The lock downs amid a global pandemic have been hard for virtually everyone There is zero sense of normal. Most everyone is holding on to the figurative steering wheel and white knuckling it. Amidst all this turmoil, people are attempting to thrive. They are trying to connect with one another and taking their mental health more seriously than they ever have. In some ways, this moment in time is giving people an opportunity to pause and reflect.
That being said, there is a group of individuals that are not fairing well and that is pastors. With pastors having to make the tough decisions to move to online church, the demand for soul care of their congregants has increased significantly. In some states, pastors were not given a choice about closing their church indefinitely and faced the backlash from it. Pastors work an incredibly hard job. There is no sermon they will preach that will be good enough. No counseling session they give that will be restoring enough. No amount of time they dedicate to the church and the body that will be enough. This is the landscape that many church planters face and current pastors know. This reality for most pastors has intensified during these lock downs.
Many pastors go into ministry because they sincerely love Jesus Christ and the church. But as time goes on and they go longer in ministry, the wear of the job becomes more than one pastor can handle. Between leadership meetings and demands of congregations, when and where does a pastor have time to get his emotional and mental health needs met? The answer unfortunately is they don’t. The role of pastor has a reputation of almost being an individual without sin who has endless energy. The pastor is seen as someone who has their life together and in biblical terms is above reproach. Tragically, this reputation plagues many pastors; to the point that they feel they have to fulfill these expectations 24/7 and there is no room for rest or any grace if they make a mistake.
This leads to suffering in silence and to a lack of trust. This leads to a belief that their internal suffering must be from a lack of faith. In short, they become anxious and depressed.
Pastor suicide is on the rise and while not every pastor who suffers from depression, contemplates suicide they are indeed in emotional turmoil. Many pastors who deal with anxiety and depression in silence do so because they may lose their jobs if they are found out; others remain silent because their church does not acknowledge, minimizes or dismisses all together the existence of mental health issues.
If you are reading this and you have a church you call home, know this…your pastor is human and sinful and absolutely needs your support, prayer, and grace.
Pastor if you are reading this and it resonates, know this…you are seen, Christ loves you, your people love you and the sacrifices you have made and the work you have done during these lock downs are greatly appreciated. Do not isolate but go to Christ and accept grace.
-Christian Bringolf MA LMHC
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