David Strengthened Himself In The Lord

under-pressure-300x217

As a pastor I spend most of my time in one of two areas.  I serve people suffering weakness, like hospitalizations or financial needs, and I spend time responding to conflicts like  broken marriages and church disagreements.  I was recently encouraged by Dr. Zack Eswine (The Imperfect Pastor) when he shared the story of how David responded to these things in 1 Samuel 30.

In previous chapters David had been fleeing King Saul who was trying to kill him and then he was rejected by the Philistine leaders in 1 Samuel 29 who didn’t approve of him.  In the beginning of chapter 30 David and his men were raided and all their wives and children were taken.  David’s men were so upset they wept till they had no more strength to weep, and then they talked of stoning David.  And the Bible says, “David encouraged himself in the Lord.”  As we continue reading, some of David’s men were so overcome with grief they were too weak to go recapture their wives and children, so 200 of them stayed behind.  Upon reclaiming all the wives and children and plundering the Amalekites, the 400 who went resented the 200 who stayed back and refused to share the plunder with them.

And David, having strengthened himself in the Lord, was able to “manage well with all dignity” (1Ti3:4) and give grace to them all.  Those too weak to contribute were blessed alongside those who worked hard for it.  And those in conflict, who were filled with resentment, were blessed alongside those who had been overcome by love for their families.  May we strengthen ourselves in the Lord and bless those who are weak and those who are angry.

Be encouraged; God’s grace is for you.

Joggling Pastoral Transitions

joggling-michal-kapral

Recently I saw a commercial featuring marathon joggler Michal Kapral, who set a world record in running a full marathon while juggling, otherwise known as joggling.  While in a pastoral transition I could relate to the high pace of life while trying to keep multiple balls in the air.  See Michal talk about this … https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aDd07tyMwzA

Pastoral ministry is much like juggling while running a marathon.  There are certainly times of fatigue and endurance.  There is as much mental stamina required as physical, oh, and spiritual stamina too!  What most people may not realize is that every pastor I know, whether serving in a one pastor church, or those serving in a multiple staff churches, every pastor is running and juggling multiple things while trying not to let one of those balls drop.  And when a ball does drop, there’s the grief of people focusing on the one ball bouncing alongside rather than the successful juggling and running act being performed right in front of their eyes!  This criticizing the imperfect circus act can feel very isolating.

I find the same is true in my walk with Jesus.  Why is it that before becoming a Christian, I didn’t feel good enough for God apart from Jesus, but now that I’m in Christ, I don’t feel good enough for God with Jesus?  I’m also focused on the one ball bouncing alongside this miraculous event of the Holy Spirit functioning within me?  The Holy Spirit’s ministry in me makes me look like I’m running and juggling at the same time!

While in a pastoral transition we often find ourselves juggling a few new balls on top of the usual.  There’s the ball of insecurity that comes with a new position or the lack of one.  There’s the ball of new problems and/or new responsibilities to face.  And then there’s that big medicine ball of fear that comes with a transition.  Ever tried to juggle a medicine ball and two tennis balls?!  We have to learn to administrate new things to get this ship back to safe harbor!

When life is moving too fast and there’s too many balls to juggle, I’m reminded of the story of Mary and Martha.  Jesus says Martha is worried and upset about many things, including her project partner.  But Mary is at peace and enjoying what is most important, a forever friend.

So in joggling pastoral transitions, may we overcome the tendency to be discouraged, worried, or upset about things like our project partners, and may we enjoy the forever friends that He provides along the way.

Oh, and way to go, you juggle and run really well!

Summer Vacation or Family Holiday?

Most of my favorite summer memories involve family vacations.  Camping at Silver Lake, swimming at the sand dunes, John and Diane Windle’s puppets at family camp, bike rides for donuts, the smell of suntan lotion, and M&M Peanuts.  When I was a boy, our family would share a half gallon of cookies and cream ice cream on the boat dock.  Dad would let us finish it all because there was no freezer to keep it!  Anybody for seconds?!

