Pastors have an incredibly taxing job. It is a high calling and responsibility to live and work in the pastorate, but it comes with high cost. Poor emotional health is common when people are constantly poured out emotionally and physically, isolated socially and/or spiritually, and not poured back into with encouragement and care.
To create an environment where pastors are doing effective ministry, the whole person needs to be cared for. If the whole person IS cared for, it can lead to increased job satisfaction, longevity, and contributes to a more healthy church.
So before we get to what steps you can take to promote mental health and wellness, here are some things NOT to do when your church staff members are struggling emotionally:
Don’t tell them to get over it.
When going through a tough time emotionally, telling someone to "get over it" communicates that you don’t care. Often, depression cannot just be gotten over. Whether it is seasonal (Seasonal Affective Disorder) or clinical depression, helping them to understand healthy next steps can communicate care and help move them through a tough time.
Don’t talk to other people about what they have shared with you confidentially.
This should fall under the “no brainer” category, but it is important to keep confidential what is shared. Your church staff should have a code of confidentiality that is followed by every team member.
Don’t tell them to just pray more or read the Bible more.
A persons’ spiritual health cannot be easily separated from their emotional health, but they are not one and the same. Just because they are going through a rough period emotionally, it does not mean that they are going through a spiritual struggle as well. Responding to someone going through a time of depression with a simple spiritual ‘fix’ is not going to help.
Don’t withdraw from the relationship.
This can be devastating to someone who is going through a rough patch. Even if you don’t have the words, being present and consistent can speak volumes to how much you care for the person's wellbeing.
Now that we’ve identified some actions to avoid, here are some things that you can do to help:
Do offer a safe place where staff can voice concerns and frustrations without fear of backlash.
Do take it seriously.
When a staff member steps forward with a problem, that might be your only chance to do something about it. Listen without judgment, reassure the person of your support for them, and refer them to a trained counselor if necessary.
Do have referrals for mental health professionals, including counselors for therapy and psychiatrists for medications.
Do consider covering part or all of staff counseling sessions as a part of your benefits package.
For those in ministry, cost for counseling can be prohibitive and prevent staff from getting the help they need.
Do consider a sabbatical or a staff silent retreat, usually offered at monasteries.
Programs typically include time alone, prayer, opportunities for reflection, and meditation on scripture.
It is important to promote emotional health on your church staff.
What are some other ways you’ve seen churches help their pastors through depression?
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