Oates, Wayne C; Pate, Marvin and Sheryl L. Pate).


Conrad Weiser’s book, Healers: Harmed & Harmful, shares the following bleak description:


The literature about church professionals or congregations often presents health as the predominant condition and makes sickness or dysfunction the exception. The truth seems darker--in fact, the data indicates the reverse. As life-stage theoreticians have indicated over the last few decades, change--not stability—is the norm, and change moves toward dysfunction and disequilibrium, not toward health. (4)


If one-quarter to one-third of the clergy are at risk or operating at less than mature levels, then each congregation served by this portion of the professional population will remain in or move toward immaturity. Five to seven years are needed for a congregation to grow and heal after an inadequate ministry. If the average length of a ministry in one place is seven years or less, then at any one point in time as many as 60 percent of all parishes are dysfunctional or potentially so--no small systemic issue.


Mature pastors can spend most of their time cleaning up dysfunction and immaturity in parish after parish in an endless circle.  What clergy-person wants to undertake the task of establishing healthy functioning while knowing that this congregation has a two-out-of-three chance of becoming dysfunctional again? It is as if healthy pastors are window washers who create a clear vision for only brief periods of time until the glass becomes clouded and distorted again. (6)


Weiser’s book highlights the imperative need of all clergy to heed the call to mental and spiritual, and physical fitness. Otherwise, healthy pastors will continue cleaning up after an at-risk clergy person explodes like a time bomb.


A national church consultant once said that he noticed a lot of people attending seminaries to develop a new identity. There are many motives for going to a school of divinity or a seminary.


Certainly, seminaries and those responsible for the ordination process of their denomination need to help potential clergy. Many need help discovering their family of origin issues. Tests and observation will help detect any personality disorders. All these issues call for discipleship toward holy wholeness in Christ before ordination. Some very gifted and truly called people are extra grace needed folks who need small group and/or individual therapy to help them mentally and emotionally.


For example, a Foursquare Church pastor and author, Doug Murren who struggles with bi-polar (p 23). Some effective pastors struggle with ADD.


Some pastors like Murren deal with the challenges of a biologically based mental illness. Others deal with illnesses like depression following a traumatic experience(s) in their life. A useful book on this subject is Archibald Hart’s book, Coping with Depression In The Ministry and Other Helping Professions. Clergy suffer from depression more than twice as much as the general population. Many carry this burden secretly (see Many Pastors Carry Secret Burden Of Depressionfrom Charisma Online News Service. No longer online). Depression related to ministry is often at the heart of clergy and spouses quitting their marriages (see DEAR CHURCH! WE QUIT! Marriage and Ministry Depression ).


   3. Intimate Marriage and Family Life


God’s Word calls you to grow more intimate with your spouse and family. A healthy marriage is a priceless asset to all Christians, but particularly to clergy. Congregations who see the clergy loving their spouses feel more secure or less anxious than those who don’t.


Too many pastors find themselves drained either by unhealthy churches or by unhealthy over functioning. Unless you build a solid relationship with your spouse, family and close friends, you will not have the strength to minister to broken people or to unhealthy churches. As a recent study of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod commented,


Settling divisiveness in a fighting congregation takes a minimum of five years of “living hell.” Only a very few, strong, mature pastors can endure that much misery and turn the situation around (Klaas, Alan C. 59).


Some husbands and wives find it helpful to take a break from everything including children by getting away on a regular basis. It is wise to plan times with your spouse when your own emotional tank is not on empty. When was the last time you and your spouse went out on a date? How did you celebrate your last anniversary? Did you get out of “Dodge” for a romantic time along in a “Bed and Breakfast” with a Jacuzzi? Have you read a fine Christian book, Intimate and Unashamed?


4. Social Life.


You are also called to grow more intimate with your friends (Hayford 108). Having at least one Pauline-type friend who challenges your growth, some Barnabus type friends who encourage you, and several Timothy-type relationships with people who need your encouragement and mentoring forms a healthy dynamic. You dare not neglect your humanness as a person for your lasting effectiveness “will only be proportionate to [your] effectiveness in learning to live” (Hayford 27). If you do neglect your humanness, you will reduce your lasting effectiveness.


Quotes to ponder:


Some pastors need to get a life. Pastors need to live a balanced life” (Galloway, “Staffing and Teaming Together”).


“Pastors need close friends“ (“An Action Plan”).


Your maturing mental and emotional wholeness readied to deal with stress, your spiritual life growing in the knowledge of God and in the grace of Jesus Christ, and healthy relationships with your family as well as friends, provide you a very solid foundation for living and ministry.


Take these first four prescriptions very seriously and enjoy them as well.


     5. Pastoral family-parish relationships.


Your calling also involves healthy pastor, pastoral family-parish relationships. This includes both Christ like love and healthy boundaries. It also includes the unique call within the call that God gives each clergy person, spouse and family member.


Healthy pastors answer yes to David Hansen’s, “Do I really love the church I serve?” (33). An inner attitude of ambivalence will hinder an unhealthy pastor’s leadership of a church. Regardless of the source of such an inability to give oneself in love, be it selfishness, inner pain, or fear, such ambivalence will preclude bonding with their congregation. Such a sin of the spirit also weakens their bond with one’s family and increases the likelihood of falling into some sin of the flesh.


Hansen comments about pastor-church bonding that brings a new perspective to the relationship.


We don’t like to have to bond. I wonder if when in our frustration we say we dislike our congregation, what we are really saying is that we dislike the bond we have with them, or more particularly, the covenant bond God has called us to. When we think we are grumbling about our church, maybe we are grumbling against God.


When a church and a pastor do not bond, the church cannot grow—in numbers, in commitment to one another and to God, to mission, to worship, and to a deeper spirituality. (61)


Jesus does not call pastors to bond with killer churches that have a long history of lifting their hand against God’s anointed and despise the lordship of Christ (Hansen 112-123).


There are many good resources to help couples, families and children with issues related to boundaries. Boundaries impact all of our relationships. While not all relationships need mastery of The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense, some do.


