depression

The issue of mental health and Christians is finally getting some attention. Among the Christians who have challenges, many pastors struggle with depression. We hear too frequently about a pastor committing suicide. And many wonder how such a tragedy could happen to someone whose life was committed to serving the Lord.

I love pastors. Indeed I converse with pastors via a variety of means every day. I know many of them are struggling. Many of them are depressed. And, sadly, many of them are reticent to say anything about their depression lest they be viewed as unfaithful to God and unable to help others.

Possible Issues

I noted in an earlier post some of the issues that may cause depression or at least exacerbate it among pastors. While not all of them are unique to pastors, they are certainly pervasive among these servants of God.

  • Spiritual warfare. The Enemy does not want God’s servants to be effective in ministry. He will do whatever it takes to hurt ministers and their ministries.
  • Unrealistic expectations. The expectations and demands upon a pastor are enormous. They are unrealistic. But if one person’s expectations are not met, that person can quickly let the pastor know that he is a failure.
  • Greater platforms for critics. In “the good old days,” a critic was typically limited to telephone, mail, and in-person meetings to criticize a minister. Today the critics have the visible and pervasive platforms of email, blogs, and social media such as Facebook and Twitter.
  • Failure to take time away from the church or place of ministry. Workaholism leads to burnout. Burnout leads to depression.
  • Marriage and family problems. Too often pastors neglect their families as they care for the larger church family.
  • Financial strains. Many pastors simply do not have sufficient income from the churches they serve. That financial stress can lead to depression. Some pastors do not know how to manage the money they do have, leading to further financial strain.
  • The problem of comparison. Every pastor will always know of a church that is larger and more effective. Every pastor will always know of another pastor who seems more successful. The comparison game can be debilitating to some pastors.

Some Thoughts for Struggling Pastors

Pastors are often told that they need to stay in good physical health. Indeed, I documented my own struggle with obesity in a recent post. The message of good physical health does not need to wane.

But pastors also need to guard their mental health. Unfortunately, too many pastors have been unwilling to share their plight. Allow me to offer a few thoughts for both pastors and the congregants who love these servant leaders.

  • You are not alone. To the contrary, the problem is pervasive. I recently cited a study that shows depression among pastors to be higher than that of the general populace. Pastors should not think they are the outliers. There are many in this company of fellow strugglers.
  • You need not be ashamed. Mental illness is just that—it is an illness. If we have cancer, we freely acknowledge our physical illness. Pastors should not be ashamed to say they have a mental illness.
  • Get help. Get trusted recommendations of professionals who can help you. Most of the time, someone will also advise you to see a medical doctor to see if there are physiological reasons for your struggle. Others will counsel you about seeing qualified persons for those struggling with depression or other mental health issues.
  • Make the recommended changes. Once struggling pastors get help from professionals, they will be advised about next steps. Listen to them. Heed their advice. Make the necessary changes.

We Are Available

My team and I are not professionals in this area. We readily admit we are not equipped to help with some of the more serious needs pastors have both emotionally and mentally.

But we also realize some readers who really need help may be visiting this blog. We want to be available to get you help. Please let us know. We will do our best to get you help. Just email Jonathan.Howe@LifeWay.com. He will work with our team to find you the help you need.

Thank you for serving Christ and His churches, pastors. Very few people outside the pastoral ministry world understand all you do and all you experience. I hope we can minister to you as well. You deserve nothing less.

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Comments

  1. AC says

    This issue is very close to my heart because I have been there. 15 years ago I fell into depression pastoring a church with severe issues. I ultimately was forced to resign. It took a long time to come back. And there has been a fair amount of judgmental attitudes to deal with along the way. There is still some, enough to keep me a little anonymous with this post
    Because being forced to resign or seeing a church you pastor split feels like a personal failure AND failing God, pastors who are in crisis, which seems to be most pastors at some time, leaves you very isolated. You do not feel like you can even go to God because you failed Him too. Other pastors shun you fearing I guess it may rub off on them.
    Any pastor who fails to take time away (days off and ALL vacation), spend time with family and have some other interest apart from ministry are very vulnerable. Ministry success also leaves you more vulnerable than you think because people put you on such a high pedestal if you fall off you WILL get hurt.
    Pastors with more realistic personal expectations who also deal with their critics and have a support system outside of the church will do the best. Pastors are more like Spiderman than Superman. God can use us to do great things for His glory. But our alter ego is more like the introspective Peter Parker than the confident Clark Kent. And so I believe we are more vulnerable to depression than those in other vocations.

