Follow The Pastor's Soul on Feedspot

Continue with Google
Continue with Facebook


Every leader faces discouragement at some time. Many leaders try to battle their discouragement with cynicism or apathy. Eventually these leaders stop leading altogether. Pastors are not immune to discouragement. Thom Rainer says, “Over one-half (55%) of pastors are presently discouraged. I suspect that if we surveyed pastors over just a few months, we would find that almost all of them experience deep discouragement.”

Does this pervasiveness mean our approach to overcoming discouragement is wrong? Instead of blaming others, commiserating with other pastors, grumbling to our spouse, or becoming depressed, what if we learned to listen to discouragement? There are lessons God wants to teach us through our discouragement if we know how to listen.

Discern the Source of Discouragement

When asked why they are so discouraged, most people will respond by stating things that are external. For example, pastors listed the sources of their discouragement as: conflict, criticism, church decline, family pressures, resistance to change, financial pressures, or comparing their ministry to more “successful” ministries.

However, Erik Raymond suggests that the source of discouragement may not be external: “Ministry doesn’t need to be as discouraging as you may be letting it be.” We need to look internally for the source of our discouragement. No one can make us become discouraged. They can’t steal our enthusiasm or quench our spirit. Discouragement comes from within – it comes from how we respond to situations that didn’t go the way we wanted. Discouragement shows us that our view of life is disordered. Here are some internal causes of discouragement:


Sometimes we become discouraged because we have overcomplicated things. We haven’t done the hard work of finding clarity – a simple, elegant approach to the problem. Working without clarity leads us to become overwhelmed by all that has to be done.


One of the most pervasive sources of discouragement is becoming overwhelmed by the expectations of ourselves or others. When we try to be superhuman, we will become discouraged every time. This is not an issue of too much to do, but of too little time discerning what is most important. Priority creates clarity. When we discern what is most important and what we must do, then we can be free to say no or to delegate work to others. Priority provides focus, and focus is energizing.


If, like me, you have a tendency toward perfectionism, you will spend much of your life in discouragement. When we expect perfection from ourselves or others, we will be disappointed every time. A friend once asked me, “Why do you expect people to give you what they can’t possibly give?” My expectations were killing me and hurting those around me. Learning to trust the Holy Spirit to grow people in his way and in his timing allowed me to relax. I learned that leadership is more about the journey than the destination. Rather than expressing expected outcomes, try inspiring movement in the desired direction.


In the study cited above, Thom Rainer says, “There was a significant pattern of discouragement related to the age of the pastor. The younger the pastor, the more likely he was to be discouraged.” The idealism of our youth will turn into discouragement when faced with the facts of reality. Young leaders want to change the world, but no one has told them just how hard that will be. They haven’t learned just how much they will have to sacrifice, suffer, and persevere just to see small changes become reality. Some ministries never survive this lesson.


Sometimes discouragement is just one symptom of a greater problem. Burnout and compassion fatigue are both marked by a lack of enthusiasm, energy, and hope. They come from a deeper problem of unhealthy rhythms of work, rest, and relationship with God and others. Many pastors who are suffering burnout or compassion fatigue will say, “I’m a little discouraged right now,” when in reality they need extended time off and the help of a counselor, mentor, or spiritual director.

Learning from Discouragement

When we see that most discouragement comes from within, we can begin to learn and grow in God’s presence. By reordering our relationships with God, self, and others, we can grow through discouragement.

Check Your Relationship with God

Is your relationship with God the priority of your life? Often discouragement is a sign of disconnection from God. We start following our own desires instead of God’s leading. We work in our own strength instead of relying on God. Failing to pray or read Scripture for the nourishment of your soul will leave you feeling discouraged. This discouragement is a gift from God because it calls you back to him. Bill Gaultiere says what we need is to “learn how to unhook from our relationships and responsibilities to be alone with Jesus in a quiet place for extended hours.”

Who is leading your life? Are you following your own mission, does the church drive you, or are you following the leading of God? Listening to God through his Word and prayer are essential to our spiritual health and leadership. When we are following God’s lead, we can trust in his timing instead of our own. We can rest in his gifts instead for striving for more. We are stewards who live to please God. This gives us freedom from discouragement when we don’t get our own way. When people don’t live up to our expectations, we can remind ourselves that they answer to God and not to us. When we are following God’s lead, we can trust others to be led by God too.

Develop Character by Meditating on God’s Ways

Pray this prayer of Moses: “Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.” Spend an extended period of time thinking deeply about God as he is revealed in his Word. Take a day or two, or make it the focus of your daily meditation for the next month. How do each of the following truths from Scripture relate to your discouragement? Meditate on each one to develop the character of Christ in you:

  • God is in control.
  • He is patient with you (meditate on the word longsuffering).
  • God’s purposes are not frustrated – he accomplishes all his will.
  • God is gracious and forgiving.
  • Jesus wants to be in relationship with you.
  • The Holy Spirit is your comforter and teacher.
  • God will provide for all your needs.
  • God’s strength is shown in your weakness.
  • Nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

When we look to God and learn from his character, we are encouraged and transformed.

Give Grace

Sometimes we get discouraged when people don’t live up to our expectations – whether it be our desires for their life or our interpretation of holiness. When we become judgmental Pharisees, we can expect to feel discouraged. However, when we consider how God is patient, gracious, and forgiving toward us, it frees us to offer grace to others.

Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.

Proverbs 19:11

Over-responsibility – taking responsibility for something that isn’t our responsibility – is often a source of judgment and discouragement. Learning to allow others the freedom to struggle and even fail demonstrates trust in both them and God. We can provide support, encouragement, and inspiration without taking responsibility for others. By leaving the outcomes to God, we are free from the burden of responsibility and the accompanying discouragment.

Address Destructive Issues

Sometimes it is impossible to overlook a problem because it is destructive to others. We need to confront sin and call out poor performance or bad attitudes. But we must do this with grace and compassion – seeking the highest good of the other person. We must also be careful to not take responsibility for them. Instead, we must be clear that they are responsible to God first and to their family, their church, or their employer second. In these situations our discouragement is a sign of our love for others. We must be careful to act in both truth and love.

Pastors, what has helped you overcome discouragement in ministry? Leave a comment here or join The Pastor’s Soul Facebook group. Here are 21 Maxims for Discouraged Pastors by Douglas Wilson for further study.

The post Listening to Discouragement appeared first on The Pastor's Soul.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Awareness of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has risen dramatically since 1980 when it was formally given a diagnostic status by the American Psychiatric Association. However, this condition has been around much longer. During World War I it was called “shellshock,” Shakespeare’s Henry IV displays many of the characteristics of PTSD. The condition is perhaps as old as trauma itself.

What Is PTSD?