 6. Boundaries and Self-differentiation.


Quotes to ponder:


Hurts in the ministry call for tougher skin. People are really not doing this to us, but they are taking their own stuff all out on us. We have to see beyond this and pay attention to our own inner spirit and such times. You can't afford self-pity in the ministry. Like a cut that needs to be kept clean from infection to heal, our emotional hurts and ministry must be kept clean to heal. As long as you blame others or have resentment, ill feelings, self-pity, you will not be healed. Take responsibility for your attitudes and actions. Stop rehearsing the hurt --face it and let go of it. Everyone with a very deep level of ministry to people has gone through much pain.


Overcome negative happenings in ministry by taking positive actions. No emotional health or relationship can exist without forgiveness. Dealing with hurts in ministry will either break you or make you.


Do not write or call people when you are upset with them or when your emotional tank is low. What renews   your emotional tank? When your emotions are down, you are more susceptible to temptations. People get into trouble when their adrenaline is down. Stop looking for ways to get an emotional fix (“An Action Plan”).


We have more dysfunctional people than ever before. Thus, be confident in who you are. Your self-esteem does not depend upon them. Don't allow yourself to overreact. Don't play their games. Set boundaries and limits. When you need to confront, do so immediately. Have realistic expectations of that person. Stop trying to change the difficult person in your lifetime. Don't take on responsibility for such sick people. Keep yourself from becoming the difficult person's slave. No is ok. If you allow such people to beat up on your emotional life, then let God lead you through your struggle with these difficult people so that you don't loose peace (Galloway, "How to Handle").


Pastors who have an overly extensive and exhausting schedule can conquer the tyranny of the urgent by setting boundaries on their use of time. Along with at least one day off a week, pastors may find it beneficial to go on a monthly twenty-four hour retreat. Pastors and others having difficulties with boundaries may find the insights of Family Systems theory helpful in growing more whole psychologically and interpersonally. Studies have found that female clergy are much better at setting and living by boundaries with congregations than men often are.


Pastors with a spouse or family member who has some chronic physical or mental illness or disability will find the insights of Family Systems theory useful in maintaining their focus for life and ministry. Often these are tragic problems that the pastor did not create, cannot fix and is not able to control. Such tragedy oftentimes opens new doors of ministry to those who are living with tragic pain in their lives. This is only possible through increased inner focus upon Jesus Christ as well as the fruit of self-control for the purpose of differentiation. As a result, the pastor’s ministry to others will increase. If not, the pain will destroy them and their ministry.


Therapists such as the late Murray Bowen popularized the application of the systems thinking to family systems therapy. The key concept in this theory is the differentiation of self. This concept means “to be in emotional contact with others yet still autonomous in one’s emotional functioning“ (Kerr, Michael and Murray Bowen 145). Without a mature differentiation of self, pastors can easily deceive themselves about being in better contact with the problems of others than is realistic. Pastors and others who lack it will experience difficulty in thinking, feeling and acting as individuals who are in contact but not controlled by others.


Such persons can maintain a high level of functioning even under great stress without focusing on others. Thus, they are not easily "infected" by the anxiety of others. This is possible because they have a high level of basic differentiation from their family of origin. Such emotional neutrality gives them the ability to be in emotional contact with difficult, emotionally charged parish problems but not feel compelled to control others, to "fix" the problem, or pretend neutrality by emotionally insulating themselves.


Self-differentiated persons can adapt to change without much alteration of their functional level. This is not true of poorly differentiated pastors or family members. Healthy pastors and others realize the danger of trying to control, rescue or "fix" the problems of poorly differentiated congregations who may murderously strike out against the pastor or family member. Such congregations do this when their anxiety level gets high enough.


A former student of Bowen, Edwin Friedman, pioneered the application of family systems theory to broader ecclesiastic “families” such as a synagogues and churches. He believed that all clergy work within three interacting emotional systems of the families within the church, the church as a family, and their own (Friedman 195). Given the similarity of each system, any unresolved problems in one can produce symptoms in the others.


Grasping this concept can contribute to a less stressful approach to pastoral leadership. The key to leadership, Friedman indicated,  “is not knowledge of technique or even of pathology, but rather, the capacity of the family leader to define their own goals and values while trying to maintain a non-anxious presence within the system” (Friedman 3). By understanding the application of family systems theory to the church, pastors can better “recognize how they may be unwittingly ‘snookered’ into unresolved problems in their parishioners’ personal families, or between factions in the congregational family itself, or into issues that could have been passed down in that emotional system for generations” (Friedman 196).


From this point of view, a pastor’s self-differentiation contributes more to church health than expertise or empathy (Friedman 3). This idea comes from the belief in the organic relationship between leading a family system to wholeness and the leaders’ ability to get themselves together (Friedman 221-222). Unfortunately, during times of anxiety, pastors will often find this difficult to accomplish because family systems work against the goal of differentiation. How? The more dependent leaders and church members will put forth much effort to triangulate the pastor away from differentiation.


As pastor and family members gain spiritual maturity or wholeness in Christ in both their attitudes and relationships, much fruit will blossom.


Any pastor who seeks by God’s grace to equip a church is called to love the local church as a family system and not just as individuals (Hansen 19). Such love should receive guidance by the internal boundaries of a clear theology of pastoral ministry.


Those lacking such boundaries live out the expectations of others. Rather than being proactive they become reactive. In addition, neurotic pastors tend to blame themselves and think that if they are good persons everything will improve. My colleague, Dr. Milton Lowe, once called this the battered pastor syndrome.


Overall, pastors like Jim and you can harness the fire of their calling by achieving balance in ministry (Headley). Furthermore your personal and family wholeness definitely influences the impact of other aspects of your ministry as well. While taking these seven prescriptions would not of protected Jim or even you from a deadly power struggle in the church you serve, they will keep you from burn out and a total loss of heart. These prescriptions will give you and your family the needed grace to fulfill Christ’s high calling of you. Then and only then, will you, unlike Jim, have the best opportunity for seeing a sick church become healthier without it killing you.


Works Cited


Anderson, Neil. Victory over the Darkness: Realizing the Power of Your Identity in Christ. Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1997.


Anderson, Neil and Charles Mylander. Setting your Church Free. Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1994.