During a high school missions choir trip to England my sister Denise Lane and I made the nicest friends named the Hunter family.  They would come visit us in the US while on “holiday.”  Mr. Hunter was so tall he made my dad look like Barney Rubble, so we called the two of them Fred and Barney.  Watching them race in go carts was hilarious!  But we learned from the Hunters that what we call vacation, the British call “holiday.”

Recently I heard Pastor Stuart Briscoe talking about the need to take a break from time to time.  He challenged us to be intentional about how we spend this time away from our normal routine.  He shared the word “vacation” can mean to vacate or be vacant, to shut off and try to forget.  Maybe we try to live in a fantasy world only to crash back into reality.  “Holiday” on the other hand comes from our Christian heritage, taking time off to remember holy days.

In the Old Testament we see patterns of rest in the requirements of the Jewish Law.  God asked His people to observe seven breaks.  There were daily Selah breaks, a weekly Sabbath, a monthly New Moon day, three yearly week long Festivals, four other Feast days, the seven year Sabbaticals, and the 50th year of Jubilee.

But what grabbed my attention as Pastor Briscoe talked about these “Holy Days” in Scripture was what God asked them to do during these times.  They were to take a break from routine to be intentional about three things: Spiritual Transformation, Family Team Building, and Relaxation.  Or more simply put, a rest to pursue intimacy with God and intimacy with family.  The week-long festivals involved a pilgrimage.  And the Festival of Shelters was basically a camping trip to remember how they lived when God brought them through the wilderness.  A reminder that this earth was not their home, they were simply passing through, and God would provide everything they needed.

I hope you have at least a week of vacation or holy days this year (I think Scripture would recommend three!).  I hope you can leave your home and remember where God has brought you from.  I hope you can travel and be with your spouse and children and parents and siblings.  And I hope you can have time to rest and experience the love and peace and joy that overflows from our relationship with Jesus through His Holy Spirit within us.

Happy Summer Vacations! Or should we say, Happy Family Holidays!

Creating a Culture of Ministry Health

Dear Church Board and Chairperson,

Management Consultant Peter Drucker called church leadership “the most difficult and taxing role he knew.”1  LifeWay Research Vice President Scott McConnell said of pastors, “This is a brutal job, churches ought to be concerned.”2  100% of pastors surveyed by the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development had a close associate or seminary friend who had left the ministry due to church conflict, stress related burnout, or a moral failure.3 

Until your church is large enough to hire an executive pastor, you as a board are the human resources department.  It is a huge responsibility to steward your employees, and stewarding the pastoral position has unique challenges.

If you want to create a culture of ministry health and growth, you need to intentionally identify and address the risks that could sabotage your goal. Below are 10 questions that reflect the challenges that you and your pastor face, as researched by Dr. Charles A. Wickman in Pastors at Risk (note chapter references in parentheses).

  1. How do we become unified with our pastor to clarify, communicate, and contend for God’s vision for our church? (Ch#4) “The primary stressor experienced by pastors, leading the most often to forced resignation, is vision conflict.” -Wickman/Spencer4
  2. How do we help our pastor by setting appropriate and manageable expectations of our pastor and clearly communicating them to him and our church? (Ch#7) “In a survey asking how exited pastors experienced stress in their ministry, role conflict was a top ranked producer of stress second only to conflict over how ministry was to be done in the church.” –Wickman5
  3. How are we helping our pastor train volunteers and delegate (administrate) responsibilities? (Ch#6)George Barna has discovered that while 69% of the pastors of effective churches have preaching/teaching as their primary gift emphasis, administration and leadership are found in only 15% of these pastors.” – John Hawco6
  4. How are we facilitating healthy communication in our church? (Ch#9) “Most church conflict results from poor communication.” -Rick Warren7
  5. How do we help our pastor manage the grief and loss he experiences regularly and create a culture of joy? (Ch#11) “Ministry is fraught with grief because of difficulty in relationships between sheep and shepherd, people and pastor.” -John A. MacArthur8
  6. How do we help our pastor manage stress related burnout and encourage him to have enough rest? (Ch#1-2) “75% of pastors experience a significant crisis that they faced due to stress in the ministry” -Fuller Institute9
  7. How do we help our pastor say no and handle the criticism that comes with it? (Ch#8) “All of the top at risk pastors said it was difficult for them to say no.” -Wickman10
  8. How do we help our pastor manage discouragement and encourage him to invest in self care? (Ch#3) “70% of pastors constantly fight depression.” -Fuller Institute11
  9. How do we support our pastor to pursue a healthy relationship with his wife? (Ch#10) “77% of pastors felt they did not have a good marriage.” -FASICLD 12
  10. How do we help our pastor manage isolation and encourage him to meet with pastors of other churches and denominations? (Ch#5) “Only a fellow minister can point out the width and depth of the rut in which a colleague may be running.” – Winton H. Beaven13