According to the National Center for PTSD, “Posttraumatic stress disorder is a mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, or sexual assault.” Among the general population PTSD occurs in approximately 10 percent of women and 5 percent of men. Being a victim or simply witnessing the following types of traumatic events can lead to PTSD:

  • Physical assault
  • Sexual assault
  • Military Combat
  • Violent Accidents (car crash, sports collision, or mass transit accident)
  • Racism
  • Terrorism
  • Murder or suicide
  • Crimes in which a person feels violated (like home invasion, burglary, or kidnapping)
  • Life-threatening illness or injury
  • Hearing the story of one of the above events (especially in a helping role like a counselor or therapist)
High-Risk Occupations

When people think of PTSD, they often think of certain professions that necessarily face traumatic events on a daily basis – soldiers, police, paramedics, etc. This doesn’t mean that these professions cause PTSD, but they are associated with a higher risk. Consider this list of 7 High-Risk Professions That Can Lead to PTSD:

  • Veterans of Military Combat:
    • Iraqi Freedom up to 20%
    • Gulf War around 12%
    • Vietnam as high as 30%
  • Police Officers about 10%
  • Firefighters & Paramedics 20%
  • Healthcare and Mental Health Workers up to 17% depending on the type of work
  • Journalists 30%
  • Disaster First Responders & Volunteers 15-30%

When individuals have an opportunity to express their feelings or talk to a counselor shortly after the traumatic event, the rate of PTSD dramatically drops. This is why the rate for police officers is so low and the rate for journalists is so high.

Pastors and PTSD

One category that never makes the list of at-risk professions is Religious Leaders. According to a current cross-denominational study being done at the Danielsen Institute at Boston University, 55 percent of clergy had scores that indicated PTSD may be a concern, and almost 35 percent met the criteria for a probable PTSD diagnosis. If these numbers were added to the list above, Pastors would have the highest risk of developing posttraumatic stress among all the listed professions.

Pastors have a greater risk of developing PTSD than veterans of military combat, police officers, firefighters, paramedics, journalists, and hospital workers.
Click To Tweet
Why do pastors have such a high risk for developing PTSD?

There are three primary factors for why pastors are at a high risk of PTSD:

First, pastors are exposed to a lot of trauma. Take another look at the above list of traumatic events that can cause PTSD. Pastors are exposed to many of their either by direct experience or through ministering to people who have suffered such trauma.

Second, pastors have high-stress jobs. They live in a world of high expectations, high criticism, and low support. This is a dangerous combination. According to Dr. Nicola Davies, in her article Anxiety, Depression, PTSD Impacted By Occupational Stress, “Evidence suggests that the key link between occupation and mental illness is high stress, which can increase the risk of PTSD, anxiety, depression, and mood and sleep disturbances.”

Third, pastors often lack training and support structures to deal with the personal impact of traumatic events. As mentioned above, most of the at-risk professions have support systems to help them deal with trauma. They often attend workshops or professional education to train them how to deal with the effects of exposure to trauma. Most of these occupations also have regular access to counselors through their workplace. Pastors are on their own. They rarely have any training on this issue, and if they want to see a counselor, many have to pay for it out of their own pocket (something most small church pastors can’t afford).

Signs of PTSD

Here are some signs that your pastor may be experiencing PTSD, they may:

  • Withdraw from family, friends, and church members.
  • Have trouble sleeping.
  • Seem lethargic or have trouble doing normal activities.
  • Become distracted, distant, or forgetful.
  • Are depressed, angry, or on edge.
  • Seem uncharacteristically negative, pessimistic, or self-absorbed.
  • Emotions seem muted or they complain of feeling emotionally numb.
  • Engage in addictive or self-destructive behavior.
  • Complain of chronic pain or they have been diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia.
What Can a Church Do to Protect Their Pastor from PTSD?

Please note that not all exposure to trauma will result in PTSD. In some cases, it may actually help the person become stronger. “Almost everyone develops post-traumatic stress reactions shortly after being exposed to severe stressors. However, most stress reactions will diminish within days, weeks or a few months without any intervention. In a significant proportion of those exposed to severe stressors, the outcome is increased resilience, acceptance and post-traumatic growth.” However, given the risk factors that most pastors face, churches would be wise to implement the following:

  1. Ask your pastor “Have you seen or heard about traumatic events recently?” This should be asked at least every month. If the answer is “yes,” they should be encouraged to talk to a professional counselor.
  2. Provide your pastor with a monthly appointment with a licenced professional counselor who knows the stress of pastoral ministry. Make this part of your pastor’s benefit package (even if they are bivocational). Some denominations provide this free or at a reduced cost.
  3. Pay for your pastor to attend training events on primary and secondary trauma. You may have to find one for chaplains, counselors, doctors, or police because there aren’t many available specifically for clergy. If you have the resources, contact a local professional counselor who is an expert on trauma and set up a training day at your church. Invite all the area pastors to attend. Or ask a local seminary to hold a small conference on this issue.
  4. Make sure your pastor’s spouse is trained in spotting symptoms of PTSD. Many times they will be the only one who notices the change. Without training they may take it personally or feel ashamed. Trauma affects the whole family and the effects can last for multiple generations.
  5. When you know your pastor has faced a traumatic event in the life of your church, give them extra time off within a week or two to process their grief. Taking some stress off their shoulders is one of the best ways to help them thrive in traumatic situations.

Experiencing posttraumatic stress disorder does not disqualify your pastor from ministry. In fact, it can be a power tool that God uses to help others process their trauma. As Rick Warren has said, “Your greatest ministry will likely come from your deepest pain.” If your church gives your pastor the support they need, you are following the biblical command to honor your pastor and it may become a blessing for the whole church.

Your greatest ministry will likely come from your deepest pain. pic.twitter.com/gh9AIwt30q

— Rick Warren (@RickWarren) June 12, 2014

The post A High-Risk Profession: Pastors and PTSD appeared first on The Pastor's Soul.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 
The Pastor's Soul by David Sanford - 3w ago

It happened again this past Monday. A dedicated, hard-working veteran pastor told me about the problems within his church. He listed a number of tell-tale markers as he expressed his deep frustrations. When he was done, I paused, noting the pain written across his face. I then asked: “Is it possible that your personal issues have colored or clouded your perceptions?”

In this case, the answer is sadly a clear yes. I’ve already recommended Jerry and Denise Basel’s landmark book, The Missing Commandment. Next up is Lane Cohee’s brand-new book, The Disquieted Soul.

Dr. Cohee is an Associate Professor of Management at Palm Beach Atlantic University’s Rinker School of Business. He’s also a former business leader in the aerospace and defense sector. His personal story is instructive.

In early 2017 I defended my doctoral dissertation. The event was a landmark in my professional journey, integrating research from the academy with years of experience as a business leader. I’d graduated in record time and enjoyed a successful first career. I possessed many of the trappings that would suggest a prosperous life.

But as with many who are blessed with some achievement, there was another side to my story. My life was chaotic. I drank too much. I was in lousy physical condition. I was a mediocre father and a poor husband. For all my success as a provider, my closest personal relationships were a mess.

