on self care for Pastors

I was talking with Mark Stevens yesterday via face book and we were sharing about how ministry is going – here where we are it can be pretty tough from certain points of veiw: we’re barely making it financially as a church (the people don’t tithe and most barely give); our numbers just dropped to over half where we were just a month or two ago (we just lost at least 12 people who have left the canyon (or the church) for various reasons);  we’re pretty isolated (nearest big city is 90 miles out); we ourselves have few people we can call “friends” here in the Canyon Village; I have no one to really “talk theology” with really, blogging is my only real avenue for that (which, understandably has it’s own limitations); the list could go on and on and on. 

Mark thinks the denomination should be doing more to help us out – it could if we communicated it, and we have.  They once gave us a check to help us out.  Well, we ended up getting burned by our own congregation because we had been sharing that the church needs help financially and when we told them about the check to share about the Lord’s provision, some were impressed but later we learned it was mocked (we have a cultural group in our congregation that as a culture is very proud and does not ask for help, so they didn’t really appreciate it too much).  But we would need that support every month, but the district just wouldn’t be able to do that (for reason’s I won’t go into here). 

So the issue came up of networking (which is why we are in process to become nationally appointed US Missionaries) but also that of self care.  Really, the pastor(s) of a church need to know how to take care of themselves.  Self care is a big aspect of the pastoral ministry

So in what aspect do I mean self care?  I mean spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically.  All of it.   Why, because in essence, the pastor(s) needs to be the healthiest person in the congregation (at least among the healthiest).  But this would be important whether or not one is in a big city with lots of resources or in a more rural area with few if any resources. 

Please note as well, that spiritual and or emotional self care is more than just doing “devotions.”  It has more to do with being able to know your own self and know your own needs and to evaluate how you are doing and what your needs are to stay healthy.  It also has to do with knowing oneself from the perspective of one’s family of origin and how and why one acts and or relates to others the way one does and how to fix or improve on that as needed and so on.  If your getting discouraged, how to combat it; if your getting depressed, how to handle that as well, and even how to know if you might be depressed or discouraged and so on.  These are very normal things, but a healthy pastor will know how to mangage all that or know when and how to get help. 

It’s the pastors who burn out or fail in minstry (or even ruin a church) who were not able to do self care or took the time to make such efforts.  This kind of thing is what needs to be minimized or avoided and the key is knowing how to do and why one needs to do self care as pastor.


12 responses to “on self care for Pastors

  1. Good post Brian – very honest. I strongly believe the burden of responsibility of pastoral care for ministers lies with the denomination. It is all to easy to make decisions and send people into unhealthy situations when one doesn’t have to take care of the mess that may ensue. I have heard to many people sprout off about how Paul did it and Wesley etc etc and therefore the Spirit will look after them. Well although I would like to think that is the case, it isn’t. What is even more reprehensible is when a denomination says things like this to new pastors. My take is this; if they believe God wants a church in a particular place, well, they need to make sure they back that up with resources and money. (Just my op)

    However, it is called self-care for a reason and too many ministers (most self included) do not take seriously enough the need to self-care. One of the best things I have learnt is to be self-aware and not afraid to take some time out if needed. But hey, I still get it wrong!

  2. Man you could never convince me to be a pastor. That has to be a divine calling because whenever I hear people talk about it I think ‘man that’s just not worth it’. Good for y’all sticking thorough and persevering. Hope all works out well : )

    Bryan L

    • One of the Church Fathers would agree with you – that one one should not go into the ministry unless absolutley compelled by God. I can’t remember who, I read the statement in Thomas Oden’s Pastoral Theology but can’t remember where it is at the moment.

  3. LOL Bryan. I personally think it is worth it and for meat least there is a lot more positives than negatives. However, I am in a great congregation that help me to look after myself. I had good seminary prep and ultimately I feel as sense of calling to what I do. On the other side of the argument I did hear a pastor once say that there is nothing this side of eternity that makes ministry worth while.

    It saddens me that more people seem interested in Bib Studies than ministry – in some ways bib studies without ministry seems pointless to me. Therefore, my response might be, how could you not? 😉

  4. Brian, thanks for this post. I pray that the hearts of your congregants would be changed for the better on the issues you have raised.

    Thanks especially for the word on self care. Do you have other pastors that you can bond with? I’ve found that to be rather helpful. Just this evening my wife and I went to a dinner, welcoming the city’s newest pastor. It was great see some of my older pastor friends and do a bit of catching up.

    The whole evening reminded me of how great it is to be in ministry despite the heartaches and headaches.

    But I’m still not going to be able to convince ol’ Bryan L. God would have to do a special work on him. 😉

    • I have some connections I just need to take more initiative with some of them…. we meet up with the other pastors here in the park at times but we’re not yet at that place where we can relate at that level. I can appreciate that you took a new pastor to dinner, that didn’t happen for us when it should have.

