Monday, April 1, 2013

Depressed pastor? Entirely predictable.

Easter is over. The big crowd is gone. The pastor has another 51 or so Sundays before he gets to the next highest, holiest Sunday. In that time it will be back to the old grind of probably a couple of sermons and at least one teaching occasion, every week...after week...after week, hospital visits, the dreaded church administration ("Pastor, what are we going to do about VBS this year? It's only three months away and I can't find any workers..."), working with perhaps recalcitrant deacons, surly staff, and the occasional (or frequent) complaint from the congregational hoi polloi.

It shouldn't be but sometimes it is rather depressing.

Take a look at a story of a few weeks ago in Associated Baptist Press f  by Jeff Brumley on clergy depression. Clergy depression is a regular subject for reporting, and certainly ought to be.

Rising stress boosts clergy depression

A few quotes:
There is a cultural expectation that our pastors have it all together and that they are the last people who are going to be depressed...
 In seeking help for severe depression, [prominent moderate Baptist pastor Stephen] Shoemaker, 64, is an example of a trend that's seeing more ministers confronting mental illness and letting their congregations know about it.
Clergy financial and sexual abuse scandals have publicly tarnished ministers, while declines in membership have added financial stresses that turn pastors into nearly full-time capital campaign managers, [Methodist minister and counselor Christopher] Carlton said.

OK, all of you who think about church revenues at least some each week (day?) raise your hand.

I thought so.

You know that when your congregation does this you call it "worry" and preach about how believers ought not to worry.

Yeah, I thought that might depress you. It's called at worst 'hypocrisy' and at best, 'willful ignorance.'

What makes this more worrisome (uh, sorry) is that credible bloggers and admired leaders either purposefully or inadvertently make it worse by maintaining the 'bullet-proof' pastoral posture (can't happen to us) or by foolishly ignoring that depression is a serious medical issue that should be treated by a physician and medication at times.

You are not bullet proof, I don't care how long you read your Bible and pray each day.

I have never experienced severe depression but I have seen plenty enough of it to have a layman's understand that it should be taken seriously.

But you go ahead and pray your way out of it or move to another church or engage in reckless behavior to compensate for it.

Oh, did I mention that every community I have ever lived and pastored in has at least one and sometimes more than one pastor suicide story. Ask, they will tell you (Oh yeah, preacher Morose shot hisself over at Hardtimes Baptist Church, and in the pastorium too).

Megachurch pastors get sabbaticals, perhaps every August off, and get sent on cruises. That might help.

You and I might try something more realistic, like going to the doctor.

God bless you. You are in my prayers.



Andrew Green said...

What makes it tough is when at conventions and at pastoral conferences the only pastors we ever see are megachurch pastors that have a large staff and plenty of money. We never hear from the small church pastor struggling in the small town of elderly people and younger generation apathetic to the gospel.

Caleb said...

True that Andrew. True that. Even in a fairly small convention like the Kansas-Nebraska Convention, our annual meeting speaker lineup is full of success stories.

William Thornton said...

I wouldn't argue with you guys but conference speakers are enlisted mostly to draw a crowd.

It took me a good while to recognize that it was unhealthy to hitch my expectations, even subliminally, to the megas and large church guys continually trotted out as SBC success stories.