Not coincidentally I was in lousy spiritual condition as well. I’d committed myself to the Christian faith nearly 35 years before but was running on fumes. Like a middle-ager living in his high school glory days, spiritual progress was a distant memory. I could still talk a good game based on years of residual knowledge, but I was marking time. I’d been going through the motions for a long while.

I once had a friend call me one of those “tortured souls.” By that he meant I was clearly prone to overanalyze, over-worry, over-perform, and over-do. I was restless, impatient, discontented, and anxious. I was driven to perfectionistic extremes and addictive tendencies. Internal turbulence, disorder, and even recklessness were regular companions. Peace, stability, and harmony were not. My friend could as easily have called me one of those “disquieted souls.” And the more I lived, the more I observed that I was not alone.

I’ve listened to many Christian stories, and mine isn’t unique. We get to mid-life and we become content and lazy. We rest on our spiritual laurels—past knowledge and past service. We learn to enjoy the creature comforts of this life way too much. We stop attending to our souls, instead keeping them anesthetized with everything this life has to offer.

But God wasn’t finished with me. Bit by bit he began putting me back on the treadmill, dealing with my coping mechanisms, spiritual sloth, and addictions.

One of Cohee’s pastors, the Rev. Jerry Klemm, senior pastor of Covenant Church in Palm Bay, Florida, tells the rest of the story. It’s the story of restoring a disquieted soul.

When I first met Lane Cohee, he was in the middle of the journey he now so transparently shares. What a pleasure it has been to see his physical, spiritual, and relational transformation into the man he is today! He speaks with the voice of experience and hard-learned wisdom. Lane offers clear insights to all of us who repeatedly feel like we are one step away from failing at what is most important in life.

What about your own story? Is it possible that your personal issues have colored or clouded your perceptions? If so, Cohee’s story offers both paths of discovery and deliverance. You can watch it online at www.disquietedsoul.com.   

The post Are You a Disquieted Soul? appeared first on The Pastor's Soul.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Every pastor who still wants to be in the ministry five years from now needs to take a day or two off each quarter to hit the “refresh” button.

The most valuable assets we have, after all, aren’t our offices, computers, books and other tangible resources. Instead, our greatest assets are intangible—our creative souls.

By “creative souls,” I’m speaking about everything inside us that makes us who we are at the office (and away from church, too). This includes our knowledge, skills, perceptions, understanding, craftsmanship, and wisdom. It includes our abilities to come up with brilliant ideas, new solutions, artistic expressions, and bursts of insight and intuition that surprise us.

The most important ways to replenish our creative souls is to be filled with the Holy Spirit. How? In the Bible, in church history, in modern biographies, and in contemporary experience we see many ways to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Some of these ways may include…

  • Times to pray, praise God, confess our sins, and ask to be filled with the Spirit
  • Times to read the Bible in different translations, study the Scriptures, and meditate on specific passage(s) in God’s Word
  • Times to enjoy inspiring music (old and new), spend time in the great outdoors in awe of God’s creation, fellowship with another believer, and worship with a different group of believers
  • Times to make a list of the individuals who have made the most positive impact on you during each of your life chapters so far, to thank God for these encouragers, to thank each one as the Lord leads, and then to ask God to bless you with a “Barnabas” for this stage of life and ministry
  • Times to go on a personal spiritual retreat, intentionally live more simply in order to focus on what truly matters, and fast from food and/or water for a specific period of time for spiritual reasons
  • Times to take advantage of your region’s best Christian universities, including scheduling a meeting with a well-respected professor, signing up for an inexpensive accredited online seminary course, and attending public events
  • Times to ask for guidance from one or more individuals you deeply respect who are godly and who you know love you, and volitionally choose to be under their spiritual direction, guidance and counsel

Beyond the spiritual, there are many other ways to replenish our creative souls. Some of these ways may include

  • Times to use humor and get ridiculous in order to cleanse the palate, hit “Restart” and spark new ideas
  • Times to study human nature since people can be so many things: curious, self-centered, don’t want to be nagged, visually focused, enamored with the latest tech toys, etc.
  • Times to enjoy a mix of your region’s public and private university campuses, including their architecture, sculptures, interior artwork, libraries, lecture halls and public events
  • Times to brainstorm solo: relax, let your right brain go wild, write as fast as you can, write in any order, free-associate ideas, keep writing, don’t worry about word choice or organizing your ideas
  • Times to study what’s going on in our culture today, including trends and coming backlash trends and what might be happening five years from now
  • Times to feed the precursors of creativity so often lost in adulthood including curiosity, big picture thinking, open-mindedness, self-confidence, learning, etc.
  • Times to enjoy fertile environments in your region’s largest city, including its skyscrapers, huge public library, art galleries, and museums
  • Times to spend time with, be energized by, and continue expanding your networks of relationships with a wide diversity of creative individuals
  • Times to do a Google search for one of your favorite contemporary Christian authors, visit his or her LinkedIn or Facebook page and website or blog, enjoy new writings, and then connect and send a heartfelt “Thank you!”
  • Times to carefully read books especially selected for pastors who want to last. Eight such books have been game-changers for me. 

The key word in both lists? “Times…” If you haven’t already scheduled your first “refresh” day, please do so—within the next 30 days, please!

The post 17 Ways Pastors Can Hit the Refresh Button appeared first on The Pastor's Soul.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

This month we are celebrating my wife being a 15-year breast cancer survivor. At the time of her diagnosis we could only afford a high deductible health plan. Her course of treatment included three major surgeries, six months of chemotherapy, and 7 weeks of radiation treatment. Each chemo treatment cost about $7,500! So when her last month of treatment fell in January, we had to pay the full deductible in one month! Thankfully, God provided for our needs through the help of our church, family, friends, some government assistance, and gifts from anonymous Christians throughout the world. We are truly thankful for all that God has done.

This experience taught me far more than I ever wished to know about health insurance. In the following years, we struggled financially because our health insurance costs rose to well over $10,000 per year and our family deductible went from $6,000 to more than $13,000. Eventually, the Affordable Care Act saved us from financial bondage. Now, we have great health coverage through my wife’s employer. What health insurance options do pastors have today? Hopefully this article will help you or your pastor avoid the years of stress we endured.

Health Insurance for Pastors

Pastors often fall through the cracks of the health insurance industry. Larger churches can purchase their own group plans, but small churches often struggle to offer any type of health coverage for their pastor. Unless they can get insurance through a spouse’s job, this leaves a pastor and his family alone to navigate the wasteland of self-insurance. Here are some areas for pastors and churches to explore when it come to health insurance coverage:

Group Plan through Your Church or Denomination

Some large independent churches and many denominations offer group health insurance plans. These plans vary in coverage and cost. In some denominations, the total cost of health insurance is covered by the denomination. Others offer plans that churches can purchase at a reduced rate. However, many small churches struggle to afford even these options. Check with your denomination first before you look into other options.

