Beliefnet
Doing Life Together

church-275844_1280Being a pastor can be a dangerous job. Consider the profile of John Smith. His pastoral experience is shared by many. His response to  stress and pressure of the job is of grave concern.

Pastor: Johns Smith (fictitious name)

Job: Senior pastor of a small church in the midwest

Stress: Leadership and congregational conflicts; financial worries over dwindling members and tithe paying; long hours; few confidantes; pressure to grow his church membership; overwhelming needs of church goers; discouragement and isolation as he feels he cannot share his struggle with depression as the senior pastor.

Response: Pastor Smith committed suicide as a result of untreated depression, isolation and lack of support.

According to Lifeway research, 59% of pastors counsel people with diagnosed mental illness and 23% say they have personally experienced some type of mental illness. Suicide among pastors is on the rise. Why? Pastors are under a great deal of stress that often goes unrecognized. They are also a target for the enemy.

We know that genetically, some people have a predisposition for depression. This doesn’t mean they will automatically become depressed, rather, given the right circumstances, depression can be activated. Without support and help, the mind gives in to negative thinking. Hopelessness, failure, inadequacy, the lie that somehow you would be better off gone, takes over and leads people into a dark hole. Left untreated, depression can include suicidal thoughts that may lead to suicide. And the stigma attached to admitting depression is still strong.

Stress pushes a person’s coping ability. And the enemy uses our weaknesses to attack us. This is when people need support, prayer against the lies of the enemy and help. When pastors feel isolated, discouraged and negative thinking takes hold, they can give in to hopeless thinking just like someone in their church. They are people just like the rest of us –maybe more isolated because they believe they are not supposed to be depressed or hopeless.

We now know what happens in the brain when someone is depressed. We can image the brain and see the changes. Altered chemistry often has to be corrected with wise counsel, support and possibly medication. Ministering to the minister with scriptures and healing prayer can prevent him from responding to those suicidal thoughts. Sometimes we have to come along side pastors and be Aaron to Moses–lift their hands and minister the love of Jesus and encouraging them in the faith.

What can you do for your pastor? 

Pray. Prayer is powerful and brings down strongholds.

Think before you speak and burden your pastor with yet another thing –is this petty, am I complaining and need to mature in my own walk, is this a real need? Certainly if you need spiritual guidance and counsel, he will help you. But check your motive first.

Offer support in ways  you can. Examples might be, volunteer a few hours of office help, network Christian services in your area, or volunteer to help at church.

De-stigmatize mental health and educate your congregation to the facts about depression. There are a number of myths associated with depression.

Let’s be a part of taking pastors off the list of dangerous jobs. Pastors are called to minister to us and yet they are human too. Compassion is needed.

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