    • Randy says

      God bless you brother. I’ve been there too. Never really made it back yet, but my heart aches with you. You are indeed not alone. Not only is Christ there in the middle with you, but others share your experience.

    • Doug says

      I too have experienced this. After about 36 years in the pastorate, working from can to can’t and going at the “whims” of “some” unreasonable members. Most , were very thoughtful & realized the demands of the Ministry. But it only takes a few who feel they are God’s mouthpiece to “spoil the vine.” Praise God, I’ve fully recovered after 3 years, but I’ve learned a very important word…NO (lovingly). If they do not understand! you are better off without them. Jesus urged His Disciples to “come apart and rest” and so should we regularly.

    • Mark Dance says

      Dr. Rainer has asked me to help keep this important conversation going, which is very near to his heart. He will be leading a previously scheduled LifeWay retreat with his Executive Leadership Team. I too am a pastor who had to wrestle with the stigma of “clinical depression,” while simultaneously fighting to overcome it and lead a church. With the help of a supportive wife, doctor, clinical therapist and church family, I was able to walk through the fog of depression in about a year’s time. My biggest step was to ask for help. The very fact that each of you is bravely posting your struggles and ideas about mental health shows how far we have come in dealing with it head on. Please keep sharing!

  2. Phil Wilson says

    Great article. I have been blessed to be fairly resilient in this area. That said, my wife suffers from clinical depression and well as bipolar disorder and requires frequent hospitalization. (She is hospitalized as I write.) Therefore, I understand the stigma and difficulties faced with ministering while dealing with these issues. I made the decision years ago to be up front and open with our struggles, and while some have a difficult time understanding, most try.

    The biggest challenge within the church is battling the fallacy that you can “cheer someone up” or boost their morale when there is often a chemical imbalance in play. Not every problem has a pharmaceutical solution of course; but for many medication and professional therapy do help.

    Prayer and a loving heart towards sufferers and their families cannot be stressed enough. People within and without ministry are hurting. I believe there is a tremendous untapped well of ministry opportunity to help those that suffer from a variety of emotional conditions, as well as the families of those individuals. We are all broken vessels in some way; our churches need to be places where Christ and His body can offer a healing and compassionate touch.

    • Mark Dance says

      I applaud you Phil for encouraging church leaders to seek help from the medical and psychological fields, as well as the healing body of Christ. Jesus reminded us of the importance of mental health when He told us to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your MIND, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30)

  3. says

    I’ve written extensively on depression to help Christians with depression. I understand the heartache because of concerns within my own family. I would like to suggest to pastors in general to preach some sermons about characters in the Bible who struggled with depression. Let the people know that depression can happen to anyone and give them some biblical helps for dealing with it. My book “When Saints Sing the Blues” covers the depression of 11 biblical saints–a chapter on each. Each chapter could easily form an outline for a sermon and be an encouragement to those who are listening.

    • Mark Dance says

      Thank you Brenda for investing time on this subject. I agree that mental health should be discussed more from the pulpit, because there is a battle going on in every pew.

  4. says

    The mental and emotional health of our ministers is one of the most urgent issues facing evangelical churches. Thom, you’ve done a great job of outlining the mental health challenges of ministry and strategies to overcome them. The sad truth is that the unrealistic expectations and high demands of church members are often the main cause of much of the overwhelming stress and strain that too many of our ministers experience. I think that truth points us to a larger problem.

    Our church members face many of the same challenges to mental and emotional well being that our ministers face. Often the pressure they put on their ministers is simply a reflection of the pressure and stress they feel in their own lives.

    While churches must be more than therapeutic and the Christian community should never be substituted for professional mental health care, if churches are to speak into the deepest needs of their neighborhoods, they must become communities that place a stronger emphasis on emotional health and overall well-being. A healthy Christian is a mentally balanced, emotionally centered Christian.