Individual Health Insurance Plans

Individual health plans are often the most expensive but they may offer the best coverage. In this case, a pastor would be wise to look into professional groups that offer discounted coverage to their members. Many self-employed people have formed groups that welcome pastors. Some insurance companies may offer special plans for clergy. Here are a couple of companies that fellow pastors recommended to me:

Golden Rule – UnitedHealthOne

E Health Insurance

Health Savings Account (HSA)

Another option is to establish a health savings account. This option requires the pastor to purchase a low-cost, high-deductible health plan. The pastor then establishes a special savings account to cover expenses until the deductible is met. There are several tax advantages to this plan and the money rolls over each year. So, if a pastor is relatively healthy they can accumulate enough money in a few years to cover any health emergency. Unfortunately, one major health crisis will wipe out the entire savings. If this crisis lasts for several years, as some do, a health savings account will be of little help.

Healthcare Marketplace

The Affordable Care Act made health insurance an affordable reality for us. For several years, we qualified for very low-cost or even no-cost insurance. This made our checkbook much easier to balance, but it didn’t totally reduce our stress level. Getting insurance through Healthcare.gov was not simple. It was easy to fill out the forms, but the government bureaucracy meant that we were always having to jump through hoops. On two occasions, clerical errors by the marketplace delayed our tax returns by two months. Once, when we were supposed to have no-cost insurance, a marketplace error meant that we actually went the whole year without any insurance (thankfully, we didn’t have a claim). When the bureaucracy works, the marketplace can be a blessing – but how often does it work?

Medical Sharing Ministries

On social media I asked several pastors what they would recommend for affordable health insurance. The overwhelming response was for various medical sharing ministries. We were denied coverage by these types of ministries because of my wife’s breast cancer diagnosis (even though she had been cancer-free for several years). However, for those who did qualify, these pastors loved the affordability and simplicity of these ministries. Here are three ministries that pastors recommended (you can even contact some on Twitter to learn more).

Christian Healthcare Ministries

Christian Care MediShare

Samaritan Ministries

Use a Health Insurance Advisor

If you are completely lost in the health insurance jungle, it might be wise to hire a guide. There are lots of health insurance guides out there. Some are trustworthy and have a ministry focus, others are just out to make a sale. Be careful who you work with. Check their references and reviews. One such guide that was recommended to me is listed below. I have no personal experience with this person, so do your homework and make sure that you have a knowledgeable and trustworthy guide.

Colin Metcalf

Churches, if you can afford it, one of the greatest blessings you can give your pastor is a high-quality, stress-free health care plan. Don’t make your pastor find his own coverage. That just adds to the stress of an already stressful job.

If you are creative, you can find ways to fund your church’s ministry and pay your pastor a wage that is biblically generous.

The post Health Insurance Options for Pastors appeared first on The Pastor's Soul.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Have you ever considered what it’s like to work at your church; is it a healthy workplace? Many churches never consider this question. Consequently, they unknowingly create an unhealthy environment that hinders the work of their pastor and church staff. Ignorance in this area will hurt pastoral tenure, relationships among the staff and leadership, and the church’s ability to fulfill it’s mission. A stressed church becomes an inwardly focused church.

The World Health Organization recognizes that workplace stress can contribute to serious physical and mental health problems. According to this organization, a healthy workplace doesn’t just avoid problems but promotes well-being among the workers: “A healthy job is likely to be one where the pressures on employees are appropriate in relation to their abilities and resources, to the amount of control they have over their work, and to the support they receive from people who matter to them.” Conversely, “Research findings show that the most stressful type of work is that which values excessive demands and pressures that are not matched to workers’ knowledge and abilities, where there is little opportunity to exercise any choice or control, and where there is little support from others.”

How to Create a Healthy Church Workplace

In order to have a healthy work environment, every church needs to consider four areas that relate to staff health. Using the acronym DASH will help church leaders, elders, or board members explore these four areas – Demands, Autonomy, Support, and Health.


Every job is demanding, but stressful jobs demand more of their workers than their resources can bear. Many churches have high expectations, harsh accountability, and no relational boundaries. Additionally, church staff often don’t have the necessary resources or training to meet the demands placed on them. This makes the workplace discouraging and dehumanizing. Here are some questions to help you examine the demands you place on your pastor and church staff:

  • What are the expectations placed on your pastor and church staff?
  • Do they have the resources and training necessary to meet these expectations?
  • How do they feel about these expectations – are they reasonable or overwhelming?
  • How does your church handle accountability; does this approach encourage or discourage your staff?
  • Do you focus on past faults or future goals?
  • Do you treat your pastor as a leader or as a hired hand? What does this say about authority structures in the church?
  • Is Christ the head of your church in practical ways?
  • Do you have boundaries that are both clearly defined and mutually agreed upon for every member of the staff?
  • Do your staff members have the right to say “no” to unreasonable or unethical demands?
  • Does your leadership know what boundaries are necessary when dealing with church staff?
  • How does leadership handle a “no” from a church staff member?

One of the biggest predictors of workplace satisfaction is the amount of autonomy that workers have in their jobs. This is especially true among pastors and church staff. Autonomy is the freedom to exercise choice or control. There are two mistakes that churches often make in the area of autonomy: either they have no boundaries or they are controlling.

Having no boundaries means that the staff have no sense of where they are free to act. In conscientious workers, this creates stress because they will often take on more responsibility than they should. Over-responsibility means they are carrying a burden they were never meant to carry. Other workers may freeze because they don’t know what to do first.

In both cases, these staff members may be accused of being lazy because they are not productive in the right areas. The reality is, it’s the leadership who are lazy because they have not negotiated clear boundaries with the pastor and staff.

Here is the first article in a seven-part series on Boundaries for pastors, churches, and church staff.


There are three areas of support that every church needs to provide for their pastor and staff – safety, recognition, and respect. When people feel threatened by their workplace, their productivity suffers dramatically:

“If you create this sense of psychological safety on your own team starting now, you can expect to see higher levels of engagement, increased motivation to tackle difficult problems, more learning and development opportunities, and better performance.”

High-Performing Teams Need Psychological Safety. Here’s How to Create It
by Laura Delizonna

Additionally, no one likes to work in an environment where they feel they are being taken for granted. Many churches will recognize the big successes, but that is where recognition is least important. Big successes are obvious; it’s the faithful, constant, plodding work that usually doesn’t get noticed. This is where a church needs to be intentional about honoring their pastor and staff. By making them feel valued, the church creates an environment where staff will love to come to work.

When we feel respected, we do better work. Too many church leaders look at their church and compare it to their own work environment. They see only a small portion of the total ministry experience and think “that job is easy compared to mine.” They don’t see how these assumptions are creating stress for the church’s employees. A wise leadership team will learn to see things through the eyes of their pastor and church staff. They will not judge when staff share concerns; instead, they will accept how their employees feel and work to change the situation. (Passing judgment on these feelings would communicate that the staff is not safe and their work is not respected.) Leadership should strive to make the church the best place to work in their whole community.

Your church may want to conduct a survey to see if they are creating an environment where the pastor and staff feel safe. You can adapt this Team Learning and Psychological Safety Survey for your church.


