Monday, November 09, 2009

Ministers Dealing With Depression & Suicide?

Ministers, pastors and other clergy have the most challenging and stressful jobs that anyone can have in life. The expectations that are placed on them can be often times unrealistic to meet. Even though I loved being a minister I found it extremely difficult as these unrealistic expectation were placed on me as well as my family. I found myself often abused by those that I was trying to serve. I was burned out, depressed, delt with anxiety, and thoughts of suicide. Minister have a harder time dealing with depression and anxiety because of their positions. They often feel as if they can't tell anyone how they are feeling. In doing so can sometimes even cost them their ministry positions in the churches that they pastor. Where do they turn? If they share their thoughts with members, elders, or others in their church it can cost them. If they share their thoughts and feelings online it could cost them if someone reads what they feel unless it is a blog with security protection. I am going to try to start a blog that will help ministers share their experiences, frustrations, anxieties and depression that they might have. It will be security protected with only passwords that they will be able to recieve. It is my way of helping those in ministry.

There is a great article from USAToday on this very topic.

I ask everyone to read.

Why do ministers suffer from depression and thoughts of suicide? Why can't they turn to others for help? Do congregations place unrealistic expectations on ministers and their families? Why? Should congregations allow ministers and pastors to do their jobs? Have you felt this way as a minister? Why is the job so stressful? What can be done to help ministers and thier families? What have you seen done to help ministers and their families? Have you had ministers leave your church frequently? What expectations has your congregation placed on it's ministry staff? What is your church doing to make sure your minister and families are taken care of? What can your congregation do differently? As ministers what would you like to see done?

What do you think?
Share your thoughts.


Anonymous Tim Archer said...

I'll mention that a cousin of mine was a successful Methodist minister, having started a church and seen it grow to over 700. He had a good family, etc. He took his own life a couple of years ago.

I know that it's a real problem.

Grace and peace,
Tim Archer

12:16 PM  
Blogger Royce Ogle said...

Churches have unrealistic expectations for preachers. Don't believce it? Just read the want ads in the Christian Chronicle. They are expected to do everything, and well, including administration. It is rare that a person gifted to be a pastor/teacher is also an excellent administrator but churches expect it.

Both churches and preachers imagine flawless characters in ministerial, elder, and deacon roles that don't exist. In far too many churches it is not OK to be honest about such things. It is preferred to pretend everything is fine when many know the opposite is true.

Each of us stands on common ground. We are flawed but forgiven, weaklings who can only do God's work effectively in His power and might.

It is high time someone in each church muster the courage to tell the truth even at the risk of being thrown out of the fellowship.

I once counseled with a young pastor whose wife chose to be unfaithful. When she was exposed, not only was he fired but asked not to come back even to sit on a pew. Some Christianity huh?

Many of us (those on the pew and those in the pulpit) love ourselves more than Jesus. When we love him more than we fear loosing the praise of men we can get down to kingdom business.


3:37 PM  
Blogger Andrew said...

Thanks for thoughtfully reading my blog!

I can empathize with what you sometimes go through. I'm not a minister, but I am a high school teacher in an often-rough school, and sometimes I want to go nuts with all the stresses and demands of my job.

I know that C.H. Spurgeon wrestled with depression for much of his pastoral career, as did William Cowper. Perhaps you might find some of their biographies or writings profitable. I think John Piper has written biographies on both of them.

4:59 PM  
Anonymous Stan Reddman said...

My nephew was a baptist minister in a small country church. It was an independant baptist church. He got really depressed and committed suicide. I want to thank you for bringing this issue to light. Even though it has been 7 year now our family still is grieving his loss.

10:28 AM  
Anonymous Doug Young said...


You are asking for a lot, but I sense its needed, yeah imperative, that this kind of thing be discussed. There are two main things that stand out to me.

First, there is a great ineptness amongst our churches as to what's going on in them. Elderships hardly seem equipped to help. Thankfully, there are programs out there, now, that are affording elders with tools they need, both spiritually and informationally, to bring them up to speed. Those that take to heart their calling as Shepherds, are helping create healthier environments that are conducive to transparency. This is a good thing. More of it needs to happen.