Thank you for investing in the health of your church by addressing the 10 Risks every church and its pastor face.  If you would like further resources or there’s any way we can support and strengthen your ministry, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Serving Jesus together,

jason@pirministries.org

1 Grudem, Elliot. “Pour It Out,” Leadership Journal, Winter 2016.

2 Green, Lisa Cannon. “The One Percent;” Christianity Today, September 1, 2015.

3,8,9,11,12 Krejcir, Dr. Richard J. “Statistics On Pastors,” http://www.intothyword.org/apps/articles/?articleid=36562, 2007.

4,5,10, Wickman, Dr. Charles A. Pastors at Risk, 2014.

6 Hawco, John. “The Senior Pastor/Executive Pastor Team: A Contemporary Paradigm For The Larger Church Staff,” Dissertation, https://www.xpastor.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/hawco_john.pdf, 2005.

7 Warren, Rick. “Develop These 7 Skills When You Want People to Listen,” http://pastors.com/develop-these-7-skills-when-you-want-people-to-listen/, October 2, 2015.

8 MacArthur, John A. “Restoring the Grieving Pastor’s Joy,” https://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/47-48/restoring-the-grieving-pastors-joy-part-1, September 24, 1995.

13 Beaven, Winton H. “Ministerial Burnout-Cause and Prevention,” https://www.ministrymagazine.org/archive/1986/03/ministerial-burnout-cause-and-prevention, March 1986.

Compassion Fatigue By Dr. Charles A. Wickman

(The following is an excerpt from “Measuring the Level of Pastors’ Risk of Termination/Exit from the Church,” by Dr. Charles A. Wickman)

The literature describes compassion fatigue more clearly than vision conflict since the term is already referenced numerous times using similar attributes as have been uncovered in this present research (Joinson, 1992; Marchand, 2007; Musick, 1997; Pfifferling & Gilley, 2000; Wells, 2004). Compassion fatigue has also been an occasional topic for the popular press (Focus on the Family, 2008; Johne, 2006). The physical and emotional stresses that are outlined by items 12, 22, and 23—the items with the highest loadings (Table 2)—are similar to the dimensions associated with the Maslach Burnout Inventory (Chandler, 2006; Foss, 2002; Maslach & Jackson, 1981a, 1981b, 1986; Maslach, Jackson & Leiter, 1996; Maslach & Leiter, 2008). Understanding exhaustion, both physical and emotional, is a critical topic in the study of classical burnout (Maslach, Schaufeli & Leiter, 2001; Schaufeli, Taris & van Rhenen, 2008).  Pfifferling and Gilley (2000) add spiritual fatigue to the list of attributes describing compassion fatigue. Some researchers have used comparable terms such as emotional labor or compassion stress when referring to compassion fatigue (Boy le & Healy, 2003; de Jonge, Le Blanc, Peeters & Noordam, 2008; Figley, 1992; Pienaar & Willemse, 2008). However, tracing compassion fatigue among literature directed specifically to the clergy uncovers a unique extension of emphases that carries the definition of the term beyond the specifications of classical burnout due to the typical breadth of circumstances associated with normal ministry functions (Flannelly, Roberts & Weaver, 2005; Marchand, 2007; Pfifferling & Gilley, 2000).