Finally, a church that is creating a healthy work environment will focus on the physical, mental, and spiritual health of its pastor and staff. They will examine relational and workplace habits to see if they are creating undue stress. For example, does your church expect its pastor or staff to answer email quickly, even when they are out of the office? If so, you are making them carry the stress of their job everywhere they go. They will never truly have a day off.

How does your church handle the schedules of the pastor and other employees? Flexible schedules are often seen as a benefit, but they actually create more stress. To the degree that it is possible, every worker should have a fixed schedule. This is especially hard in small churches with solo pastors. Here, it’s important to train people to honor their pastor’s time off (except in the case of a true emergency).

The physical environment of the workplace has a dramatic effect on pastors and church staff. I knew a pastor whose office was in the basement of the church. He had no windows and it was a depressing place to be. When the church moved his office to a room with a view, the whole spirit of the church changed. The pastor was more joyful, which gave the church more energy. Many churches don’t consider how their physical environment impacts their workers.

Lastly, churches that provide gym memberships, counseling opportunities, and spiritual retreats demonstrate that the person is more important to them than the work. Your church may not be able to afford these benefits, but you can creatively care for the physical, mental, and spiritual health of your pastor and staff.

Love Your Workers

Don’t assume that your workers know they are loved, make sure they are safe, free, valued, and healthy. When a church works hard to make sure their pastor and staff know they are loved, Christ is honored, the church is blessed, and the world will see just how much they love one another.

The post Is Your Church a Healthy Workplace? appeared first on The Pastor's Soul.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 
The Pastor's Soul by Sean Nemecek - 1M ago

Imagine speaking to a small audience on an emotionally charged issue. You know they probably won’t like what you have to say, but they need to hear it. Some of these people are likely to respond with aggressive anger – some will walk out and may never come back, one or two might write an anonymous letter, and many will remain completely silent, leaving you to wonder if they heard anything at all.

Now imagine you have to do it again next week.

This is the reality of many pastors all across the globe. They face their fears and stand resolutely in the pulpit, speaking what they believe God has given them to say. Preaching takes great courage and pastors are under enormous pressure.

Not every Sunday is this intense, but every week there is pressure on the preacher. Some pastors have learned to thrive on the adrenaline rush, but that can only last so long. Eventually, without a break, pastors will feel the weight and begin to struggle. This is one reason I often encourage churches to give their pastors time away in prayer retreats, vacations, and sabbaticals.

Here are some of the things that add to the pressure of preaching. Following each one, I’ll share a thought that may help lighten the load. If you are a pastor, I pray that this will help you press on with courage. If you are a church member, I hope this will help you know how to pray for your pastor and support them each week.

Preaching is a heavy responsibility

“Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness” (James 3:1). Every godly preacher knows that he will stand before God to give an account for his words (Hebrews 13:17). John Knox, a Scottish Reformer, supposedly said, “I have never feared the devil, but I tremble every time I enter the pulpit.”

Caring for the souls of a congregation can be exhausting – especially when many people in the congregation don’t seem to be caring for their own souls. The weight of preaching and pastoral concern can leave a pastor physically and emotionally drained for many hours. This is why pastors often experience the “Monday blues.” (Pray for your pastor on Monday).

Pastors, while you are responsible for what you preach and how you care for your congregation, be careful about carrying too much responsibility. You are not responsible for how your congregation responds. Let each man or woman bear that burden themselves. Remember, even Jesus saw many people reject his teaching (John 6:66).

Preaching requires great courage

I sometimes describe preaching as “the act of getting people to do what they don’t want to do by telling them what they don’t want to hear.” Ever since the fall the sinful flesh of humanity rejects the good news of the gospel. Sometimes a pastor has to preach a sermon that is intended to convict people of sin. This is a fearful thing because unless the Holy Spirit convicts their hearts, the people will reject this teaching – sometimes in a nasty way. Jesus said, “A servant is not greater than his master” (John 15:20). If they rejected Jesus, they will reject you too.

Pastor, remember that you are not responsible for convicting people of sin; only the Holy Spirit can do that. Preach the gospel clearly and passionately and you will be rewarded for your faithfulness. Trust the promises of God to give you courage in the pulpit.

It’s easier to criticize than to preach

If more people understood how hard it is to prepare a sermon, they would think twice about criticizing their pastor. Unfortunately, criticism often comes easily and freely. Perhaps it’s because the pastor is supposed to be meek and gentle like Jesus, so people don’t fear to say what’s on their minds. Sometimes it’s the way a church is run that gives people the feeling that the pastor is their employee. They should see him as a servant of God (Romans 14:4) instead of looking at him as a hired hand.

Most criticism that a pastor faces will come from people who are struggling in their own lives. The pastor becomes an easy target because he represents God. When people criticize the pastor they are often expressing their disappointment either with God or with themselves. A wise pastor will learn to listen for truth in criticism and let the rest go. He will use these moments to ask his critics about their life and how he can help.

Preaching is creative work

Have you ever wondered why it takes so many hours to develop a sermon? It’s because preaching is a creative act, and creativity takes time. A pastor needs a quiet space to focus so that his creativity can come forth. Not that he is creating new doctrine – that would be heresy. Rather, he has to find a way to creatively connect the truth of God’s Word to the context of the local church.

Creating something for others always involves personal vulnerability. Whenever we create something for others, there is a part of ourselves that is invested in its creation. Offering this creation to others makes us vulnerable because they may reject our creation. Sometimes that rejection feels personal.

A healthy pastor will separate himself from his creation. He will recognize that his identity is in Christ, not in his preaching. A pastor who finds identity in preaching can be assured that he will eventually be crushed by criticism.

The weekly deadline is always present

“Sundays never stop coming,” said a new pastor expressing his frustration over the pressure to produce quality sermons week after week. Maintaining creativity and passion from week to week is one of the hardest aspects of a preacher’s work. If you watch carefully, most pastors will go through “dry spells” – times when their preaching is not up to their ususal quality. This is often a signal that the pastor needs a break from the pulpit.

Given all their other ministry demands, most pastors cannot produce more than 35 good sermons in a year (and only about one quarter of those will be really good). However, the average pastor will preach 45 to 52 times each year! This means that they will go through dry spells several times every year.

A wise church will make sure their pastor averages at least one Sunday out of the pulpit every eight weeks – a total of six to seven weeks per year is a minimum for healthy pulpit ministry. I recommend that churches give their pastor two weeks of study leave twice each year and four weeks of vacation every year. In addition to conferences and retreats (which usually feel like work), this time-out from preaching will make all their sermons better. Does your pastor need more rest?

Every preacher lays an egg from time to time

I remember preaching a sermon that was so bad, I literally cried afterward. It wasn’t from lack of study or prayer. The sermon just fell flat. It felt like the scene with the academic decathlon judge in the movie Billy Madison. He said, “At no point in your rambling, incoherent [sermon] were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.”