Carder, Dave, et al. Secrets of Your Family Tree. Chicago: Moody, 1991.


Chandler, Charles. “Why is There Such an Epidemic of Incivility Toward Ministers?" The Servant Volume 6, Issue 3, July 2001.


The Servant is a periodic publication of Ministering To Ministers Foundation, Inc.


Curtis, Brent and John Eldridge. The Sacred Romance Drawing Closer to the Heart of God. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1997.


Ducklow, Paddy. DEAR CHURCH! WE QUIT! Marriage and Ministry Depression.


Elgin, Susan H. The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense. Dorset House Publishing Co Inc; Reprint edition, 1985.


Farhart, Scott. Intimate and Unashamed: God's Design for Sexual Fulfillment.


Fischer, Tom. “Protecting And Investing God's Pearl--The Pastor” Ministry Health Article 9.


Friedman, Edwin H. Generation to Generation: Family Process in Church and Synagogue. New York: Guildford, 1985.


Galloway, Dale. "Have You Been Broken to Bless?" Net Results. October, 1998.



----. "Have You Been Set Free to Lead?" Net Results. February, 1999.



----. "An Action Plan for Sharing Ministry together with lay people." Lecture to DM 816 Asbury Theological Seminary. Wilmore, KY. 15 Jan. 1998.


----. "Great Leaders and How Leaders Make It Happen." Lecture to DM 817. Asbury Theological Seminary. Wilmore, KY. 20 July 1999.


----. "How to Handle Criticism?" Lecture to DM 817. Asbury Theological Seminary Wilmore, KY. 21 July 1999.

----. "Staffing and Teaming together." Lecture to DM 816. Asbury Theological Seminary. Wilmore, KY. 14 Jan. 1998.


----. “Ten Characteristics of a Purpose Driven Leader.” Lecture to DM 816. Asbury Theological Seminary. Wilmore, KY. 12 Jan. 1998.


 ---. “Turn Your Failures into Stepping Stones.” Net Results July 1999. pg 15-18.


Gregg-Schroeder, Susan. “The Face of Depression.” Circuit Rider. January/February, 2003. Pg 4-6


Hansen, David. The Power of Loving Your Church: Leading Through Acceptance and Grace. Minneapolis: Bethany Fellowship, 1998.


Hart, Archibald D. Coping With Depression In The Ministry And Other Helping Professions.


Hayford, Jack. Pastor’s of Promise: Pointing to Character and Hope as the Keys to Fruitful Shepherding. Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1997.


The Holy Bible: The New International Version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1978.


Hunter, George G. "Theory X and Theory Y." Lecture to DM 832. Asbury Theological Seminary. Wilmore, KY. 20 July 1998.


Kerr, Michael. E., and Murray Bowen. Family Evaluation. New York: W.W. Norton, 1988.


Klass, Alan C. and Ms. Cheryl D. Klass. Clergy Shortage Study. conducted in November of 1999 by Mission Growth Studies for the Board of Higher Education of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod


London, H.B., Jr., and Neil B. Wiseman. Pastors At Risk. Wheaton: Victor Books, 1993.  


London, H.B. “Why Pastors Leave the Pastorate” Christian Counseling Connection 2003/Issue 1.


Christian Counseling Connection is a publication of the American Association of Christian Counselors Visit  Christian Counseling Connection


Martyn, Stephen. "What's Driving the Engine?" Lecture to DM 818. Asbury Theological Seminary. Wilmore, KY. 14 July 1998.


 ----. "God's Mission for Your Life." Lecture to DM 818. Asbury Theological Seminary. Wilmore, KY. 14 July 1998.


 ---. “Leadership Competency Issues.” Lecture to DM 818. Asbury Theological  Seminary. Wilmore, KY. 15 July 1998. 


 ----. "Posture in Leadership." Lecture to DM 818. Asbury Theological Seminary. Wilmore, KY. 15 July 1998.


McIntosh, Gary L. and Sammuel D. Rima. Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership: The Paradox of Personal Dysfunction. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1997.


Murren, Doug. Churches That Heal: Becoming a Church That Mends Broken Hearts and Restores Shattered Lives. West Monroe, LA: Howard Publishing, 1999.



Oates, Wayne E. Behind the Masks: Personality Disorders in Religious Behavior. Louisville: Westminster, 1987.


Ogden Greg. The New Reformation: Returning the Ministry to the People of God. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990.


Pate, C. Marvin and Sheryl L. Pate. Behind the Masks: Personality Disorders in the Church. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000.


Peterson, Eugene H. Working the Angels: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987.


Rediger, G. Lloyd. Clergy Killers. Louisville: Westminster, 1997.


 

----.Fit to Be a Pastor : A Call to Physical, Mental, and Spiritual Fitness. Louisville, KY: Westminster, 2000.


Ross, Michael. “Hundreds of Pastors Leave Their Ministry Each Month.” Charisma Online News Service. 26 Feb. 2001.


 

Semands, Steve. "Wrong Motives for Ministry." Lecture to DM 801. Asbury Theological Seminary. Wilmore, KY. 9 Jan. 1997.


-----. "Coping Patterns of Pastors." Lecture to DM 801. Asbury Theological Seminary. Wilmore, KY. 6 Jan. 1997


 

Warren, Rick. “Comprehensive Health Plan.” Leadership Journal Summer, 1997: pg. 22.


Weiser, Conrad. Healers: Harmed & Harmful. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1994.


Wells, Bob. “Which Way to Clergy Health?” from the Fall 2002 issue of Divinity, the alumni magazine of Duke Divinity School. Online


Willis, Charles. LifeWay executive addresses churches' 'dirty little secret' May 5, 1999.


 

Wounded Heroes: Southern Baptist ministers developed a program to address the toll of depression in their ranks.



  

The content of this article comes from my dissertation: “PREACHING FOR A WHOLE PERSON RESPONSE IN DEVELOPING A HEALTHY CHURCH.” Diss. Asbury Theological Seminary, 2001.

The contents are protected by copyright.


 John M. Crowe, M.Div, D.Min.