    Many of us serve in communities where the physical needs of our neighbors are already met in abundance and wonder what exactly our churches have to offer people who don’t seem to “need” anything. We can offer the opportunity to re-evaluate life’s priorities in light of the Christian message, and we can become a place to rest amid the hustle of our rapidly accelerating lives. The need for churches to become places that promote mental health, wellness, and emotional well-being will only continue to grow.

    Thanks for a great article!

    • Mark Dance says

      Well said Matt. No doubt our churches can do a better job of making margin for our members instead of taking margin through over-scheduling. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” (Exod 20:8-11) Is it fair to say that Pastors are among the worst to ignore this command/gift on a personal level?

  5. says

    Thank you for keeping the issues ever before us. The ministry is such an incredible place to serve the kingdom. It is front line ministry. I often believe that we forget the battle that we are waging. Often, our Pastor’s take the initial first line “hits” from those in the congregation. Tears came to my eyes as I read today’s post. Mercy, grace and help is my heart cry for these ministry families. May we be about the business of supporting the Pastor and his family in order that they might share without fear of condemnation in order to finish the work.

    • Mark Dance says

      I want to briefly brag on Dr Rainer. In his newest book, “I AM A CHURCH MEMBER,” he devotes a whole chapter (4) to encouraging members to pray for their pastor, his family, his protection and “his physical and mental health” (pg 50). I am so glad that this is the best selling Christian book in the US right now because it gives typical members a glimpse into the non-typical life of a pastor. Dr Rainer is truly a champion for the pastor.

  6. says

    Thom,
    I really appreciate your helpful bog posts, but have never taken the time to say so. This one on depression and spiritual warfare connections for those in ministry is huge. I see it frequently in the missionaries we train and send. And I battle it myself frequently. Thanks for talking about “unmentionable” subjects such as this in practical ways.

  7. says

    Great article!

    When I returned to the States after twenty-two years of orphan ministry in South Africa, I immediately went into the American pastorate of a medium size church. Over whelmed, I resigned and took a second church here in Minnesota of a medium size church. I’ve pastored five years here now, and last year was the worse year of my life. Same story, but not the same ending.

    I was this church’s six pastor in ten years. Every point Thom makes here is true in my ministry and life right now. Bringing the issue to my elders did not help either, as each of them I believe live in fear of what certain members might do. My church does not provide insurance for their staff, and no offer was made by leadership to get me counseling. In fact, never felt like I needed it. ;-)

    After being maligned, accosted on one occasion, slandered by “Christians” living in rank sin, I started to collapse literally. I called a pastor friend in the Twin Cities! Here is where real ministry begins for me. My friend Randy said, “Don, I’ve been there, and you need counseling to help save you and your ministry.” “Ah, Randy . . .” I begin to reply, “I don’t have money for that . . .” Randy replies, “I know . . . but my church does, has a fund to help pastors.” I’ve been seeing a counselor for five months now . . .and my counselor Tom reminds me, “Don, most pastors have never been taught the skills to cope with this kind of stuff . . .I will help you learn. It’s not a matter of personality, it’s a matter of practicing what I teach you, and you will learn how to handle this stuff better. We are just a MASH unit here, you pastors are on the front line. It’s tough on the front line, that’s what war is all about.”

    Here’s my thanksgiving contribution — thank you for my friend and a larger church that sees the value in setting aside resources and funds to help pastors get help! Oh, the church I pastor is still a brutal place with some wonderful people — most churches are these days — and most pastors I know are not very happy in their ministries, but at least I learning to be happy in Christ. And, the church I pastor is growing significantly — and I think the right people are leaving — and I’m starting to get some sleep again, get my weight down, and find some joy in life, and occasionally in Ministry! :-)

    Advice, get the help you need even if you have to ask a friend or a larger church to help you find the resources. The Church, the Kingdom, your Ministry, your Life, your Wife, and your Children depend on this . . .

    • Mark Dance says

      Great testimony Don of pastors helping pastors and churches helping other churches. “So if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it” (1 Cor 12:26). Friends like Randy are a gift from God. This is a good reminder that Jesus and His Bride are still in the business of hope and healing.

  8. says

    I struggled with depression for years, wondering what I was doing wrong in my walk with the Lord, before a very Godly man I highly respected (with the last name Blackaby, who wouldn’t listen to him!? ha) pulled my husband aside and suggested I see a doctor. It was a HUGE eye opener for me to see that someone in the church knew that it might not be spiritual, it was possible it was medical. I saw the doctor, and two weeks later I felt like me again. Years of trying to pray my way out of it, and two weeks on medication made all the difference. I truly believe that if pastors were more open about their own mental health struggles then people like me may not live in darkness.