      My wife Debbie cautioned me not to be too hard on the congregation – they’ll give but their time but not money necessarily and if we have a BBQ or something, they’ll bring food or offer to make Frybread and such – I guess it’s possible they may think they just are not able (though some are not willing) to give financially. Whenever we try to talk about it – it doesn’t go well.

  5. Let me preface this with a 8)

    Brian, “self-care”? Here is what I think for what it is worth. Just as every member of the church is to care for every member of the church, the pastor who is part of the church should be cared for by the church. This is not relegated to financial care, as this could be included; however, whenever in scripture it commands us to “bare one another burdens” this is not a command to leaders to bare the burdens of those they have been given the privellage to give oversight for, it is inclusive of to the saints of God bearing the burdens of ALL of those they have relationships with. The problem rests in “pastors” who do not open their lives, homes and hearts to those they have been gifted to serve. They feel as if “meddling or fratenizing” with the congregation despiritualizes him/her. This only contributes to the “great masquerade” that plagues the body today.

    Just as others “do life” the pastor should be able to do life. Just because he “should” be the most mature, does not exclude him from being “admonished, taught, exhorted, edified and cared for” by the saints of God. But today the pastor is full of the “church” thus he must find relationships (which is what he should be teaching and spurring people on to) outside of the very church he is teaching to have relationships with each other. This seems to be a bit hypocritical to me Brian, but maybe because I don’t know much.

    If a pastor “burns out” that means he is doing something that God has not called or equipped him to do. He has taken on the responsibility of the church and thus is paying the cost for not entrusting the saints of God with the work of ministry. If a pastor is lonely in a church that he shepherds, then again he is only paying the cost of his hypocrisy. To encourage and admonish others to live out accountability, care and faithfulness to one another and then to go outside of that group to get it has to be one of the craziest and inconsistent things I have ever seen. To meet with “other pastors” to have relationships is like me hanging out with other women to get female compaionship when I have been married for 11 years. My female compaionship should come from my wife not outside of my marriage and pastoral relationships, care, exhortation, admonishment, edification and burden bearing should come from those he should have the greatest relationship with, because he was already doing these things and thus he was set aside as an elder brother right?

    • Well, I don’t think burnout necessarily means a person is out of God’s will – it happnes most often when a person loosed focus and forgets why they are doing whatever it is they are doing. With ministry it does help to be very sure of the calling so when the going gets tough you can look to the calling -this can especially be true for overseas missionaries when they face difficult situations or just get burdened with the isolation they often face. But I do agree burnout can come from trying to do to much and not allowing oneself to share the burden. We continually tell people it is not “The Brian and Debbie Show” they can minister too -it’s their church too but they aren’t quite catching on yet.

      You may not think I listen to you but I do – I am not so arrogant to think I know it all or have the corner on the market. That said, I feel what you present is more of the ideal that Paul puts forth in his letters (with the hope people will follow through) and is what churches should be striving towards but that it is not always reality – I know all too many pastors who would love to have friends or support from the congregation but that teaching, preaching, working to equip them to so the work of ministry is not unlike trying to work with a teenager! 😉 The harder one pushes, the more they resist. No?

      I would be fine to have friends and support here, but sadly people just are not at that place in life (for lots of reasons – mostly just too much relational borkenness) where they can understand and act upon these sorts of things. And I know there are lots of stereo types of Pastors and maybe they think we are too busy to interact, who knows. No one says anything so we have no real way of knowing. I know too being friends with the pastor is weird for some people (as opposed to being friends with a Christian brother or sister who is not a “pastor.”

      Please know when we first got here to pastor the church the numbers were really low and we knew it would take time to rebuild and re-establish – so we reached out to some in the other churches just to get to know people – many will flat out not even talk to us or associate with us in any way – why? We wish we knew – but probably it is because they are not supportive of a woman pastor and don’t know how to relate to others despite some differences (but many consider this too significant a difference to work around). They prefer their own groups. Who knows too, maybe they felt threatned we would try to take people from their churches (which is not true and besides, the people do whatever they want – we have some who go to one church and then come to ours – or go to whatever service fits their work schedule).

      I could go on and on, but I won’t. Please know I really do appreciate your input lionel.

      • Also on the issue of self care – I might suppose it is something every Christian has to do to some degree or another – it has to do with having enough self awareness to know what is going on inside you so you can ask for help if you need it or if you can just go to the Lord with it, depending on the situation.

        Remember the old computers when they turned on they went through a system check and if something was off it stopped to let you know? That would be one way to look at how self care should work for every Christian, pastor or not.

  6. Hi,

    I would like to share with you a good ebook that’s free to help pastors and their wives with discouragement and burnout. You can find it at: http://www.stoppastorburnout.com . It’s quite helpful.

    If you have pastor friends or even their wives, we are currently inviting pastors and pastor wives to join charter membership club for free for 2 months,you might want to share this with them. You may visit http://www.susandavidlifecoach.com/index.php/sponsors for more information.

    We would also like to invite you to view our video on this topic at

    Feel free to share this with your friends or people you care for.

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    Susan David

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