Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Too Hard

Go ahead and deal with it. Today's entry isn't going to be very coherent.

During Willow Creek's Leadership Summit 2005, they presented a drama entitled "Too Hard". The main characters were a pastor ready to throw in the towel and a trusted lay leader he had asked to meet him in a park at lunch. Minor characters were letters of church member critical about various aspects of the ministry of the church. Asked about the file by the trusted layman, the pastor called it "fan mail." Anyone who has been in ministry for very long can identify with the content. I don't know if the drama is available on line ... my pastor has it on DVD (which is where I became acquainted with it).

That drama hit so close to home with what I've been experiencing the past few weeks. It's never enough. To quote a ministry colleague, "Ministry is all-consuming. It never stops taking."

{content removed for personal reasons} Listen: If God has given you the gift of encouragement, please use it liberally. Your church staff needs that more than anything else. We will literally suffocate without it.

{more content removed for fear of unintentionally hurting feelings}

It wasn't the anonymous letter that caused it. I was already "wrestling with the monster" before that happened. Depression is an old acquaintance that I know better than I wish I knew. I'm afraid the monster is trying to come back for another visit. Interesting statistics from the Annuity Board years ago stated that the #1 health insurance claim for ministers' families was maternity. The #2 was mental health. Those stats lead me to surmise that one of the following may be true:

  1. ministers are poor self-managers (which I freely admit); or
  2. depression is an occupational hazard (statistically defensible);
  3. there is a particular sensitivity of heart that causes those who sense a
    call to ministry to be prone to depression; or
  4. any or all of the above
Last Tuesday our church prayer team came into my office and prayed for me, which helped tremendously. There are those who say the depression is merely a result of stinkin' thinkin' ... that if you're right with God, you'll never be depressed. These people are at best misinformed, and they do nothing to help those in the middle of a depressive episode to recover. Enough about that. I fear some well-meaning person might engage me in a conversation on the subject that I simply don't have time to maintain.

On the self-management side of things, I listened to a CD interview yesterday featuring Jack Groppel, human performance guru (www.energyforperformance.com) whose perspective on things may be of use to me and others prone to depression. Groppel gave great information on how we were designed to work as humans (and examples of how ministers in particular manage ourselves in ways that make it difficult to get recovery time). The CD is from the Willow Creek Association's Monthly Audio Journal. I understand it's available at www.willowcreek.com ... Catalog number DF0511 in case you're interested. It's kind of rude to cite something like that without giving specific information. My apologies ... it's also murky copyright compliance to post too much information even while citing the source. I've not checked out Groppel's site yet, but glanced at it enough to know that there is a little free inventory that may be of use. [OK, so now I've checked out the site and it's not extremely useful from a "what do I do with this?" standpoint. It just helps codify the need for better self-management.

I'll shut up for now.


Blogger JATB said...


Your openness about yourself is itself refreshing and encouraging to me. I understand exactly what you're talking about. There is never "time off" from the ministry. Even a day off from work is not a true day off. The concerns of the ministry can be all-consuming.

I am praying for you, way down here in Louisiana. God bless you.

Call or E-mail me anytime. I'm almost as good a listener as I am a talker. :-)

4:05 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

My prayers are with you. Please don't hesitate to call or email if you need to take a break (a Sunday off or whatever). God Bless!

P.S.- I hope you don't mind me reading your blog...the address was posted at the end of your last email.


8:26 PM  

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