    Now I write about it. I share with people that it’s okay to struggle, that we’re human and everyone does in some way or another. I share that my struggles with depression and anxiety have been the most meaningful thing in my walk with Jesus, it forces me in so many ways to stay as close to him as possible. I can actually say I am thankful for my struggles.

    Thank you for this article! Hiding ourselves and our struggles from others really doesn’t ultimately help the body of Christ at all.

    • Mark Dance says

      Dr Rainer will be encouraged by your testimony when he reads it later. As he said in his post, “You need not be ashamed. Mental illness is just that—it is an illness. If we have cancer, we freely acknowledge our physical illness. Pastors should not be ashamed to say they have a mental illness.”
      I remember being relieved to hear from my counselor that depression was a chemical problem, not a character problem. So true.

  9. says

    Thom, I am currently writing my doctoral paper on things related to these issues. I believe that the problem has multiple areas of origin. What’s amazing to me is that this problem is not new, the SBC wrote a resolution in 1983 about the forced resignations of pastors and the damage it causes. Now, over 30 years later, we are still seeing over 1,000 ministers forced to resign annually (with the top 5-7 reasons having nothing to do with any breach of morality, doctrine or character)…and that’s only what is REPORTED. I believe our convention is reaping what we have sown over the past many generations in allowing these situation to go unchecked for years. I don’t know what the answer is, but we certainly need to continue to shine a light on it and get the dialogue moving again. If you and the executives of the convention ever want to build a pastoral group to address this issue, I’m all in and know about a dozen more pastors that would be too.

    • Mark Dance says

      Shelby – thank you for investing time in your doctorate towards this subject. I was encouraged that the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution in June (Houston) “requesting that SBC entities assist churches with mental health ministries.” LifeWay is one of those entities and the trustees unanimously adopted that assignment earlier this month, per Dr Rainer’s request. Multiple initiatives are in the works at LifeWay and I expect the other entities to also pitch in and help.

  10. says

    I am so glad you addresses this. I had a very close pastor friend who slipped into a deep depression which resulted in him taking his own life last year. His church (and friends) still hasn’t recovered. As a pastor myself, I have seen this and on occasion deal with this issue too. Some is due to the stressors mentioned. For some, like my friend, it is a medical condition that many Christian circles condem. If someone has diabeties we encourage them to seek medical help. Sure, many depression related issues are environmental, but others require further attention. God bless you Thom and your ministry. Keep up the great work! I love reading your articles.

    • Mark Dance says

      Thank you John, you have made several good points. Dr Rainer will be so encouraged by your input, yet saddened by the loss of your pastor friend when he reads this after his planning retreat. Much work ahead of us!

  11. Linda says

    I watched my husband serve faithfully and lovingly for 6 years as an associate pastor of our home church only to be run out by the lead pastor in a very disrespectful manor. It was very hard watching him be treated like that because I know he has the heart of a true pastor/shepherd. I know he currently feels “burnt” but I am hoping and praying that he won’t give up on ministry and that God has something better for him out there.

    • Mark Dance says

      Linda, unfortunately your husband has been hurt in a way that will take some time to heal from. He is fortunate to have you as his biggest cheerleader who is giving him what every pastor and man needs the most, RESPECT. Those who suffer from depression also need HOPE. Keep giving him both and I believe he will won’t give up! “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Gal 6:9).

  12. Nic says

    I was forced out of my ministry position because I struggle with deep lifelong depression. I was told I’m good at what I do and nothing is affecting my ability to do the job but that they just couldn’t let me do it anymore. It is such a hard place to be. It feels like I am a complete failure.

    • Mark Dance says

      I felt the same way several years ago Nic. Part of my road to recovery was realizing that depression had indeed affected my ability to pastor. How could it not? The reality is that it affects every relationship in your life. This motivated me to make changes and get help. Depression doesn’t make you a failure, but it does help you and your support team plan for you to make adjustments. Success is when you focus on your healing and not your performance.