I. The Axis of Personal Wholeness.


Pastoral ministry rotates on the axis of personal wholeness. This calls for us to grow first in our own personal well-being as pastor, spouse, and children. We can gain much by asking God to show us what needs to change in us first. What is our primary focus? What is hindering my holding to a biblical primary focus?


There is a close connected between the character of the pastor and his or her family. In developing a healthy church in our day, the whole pastoral family is called upon to mature into the highest and best Christian black belts by God’s grace.



II. The Need.


Given the systemic place and impact of the pastor and his or her family upon a local church, their healthy development is very important to every subsystem within the family of God. The need for developing healthier pastors and pastoral families was communicated by the information from several sources quoted in


"A Sick Body" and. “Prescriptions for the Epidemic” The Lutheran research outlines various pastor and parsonage family health needs as does London and Neil Wiseman’s, Pastors at Risk, Conrad Weiser’s, Healers: Harmed & Harmful, as well as Rediger’s Fit to be a Pastor. Developing such pastoral and parsonage wholeness includes physical, mental, emotional, moral, relational, and spiritual fitness. (See "Soul Care and the Caregiver's Soul.")


Both Rediger and Brewer, in their writings, point clergy to the source of one of our biggest complaints. How many times has a lay person or older cleric heard a young pastor complain, ‘The church runs too much like a business.’


While the academic and functional aspects of pastoral ministry are often taught adequately in seminaries of both theological camps, the spiritual/theological formation and the development of a solid pastoral theology is too often neglected or assumed. Therefore, as the seminaries taught them, pastors led with a focus on competent functions. To add to the increase of dysfunctional relationships between a pastor, his or her family and a church, the local congregation measures their pastor’s effectiveness based upon such a bottom line business model. In my own denomination, United Methodist, such a C.E.O. business model is clearly reflected in the annual pastoral evaluation.


The UM General Board of Higher Education and Ministry’s Director of Supervision and Support Systems for the Section on Elders and Local Pastors, Arthur Gafke, cuts to the quick. His online article, Ministry Assessment: An Introduction, says the following:


Since the 1976 Book of Discipline introduced the word, “evaluation,” it has been used to apply to almost any comment or critique one person makes about another person. Evaluation of pastors has focused on rating how well or how poorly a pastor performs various functions, and for many churches the pastoral evaluation means telling the superintendent whether the committee has voted for the pastor to move or stay another year. The congregations rarely apply the same intense examination to the pastor/staff parish relations committee or other church leaders, and only occasionally do they evaluate the local church and pastor together.


Quite distinct from the setting apart of ordination which authorizes a pastor, this evaluative setting has tended to erode authority and undercut integrity. The result has been a shift in the pastoral office from call, trust, and authority, to professional service provider. Even while most clergy and churches continue faithful ministry, our systems of assessment have made such ministry increasingly difficult.


It is my understanding that other denominations with a stronger and much deeper heritage of a rich pastoral theology, like The Lutheran Church Missouri-Synod, do not practice such evaluations. However, that by itself does not keep their local church from operating like a business run by a person or persons whose egos Edge God Out!


Having learned to place a premium on human technique and control in pastoral ministry, local congregations learn this unhealthy business model from their pastoral leadership. This in turn creates unhealthy church operating from a functional business based on works of the flesh. It also unhealthy clergy who measure their professional and personal value entirely upon their functions and the tangible fruit their functions bring them. Surely, as the seminaries have gone, our local churches tended follow as their pastors have led them. Such a market-driven business model is unhealthy for not only the pastor’s relationships within the church, but also the pastor’s relationships within his or her family. Thus, materials written by Warren, Hayford, and others call for us pastors and our families to grow healthier first. We do so for the sake of developing a healthy congregation with healthy ministries for a hurting, broken world that is dying to know the truth to set people free.


    A. Spiritual Life (Spirit-Soul-Body)


Our first priority calls us to keep maturing in our intimacy with God through a growing devotional life (Curtis, Brent and John Eldridge). This helps keep pastors and their families focused on the Lord of the Church instead of on problems or popularity.


A growing spiritual life leads us to honestly face our dark sides. This includes our “personal issues that may plague us in the exercise of our leadership” (Gary McIntosh and Sammuel Rima 9; "Have You Been Broken"; "Have You Been Set"; Oates, Wayne; Pate, C. Marvin & Sheryl L. Pate; Martyn, Stephen; Semands, Steve; "Turn Your").


Thus, we ask ourselves questions, such as:


(1) What drives me?


(2) Why do I want to please God?


(3) Do I want to please God or do I want God to please me by doing it my way ("Leadership Competency")?


(4) Am I a leader who operates out of a theology of the fall?


(5) Am I a leader who operates out of a theology of creation ("Theory X")?


(6) Do I find my identity primarily in what I do as a pastor or in who I am in Christ ("Great Leaders"; "God's Mission"; "Staffing")?


(7) Is my daily walk with Christ based on grace or works?


(8) Is God's love and approval of me enough (Semands)?


Being clear and biblical about what drives us as pastors and sets our values places us in a better position lead as a pastor. This happens when we find our own sense of identity, significance, and security in who we are in Christ and not in what we do as pastors (Anderson and Mylander 49-53; Anderson, Neil; "God's Mission"; "Great Leaders"; "Posture in Leadership"; "Staffing"). The same is true for individual members of a pastor's family.


With the current emphasis on spirituality and given the increase of broken people in society today, postmodern people hunger for authentic spirituality in those who preach, and lead worship. For the sake of wholesome ministry leadership relationships, healthy worship, and holistic preaching, pastors might do well to examine their own inner drives. Our high visibility makes us vulnerable to all sorts of cancerous temptations. If we perform our pastoral calling only for personal gain, we are as valuable to the leadership team and to the church as a cancer cell is to a human body. Such diseases enter the body of Christ whenever we fall prey to a spiritual cancers such as winning or losing acceptance in the applause syndrome, one upmanship or seeking to manipulate God through magical presumption.


Part of becoming more whole in Christ means working on pastoral integrity (Peterson, Eugene). Another part of a growing spiritual life also includes faithful physical exercise and intellectual development (Rediger, G. Lloyd).


