Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in anxiety, burdens, burnout, church, church leadership, community, compassion, counseling, current events, depression, hope, pastors, prevention, suicide | Posted on 14-03-2014
I started this series to try and focus on some specific topics and disturbing trends among pastors today. This blog exists because pastors have been committing adultery and have been in crisis for a while.
But I’ve noticed a trend that is even more disturbing. I don’t have any numbers to back it up, it’s just one I’ve noticed in the press. It may be a subjective figure, but I have noticed an increase in the number of pastor suicides that are being reported.
There could be a couple of reasons for this increase. Apparently, news reporting on suicides has been shown to increase suicide. According to the Centers for Disease Control, nonfictional newspaper and television coverage of suicide has been associated with a statistically significant excess of suicides.” Is it possible that pastors who read about other pastor suicides are considering this as a way out?
Another possibility for the increase is that there has always been a problem and the numbers have always been constant, but there is just a noticeable clustering of news stories. People tend to put things together to make sense of them. For instance, think of how many times you’ve heard people say, “Celebrity deaths happen in threes.” They don’t, but our minds tend to make orderly patterns – to carve trends out of chaos.
The final possibility is that there is a measurable increase in pastoral suicide. This would have to be measured objectively and to past years. It would take an incredible amount of research and digging.
The stresses facing pastors are great and when a minister gets to the point that they feel self-destruction is the only way out, they have reached a place where God did not intend for them to be. Hopelessness is not the design for the Christian.
In my book, I outline four distinct things that lead a pastor to the brink moral failure (and really, any type of failure): isolation, conflict, poor marriage relationship, and unrealistic expectations.
Place on top of that a pastor who may already have a tendency toward depression and there is a serious problem. Pastors need help, encouragement, and someone to talk to just like anyone else. They spend all week listening to, counseling, and ministering to the people of God. Many times, they feel spent and as if they have poured themselves out for everyone else – and that there is no one to help them or listen to them.
That is why churches and leaders – the community of faith – must be intentional about taking care of the pastor. Not just during pastor appreciation month, but every day of the year. Pray for him, watch his kids so he can have a date with his wife, give him a paid vacation, allow him a paid sabbatical every couple of years, make sure he is given counseling if he needs it, give him an intentional day off every week where he can rest.
Even better, have a speaker come in to talk to the leadership or the whole church – someone who understands pastors and someone who can tell the church how to intentionally care for him and his family. (And while the speaker is there, send the pastor and his family off on a nice weekend getaway!)
Did you realize that Sunday isn’t a day of rest for the pastor? It’s a work day. He spends
every other day of the week tending to the church. A lot of churches are really good about providing the pastor with another day to make up for this lost day of the weekend. But the pastor needs a day to relax and just be himself. A day to not get phone calls about the nursery smelling funny or why he pronounced “Belial” wrong in his sermon.
Pastors are under tremendous pressure – mostly by themselves – and they need our help. I know it can be weird or hard to ask your pastor, “Are you okay?” or “How about you let us watch your kids this weekend?” or “The church has decided to pay for a week vacation for you and your family.”
But guess what? That little awkward moment will go a long way in reaching out to a minister who might feel very far from the people around him.
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Ray Carroll is the author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” which answers many of the questions I get asked on a weekly basis.
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