Over the course of my own 19 years in pastoral ministry, I have struggled with resentment, defensiveness, anger, disappointment, feelings of failure, insecurity, inadequacy and loneliness. I have felt many of these things as a direct result of interaction with church members. No one can hold that much negative, toxic, poisonous emotional baggage in their heart without serious consequences. Everyone needs a place to dump. But if a pastor dumps to the wrong people, it will only add to his sense of fear because, again, some people will not allow a pastor to be human. If he needs to rant and rave about the guy in the church who won’t get off his back, and he does it with the wrong person, in the wrong place, at the wrong time, things can get worse than they already are. That pastor needs a counselor. He needs someone who will let him vent, who will role-play with him so that he can work out how to talk to his critics, and someone who can help him grow by learning from criticism, conflict or whatever else he’s dealing with. And if you’re seeing a counselor, you don’t have to risk losing another friend. The counselor is in an entirely different category.
Being in ministry also means that we are with people, helping and supporting them through the worst things they’re experiencing, and it’s simply not natural for one person to be involved in so much pain. Two weeks ago, as my wife and I were taking our evening walk, I began sharing a number of stories of severe crisis that I’ve been involved in over the past 12 years, and after about 15 minutes of recounting story after story, I broke down in tears. Pastor, have you ever really stopped to think about all the pain you’ve walked through with others? Has that pain made you sick, hardened, weak, paranoid, tired, overwhelmed, depressed, cynical or resentful? If so, you’re a prime candidate for counseling.
Dear pastor-friend, I’m with you. I’ve got 19 years of stories from the trenches, and you may have more! The bottom line is that pastors are underserved in the area of care and personal healing. Our marriages struggle too. We struggle with finances, parenting, sexuality, personality quirks and every other kind of human brokenness—just like all the people we’re pastoring. SO—here’s my encouragement. See a counselor. You won’t regret it. It may be one of the best things you will ever do.