Caring for Your Pastor

October 11, 2016
Joe M. Allen, Darrell L. Bock, and Bruce Ewing

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Topic Time Codes

00:15
An introduction to pastoral care
01:41
Ewing discusses his background in pastoral care
03:44
Allen discusses his background in pastoral care
05:32
The challenges of pastoral ministry
11:53
Advice for pastors on avoiding burnout
19:40
The role of the pastor’s wife
26:26
Identifying symptoms of burnout
31:17
Helping overextended pastors
42:01
How can churches better support their pastors?

Transcript

Darrell Bock
Welcome to The Table, where we discuss issues of God and culture. I'm Darrell Bock, Executive Director for Cultural Engagement at The Hendricks Center at Dallas Theological Seminary. And our topic today is "Pastoral Care." Not the care that pastors care but care for the pastor.

And I have two distinguished guests with me today, Bruce Ewing, who is Special Assistant to the President and Alumni Relations here at Dallas Theological Seminary. Welcome, Bruce.
Bruce Ewing
Thank you.
Darrell Bock
And Joe Allen, our distinguished Chaplain at the Seminary. Just finished rookie year as Chaplain here at Dallas. So, well done, Joe. You're our Chaplain Rookie of the Year, and we appreciate having you with us.
Joe Allen
Thank you.
Darrell Bock
Yeah, we are going to look at pastoral care and thinking about really how the pastor can care for himself, how he can avoid burnout, those kinds of issues.

As we have done our ministry at The Hendricks Center, we have found this to be a repeated theme. And Bruce has kinda slipped into dealing with this might be the way to say – that's the secular way to say it; he's been led into this area in one way or another.

And, of course, the chaplaincy and pastoral ministry experience that Joe has brings this to The Table. So, let's tell people a little bit how you became concerned with this as an issue. And, Bruce, I'll let you start. How did you come to – literally, you're traveling the country these days, interacting with pastors and helping them with where they are and the challenges of the pastorate.
Bruce Ewing
You know, when I started out, I had no idea what I was in for, and it seems like as my wife and I do this together, which really has worked out well because we too often forget the wives in the process. And I'll tell you what right now, we've got some of the toughest gals I the country, who really stand by their man.

But every appointment was God-ordained. I mean it – we walk into situations that pastors are struggling with things that they don't have the freedom to share with a lot of people. Trust is a big issue. Joe and I were talking about that a while ago. Who do I trust? Because usually what you say can and will be used against you in some form.
Darrell Bock
Yeah, that's right.
Bruce Ewing
So, it's really been an eye-opening experience, alarming at times, but very encouraging most of the time.
Darrell Bock
Now, how long have you been functioning as a Special Assistant in the Alumni Relations Office?
Bruce Ewing
It's about four years now. I was pastor of Fellowship Bible Church in Tulsa for 33 years. Prior to that, I worked in a denominational setting for three years. Before seminary, we were in Crusade for five years.
Darrell Bock
Oh, wow.
Bruce Ewing
So, we had a pretty broad range of experiences before we went into this, and then after I retired from the church, Dr. Bailey called and asked if I could be his assistant.
Darrell Bock
That's great. So, literally, part of your role is to visit churches around the country and just kind of rally around the pastor if I can say it that way?
Bruce Ewing
You got it.
Darrell Bock
Yeah. And so – and you've been doing this four years, and you've literally spanned the globe – huh? – in terms of the country, in terms of pastoral care.
Bruce Ewing
Put a lot of miles on.
Darrell Bock
Yeah. That's great. Well, we'll come back and talk about the details in a second.

Joe, what about you? What's your experience? Obviously, start with your pastoral experience.
Joe Allen
Pastored several churches, most of 'em in Georgia, after graduating from Dallas in 1988. And had a conversation with Dr. Bailey at the Dead Sea, when I went on a trip, and just happened to mention I might be interested in being the Chaplain, if that position ever came open. I had no idea that Chaplain Bill was retiring. No idea.

