In January 2020, shortly before COVID obliterated our sense of normalcy, I received a fresh reminder of why QuietWaters Ministries exists. The Wall Street Journal had published an article about pastors who struggle with mental health and how admission of these struggles can often have negative repercussions, such as termination. It’s interesting to revisit this topic now, after so much has changed in the world. The unique challenges grappled with by pastors and other Christian leaders have not disappeared, and in fact have only been exacerbated by COVID and the other crises and conflicts of this season.
–87 in a 75–Have you ever had that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach? That quick shot of adrenaline when you first see that light bar blink red and blue on the highway patrol car as it pulls in behind you? I recently had the pleasure of enjoying this experience. I was on the way to pick up my daughter, son-in-law, and grandbaby from the airport. I was driving their car because it had the car seat for the baby. It was about 9:00 PM; I wasn’t even late. I was just cruising along on the toll way. As soon as he pulled out from the median, I knew he was coming after me. I looked down at my speedometer and quickly came to the realization that this was not going to be pretty. I pulled over and waited for him to saunter up to the door. Here is a brief synopsis of our conversation.
It started out as a typical Thursday morning here at the QuietWaters Ministries HQ. I began the morning looking for the devotion book that we have been using for our weekly Staff Infection (a/k/a staff meeting). The morning continued with me contracting a severe case of conviction.
We have been using a book written by a local pastor friend of mine, Jason Lohse, for our weekly study. The book is titled Expresso – Devotional Readings to Energize Your Faith.
We find leaders in all walks of life. These include pastors, missionaries, business people, stay-at-home parents, educators, politicians, and the list goes on and on. Many will argue that leadership is a learned skill. Others will say that leaders are born. While leadership can be extremely rewarding and satisfying, few will argue with the fact that leadership can be extremely difficult at times. For many, like a soldier, or an assassinated President, or a first responder, leadership has come at the expense of their life. For many, leadership does not come at the cost of a physical life but it does, however, come at a very high emotional cost or physical cost. Are you experiencing any of these symptoms?
- Moral Failure
- Distance from God
- Distance from your spouse or family
- Addictive Behavior
- Burn Out
- Post-Traumatic Stress
- Wounded Relationships
- Physical Ailments
- Loss (or significant reduction) of Empathy or Compassion
- Low Self Image
- Trouble Sleeping
- Excessive Discouragement
- Erratic Behavior
- Suicidal Thoughts
These symptoms are just some of the “costs” that we might incur on our respective leadership journeys.
I had a great opportunity to travel to the Midwest this week. I sat in on a couple of seminary classes, I met with lecturers, denominational leaders, and educators, and I brought home two significant takeaways. The first one is that we are nearing the perfect storm in terms of the level of ministry anxiety. While we still have millions and millions of people to reach with the Gospel, technology is shrinking our world. As Christian leaders, we are reaching more people. Leaders are seeing people, broken people, at higher rates than ever before. Managing the stresses of ministry is necessitating adjustments in how we deal with these changes. My second takeaway is rooted in the anxiety arena. The question was asked, why is it that the “costs” seem to be higher today than they were ten or twenty years ago? A lecturer’s answer was very insightful. Today, many Christian leaders seem to operate in the yellow zone or caution zone. They are walking the ragged edge and very close to the red zone or danger zone. It may not take much to put a leader over the proverbial edge. Ten or twenty years ago the typical Christian leader might have been walking in the safe zone most of the time. If you are operating in the safe zone, it takes a lot longer and a lot more stressors to get to the danger zone.
If you are a Christian leader and having a difficult time covering the cost of servant leadership or you are operating too close to the danger zone, contact us here at QuietWaters Ministries. We can help!
The March issue of Compass Online will be titled Covering the Cost of Servant Leadership. I hope you will join me then!