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How You May Be Killing Your Ministry…

broken heartNine years ago, I was on the path to success in ministry, but I was in danger of losing my fiancé. I was gaining the knowledge needed to pastor through seminary, but I was ill equipped in the art of relationships. At times, conflicts with my fiancé triggered issues of insecurity that manifested in either lashing out in anger or shutting down. It was easier to pretend that everything was fine and disengage, because I couldn’t articulate the root issue for my sensitivity– other than “I’m just so mad” or “This is unfair.” This often led to us arguing about superficial things and she almost broke it off.

Fortunately, we ended up going to a conference together called Emotionally Healthy Leader, and while the conference was geared towards fostering emotional health for pastors, it ended up saving our relationship. The conference helped me to understand that you can have leaders who are intellectual giants in biblical studies, yet complete emotional infants – not knowing how to deal with difficult emotions such as anger or grief. You could be a top-notch seminary scholar, and yet be completely untransformed in how to deal with things like criticism and other things that trigger your insecurities. Spiritual maturity should create emotional maturity.

EHSLogo1Emotional health is usually not considered as one of the top five desired characteristic among pastors, which I believe is a serious detriment to the pastor’s family and church family. A statistic shows that 45% of pastors have experienced depression or burnout to the point where they needed to take a break away from ministry. I’ve seen many pastors who are able to grow the church quickly but their emotional issues can crush the church just as quickly. This was true for me. While I was doing all the right things in ministry, my inability to express my emotions, communicate clearly, deal with conflict, manage stress and handle failure was impacting my leadership and relationship with my fiancé, and church members, and my personal joy in my work.

So why is this happening? I think there is a fundamental flaw in how we view our spiritual development and training among pastors. There is a heavy emphasis on biblical studies and knowledge – and that’s certainly needed! However, the standard of training for pastors can’t be limited to just head knowledge of the Bible—it also needs to encompass the development of pastors as a whole person. This includes providing tools to help pastors cope with stress, anger, conflict resolution, mental issues and setting good boundaries and limits. I only had one class in seminary on counseling and I wish I was given more tools and training on these topics because I now know personally just how liberating it could be not just in ministry but in marriage. I’m learning that pastor’s emotional intelligence (EQ) is just as important and impactful as their ability to teach the Bible.

14Feature_How_to_Be_an_Emotionally_Healthy_Leader_0101_260769495These are some books that have helped me in my emotional development. It’s my hope for you that you would read some (or all) of these books as the first step in this journey, and also discussing this topic with your friends and peers. In the context of my marriage and ministry, these books have helped me express my opinions, engage in healthy conflict, be contemplative about my own inner self, the importance of setting good boundaries, and learning to say no. These are critical spiritual issues that all Christians especially pastors need to incorporate as part of their spiritual walk.

 

Books:

  1. Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Pete Scazzero
  2. How People Grow by John Townsend and Henry Cloud
  3. Boundaries by John Townsend and Henry Cloud
  4. 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman

I believe that as the leader goes, the church goes. If our pastors are unable to wrestle with their emotions then how can we expect our church family to be any better? If our pastors work without limits and boundaries and don’t know how to balance work and family life, how can we expect our church family to learn from us? As pastors we have the opportunity to model spiritual and emotional maturity for our members, so that they can grow holistically. Emotional health and growth is something that needs to be done in community and relationship. A lot is riding on us as pastors so it’s important that we invest in the discipleship of our emotions.

 

 

 

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5 Comments

  1. Hey Pastor Sam,

    Nice post! Finally getting to reading them. I really enjoyed this one. Especially this quote:

    “you can have leaders who are intellectual giants in biblical studies, yet complete emotional infants – not knowing how to deal with difficult emotions such as anger or grief. You could be a top-notch seminary scholar, and yet be completely untransformed in how to deal with things like criticism and other things that trigger your insecurities. Spiritual maturity should create emotional maturity.”

    ^ This has clearly been seen through many “celebrity” pastors in recent times and is unfortunate, yet humbling to us as Christians and hopefully to their ministries as well.

    However, I do have a question about this quote:

    “There is a heavy emphasis on biblical studies and knowledge – and that’s certainly needed! However, the standard of training for pastors can’t be limited to just head knowledge of the Bible—it also needs to encompass the development of pastors as a whole person.”

    I agree with you (if this is what you are trying to convey) that other tools (i.e. books) are needed in order for us to understand things better. I believe books and other resources are at times necessary for one to understand the Bible as clearly and effectively as possible. But in the latter half of the quote above, it almost seems that you are alluding to the idea that the Bible does not “encompass the development of pastors as a whole person” and that it is not sufficient when it comes to the training of pastors and/or officers within the church, almost as if the development of the whole person cannot be fulfilled by Scripture alone. I firmly believe that when the Word is preached correctly and faithfully, the “whole person” will be developed in all areas of his or her life. Knowing you, I do not think you will disagree with that statement. And again, I do not disagree with what you are saying, if what you are saying is that other outside resources are important. But the Bible should be our standard, our one and only standard in which our world view is determined, nothing more, nothing less. In regards to training pastors, I believe that the Bible is sufficient (2 Timothy 3:16). Can you explain this quote further? Hope I am understanding you correctly! Much love Uncle.

    • Wow. You actually read my blogs. Awesome. Love it and love your comments.

      I do agree with what you’re saying. The Bible is all we need and I totally affirm 2 Tim. 3:16. I was referring more to the emphasis and learning outcomes from seminary on how they train and teach pastors. In my experience and understanding, seminary trains people in the Bible with facts, historical context, and all that fun stuff. That’s important and needed, but we don’t train pastors to see how the gospel trains the pastor holistically. God’s word transforms us emotionally and relationally, but this isn’t as emphasized or taught. We get one class of counseling in seminary but that’s it. The gospel transforms us completely and we need to make sure that seminary training for pastors includes that too. Does that make sense? Thanks for asking and love it! I look forward to reading your stuff…

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