Quotes to ponder:


Pastors are abandoning their calling for a focus on how to keep the customers happy. No wonder clergy morale is low…Many pastors are lusting after people’s approval. Today, more than ever, we need a carefully thought out theology of ministry. Either the path of least resistance or the path of faithfulness has pain. The first leads to burnout or anger and the other to redemptive pain ("Coping").


If you get caught in the doing mode, you fall into the comparison trap. In the doing mode, you will never find peace. The comparison game is sin. If you can build a few healthy relationships at the center of your life, you’ll have the emotional energy to minister to unhealthy people. If you don’t you will have trouble” ("Great Leaders").


Your inner spirit will you to make you or break you in the ministry. Many pressures try to squeeze us into the negativeness around us. The person who is surrendered to God can be comfortable, and feel good about him/herself, and can be him/herself (“Staffing and Teaming”)

.

Success is offering our best to God, and not being in competition with others. We are not responsible for others actions and attitudes. We are only responsible for our own actions and attitudes (“Ten Characteristics”).


    B. A Solid Christian Faith


Our second priority involves watching over the wholeness of our spiritual life by making sure it is grounded in the health of our belief system. If a pastor and family fails to  refuses some part of the historic teachings of the Christian faith,  they and their congregation will lack soundness in that and related areas.


The Call Within The Calling.


The Apostle Paul included various admonitions about Timothy’s own well-being as a leader of the Ephesian Church (1 Tim. 4:12-16; 6:11-16, 20; and 2 Tim. 1:6; 2:3-7, 22-26; 3:14-15; 4:2, 5). Paul’s pastoral epistles also demonstrate the Christian character of a pastor in leading a church contributes to the biblical foundation model for a systemic, ecclesiological approach to church health. These epistles express great concern for those selected to church leadership in light of their personal character, relationships at home, reputation outside of the church, and the spouse’s character. The leadership qualities needed for developing healthy churches involve more than the intellectual knowledge of sound doctrine and the ability to teach it. The important qualifying criterion rotates on the axis of the integrity and wholeness of the pastor’s faith, life, and relationships.


The apostolic nature of the church means pastors preach and teach as those who stand under the apostolic authority of the New Testament. Such proclamation of Christian doctrine reminds pastors that we all stand under the authority of Scripture. The proclamation of apostolic doctrine is crucial to building a healthy church. Therefore, many denominations ask both those qualifying for ordination if they receive and profess the Christian faith as contained in the Bible. Those ordained to such an apostolic ministry are also expected to proclaim the historic faith of the Church and none other, defending it against all doctrines contrary to God’s Holy Word (UMBW 675-676). The commitment to proclaim the Word of God is repeated in the “Order for the Celebration of an Appointment” (UMBW 595).


The church’s confessional nature expects pastors to have a personal faith in Jesus Christ and be committed to Christ as savior and Lord. As the Temple of the Holy Spirit, Christ’s Church requires pastors to practice spiritual disciplines; to testify about God calling them into the ordained ministry; as well as give evidence of God’s gifts for ordained ministry and of God’s grace in their lives. As those called and given by Christ to the Church for an Office of Ministry, the Church anticipates pastors to equip the priesthood of believers for their ministry.


Christ’s Holy Church’s concern for holiness of heart and life within the body of Christ is reflected in the standards for persons qualifying for ordination, and in their ordination service. For example, since the days of early Methodism, candidates for full connection or ordination in an Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church and related denominations are asked questions like the following from John Wesley:


1. Have you faith in Christ?


2. Are you going on to perfection?


3. Do you expect to be made perfect in love in this life?


4. Are you earnestly seeking after it? (Book of Discipline214)


The 1981 catalog of Asbury Theological Seminary highlighted the importance of the doctrine and experience of entire sanctification, which it “believes is essential to a dynamic and successful Christian ministry (Asbury Seminarian 11, 21). Thus, United Methodist pastors are expected to completely dedicate themselves to the highest ideals of the Christian life.


“To this end, they agree to exercise responsible self-control by personal habits conducive to bodily health, mental and emotional maturity, integrity in all personal relationships, fidelity in marriage and celibacy in singleness, social responsibility, and growth in grace and in the knowledge and love of God. (Book of Discipline 184)


From the standpoint of historic Methodist Ecclesiology, a pastor’s maturity or lack of it, in God’s sanctifying grace will influence the health of a congregation where he or she pastors.


As responsible recipients of God’s grace, the diversity of the Church calls Christians to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace through Christian love. In the United Methodist Church, the “Order for the Celebration of an Appointment” focuses on the pastor’s commitment toward sustaining or equipping a congregation as a people of love (UMBW 595).


          a. The Nicene Creed.


Drawing from the NT teaching as a whole, the Ecumenical Creeds (The Apostles’ Creed and The Nicene Creed) guard us from separating our Christian faith concerning the Church from our beliefs about Christ and salvation. Whenever pastors and their families have strayed from biblical teaching concerning Jesus Christ and salvation, some very unhealthy teachings and churches have arisen.


        b. Jesus Christ.


Our belief about the person of Jesus Christ shapes the health of the pastor and his or her family. Jesus Christ is the cornerstone and the head of the Church. Whatever we believe about Christ as a person will shape our beliefs and approach to the Church. The relationship between Jesus Christ and the Church is symbolically illustrated in the marriage of a man and a woman. Thus, the nuclear family unit is like a little church. What a pastor believes about Jesus Christ and the Church will impact his or her marital and family relationships.


A fanatical stress on Jesus’ divinity first would lead to an otherworldly mystical or super-spiritual approach to personal and family health. It would not involve our participation very much at all beyond a solo focus on the individual’s relationship with God, gaining more biblical information or religious experiences, attending religious services, and constant spiritual naval gazing. It would also easily lead to holding to a Gospel of all promises, no conditions. It would lead a person to focus on what God accomplishes without us, rather than with us in response to God’s grace. Thus, pastor and his or her family would adopt the mistaken assumption that God only works through the intangible, invisible, and mystical realm of spiritual relationships. Often such a spiritual elitism develops into a super-spiritual view of the family that can be either anti-intellectual or anti-emotional.