  13. JayG says

    Just to add to your already good points… How we respond to the outside factors you mentioned can make all the difference in the world… In my experience, pastors look at the state of their church (growth-numerical, spiritual, financial) and can begin to get angry or bitter. That anger if not addressed can lead to depression… Oddly enough, the mayo clinic has some information on the link between unforgiveness and depression…. I had a pretty wicked bought of depression recently and after trying everything (exercise, diet, antidepresants) turned out i just needed to forgive some people who had wronged me… Once i realized it and followed through on forgiving them, my depression lifted…Emotions are a crazy thing, lol

    • Mark Dance says

      Thanks Jay. That is a really good reminder of the overlap between our spiritual and emotional health. Unforgiveness and anger become strongholds and footholds that are not demolished with worldly weapons.

  14. says

    I am a bivocational pastor and I would consider my “mental health” to be relatively strong and healthy. However, I also know that Monday is my worst day of the week. For whatever reason, I sometimes sit in my office on Monday morning thinking about what I could have done or should have done better on Sunday. I think about my messages and, unfortunately, I sometimes begin feeling like a failure. It doesn’t happen often, but Mondays are a hard day for pastors.

    I have also heard many other pastors say the same thing about this particular day of the week.

    • Mark Dance says

      Speaking on behalf of Dr Rainer today, I think we all should expect to have bad days. After pastoring for 27 years, I can say that the church hangover that you have experienced is not only normal, but maybe an indication that you gave everything you had the day before.

  15. says

    Can I just inject a tiny amount of difference here? I certainly want pastor’s feeling the symptoms of mental illness to get help, I just suggest we don’t jump to conclusions about our health. Years ago I had a conversation with my PCP and mentioned I was really struggling with some things. Pretty soon, with out planning it, I had a prescription for zoloft. Hey, it did help me feel better! Does that make it all OK? I don’t know if this guy knows anything about mental illness, or of scriptural counsel to help a believer out in difficult times.
    I took it for a while and then slowly phased it out.
    Now, I’m not saying YOU should stop taking it (or whatever you may or may not be taking). I’m just saying there was more going on in my life than a “chemical imbalance” that was never actually diagnosed in the first place. I think an awful lot of people struggling with things like depression would do much better with a Christian friend to come alongside and listen and ask questions and join with us in prayer. NO, that won’t cure every problem. But next time I’m doing that before drugs.

  16. Mark Dance says

    That is a fair assessment Clark, and a good reminder to all of us that feeling depressed does not automatically mean that you are clinically or chronically depressed. Paul told Timothy to “preach the Word in season and out of season.” This implies that there will be some good days and years, as well as some bad ones.

    If your depression doesn’t go away, you probably need more than a self-assessment. In his blog, Dr Rainer counsels pastors to get counsel: “Get trusted recommendations of professionals who can help you.”

  17. Therapist says

    As a licensed therapist serving at a community service board mental health agency as well as being a pastor’s wife, this subject is dear to my heart. Those of us in the profession are working to break the stigma of mental health. I have found that the stigma is strongest in Christianity. I heard a preacher recently make the comment that a Christian didn’t need a psychiatrist, inferring that Jesus was all one needed. This really disturbed me. I would have guessed in a congregation that size, there was probably some Christians diagnosed with a mental illness receiving treatment. And Pastors are not above mental health issues and often need to seek professional help. I think just as a Pastor needs to see a doctor if plagued with a physical alignment, I think a pastor should not be judged when seeking a professional to mental health. This is not saying that faith and a relationship with Jesus Christ are not important. My two cents.

  18. Rusty Oglesby says

    On march 4, 2010 my wonderful father, a Southern baptist pastor of over 35 years, took his life tragically. He was depressed but could to let anyone know of his self perceived weakness. He was the greatest man I have ever known and no pastor I have ever been around loved his people more. But when he hurt he didn’t know how to turn to others for help and he had to still be there for everyone even while he suffered unspeakable pain in his own mind. Pastors are people period. Please take time to help your ministers seek help and guidance when you have a chance. We all could use some intervention sometime. God Bless all ministers and ministers families…chin up!!

    • Mark Dance says

      Thank you Rusty for sharing about your father. His painful testimony can help a new generation of pastors understand that mental illness is not a weakness to hide, but an illness to heal. Each testimony, article, post, comment and sermon about mental health moves the ball forward a little more.

