As a pastor, to whom do you turn when you’re troubled at the deepest level? Maybe it’s the daily unraveling of your marriage. Or could it be that sinful secret that relentlessly gnaws at you? Whatever the case, when you’re compelled to finally pull back the curtain of your heart to unveil the worst within, is your first inclination to make a beeline to those in the organization who are “over” you?
In our work at PastorServe, we’ve discovered it’s rare for pastors and ministry leaders to do this. Why? They’re afraid. While there are many fears, here are three that quickly surface:
- The Fear of Disapproval – Good or bad. Right or wrong. We like the approval of others. This is especially true of the person or people we perceive as having power and authority over us. Supervisors. Elders. HR. Denominational leaders. We’re experts at managing our image with these individuals. If fact, we’ll go out of our way at times to give these individuals reasons to think well of us. We’ve all done it. The subtle and not so subtle comments about our families. How we’ll spend our vacation time. Our projects. Our initiatives. The results we’re getting. How our teams are doing. We’re doing just swell in all these areas, right? Rarely if ever, though, do we venture into the messy aspects of our lives. Why not share this stuff? At the very least, we believe the humiliation and embarrassment would be unbearable. Further, if others knew certain things about us, we’re afraid they wouldn’t approve of us. They wouldn’t like us. It’s painful to even consider the possibility of this.
- The Fear of Distrust – In time, we learn what we can share with those over us and what we can’t. Even though we’re wooed with words like, “This is a safe place,” we know better. Therefore, we become masters of playing the game. We know exactly how to answer questions like, “How are you really doing?” At the end of the day, we know we can only reveal so much because we don’t know how the other stuff might be used against us when it comes to performance evaluations, promotions, increased levels of responsibility, pay raises, etc. Perhaps our biggest fear, however, is that we’ll be fired.
- The Fear of Termination – In the end, we want job security. We need it. Our families need it. We can get past a boss not liking us—eventually. We’ll even be okay if we’re not in the top two percent who get a performance based pay raise. Most of us, however, can’t afford to lose our jobs as a result of coming clean with those higher in the food chain. It’s too risky. Plus, we’ve witnessed too much other carnage over the years with those who let their guard down.
The aforementioned fears are real. Each of us experiences them. As a result, there are leaders within organizations, churches and denominations who are awakening to the reality that they typically won’t have the opportunity to directly engage with pastors and staff when it comes to much of the mess behind the curtain. And rather than continue sticking their heads in the sand and pretend it doesn’t exists, they believe the most effective way to help their people get back on a pathway of recovery and health in their personal lives (which certainly impacts their vocational lives) is by vetting, endorsing and making outside experts available with whom their people can confide and receive the care, coaching and help they need. At PastorServe, we’ve received these endorsements and invitations, and we’re in discussions with others who are considering us as a preferred resource in the areas of pastoral care and coaching. Bottom line: It works because we’re nobody’s boss. We don’t have the authority to hire and fire, and we provide confidentiality. We truly are a safe place. Yes, while there’s certain information we’re required to report by law, that’s not the stuff with which most pastors and ministry leaders come to us. It’s about things like, the spiritually dry heart. Not finding joy in the journey. The financial crisis. The sexless marriage. Trying to live up to unrealistic expectations. Feeling stuck personally and vocationally. Preaching the Gospel but not living it. The relentless thoughts of quitting. The weariness related to image management. The sinful secrets that still remain secrets after all these years.
So, if you’re a key leader in your church, denomination or organization, how are your people really doing? Again, just because they’re not coming to you doesn’t mean they’re doing well. Help us help you and your people in redemptive and preemptive ways to regain or maintain personal and vocational health.
 PastorServe is a preferred pastoral care resource for the Wesleyans, Stadia, and the Coaching and Care arm of the Church Planters Ministry for the PCA.