Some become enthralled with religious experiences while others fall into bibliolatry. Both miss the biblical call to grow in our relationship with God so that we bear the fruit of good works in relationships with others. While oftentimes obese with spiritual nurture, their not being doers of the Word, but hearers only leads them to complain about not being fed. To often their individualistic view of salvation leads them not only to ignore the corporate nature of the family, but also to a simplistic view of sin and evil that fails to address its corporate nature as well.


A radical over emphasis on Jesus’ humanity would focus totally on our role in developing a healthy personal and family life. However, it would totally leave God out by ignoring or paying lip service to biblical formation and vital spirituality. It would easily lead to holding to a Gospel of the conditions related to the promises of God and the importance of our accomplishing great works for God. Such a focus would be motivated more by law than being empowered by God’s free grace. Thus, the pastor and his or her family would come to adopt the mistaken assumption that somewhere in the Bible it says ‘God helps them that help themselves.’ Very often such an overemphasis on human works develops into a secular view of the family that claims all marital and family problems are best treated by human insights solely from business, sociology, and psychology--like systems theory. Such families usually become hotels where people feel driven to do the Lord’s work while forgetting a vital relationship with the Lord of the work and with each other.


The biblical approach as reflected in the Nicene Creed recognizes the unity Jesus’ divinity and humanity. This would lead people to hold together both the divine side and the human side of a pastor’s personal and family health. God’s grace, the motivation of Christian love, the empowering of the Holy Spirit, and the involvement of our response by God’s grace help us hold together the natural and the supernatural aspects of pastor’s personal and parsonage life.


        c. Salvation.


Biblical principles of pastoral and parsonage health are reflected in our beliefs concerning salvation, which emerge from our beliefs concerning Jesus’ mission. Whatever we believe about Christ’s mission will shape our beliefs and approach not only to the Church but also to the family.


Simply and profoundly, the Nicene Creed summarizes the Bible’s teaching concerning salvation. The Creed says that our salvation is in and through Jesus Christ who died and rose for us. As Ephesians 2:8,9 says as well, we are saved by grace through faith which itself is a gift of God’s grace and not by works lest we boast that somehow we earned salvation.


Therefore, how pastor and family members view the doctrine of salvation will influence their approach to personal and parsonage health. A biblical, grace based understanding of salvation and our response empowered by God’s free grace leads the pastor and family members to both seek God and trust God in following biblical principles of personal and family health.


A view of salvation that does not involve our response at all would lead to a passive waiting for God to make them individually or their family as a whole healthy by a sovereign act of grace alone.


A view of salvation emphasizing human free will more than God’s free grace would lead a pastor and parsonage family to work as if it all depended on them. Yet they would also pray as if personal and family health all depended on God. In this view, the pastor and others family members try to do too much. A view of salvation focusing on human free will alone would lead a pastor and or parsonage family into doing and encouraging church activities without any prayer or biblical/theological discernment. Thus, the spiritual dynamic of the pastor’s and parson family’s health is lost as people build marriage and family life in fleshly strength, will power, and insight.


The Nicene Creed also summarizes the doctrine of the Church for us by speaking of “one holy catholic and apostolic church.” Each of these traits of Christ’s Church informs us about some aspect of pastoral and parsonage family health.


Christ’s Church is both apostolic and confessional. When Peter confessed Jesus Christ as the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus replied, “on this rock, I will build my church” (Mtt. 16:18). Following Jesus’ death and resurrection, he told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit to endow them with power in order for them to be his witnesses and make disciples of all nations. God builds the church as the temple of the Holy Spirit upon the witness of the apostles to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ along with people’s confession of Christ as the risen Lord and Savior. Another reason the Church is called apostolic is due to its being under the apostolic authority dwelling in the New Testament. Thus, a pastor’s Christian wedding ceremony and the baptism of his or her children reminds the parsonage family of standing under the authority of Scripture.


Although the Church is composed of a wide range of people, it is one in Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit. The constitutions of many denominations state its openness to people of all ages, nations, and races. Such statements reflect both the diverse unity and catholic nature of the Church worldwide as well as locally. The Communion service reminds a congregation of its foundation—the love of God displayed in Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection. The service also reminds congregations of their mission—to be the body of Christ for the world. Some Communion service asks for the Holy Spirit to make the congregation one with Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry to all the world. Very often, as a church participates in a communion service, a deeper love for God and each other develops. A pastor and family who really believe this will relate with a wide range of people as Jesus did. They will related both personally and as representatives of Christ’s church to people of all ages, nations, races, and Christian denominations.


As the temple of the Holy Spirit, the body of Christ—the Church was founded upon the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is her ascended and returning head. Given the spiritual and organic relationship of the Church with Jesus Christ, many membership rituals ask for a commitment from a new member to faithfully participate in the church’s ministries by their prayers, their presence, their gifts and their service. Keeping these commitments is seen as a means of spiritual growth in faithful Christian discipleship and participation in the priesthood of believers. Pastors and their families will do well if they remember that they are called to be Christians first and their roles second. They will understand Christian baptism as symbolizing one’s ordination into the ministry or priesthood of all believers.


Within the unity of the Spirit and the diversity of the Church, each Christian congregation is blessed with various spiritual gifts by the Holy Spirit to continue Christ’s ministry in the world. To accomplish such a ministry through various ministries, God not only gives individual spiritual gifts to the church, but he also calls persons into various offices of full time ministry to equip others for their ministry.


As a body of Christ --the priesthood of believers, we do not minister in our own strength, but by the empowering of the Holy Spirit. The pastor and family will recognize not only their unity in Christ but also their diversity in terms of both gifts and calling. Such callings are fulfilled by God’s grace through the power of the Holy Spirit. If the pastor and his or her family is going to be an effective witness today, we must recapture what the Bible means to live in the Spirit.


H. Orton Wiley states in volume 3 of his Christian Theology that “another aspect of catholicity is that which regards the church as militant and triumphant. The church militant is the one body waging war with principalities and powers” (115). Although the Church on earth is militant, Richard Taylor states in his Beacon Dictionary of Theology,


The church is also both impregnable and vulnerable. While the “gates of Hades” cannot prevail against the Church, it can be contaminated and compromised from within—by sin, by false doctrine, by worldly alliances. (114)


The vulnerability of the Church is also true of the parsonage family as it is every Christian home. It constantly calls for Christians to watch over one another in love as family members struggle with imperfect moral behavior and imperfect personal character.


