Here is an article reporting the passing of Darrin Patrick. It cuts me up to read it. I would have known of him from a distance; being aware of him and possibly listening to an interview with him at sometime.
The article refers to a friend of Patrick’s by the name of Robbie Gallaty and records as follows:
Gallaty said pastors are great at helping other people but often don’t know what to do when they struggle. They try to keep up appearances, he said, and try to handle their struggles on their own.
This raises general issues appertaining to the caring for the carers principle. How easy it is to forget those who are expending all their energies to secure the welfare of another person. They are so easily overlooked because the focus is on the sufferer they are caring for. And all the while the carer can be slipping into burnout, trauma and despair. We must be alive to this and make sure that the welfare of the carer is secured. Accordingly, we must ask them how they are and make sure they are provided for with necessary support. And when I say to ask how they are, I do not just mean the superficial enquiry of social interaction, I mean the lovingly probing question of one who cares. There is a big difference!
It also raises the specific issue of caring for those in pastoral ministry. Gallaty’s observation should make us stop and ponder upon how we care for the ones whose unique ministry is to care for others under their pastoral care.
From the point of view of everyone who knows someone in pastoral ministry be alert to their welfare. Don’t take them for granted and assume that they are doing well because it looks like they are doing well. Behind the facade of someone who is being strong for others may well be someone who is breaking down inside.
For those in pastoral ministry you must know yourself. You must know what recreates you so that you are mentally, emotionally and above all spiritually, fresh, alive and prospering. For many this will mean that they need someone to turn to who can be their mentor, counsellor and support. Simply having someone you can talk things through with or dump your load on can be a vital life-support arrangement. This may be your wife or it may be someone else. Perhaps you have two or three who provide this. I would say it would be very rare to find a pastor who does not need someone.
The super-spiritual counter-claim to all this is that “the Lord is enough”. They quote Isaiah 40:31 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. And of course that is true and is a reality we must work out. But very often the Lord uses others to be the means of bringing the strengthening to our souls. This is fellowship.
I remember reading sometime ago of a pastor who in his suicide note recorded that he had found himself with nowhere to go. He felt that if he revealed his struggles he would lose his job. So he put on a front and took his own life. How sad.
So churches remember that your pastor is a man of like passions as you. They have a calling, but they are not super-human. So ask the lovingly probing questions that I mentioned above as regards to their welfare.
Finally, I record five ways that have been a blessing to me:
- a good wife who has supported me and listened to me and above all prayed for me.
- a church where there is openness to share weaknesses.
- a godly pastoral friend who I meet with from time to time. We set up this relationship with me having no obligation to ask him about his welfare.
- the ministry of John Benton at the Pastor’s Academy (see here) for details, has been most helpful.
- writing about my experiences gives an outlet so that things are not bottled up.
- asking friends and those who I know care and will pray, for prayer at certain times.