Pastors Struggling with Mental Health & How Are You Doing?
A notable observation from the statistics is that a significant portion of younger pastors, under the age of 45, report struggling with mental health issues. And, Kentucky church leader Todd Gray admits he may have received some raised eyebrows as he recently left a bookstore on a seminary campus. Gray was carrying a newly-purchased book about PTSD.
A notable observation from the statistics is that a significant portion of younger pastors, under the age of 45, report struggling with mental health issues. In particular, a report by Lifeway Research reveals that 26% of U.S. Protestant pastors overall and 46% of pastors who are under 45 say they face mental health challenges. And more than half of the church leaders have witnessed members of their congregations suffering from conditions like depression and bipolar disorder.
The COVID-19 pandemic appears to have further strained the mental and emotional health of both pastors and congregants. A Barna Group study reveals that while many pastors believe they understand the immediate needs of their congregants regarding spiritual and physical well-being, there’s a lesser clarity when it comes to mental and emotional health; only 24% of pastors “definitely” understand, while 65% “somewhat” understand these needs. This lack of clear understanding indicates a potential area of growth for pastoral education and support systems.
The survey data also suggests a pressing need for the development of robust mental health programs and resources within the church. By investing in mental health education and resources, churches can become safe havens where individuals, including pastors, can find support, understanding, and healing. This would also involve creating platforms for open discussions around mental health, breaking down existing stigmas, and promoting a culture of understanding and support.
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Kentucky church leader Todd Gray admits he may have received some raised eyebrows as he recently left a bookstore on a seminary campus. Gray was carrying a newly-purchased book about PTSD.
Gray wrote about the experience in the Baptist Press Toolbox, he said since thinking about the issue and how so many are struggling with difficulties, he’s developed a list how believers can help one another:
1. Get help from Jesus. Jesus our Good Shepherd is also the Wonderful Counselor and knows how to care for people. Christ lives in us and will help us grow in our sensitivity and ministry tothose around us. If we ask Jesus to grow us in this area, then we can be sure we are praying and asking for something that is in His heart to give.
2. Get help from friends. Some Christians are more naturally gifted than others with the skills of a nurturer. Ask these brothers or sisters to help you learn to be more sensitive. Consider asking someone to coach you through this growth area in your life. Coaching doesn’t have to be formal, though it can be. Coaching can simply be finding a friend who is sensitive to the goings on of others and asking them to help you grow in that area. They will likely be glad to do it.
3. Get help from your spouse. If you are married, it is possible that your spouse has a greater sensitivity to what others are going through than you do. But whether your spouse is stronger in this area than you are, they will likely be glad to pray for you and support you as you desire to be more understanding toward other people.
4. Get help from books. The book I referenced at the beginning of this article, I Have PTSD: Reorienting After Trauma, is written by Dr. Curtis Solomon, executive director of the Biblical Counseling Coalition, and professor at Boyce College. He has insight into post-traumatic stress that many of us do not have. Books like this can be used by God to stir our thinking beyond our natural interest and open potential growth areas for us all.
5. Get help from seminars. There is much help available today for people who want to develop greater skills in caring for others. A Google search for Biblical Counseling seminars, in person or online, will yield a plethora of training opportunities. Completing courses and training in the skills needed for pastoral care can help sensitize us to the people around us and what they may be experiencing.
6. Get help from God’s word. Meditating on Scripture is one of the best and easiest ways to renew your mind and develop a greater sensitivity to hurting people. Jesus prayed that God the Father would sanctify us by His truth and His word is truth (John 17:17). Paul instructed us to be transformed by the renewing of our mind (Romans 12:2). Scripture meditation will be used by God to grow us in our love and care for other people.
7. Get help from your church. Ask those closest to you in your church family, Sunday school class or small group to pray for you that God will do a work in your life in this area.
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