Closely related to the diverse unity of the Church is its holy nature and calling. While set apart by God’s grace as disciples of Jesus Christ, the New Testament also calls for the Church to be a holy people. Thus, the not only is the body of Christ justification-based but also sanctification-directed. Jesus’ Great Commission instructs us first to seek to bring all people to faith in Christ and then to life of obeying all Christ taught. Holiness or sanctification to church health for those whom God calls and the church ordains to an Office of Ministry. The biblical call to holiness applies to all Christian families as well as to the pastor and his or her family.


As pastor and family cooperate with God’s grace in developing a whole family system in Christ, they will base it upon sound Christian teaching. If a family member refuses biblical teaching, the family will lack soundness to that degree. This lack of soundness will show itself in either unloving relationships, lack of harmonious teamwork, underdeveloped personal and family ministries, or deficient individual wholeness. Working on unresolved personal pastoral and parsonage family health issue will involve both small group meetings as well as one on one discipleship.


The Church like the Christian home of the pastor as well as all Christians belongs to Jesus Christ. It does not exist for itself or by its own resources. Since Jesus Christ died on the cross for everyone, the invitation of the Church to salvation and Christian discipleship is open to all people. Many times such an invitation to whosoever will comes through our Christian families. We don’t work on our own health to become whole for ourselves. We seek God’s grace to help us get ourselves together so God can work through us to help others come to wholeness in Christ.


C. Intimate Marriage and Family Life


Our third priority includes growing more intimate with our spouses and families. Therefore, strive for a healthy marriage which is a priceless asset to one’s pastoral ministry ("An Action Plan"; God's Mission"; "Great Leaders"; Hayford, Jack 108; Walmsley, Roberta and Adair Lummis).


Quotes to ponder:


"A pastor's marriage needs to be number one and then function out of there” (“Influencing the Influencers”).


Take vacation time with kids and with just your wife. Sometimes couples need to get away from the church and the kids every couple of months to do something fun.


Pastors need to always be accessible to one's spouse and kids.


Money cannot make ministry. Money only frees people up to do ministry (“Staffing and Teaming”).


Plan times with your spouse when your emotional tank is not empty.


If the congregation sees their pastor and wife loving each other, they feel secure” (“An Action Plan”).


Too many pastors find themselves drained either by unhealthy churches or by unhealthy over-functioning. Unless you build a solid relationship with your spouse, family and close friends, you will not have the strength to minister to broken people or to unhealthy churches.


As a recent study of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod commented,


Settling divisiveness in a fighting congregation takes a minimum of five years of “living hell.” Only a very few, strong, mature pastors can endure that much misery and turn the situation around (Klaas, Alan C. 59). 



See also


DEAR CHURCH! WE QUIT! Marriage and Ministry Depression


Review. of Healthy Clergy, Wounded Healers: Their Families, Their Ministries , by Roberta Chapin Walmsley and Adair Lummis (from the "Ministry Health Newsletter" MH Article No. 334. )


D. Social Life.


A fourth priority includes growing more intimate with our friends (Hayford 108). Having at least one Pauline-type friend who challenges our growth, some Barnabus type friends who encourage us, and several Timothy-type relationships with people who need our encouragement and mentoring forms a healthy dynamic. We dare not neglect their humanness as persons for our lasting effectiveness “will only be proportionate to [our] effectiveness in learning to live” (Hayford 27). After this priority follows the unique call within the call that God gives each pastor and member of the pastoral family.


Quotes to ponder:


“Some pastors need to get a life. Pastors need to live a balanced life" (“Staffing and Teaming Together”).


"Pastors need close friends " (“An Action Plan”).


E. Pastoral family-parish relationships.


A fifth priority involves healthy pastor, pastoral family-parish relationships. This includes both Christ like love and healthy boundaries.


Healthy pastors answer yes to David Hansen’s, “Do I really love the church I serve?” (33). An inner attitude of ambivalence will hinder an unhealthy pastor’s leadership of a church. Regardless of the source of such an inability to give oneself in love, be it selfishness, inner pain, or fear, such ambivalence will preclude bonding with their congregation. Such a sin of the spirit also weakens their bond with one’s family and increases the likelihood of falling into some sin of the flesh.


Hansen comments about pastor-church bonding that brings a new perspective to the relationship.


We don’t like to have to bond. I wonder if when in our frustration we say we dislike our congregation, what we are really saying is that we dislike the bond we have with them, or more particularly, the covenant bond God has called us to. When we think we are grumbling about our church, maybe we are grumbling against God.


When a church and a pastor do not bond, the church cannot grow—in numbers, in commitment to one another and to God, to mission, to worship, and to a deeper spirituality. (61)


Jesus does not call pastors to bond with killer churches that have a long history of lifting their hand against God’s anointed and despise the lordship of Christ (Hansen 112-123).


Quotes to ponder:


Hurts in the ministry call for tougher skin. People are really not doing this to us, but they are taking their own stuff all out on us. We have to see beyond this and pay attention to our own inner spirit and such times. You can't afford self-pity in the ministry. Like a cut that needs to be kept clean from infection to heal, our emotional hurts and ministry must be kept clean to heal. As long as you blame others or have resentment, ill feelings, self-pity, you will not be healed. Take responsibility for your attitudes and actions. Stop rehearsing the hurt -- face it and let go of it.


Everyone with a very deep level of ministry to people has gone through much pain. Overcome negative happenings in ministry by taking positive actions. No emotional health or relationship can exist without forgiveness. Dealing with hurts in ministry will either break you or make you.


Do not write or call people when you are upset with them or when your emotional tank is low. What renews your emotional tank? When your emotions are down, you are more susceptible to temptations. People get into trouble when their adrenaline is down. Stop looking for ways to get an emotional fix (“An Action Plan”).


