Do You Know Pastor and Mrs. I. M. Hurting?
The Scripture tells that our Lord was “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53). No one understands the pain and hurt a pastor and his wife experience like our Lord. The trouble is, too many are not even aware that shepherds hurt. As I have traveled over 30,000 miles in eight months across our wonderful state, I have met many pastors. They are gifted, focused, faithful, and spiritually deep men. Some of the greatest pulpiteers in our country are pastoring churches right here in Tennessee. Yet many of these pastors and their wives feel alone and isolated.
Statistics about ministry burnout have been floating around for some time. These statistics come from The Fuller Institute, George Barna, Pastoral Care, Inc., and H. B. London’s book, Pastors at Greater Risk. Here are just a few indicators of the hurt too many pastors are facing:
- 90% of pastors report working between 55 and 75 hours a week
- 80% believe that pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families
- 1 out of 3 state that being in ministry is an outright hazard to their family
- 90% feel they are inadequately trained to cope with the ministry demands
- 80% of pastors and 84% of their spouses feel unqualified and discouraged in their roles
- 7 out of 10 pastors report constantly fighting depression
- 8 out of 10 spouses feel left out and unappreciated by church members
- 70% do not have any close friends
- 80% of pastors say they have insufficient time with their spouse
- 94% feel under great pressure to have a perfect family
How can we minister to pastors that are hurting?
1. Commit to being a prayer warrior for your pastor and his family. Let them know the day and time you are praying for them each week.
2. Take it upon yourself to be a Barnabas-type encourager to your pastor.
3. Find tangible, simple, consistent ways to love, befriend, and affirm your pastor and his wife.
4. Understand that your pastor is under a great deal of pressure to perform; relieve him of that pressure by accepting him just as he is and not as others expect him to be. In the surveys I have mentioned, church members on average expect the pastor to fulfill 14 different roles!
5. Make sure your pastor and his family get away for regular vacations and breaks from the ministry. If your pastor has been at his church for more than five years, strongly advocate a sabbatical leave of four to six weeks for your pastor. Make sure that your pastor does not fill this sabbatical leave with activities so that it will be “justified.” On the contrary, make sure your pastor understands that this is time for him to focus on his spiritual, emotional, physical, and family health. You will get a refreshed and new pastor when he returns from that sabbatical leave.
Here at the Tennessee Baptist Convention, my wife Jeanne has sought to be an encouragement to pastors’ wives across this state. She has met some wonderful, sweet ladies, many of whom share with her the highs and lows of ministry. We also have someone on our staff at the TBC that coordinates counseling for our ministers and their families. Do not hesitate to contact Tony Rankin here at the Tennessee Baptist Convention, firstname.lastname@example.org, or (615) 371-8136. He can help facilitate tangible coping tools for a minister and/or his family.
On a personal note, I would consider it an honor to pray with and encourage any pastor in the state. My cell number is (615) 712-0382.
It is a joy to be on this journey with you!
Randy C. Davis