Lockdowns amid a global pandemic have been hard for nearly everyone. With zero sense of normal, most everyone is holding onto the figurative steering wheel and white knuckling it. But, amidst all this turmoil, people are attempting to thrive. They are trying to connect with one another and taking their mental health more seriously than ever. In some ways, this moment in time is giving people an opportunity to pause and reflect.
That being said, there is a group of individuals that are not faring well – pastors. With pastors having to make the tough decisions to move to online church, the demand for soul care of their congregants has increased significantly. In some states, pastors were not given a choice about closing their church indefinitely but faced the backlash from it. Pastors work an incredibly hard job. There is no sermon they will preach that will be good enough. No counseling session they give that will be restoring enough. No amount of time they dedicate to the church and the body that will be enough. This is the landscape many church planters face and current pastors know. This reality for most pastors intensified during these lockdowns.
High Expectations Yields Feeling Low
Many pastors go into ministry because they sincerely love Jesus Christ and the local church. But as their time in ministry goes on, the wear of the job becomes more than one pastor can handle. Between leadership meetings and demands of congregations, when and where does a pastor have time to get his emotional and mental health needs met? The answer unfortunately is they don’t. The role of pastor has a reputation of almost being an individual without sin who has endless energy. The pastor is seen as someone who has their life together and, in biblical terms, is above reproach. Tragically, this reputation plagues many pastors to the point that they feel they have to fulfill these expectations 24/7 and there is no room for rest or grace if they make a mistake.
The high expectations and go-go-go of ministry leads to suffering in silence and to a lack of trust. This leads to a belief that their internal suffering must be from a lack of faith. In short, they become anxious and depressed.
Pastor suicide is on the rise, and while not every pastor who suffers from depression contemplates suicide, they are indeed in emotional turmoil. Many pastors who deal with anxiety and depression in silence do so because they may lose their jobs if they are found out; others remain silent because their church does not acknowledge, minimizes, or dismisses altogether the existence of mental health issues.
If you are reading this and you have a church you call home, know this: your pastor is human and sinful and absolutely needs your support, prayer, and grace.
Pastor if you are reading this and it resonates, know this: you are seen, Christ loves you, many of your people love you, and the sacrifices you made and work you did during these lockdowns are greatly appreciated. Do not isolate, but go to Christ and accept grace.
Pastor – you matter!