One of the first to employ the term compassion fatigue in association with ministry settings was Hart (1984). He used the term compassion fatigue when counseling members of the clergy who were dealing with depression that resulted from the effects of ministry upon personal life.  Numerous researchers and practitioners since have described the antidotes for ministry stress that parallel Wickman’s (2004) items associated with compassion fatigue (Grosch & Olsen, 2000; Heinen, 2007; Husted, 1996; London & Wiseman, 1993; Sanford, 1992). Helping a parishioner deal with a spectrum of issues can deplete a minister of his or her own emotional reserves and contribute to their vulnerability toward a range of maladies (Hart, 1984). Compounding a sense of depression among clergy is the realization that effective ministry to a congregant does not mean that the congregant’s circumstances will always improve. Hauerwas and Willimon (1990) describe compassion fatigue in the following way: “It strikes people who take on too heavy a load of other people’s burdens, leaving little time or energy for themselves. Victims become disillusioned and depressed, and often start to show cracks in their professional veneer” (p. 247).

Flannelly, Roberts, and Weaver (2005) give special emphasis to compassion fatigue while differentiating the use of the term from burnout in research associated with chaplains and clergy who ministered in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks in New York City. They noted the value of clinical pastoral education as a way to decrease compassion fatigue and burnout while increasing compassion satisfaction in responders and non-responders alike. Pector (2005) distinguishes compassion fatigue from burnout by positing that ministry caregivers who suffer from compassion fatigue continue to fully give of themselves to their work in spite of physical, mental and spiritual depletion.

The occurrence of compassion fatigue among the clergy is inevitable, especially since many of the duties performed by ministers are either similar to various secular jobs where high stress is common, or place the clergy member in a circumstance where extreme trauma is being experienced (Holaday, Lackey, Boucher & Glidewell, 2001; Taylor, Weaver, Flannelly & Zucker, 2006). Boyle and Healy (2003) contend that balancing responses between the sacred and the profane in a heavily emotion-laden organization can be difficult, citing the rush of excitement experienced by emergency personnel when a life is saved. Members of the clergy experience a similar set of extremes. Emotional highs and lows are exacerbated by stress, demand, and exhaustion that characterize compassion fatigue among clergy according to the physical and social proximity of the minister to the congregants where he or she serves. Although Marcuson (2004) does not employ the term compassion fatigue, a theme of balance undergirds her exhortation for clergy to find a functional equilibrium when trying to realize when enough help is truly enough. As White (2007) posits, “people who work in ministry are often working in the very communities they rely upon for social and spiritual support, and the dual relationships that result can pose complications for their work and personal lives” (p. 7).  Brown (2007) illustrates the high-low liability associated with the minister’s dedication to serve among people who may accuse or slander their minister if their needs are not addressed to their satisfaction. Indeed, compassion fatigue introduces an important dimension of understanding how people and relationships affect the physical, emotional and spiritual health of the clergy.

Read full article at https://www.regent.edu/acad/global/publications/working/Spencer-Winston-Bocarnea-Wickman%20Pastors%20At%20Risk%20working%20paper.pdf

Vision Conflict By Dr. Charles A. Wickman

(excerpt from “Measuring the Level of Pastors’ Risk of Termination/Exit from the Church” by Dr. Charles A. Wickman)

The term vision conflict does not exist as a named dimension in any of the literature associated with research involving clergy. However, numerous scholarly and popular press sources discuss clergy’s feelings of disparity between what they expected to happen by answering the call to ministry and the events that actually take place that create a sense of conflict about what they think should be the results of their ministry. From the outset of Wick man’s (1984) practitioner work that informed the development of PaRI, one of the frequent areas of discussion with clergy revolved around their sense for why they were called into the ministry and the irregularity between what clergy expected the call to entail and what actually occurred: “Once in the ministry there are problems and pastors can begin to question whether they were called” (C. Wickman, personal communication, July 23, 2008). The negative satisfaction, limited sense of joy, loss of meaning and calling—as depicted in items 6, 19, 26, and 28 (Table 1)—these are indicators that ministry expectations have fallen short of actual experiences and that vision conflict exists.