Every pastor knows this experience. Consider how this must weigh on your pastor’s soul the following week. Is he experiencing fear of failure? Is anyone encouraging him in the Lord? Do the people in the church know how to listen to a bad sermon with grace and understanding?

Pastor, if you’ve just laid a rotten egg of a sermon, here is what I recommend: First, give yourself no more than 24 hours to grieve, and do it in the presence of God – lament well. Second, remember that God once use a donkey to deliver his message, and he has the ability to bring miraculous change through a lousy sermon. Third, find another preacher and share your story. Let his empathetic response remind you that this happens to every speaker from time to time. Trust me, I’ve been there. Just be glad it’s over and move on. Next week will be better.

It’s often a thankless task

Once, when I was feeling down and wondering if my preaching was making any difference at all, an older pastor gave me some wise counsel. He said that I should look to Jesus for my reward because I wouldn’t get one from my church. Then he shared this song with me:

So Send I You
by Margaret Clarkson
So send I you to labor unrewarded
To serve unpaid, unloved, unsought, unknown
To bear rebuke, to suffer scorn and scoffing
So send I you to toil for Me alone
So send I you to bind the bruised and broken
Over wandering souls to work, to weep, to wake
To bear the burdens of a world a-weary
So send I you to suffer for My sake
So send I you to loneliness and longing
With heart a-hungering for the loved and known
Forsaking kin and kindred, friend and dear one
So send I you to know My love alone
So send I you to leave your life's ambition
To die to dear desire, self-will resign
To labor long, and love where men revile you
So send I you to lose your life in Mine
So send I you to hearts made hard by hatred
To eyes made blind because they will not see
To spend, though it be blood to spend and spare not
So send I you to taste of Calvary
"As the Father hath sent me, so send I you"

I can’t say the song cheered me up, but it did help me to regain perspective. Thankfully, that isn’t the end of the song. In 1963 Margaret Clarkson realized that her song didn’t convey the joy of ministry, so she added the following verses:

So send I you  by grace made strong to triumph
O’er hosts of hell, o’er darkness, death and sin,
My name to bear and in that name to conquer
So send I you, My victory to win.
So send I you to take to souls in bondage
The Word of Truth that sets the captive free
To break the bonds of sin, to loose death’s fetters
So send I you, to bring the lost to Me.
So send I you My strength to know in weakness,
My joy in grief, My perfect peace in pain,
To prove My pow’r, My grace, My promised presence
So send I you, eternal fruit to gain.
So send I you to bear My cross with patience,
And then one day with joy to lay it down,
To hear My voice, “Well done, My faithful servant
Come share My throne, My kingdom and My crown!”
“As the Father hath sent Me, so send I you.”

The post The Pressure of Preaching appeared first on The Pastor's Soul.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 
A Review of
The Book Your Pastor Wishes You Would Read: (but is too embarrassed to ask)

by Christopher Ash
The Good Book Company (May 1, 2019)
81 Pages

Christopher Ash has not written another book for pastors on self-care. Nor has he written a book on training church leaders how to relate to their pastor. The Book Your Pastor Wishes You Would Read: (but is too embarrassed to ask) is a small primer for the average person in the congregation. Based on Hebrews 13:17, this book is about how you can care for your pastor.

Think about your pastor. What are his strengths? In what ways does he struggle? Ash asks, “What might be going on in their mind and heart this Monday morning? For God has entrusted them with this work in the concrete reality of all their history, their personality, their interests and their circumstances—in all the strange mix that is their full humanity.”

When you think about your pastor, do you focus on how he doesn’t measure up to your ideal of what a pastor should be? Or do you think about who he really is, with all of his brokenness and his struggles? Ash says we need to have this realistic view because “That’s the pastor you need to care for.” He says, “Our pastors are people. Well, you say, of course they are; I knew that. Yes, but it is easy to forget. It is natural to think about our pastors in terms of what they do—how they lead and pray and preach and teach and so on; but what about who they are?”

Do you care for your pastor?

Christopher Ash wrote this book to train the people who make up our churches how they can motivate, encourage, and care for their pastor. The Book Your Pastor Wishes You Would Read is structured around seven virtues for each church member to adopt:

  1. Daily repentance and eager faith
  2. Committed belonging
  3. Open honesty
  4. Thoughtful watchfulness
  5. Loving kindness
  6. High expectations
  7. Zealous submission

These virtues, when lived out, will strengthen, encourage, and motivate a pastor to care for his church. “We all need to look after our pastors and—paradoxically—it is in our own best interests to do so. If you and I do not care for our pastors, then they will not be able to care for us.”

Virtues that encourage your pastor

Ash unpacks each of the seven virtues in surprising ways. For example, have you ever thought about how your attitude in listening to a sermon has the power to encourage or discourage your pastor?

“Nothing so drains a pastor of vital energy as having to preach to, having to go on praying for, having to try to lead and care for men and women who are impervious to the good news of God’s grace. Hardness of heart is the great pastor-killer.”

“Few things so encourage a pastor as eager listeners and learners. ‘I am so looking forward to Sunday’s sermon!’ I remember a church member saying this to me, and the effect on my prayer and preparation was electric: ‘If they are so eager to hear, the least I can do is get out of bed in the morning and labour hard at the word, so there is something worth hearing!’”

What make the difference in these two attitudes? Preparation.

“How can you prepare yourself for Sunday’s sermon? It is a good discipline to pray for your pastor each week. Read for yourself the passage they will be preaching. Pray for their heart, that God may weave the Bible passage not only into their mind but into their heart, their conscience and their feelings. Pray for your own heart, that as you hear the passage preached, God will weave that same passage into your own mind, heart, conscience and feelings.”

If we have this approach, God will use even a bad sermon to transform our hearts. Convicting sermons will not offend but we will respond with gratitude. Instead of criticism or offense, we will respond in a way that encourages – “Rather, a faithful pastor longs to hear, ‘Thank you. I didn’t find that easy to hear. I don’t really want to listen to this. But I know that I need to. And I know it will move me to a healthy change of life. So thank you for having the courage to say it.’”

Strengths and Weaknesses

This book has two great strengths – it is unique and it is brief. I know of no other books teaching a church member how to care for their pastor. There are a few on how to pray for your pastor, but we need more that have a comprehensive approach to caring for a pastor holistically. This book fires the opening shot for the church in the battle against pastoral discouragement.

Ash has also recognized that if the average church member is going to read a book like this, it must be brief. There is no use in writing an exhaustive treatise on caring for pastors if no one is likely to read it. This book is a short and clear introduction to the topic. Church members would do well to read it, understanding this is just the beginning of learning to care for their pastor.

As in many things, our greatest strengths can also be our greatest weaknesses. The brevity of the book prevents the author from explaining how his instructions can be taken in the wrong direction. For example, in his chapter on high expectations, Ash doesn’t warn that these cannot be personal expectations to be imposed on the pastor by each individual in the church. That will drive a pastor crazy! Instead, they need to be mutually agreed-upon and biblically-based expectations. There are several areas in the book where I wish Ash had issued a warning to the church about how each virtue can become a vice when applied wrongly.