      Keep the conversation going…

  19. Tony says

    A significant part of the problem is inadequate financial support. In spite of claims to be for the traditional family structure, most churches expect their pastor’s wife to work to provide sufficient income and health insurance for his ministry. This places additional strain on the pastor and his family. Since pastors frequently relocate, their spouses are unable to excel in their careers even if they want to. One pastor said, “My church expects the pastor’s wife to in essence tithe 100% of her income to supply the pay package that they are unwilling to provide.”

    • says

      Dr Rainer’s comments in this post affirm what you are saying Tony. He mentioned financial stress and unrealistic expectations as two of the “issues that may cause depression or at least exacerbate it among pastors.”

  20. Ben Brown says

    Good article…However after reading lots of the comments no one has bought up some key triggers that give depression access. Christ came to give us life more abundantly but what I find in many (not all)congregations is whatever the enemy throws at them they don’t take key scriptures seriously. How many have actually spoken out in pride against other anointed men of God and are now reaping part of what they have sown(1Chronicles16:21)…how many have not forgiven a spouse or brother..how many refuse to give to the poor(Prov 21:13). Yes there are tragedies in the world and Christ knew that many if not all of us would want to leave (Jn 17:15). Also many consider themselves superior to others and reap the fruit from this also(Lk18:14)…I felt a strong knowing after writing this one. I could go on and on how Porn and time wasted in folly feels good at first but will reap a sure harvest. This is what I felt led to respond with as I have been there and done that and am through with that! Today if you will hear His voice harden not.

    • Mark Dance says

      That is a good point Ben about sin being a potential trigger to depression. Dr Rainer’s listed Spiritual Warfare as the first potential cause of depression in his blog. Pastors and leaders should be careful not to use mental health as a a scapegoat for spiritual rebellion.

      Thank you for keeping the conversation going. Dr Rainer’s team and LifeWay are here to help.

  21. Chris says

    I am currently wrestling with severe depression right now. So I appreciate your post. I have been in ministry for 20 years now. Over the last year and a half, I have been at a new church as the Lead Pastor. The last several months have been very difficult to the pointing of not only want to get out of ministry for good to even want to kill myself. I am currently see a counselor now and it has been very helpful. But I am still not through the woods yet, still wrestling and fight through depression.

    Thanks for communicating that I am not alone or that I am not the only one who deals with this. So grateful.
    Chris

  22. annonomous says

    This has been so encouraging reading as I struggle with anxiety and depression after suffering a burnout. I wasn’t a pastor but worked in missions and discipleship. I now work in a church but still struggle in these areas. Its a struggle to not allow the shame to creep in and tale me out. So thankful to read this.

    • Thom Rainer says

      You have nothing to be ashamed of. Please seek help. I am praying for you. I don’t know your name, but God does.

  23. John Watson says

    Thinking also of the models of Church leaderships whereby some churches place a huge emphasis (and therefore burden?) on the pastor or senior Pastor rather than the more inclusive team models of – Apostles, Pastors, teachers, evangelists etc…and of groups or teams of elders ministering with a variety of giftings….where the burden of leadership can be shared more widely in a team leadership situation rather than undue emphasis on one person.
    Outcome: make sure early on in your ministry you build a team leadership environment , allowing God room to appoint whom He will, where you can mutually mentor eachother and share intimate fellowship/and pray together and share the ups and down of leadership in a small group rather than alone.

  24. Buddy Anonymous says

    Please don’t publish my email. Thank you.

    In 1994, during a clinical psychotherapy session, it was determined that I probably had suffered from dysthymic depression most of my life. It was just a low grade of depression that was constantly around me. In February 1994 I had a major meltdown, experienced stroke level blood pressure, and was diagnosed with severe clinical depression. I had another experience in June 1995 and have gone to the emergency room several times afraid of a heart attack.

    In the past 19 years, I have had various combinations of medications, received, psychotherapy treatments, and have continued to struggle with the symptoms of depression on a daily basis. I tend to have longer and stronger symptoms during what is called situational depression. The meds altar my mind and my emotions to deter symptoms. There is never a day that I feel “good”. There is always a battle to function and to overcome. Sometimes my emotional pain is unbearable. Sometimes I have weeping spells. The best part of my day is when I am able to go to sleep. I don’t have suicidal tendencies but I think often what it would be like to be rid of my symptoms.