A big problem, at least for me and others with whom I've spoken, is that preachers can be very prideful. We don't want to necessarily own up to our issues, so we try to do what we can to get by. This is admirable, but at the same time, it flirts with being hypocritical. That many of us feel compelled to act as if everything is well and good, when its not, is nothing short of hypocrisy. The fronts must come down. We need environments where we can be open, honest and transparent. That's the pathway to healing.

God bless you for working to create a safe and secure place for ministers to open up. Its long overdue!

11:23 AM  
Blogger Franklin Wood said...

Thanks for the article...I think I'll pass it on to our elders.
As a youth minister, I feel constant stress when thinking about my time. How much goes to my family vs. how much should go to the teens/families in my youth ministry?
I think another difficulty in ministry is lack of tangible results. Ministry is unique in that sometimes seeds are planted, but fruit is not seen for years (and sometimes not at all.) In other jobs (not all) you can tell how a person is doing fairly quickly after they begin.
Jesus also calls us not to advance, but decline in our roles. We are to think of others better than ourselves. This is difficult as we watch our friends and church members growing in their jobs and becoming heads of companies.
Yet another difficult is that even though the minister technically answers to an eldership, he also answers to church members. I think they know that they pay his salary, and some use this as leverage to get their way. Others think this entitles them to complain or degrade a minister.
As has been said, a good eldership is helpful in this.
The minister I work with and myself are talking about sabbatical. A sabbatical (or as I like to call it "spiritual vacation") is helpful because ministers mostly study the Bible for others (classes) and pray for others and don't do much for themselves spiritually.
Thanks for the good post.

10:29 PM  
Blogger preacherman said...

I want to thank you for sharing about your cousin. My heart goes out to your family. I think it is time to start taking open and honestly about this problem. Thanks brother and God bless you!

7:44 PM  
Blogger preacherman said...

Thank you so much brother for sharing your thoughts on this subject with us. I agree that we have to start talking and get rid of the unrealistic expectations that are placed on ministers. Like you mention it is shocking what is expected when you look at sites such as Christian Chronicle. I would love everyone to check it out and see the unrealistic expectations that churches expect in a minister. It is crazy! We have to get rid of the flawless imagination and Character expectations that are placed on elders and ministers as well as their families. We have to start talking openly and honestly about what is going. I believe the time for that is now.
Thanks again brother for your wisdom and words on this subject.

7:47 PM  
Blogger preacherman said...

Andrew Thanks for your thoughts as well.
I agree that Spurgeon as well as other theologians and well known ministers suffered from depression. Thank you for letting us know about Spurgeon and his struggle. It is encouraging to ministers who look up to him to know that they aren't alone.

7:51 PM  
Blogger preacherman said...

Andrew Thanks for your thoughts as well.
I agree that Spurgeon as well as other theologians and well known ministers suffered from depression. Thank you for letting us know about Spurgeon and his struggle. It is encouraging to ministers who look up to him to know that they aren't alone.

7:51 PM  
Blogger preacherman said...

I am sorry to hear about your nephew. My heart also goes out to you and your family. I hope and pray that you will find peace and comfort to know that other ministers stuggle with the same thing and that it is finally God willing going to be talked about. God bless!

7:53 PM  
Blogger preacherman said...

Thank you so much brother for your thoughts and comments. I agree that elders hardly seemed to be equipped. I am thankful as well that there are programs out there to help. I personally believe that we need more. I hope and pray that elders in the future will learn of this need and be better equpped to handle and take care of their ministers and their families.
I also agree that many ministers do struggle with pride. Pride of "People know who I am"; "I spoke at this lectureship or workshop"; "I"; "I"; "I"... Ministers as well as believers everyone need to learn how to die to self. We need to learn that it is no longer "I" but "Christ". Pride might be a cause of some of the depression that ministers have. Thank you for shedding light on that issue.

7:58 PM  
Blogger preacherman said...