We have more dysfunctional people than ever before. Thus, be confident in who you are. Your self-esteem does not depend upon them. Don't allow yourself to overreact. Don't play their games. Set boundaries and limits. When you need to confront, do so immediately. Have realistic expectations of that person. Stop trying to change the difficult person in your lifetime. Don't take on responsibility for such sick people. Keep yourself from becoming the difficult person's slave. No is ok. If you allow such people to beat up on your emotional life, then let God lead you through your struggle with these difficult people so that you don't loose peace ("How to Handle").


Pastors who have an overly extensive and exhausting schedule can conquer the tyranny of the urgent by setting boundaries on their use of time. Along with at least one day off a week, pastors may find it beneficial to go on a monthly twenty-four hour retreat. Pastors and others having difficulties with boundaries may find the insights of Family Systems theory helpful in growing more whole psychologically and interpersonally.


Pastors with a spouse or family member who has some chronic physical or mental illness or disability will find the insights of Family Systems theory useful in maintaining their focus for life and ministry. Often these are tragic problems that the pastor did not create, cannot fix and is not able to control. Such tragedy oftentimes opens new doors of ministry to those who are living with tragic pain in their lives. This is only possible through increased inner focus upon Jesus Christ as well as the fruit of self-control for the purpose of differentiation. As a result, the pastor’s ministry to others will increase.


Therapists such as the late Murray Bowen popularized the application of the systems thinking to family systems therapy. The key concept in this theory is the differentiation of self. This concept means “to be in emotional contact with others yet still autonomous in one’s emotional functioning“ (Kerr, Michael and Murray Bowen 145). Without a mature differentiation of self, pastors can easily deceive themselves about being in better contact with the problems of others than is realistic. Pastors and others who lack it will experience difficulty in thinking, feeling and acting as individuals who are in contact but not controlled by others.


Such persons can maintain a high level of functioning even under great stress without focusing on others. Thus, they are not easily "infected" by the anxiety of others. This is possible because they have a high level of basic differentiation from their family of origin. Such emotional neutrality gives them the ability to be in emotional contact with difficult, emotionally charged parish problems but not feel compelled to control others, to "fix" the problem, or pretend neutrality by emotionally insulating themselves.


Self-differentiated persons can adapt to change without much alteration of their functional level. This is not true of poorly differentiated pastors or family members. Healthy pastors and others realize the danger of trying to control, rescue or "fix" the problems of poorly differentiated congregations who may murderously strike out against the pastor or family member. Such congregations do this when their anxiety level gets high enough.


A former student of Bowen, Edwin Friedman, pioneered the application of family systems theory to broader ecclesiastic “families” such as a synagogues and churches. He believed that all clergy work within three interacting emotional systems of the families within the church, the church as a family, and their own (Friedman 195). Given the similarity of each system, any unresolved problems in one can produce symptoms in the others.


Grasping this concept can contribute to a less stressful approach to pastoral leadership. The key to leadership, Friedman indicated,  “is not knowledge of technique or even of pathology, but rather, the capacity of the family leader to define their own goals and values while trying to maintain a non-anxious presence within the system” (Friedman 3). By understanding the application of family systems theory to the church, pastors can better “recognize how they may be unwittingly ‘snookered’ into unresolved problems in their parishioners’ personal families, or between factions in the congregational family itself, or into issues that could have been passed down in that emotional system for generations” (Friedman 196).


From this point of view, a pastor’s self-differentiation contributes more to church health than expertise or empathy (Friedman 3). This idea comes from the belief in the organic relationship between leading a family system to wholeness and the leaders’ ability to get themselves together (Friedman 221-222). Unfortunately, during times of anxiety, pastors will often find this difficult to accomplish because family systems work against the goal of differentiation. How? The more dependent leaders and church members will put forth much effort to triangulate the pastor away from differentiation.


As pastor and family members gain spiritual maturity or wholeness in Christ in both their attitudes and relationships, much fruit will blossom.


Any pastor who seeks by God’s grace to equip a church is called to love the local church as a family system and not just as individuals (Hansen 19). Such love should receive guidance by the internal boundaries of a clear theology of pastoral ministry.


Those lacking such boundaries live out the expectations of others. Rather than being proactive they become reactive. In addition, neurotic pastors tend to blame themselves and think that if they are good persons everything will improve. My colleague, Dr. Milton Lowe, once called this the battered pastor syndrome.


Overall, pastors can harness the fire of their calling by achieving balance in ministry (Headley). Furthermore pastoral and family wholeness definitely influences the impact of other aspects of a pastor’s ministry as well. Therefore, for the pastor and family to stay healthy and have the best opportunity for seeing a church to become healthy, let us head Christ's call to mature by his grace to the highest and best he calls us to.


F. The Pastoral Family In Ministry and Martial Arts


Following the events of September 11th, the interest in martial arts increased. I say this because of the increase in orders from martial arts catalogs since that date made Christmas shopping even more difficult. Our boys and I have been learning Taekwondo since November of 2000.  Learning this new sport inspired me to write some reflections upon TKD and Christianity. Like a pastoral family and a church our first Sabum Nim 's (instructor’s) whole family was involved in helping students at our Do Jang.


All beginners in TKD receive a white belt. Like salvation, it is a gift. Like baptism, it identifies you as a martial artist. The journey to the first-degree black belt and beyond is very much like maturing as a disciple of Jesus Christ. Just like the first three belts in TKD, a person who is the elementary level of Christian discipleship feeds on milk. As one grows through the remaining intermediate and advanced belts, he/she matures in both personal character and ability as a martial artist. Similarly, as a disciple of Jesus Christ feeds on meat they grow closer to Christian adulthood and are able to teach others. The key ingredient in both Christian discipleship and taekwondo is the character of the Sabum Nim (instructor).


During his earthly ministry, Jesus spent three years training his future apostles. In Taekwondo, it takes about three years to produce a black belt that is also a leader. Likewise, seminary’s hope there graduates are black belts upon graduation. Even more so, they also desire for their graduates to mature by God’s grace beyond being first degree black belts. Thus, the image of the pastor as a church’s Sabum-Nim highlights the importance of his or her character.


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The content of this article comes from my dissertation: “PREACHING FOR A WHOLE PERSON RESPONSE IN DEVELOPING A HEALTHY CHURCH.” Diss. Asbury Theological Seminary, 2001.

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