The connection between a sense of unrealistic expectations in ministry and vision conflict are unquestioned. Lehr’s (2006) research examining clergy concluded that ministry lives tend to be constructed around great demands, high stress, unrealistic expectations, amid environments of conflict, and are thus vulnerable to lapse in to codependent practices that bring further endangerment. According to Clinton (1988), there is an inner expectation for ongoing ministry development in the life of clergy even though trials and frustration are natural experiences for clergy. Weber and Goetz (1996) support the notion that vision conflict may be a result of not understanding the difficulty of the clergy role when they write, “the pastor who is most Christlike is not the one who is fulfilled in every moment of his ministry but the one whose ministry has in it unbelievable elements of crucifixion” (p. 30). Hoge and Wenger (2005) interviewed clergy who left the ministry and noted that ministers had a much different expectation about how their time would be allotted than what actually took place. Those who left the ministry “did not attribute the problem to specific conflicts within the congregation or with denominational officers; their complaints were more general, more colored by self-doubt, and more typical of individuals who are depressed” (Hoge & Wenger, 2005, p. 115). The foregoing perspectives suggest that clergy may not adequately be prepared for what they will experience in the ministry and that what this research labels as vision conflict is a natural part of what the ministry holds (White, 2007; Wickman, 1984).

The degree of disparity in the ministry expectations on the part of both parishioners and clergy exemplifies another crucial example of vision conflict in the literature (Kisslinger, 2007). Hands and Fehr (1994) observed of clergy that they were “people who had to live behind a professional façade which would impose considerable demands on their mental and emotional health” (p. xii).  According to McIntosh and Rima (1997), the unrealistic expectation by clergy to achieve success becomes coupled with personal dysfunctional realities that are a carry-over from needs from an earlier time of life. The majority of tragically fallen Christian leaders feel “driven to achieve and succeed in an increasingly competitive and demanding church environment” (McIntosh & Rima, 1997, p. 14).

The connection between the clergy’s sense of call and their motive for entering the ministry is also seen in the literature as informing an understanding of vision conflict (Jinkins, 2002). A healthy view of motive begins with values and yields beliefs, which lead to intentions, which result in behaviors (Winston, 2002). However, for some clergy, examining the motives connected with entering the ministry are covered over with false motivation or are not considered at all. Willimon (1989) posits a common tendency on the part of clergy to fail to properly evaluate the initial reasons for entering the ministry. Wood (2001) identifies motive as being a contributor to lower numbers of young people choosing pastoral ministry when he states, “why in the world would a talented young person commit to a life of low salary, low prestige, long hours, no weekends and little room for advancement” (p.19). For many clergy members, financial realities multiply the cost of their decision to minister by requiring bivocational roles in order to afford the pursuit of their calling (Bickers, 2000, 2004).

Maloney and Hunt (1991) emphasize the importance to differentiate between circumstance and personality—outside-the-person traits and individual motives. Such a differentiation allows for a clearer picture in defining the impact of individual traits such as a sense of calling that lie “somewhere between interest and feelings ” (Maloney & Hunt, 1991, p. 19). The connection between motive and vision conflict can also be seen through the willingness or ability of the clergy to adjust to changing social conditions and work circumstances. Beebe (2007) posits that little attention is paid to the internal psychological dynamics surrounding social expectations of the clergy role, and that those circumstances have greatly changed in the last three decades.  Snyder (1979) posits that some clergy have great difficulty in managing change but that the technological age portends inevitable and ongoing social change. Lack of sufficient motivation to navigate uncertain social change is related to increased vision conflict.

See full article at https://www.regent.edu/acad/global/publications/working/Spencer-Winston-Bocarnea-Wickman%20Pastors%20At%20Risk%20working%20paper.pdf

Pastor, Are You At Risk?

In 2012 my 10 year plan was completely derailed as I found myself exiting a pastoral position I loved.  In the wake of this painful transition I was introduced to the Pastor In Residence ministry to pastor’s and their wives.  Their at risk survey would have been a huge benefit to me on the front end had I known about it.

If you or those around you are feeling that something isn’t right about your present pastoral situation, please take this free survey created through years of research by Dr. Charles A. Wickman regarding the risks pastors face.

At-Risk Pastor Survey

May God richly bless you and your family.  Thank you for serving His church.