Who should read this book?

As I was reading this book, I recommended it to my church board as a useful tool for a small group study. One of the board members asked, “Should we buy a copy for every member in the church?” I said, “That would be great!”

I heartily wish that every church member in every church would read this book. It would be a useful part of a new members’ class or as one element in a larger discipleship program. I believe the church would be best served if an average church member would make it their mission to teach this book to the whole church. A true grass-roots movement of encouraging our pastors would transform most churches!

What if we really believed the teachings of Hebrews 13:17?

“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

The post How to Really Care for Your Pastor appeared first on The Pastor's Soul.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

This guest post is by Christopher Ash, author of Zeal without Burnout and The Book your Pastor wishes you would Read (but is too embarrassed to ask)

Just suppose you want to put a spring in your pastor or minister’s step this week. You decide – for some reason – that you really want to make him joyful, to put in his heart a delight and cheerfulness as he goes about his work of pastoral care. What will you do?

You go home. You get out a (literal or digital) back of an envelope. You stare at the blank sheet. You wonder: what – that I can do, little old me! – will actually serve to cheer him, to make his metaphorical tail wag with delight?

In The Book your Pastor wishes you would Read (but is too embarrassed to ask), I suggest, from the bible, seven virtues for church members. Each of these virtues will make our pastor’s work a joy. Here’s a taster of four of them.

Listen to an interview with Christopher Ash or buy The Book Your Pastor Wishes You Would Read now. The Pastor’s Soul will be publishing a review of the book later this week.

Repent and Believe!

Perhaps the most important is to repent and believe afresh today and every day. Well, you say, I can’t see how that will encourage my pastor. After all, my repentance and faith affects me, not him. Ah, but think again. Why did your minister enter pastoral ministry in the first place? I hope and expect he did it to serve Jesus and his gospel. That is, he did it because he hopes and prays that, through his labours, men and women will repent of their sins and believe in Jesus and his gospel. And then go on and on repenting and believing. So, if you repent and believe with fresh eagerness today, you are doing just exactly what he hopes you will do. He will look at you, see the evidence of fresh penitence and lively faith, and say to himself, “God is answering the prayer I prayed when I came into pastoral ministry. Hooray!” And there will be a fresh spring in his step.

Here’s another one.

Belong to your Church!

Your pastor hopes that, through his preaching, his prayers, his pastoral care and watchfulness, Jesus Christ will build a local church. He longs for the church he serves to grow in maturity in Christ. When you and I hover on the edge of the church, when we are spectators rather than players, when we shop around for churches that meet our needs, we frustrate this longing. A pastor looks at people like us and sighs with sadness. “I wish he or she would dive in, belong, be a proper member, build relationships, be committed to the life of the church.” And so, when we do belong, when we think of church as “us” rather than “them”, when we gather for prayer meetings, when we are part of the glorious “one-another-ness” of Christian fellowship, when we sit humbly under the preached word, then the heart of our pastor will sing for joy.

Or how about this?

Loving Kindness

Don’t underestimate the impact that simple down-to-earth kindness can have on your pastor. If he is married, kindness to his wife. If they have children, kindness to their children. Kindness is unimpressive; it is not showy; it is practical and thoughtful. Pastor friends of mine and their wives have told me many beautiful stories of such kindness, and it has made such a difference in their lives. One, whose parents were tragically killed in a motor accident, spoke of the overwhelmingly wonderful kindness of members of his church in the weeks and months that followed. Much kindness happens in less tragic or extreme circumstances. It is always of value. Little thoughtful acts of appreciation. Flowers. Chocolates. A hand-written note of thanks. Babysitting. Offers of lifts. The circumstances vary a lot, but the heart of kindness is the same in them all. Don’t underestimate its value.

Here’s one more.

Zealous Submission

The bible says we are to submit to our pastors and to honour those who “direct the affairs of the church well”. They serve us by leading us. And we must let them lead. We don’t want them to be tyrannical, of course, and a few of them are tempted to do that. We want leadership to be shared amongst more than one elder. But we must let them lead. I know of too many pastors who seek to lead in a godly way, but whose leadership is constantly frustrated by powerful individuals, or sometimes power blocs, in their churches. Some of us have an addictive problem with power; we simply have to be listened to, to be the people who matter. What a pain we become to our pastors! But, then again, some of us have learned that, even if we may be very wise and very experienced (or so we think!), we should graciously let our pastors lead, and follow with enthusiasm. That too will put a spring in the step of our pastors.

There’s more in the book. It’s a neglected area of church life, but an important one.

Christopher Ash

Christopher is Writer-in-Residence at Tyndale House, Cambridge.

This article was previously published on The Good Book Company blog. The Pastor’s Soul would like to thank Christopher Ash and The Good Book Company for graciously granting permission to reprint this article.

The post Surprising Ways you can Encourage your Pastor appeared first on The Pastor's Soul.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Wise pastors and loving churches make time for the pastor and their family to get away from the overwhelming pressures of ministry. When Jesus and his disciples were so busy they didn’t even have time to eat, he said, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31). However, this can be a challenge for pastors who are living on a tight budget.

This guide is designed to help you identify what type of retreat you or your pastor needs. There are options that vary in price from free lodging and meals to expensive structured retreats. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you look for the optimal retreat experience.

Questions to ask before scheduling a retreat
  • What kind of retreat do I need? Options include: prayer retreats, silent retreats, family getaways, guided retreats, intensive counseling retreats, and extended times of sabbatical or recovery.
  • Where do I want to go on retreat? How far you can afford to travel or how far you need to go to truly get away may factor into your choices.
  • What are the rules for this retreat experience? In order to offer free retreats without tax implications for the pastor, the IRS requires a minimum number of educational hours in the retreat.
  • What are the restrictions at this retreat location? Check the statement of faith. Some retreat centers require that you agree with their theology. Others may have rules about use of alcohol, sugars, or caffeine. Some will be open to female clergy, others will not. Children may or may not be allowed, depending on the type of retreat.
  • Who else will be at the location during the retreat? Some camps may have large groups of children or adults. In some cases you may be the only ones there.
  • Are there any hidden costs? Some places may require a security deposit. Others may offer a limited number of free days but charge for additional days. Some provide all your meals, some just provide breakfast, and many provide no meals at all but may offer a kitchen for you to use.
  • How will this retreat be funded? Churches, denominations, private foundations, or nonprofit ministries often offer grants to help with some or all of the cost. These may not be advertised, so don’t hesitate to ask. Even the most expensive retreats may be an option if there are scholarships available.
Retreat options:

The following retreat options vary in cost, comfort, and convenience. Please check out the pros and cons of each before scheduling your retreat. Under each category I have listed options that either I have personally used or that were recommended to me by other pastors.

House Swap

The article 7 Ways Pastors Can Take a Vacation on a Budget recommends swapping houses as a cheap option for a vacation. There are several house-swapping apps and websites. Do your homework and know the risks and rewards before you commit to anything.

