Tennessee Baptist Convention

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Caring for the Lord’s Shepherds

An effective shepherd loves, leads and cares for the flock that God entrusted to him.

But who cares for the shepherd?

I love and appreciate pastors and have a genuine concern for their care. My deep appreciation for pastors is birthed out of three-and-a-half decades of walking in their shoes. I’ve been there, done that and was blessed with a lot more than a t-shirt.

But my burden for the mental, emotional, spiritual and physical concern of pastors has profoundly increased over the past three-to-four years as we’ve heard about so many pastors who have lost their ministries or taken their own lives. Seeing this, and intimately knowing the trenches in which pastors labor, is the genesis of concern we at the TBMB have for their overall health. Concern fueled action and I’m pleased to announce the launch of Shepherd Care.

Shepherd Care is a tool focused on the spiritual, emotional, physical and financial health of pastors and ministry leaders. We will launch Shepherd Care in the coming days under the competent and compassionate direction of Sing Oldham, TBMB director of pastor engagement and veteran of pastoral ministry himself.

Here’s how it will work.

Randy C. Davis

TBMB has entered a relationship with three regional Christian counseling centers to provide one free consultation for any pastor, pastor’s wife, or other ministerial church staff or wife who stands in need of a professionally trained Christian counselor due to stress or a “dark night of the soul.” TBMB will make partial payment for up to six additional sessions at a graduated rate.

We believe TBMB’s Shepherd Care will serve the needs of pastors, wives, and other ministerial church staff and wives for these reasons: (1) all counselors are licensed (or on the path toward licensure ) in Tennessee; (2) the counselor becomes aware of the needs expressed by the client from the very first session; (3) the three counseling centers are regionally accessible for multiple in-person sessions, as needed; and (4) cumulatively, the counseling centers have more than 47 licensed counselors on staff.

Our desire is that Shepherd Care will provide a lifeline of help and hope for ministers and spouses who are experiencing burn-out or other emotionally heavy bouts of discouragement, depression, darkness, or despair.

It is past time that we got real with ourselves and each other related to these issues. I personally do not want to ever stand over the grave of another of our ministers due to a suicide that could possibly have been prevented if care had been accessible and accessed. Please hear the weight of this issue in my heart. If a shepherd/ministry leader is not consciously taking care of themselves and their families, pastoring and leading ministry can be emotionally exhausting. It was a tough assignment before the COVID-19 pandemic, but now the burden ministry leaders carry is compounded and complicated. The personal impact is dangerous. We’ve got to be vigilant and act.

Unfortunately, many pastors are hesitant to seek counseling assistance due to the long-standing stigma associated with mental and emotional health issues. Shepherd Care seeks to remove as many barriers as possible so that church leaders will reach out for help when they feel overwhelmed by the pressures and stresses of ministry. You’ve given and given. Don’t ignore the fact you are emotionally gassed. Take steps to refuel the tank and let us help.

TBMB board of directors overwhelmingly and enthusiastically showed their support in approving this initiative. The Shepherd Care helpline, 1-833-55Peace, goes directly to TBMB’s Pastor Engagement team, who will authorize the initial consultation to a counselor near you. All calls are strictly confidential.

The “55Peace” number is based on two biblical passages: Jesus’ promise in John 14:27, Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid; and the vivid imagery of Isaiah 55, For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.   

Friends, we’ve got to take care of ourselves, our loved ones and each other. My hope is that you will take this step if you, your spouse, or a staff member needs the support.

The journey is sometimes difficult, but it is indeed my joy to be on it with you.