    With my illness, I served full-time for 20 years and part-time for 8 years. I completed Masters and Doctor of Ministry degree. I have served in churches with severe problems and finally could not handle the stress load any more.

    Currently, I am a bi-vocational pastor. I have difficulty functioning in a job of full-time capacity. I must take daily afternoon naps or I cannot function. Many times in the late afternoon I have heart palpitations from the stress of the day. NO ONE in my circle of friends nor the church knows of my illness. I told one church in 2004 of my disorder when I resigned. I have heard of pastors of large churches, not small telling their congregations of their battles and receiving affirmation. I feel no freedom in telling my congregation nor other relationships. I feel no option but to suffer in silence and continue serving God as I can.

    • Thom Rainer says

      Buddy: How can we help? You are not alone, so feel free to contact me or others on my team. You can do so through this blog. I am taking time to pray for you now.

      • Buddy says

        The prayers are really appreciated. I’m not sure the some of the guys on this blog really understand the pain and darkness that comes with this illness, not real sure. At any rate, have not found an avenue to be myself. When I am in public, I am one person. When I am at home, I am another. Difficult life. Thanks for responding.

  25. says

    I have walked alongside many a pastor/colleague that struggles with matters of the mind. Having experienced it with family members it was such a blessing to be there for those in ministry that struggle. I also know that you can be well, that the illness does not have to win the battle. Grateful for the role of mental health and the church that Saddleback is presenting… long overdue and greatly appreciated. Thank you!

    • Buddy says

      What was your role in walking alongside the pastors? Did you see some that progressed toward healing? If so, what did you attribute it too?

    • Buddy says

      What was your role in walking alongside pastors? What do you contribute to their progress towards healing? How does the pastor not lose the battle?

  26. Domeniek says

    Great Job Tom! We are in Memphis and this issue is next to my heart for personal reasons as well as being called to minister to pastors. We are hosting a symposium on March 21, 2014 @ 6pm to deal with mental health and depression among clergy. It will be facilitated by mental health therapist that happen to be pastors for more information email us at whenpastorspray@gmail.com or visit us on FB at whenpastorspray.

  27. Brian Barndt says

    Thom, I’m so refreshed by your heart in your article on mental health challenges for pastors. It is a blessing to receive affirmation from a respected leader. I’ve experienced and witnessed the pain of church ministry on countless pastors. In all honesty, I believe one of the obstacles to seeking help is the judgment and condemnation that will be received from Southern Baptist leaders. Too many times I have seen seminary and denominational leaders shame those who suffer and deny conditions like depression even exist. I do hope your perspective will spread to others who can give permission to pastors to admit their struggles and obtain needed support. Thanks for your ministry!

  28. Marie says

    As a former support staff member at a SBC church, in which the church pastor refuses to submit annual paperwork, I was told specifically by the pastor that new pastors last an average of seven years in the field. While that is truly sad, my/pastor/friend/supervisor, fired me within 6 months of my 7th year serving. Yes, I myself suffer from depression and was let go by a pastor who also take Zoloft. But to the congregation he tells everyone that no “godly Christian” should rely on medication. He actually did a sermon series called “depressed” I am saddened that in a profession. Where this is so prevalent that a pastor with such arrogance and price actually boasts about his “earned doctorate.” No wonder many are leaving the profession if this is what they are taught. My depression is due to a chemical imbalance, which I take medication for daily. Add that to the betrayal within the confines of church business, no wonder so many suffer quietly.

  29. Peter says

    The life blows can accumulate and lead to depression. A long battle with cancer for my wife who died, a divorce and incarceration over a failed business deal proved too much for me. Sadly, church support was next to nothing. A few trusted friends were the anchors in the storm. There is no substitute for true friends who accept you no matter what.

    I am near the location in the Galilee where the Lord restored a broken Apostle Peter. I visit there frequently to be reminded of a compassionate Christ who reaches out to the broken, the hopeless and the hurting.

    I pray for our sensitivity and compassion to the silent suffering. I confess my own
    lack of coming along side and void of mercy.

    Please don’t condemn the afflicted…a bruised reed, He will not break…

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