Thanks for your comments. I think it is wonderful that you are going to share this article with your elders. It is important that they are informed. I know about and can relate with you on time. Spending time with family or spending time with teens and their families As a minister in the past I totally neglected my family. My marriage and time with my children suffered. It lead to regret and spitefulness. It lead to burnout as well. I do think Sabbatticals can be helpful. I never have heard of a minister and youth minister going on a sabbatical at the same time. It sounds like times are hard for you both right now. You both are in my thoughts and prayers. Thanks again for your thoughts and comments.

8:03 PM  
Blogger A. Amos Love said...


If "pastors/leaders" (as we see them today)
are of God?
He's not taking very good care of His shepherds;
Is He?

This is info from a website
helping "burned out Pastors."

PastorCare offers support and encouragement
for pastors and their families.

At PastorCare we care about YOU
and we want to help.

According to the Francis A. Schaeffer
Institute of Church Leadership (2007)

• 77% say they do “not” have a good marriage.
• 71% have felt burned out or depressed.
• 70% do not have someone they consider a close friend.
• 40% report a serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month.
• 38% are divorced or seriously considering divorce.

According to the
Ministering to Ministers Foundation...

• Over 1600 pastors in the U.S.
are forced out of their positions each month.

• Nearly 1 in 4 pastors experience a forced termination at least once during their ministry.

•Only 54% of pastors go back into full-time
church related positions.

You’re correct -
We have a problem with “pastor/leader.”
You are not alone in how you feel. It’s rampant.

Read that again. This is not possible.
77% say they do “not” have a good marriage.
70% of pastors feel depressed or burnt out.
70% Don't have a close friend. Hmmm?

That's who is running the show.
That's who is abusing God's sheep
and being abused.

1600 pastors a month, that's 19,000 a year,
leave or are pushed out. Wow!!!
That's a lot of broken hearts, disappointments,
feelings of failure, pain, abuse. etc.

Don’t we need to ask some hard questions?

Todays “Pastor/leader,”
is this a “Title” or "position" in the scriptures?

Or is it just a "Tradition of Men?"

Have you done your own study, on pastors?
I mean in the Bible?
What does the Bible say about pastors?

Makes an interesting study.
Here’s some questions to ask as you check out pastors.

In the Bible, How many people...
have the “title” pastor?

In the Bible, How many people are...
“called” pastor?

In the Bible, How many people are...
“ordained” as a pastor?

In the Bible, How many congregations are...
“led” by a pastor?

Todays “Pastor/leader,”
is this a “Title” or "position" in the scriptures?

Be blessed in your search for truth... Jesus

And other sheep I have,
which are not of this fold:
them also I must bring,
and they shall hear my voice;
and there shall be one fold,
and one shepherd.
John 10:16

One Fold - One Shepherd - One Voice.
If Not Now, When?

1:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a Pastor of a small congregation, I have become disheartened at the lack of response from my parishioners. Each week I preach and teach my heart out, yet with no response from all but a few. I often feel less than adequate, but I know that I am teaching an unadulterated gospel. I refuse to get into the modern teachings that are laced with New Age and Eastern philosophies. I have been criticized by some family members and even those whom I thought would be supportive. It is very tiring and depressing at the lack of response from men. They tell you that they are there for you, yet when you request their help, they are full of excuses. I am seriously considering stepping aside and maybe allowing someone else to come in, but if I do that, I feel as if I am letting God down for not staying the course. I have virtually no staff, except one precious little lady who was the first lady of the founder of this congregation. Pray for me. I have isolated myself and I am having a problem encouraging myself as I have no one to talk to. The Preachers and Pastors that I could talk to, they have shady backgrounds, and I refuse to confide in them. Pray for this anonymous Pastor.

1:25 AM  
Blogger Russell Dill said...

Ministers are just like ordinary members, they can still feel and get hurt. They're just leaders who also needs the congregation’s support at times. I know how hard it is to be a leader and how to be a counselor. You have to look like you're the strongest person at the group. You have to let them see that there's still hope, even though they're suffering from all the stress and depression. I think I'm just lucky to have good counselors who helped me overcome the depression that I also went through. They guided me in my long journey so that I can easily guide my group also. :)

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