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Kayla Stoecklein: Pastors, Protect Your Mental Health

She notes that ministry can be intense and overwhelming. Because of how draining their vocation is, it’s important that pastors make regular time for celebration. “Make room for fun,” says Kayla. She also believes it’s helpful for pastors to take personal retreat days, which she distinguishes from sabbath days. Retreat days are intentional times with God when leaders can re-catch His vision for their lives. Kayla says, “It’s a day really just to sit and be with God.”

Kayla also highly recommends counseling: “Counseling is the best thing you can do to care for your mental health.” Even if leaders don’t feel like they need counselling, she believes everyone can benefit from it. Pastors help people all week, but who do they have to listen to them? “You’re nobody’s pastor at counselling,” says Kayla. “You just get to be you.”  

Kayla also has some advice for church staff. She encourages those in ministry to pray for their lead pastors, calling prayer the most important thing they can do for them. “From my experience as a lead pastor’s wife, I know how lonely it can be at the top, how hard it can be at the top. I see the emails that come in at the top. And the criticism that comes in.” Kayla notes that today’s pastors are under a lot of pressure to perform and to present themselves a certain way, even online. She has observed that a lot of the pain pastors experience comes from their staff, even more than the church body, so she encourages people to do what they can to respect their senior pastors and to help them rest.

Finally, Kayla emphasizes the importance of leaders telling another person if they are struggling with depression, suicide, or other mental health issues. Whether or not that person is their counselor, leaders need to have one or two “safe” people in their lives whom they can tell everything they are going through. The enemy’s goal is to isolate leaders and to make them feel worthless, says Kayla, But I’m here to tell you, you are loved and you are valued more than you could ever imagine. And God has a plan for your life no matter who you are, no matter your past, no matter your mistakes, no matter your mental health. God’s got you. God’s got this. And God can do impossible things.”