Cabins or Seasonal Homes

This may be one of the best options for pastors and their families. Do you have church members who live in another part of the country for several months of the year? Ask if you can use their house for a week in the off season. I have a friend who has offered his rustic hunting cabin for prayer retreats. There are many couples and small ministries who want to offer free lodging to pastors and their families. Here are a few:

Beulah Land Retreats is located near Michigan’s Sleeping Bear Dunes – voted one of the most beautiful places in the country. They have two guest houses that pastors and their families can use for up to two weeks each year. One house is free, the other has a small cleaning fee. I highly recommend staying with them, but you will need to book in advance if you want to go during Michigan’s delightful summers. Winter is more open, and if you like to ski, there are slopes and trails not far away.

Eagles Rest in the Finger Lakes region of New York is a place of rest and renewal for pastors, music ministers, Christian artists, youth ministers, missionaries, and their spouses and families. Lodging and breakfast are provided free of charge.

Shalom Home – A Pastor’s Retreat Home for Pastors, Ministers and Ministry Leaders for Refreshment and Rest

The Lamb’s Tale Selah Ministry offers ministry leaders a free two-night stay at The Haven River Inn (no strings attached!).

Christian Camps

Many Christian camps have a guest cabin for pastors to use as a prayer retreat. Some will allow pastors and their families to stay at no charge for up to a week. Most camps are booked for the summer, but they often have fall, winter, and spring openings. You might just have the whole camp to yourself for a week. These can be a great way to get some peace and quiet at little or no cost.

Trinity Pines is a Nazarene camp in Cascade, Idaho. They offer pastors free lodging on weekdays (when they aren’t full).

LeTourneau Christian Center offers two days free and an option to purchase two additional days at a low cost. The accommodations are not luxurious, but the area is breathtaking and the sunsets are amazing!

Retreat Centers

Christian retreat centers usually cost a little more, although some are free. They often (but not always) have better accommodations and provide options for meals. There are lots of options all over the country, but they fill up fast. Staying at a retreat center may require advance booking of up to a year or more.

Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove

A Quiet Place – Located in the heart of Bluegrass country in Central Kentucky, A Quiet Place is a non-denominational Christian ministry where those in full time service can retreat, relax, and rest.

Redeeming Grace Ministries Their mission statement is “Strengthening Pastors and Leaders who can build healthy churches and advance God’s kingdom.” Every retreat they conduct is tailored to the needs of the individual or group. They operate on a pay what you can basis so that money is never the reason someone can’t come.

Guided Retreats

If you are in need of spiritual renewal and not just a vacation, a guided retreat is the way to go. Taking time for a yearly prayer retreat can be a great way to recharge your ministry. Many of these retreats are led by spiritual directors who will help you listen to the Holy Spirit on your retreat.

Broom Tree Ministries provides spiritual retreats for pastors and their spouses. These totally free retreats are designed to provide uninterrupted time with God in rest, reflection, and beauty. They provide good food, comfortable lodging, and lots of time with spouses. My wife and I used one of these week-long retreats right after our vacation to create a low-cost mini sabbatical. I highly recommend this ministry.

The Hermitage is a retreat community in southwest Michigan that specializes in personal silent retreats.

Sonscape Retreats offers 7-day retreats. These retreats may be just what you need if you can afford the cost.


Most monasteries are run by Roman Catholic orders (Benedictine, Ignatian, etc.), but there are other options. Protestant groups often have monasteries too, especially in the Anglican and Lutheran traditions. You don’t have to be part of one of these traditions to benefit from a stay with these orders. For a small fee you will be provided with a room and meals. You will be able to participate in the daily office – regular times of prayer throughout the day. In some monasteries you will be expected to maintain silence (except for corporate prayer). Pete Scazzero, author of The Emotionally Healthy Leader, found great help by visiting various monasteries during his sabbaticals.

Vacation Ministries

Early in my pastoral ministry I knew my family needed to get away for a vacation, but we couldn’t afford to travel. Someone introduced us to Quiet Place Ministries. They paid for a week’s lodging in a Tennessee mountain cabin. We just had to drive there and provide our own food. It was exactly what we needed – a great gift from God. There are several ministries that will provide low-cost vacation homes, cabins, or cruises for pastors and their families. Occasionally, I’ve known pastors to receive a grant to go on a tour of the Holy Land! Some of the resources listed at the end of this article contain links to these types of ministries.

Counseling and Recovery Centers

Pastoral ministry can be traumatic, and maybe you need more than time away. There are ministries designed to help you through the emotional, spiritual, and mental problems you may be facing. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. A good church board will recognize that these opportunities are good for their church. Ask your church to pay some or all of the cost to send your pastor on a counseling retreat.

Peace Haven Ministries offers a variety of services, including coaching and counseling.

Alongside is a Christian retreat center offering professional counseling and shared community, designed to specifically help leaders emerge from burnout or breakdown. They offer a 3-week retreat for renewal and growth every month. The cost can be quite high (One person: $4,650; Couple: $6,350), but when you factor in what the fees include (14 individual counseling sessions per couple, 14 group counseling sessions per person, assessments, client intakes, over 30 hours of wellness seminars, and housing) it is actually quite reasonable. Meals are not covered, but each suite is equipped with full kitchen facilities for convenient meal preparation. Ask about scholarships if the cost is prohibitive.

Refuge Church

What if you are beyond needing a retreat? If you are being forced out of ministry, you may need six to twelve months to recover. A refuge church may be just the option. Pastor-in-Residence Ministries offers a great program to help exited pastors and their families:

“A Refuge Church is a grace-based church that understands the importance of extending hope to those who are wounded in life. It is a place of protection and security in time of trouble, instability, and loss. In this environment, terminated pastors feel the freedom to be vulnerable and honest. Here, the exited pastor and family can work through their sense of loneliness and rejection. . . It provides a haven where spiritual strength and stability are recovered, and a safe place where the journey into the next chapter of life and ministry can begin.”

Sabbatical Grants

If you need some extended time away for rest and renewal, a sabbatical may be the best thing for you. I’ve written a series of articles to help you design, fund, and ask for a sabbatical.

Additional Resources

Several people have compiled lists of getaways, vacations, and retreats for pastors and their families. These lists may not be up to date, but they are worth exploring. With a little work you can find the rest you and your family need to minister effectively. (If you know of resources for pastors similar to those listed above, please leave a comment with a link and a short review of the ministry.)

From Ed Stetzer’s blog The Exchange, free or discounted getaways for pastors

Vacation Opportunities for Pastors

Rest, Renewal, and Refreshment for Ministry Families

Free or Low-Cost Retreat and Vacation Accommodations for Pastors

The post Retreats for Pastors and their Families: How to find the right one appeared first on The Pastor's Soul.

Read Full Article

Read for later

Articles marked as Favorite are saved for later viewing.
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Separate tags by commas
To access this feature, please upgrade your account.
Start your free month
Free Preview