And Dr. Bailey said, "Well, get me your résumé and we'll talk about it." And I did. As a matter of fact, I had the résumé on my desk at my church. I was very, very happy at the church where I was serving. And we thought we'd retire there.

Had the résumé – it was about a month after the trip. I'd gone on a trip to the Holy Land, obviously, with Dr. Bailey, and that was a first, the first time I'd been there. Had always wanted to do that.

And so, I took the résumé, and I polished it up and pushed it forward, but was just a little bit discouraged, because I thought, "Why am I wasting my time with this? Nothing's going to come of it."

And I sat back in my chair, and at that precise moment, I got an e-mail from Dr. Bailey, and he said, "I've changed my thinking, when can you talk?" And everything else from there is history.
Darrell Bock
Oh, wow.
Joe Allen
And everything else from there is history. So, ended up here at the seminary.
Darrell Bock
And so, you were – what? – 20 plus years in the pastorate?
Joe Allen
Thirty.
Darrell Bock
Thirty. Okay. Thirty years in the pastorate. So, you know of what we're about to address. You've been on the – you've been on the receiving end of –
Joe Allen
Been kicked around a little bit, yeah.
Darrell Bock
Let's talk – let's start off, first, by just helping people think about what's involved in the pastorate. You know, a lot of people just think that pastors get up, and they preach once a week, and maybe the odd hospital visit now and again, that kind of thing. But that it's not a very demanding kind of vocation to engage in.

Bruce, tell us what your perspective is on what it takes to do pastoral work.
Bruce Ewing
I wished I'd have known then what I know now. I don't think very many of the guys are prepared. We hear it here, but when you get flesh on flesh for the day-in and day-out crisis you have to deal with, as we begin – as I begin to think about this, I begin to look into the life of Paul and saw that the struggles he had – I mean I think there were times when Paul was close to deep depression. 2 Corinthians Chapter 2, the first five verses there.

Then I begin to study people like Spurgeon. I think Jonathan Edwards said his wife's main responsibility was to keep him out of depression. I never realized Henry Ironside spent hours in tears because of the pressure of ministry.

And what I've begun to discover is is that the guys, the more directly they're involved in a community and to the real-life world, the greater pressure it is, because it's an impossible world out there apart from what we know to be true about Christ.
Darrell Bock
Mm-hmm, yeah. The day-to-day pressures of ministry, and the fact that you're dealing with everybody's crises in many ways, no matter which way you turn. And crises have a way of not scheduling themselves; they just show up. So, they can build up, and they can come one after the other.

Joe, how do you – what do you think about what it is that the pastor faces. What are some of the major things that you think people may not be aware of that they ought to realize?
Joe Allen
Well, somebody once said that a church is like a hound dog. If you're afraid of it, it'll eat you up. A I contend that even if you're not afraid of it, it will eat you up.
Darrell Bock
Yeah.
Joe Allen
Because I came out of this place thinking the most important thing that a pastor does is preach. And I still believe that, but churches don't always see it that way.
Darrell Bock
That's right.
Joe Allen
And it depends on the size of the church. They take on different personalities. But I still believe the most important thing a pastor does is to preach. I was at a church that in many ways was very traditional. It was a small, southern town in South Georgia most recently. And we tried to bring them up to speed and did a good job as far as worship was concerned, but I was still preaching three sermons a week – three full-blown messages a week.

And I was likening it to driving down a highway with telephone poles just zipping by. But when you add to that hospital visits and outreach visits and teaching deacons, and you always have funerals and weddings – and I happened to have had a secretary that couldn't protect me, and so people were always sticking their head in the door – new members classes, Sunday school training, counseling. I mean it's – it can be – just the responsibilities can be overwhelming.

And then, when people get crossways with you, or if you have leadership that is not happy with your leadership, then you've got that added stress of personality conflicts, and you're in trouble.
Darrell Bock
Then it adds up. Yeah, I used to – I teach – I used to teach a class regularly on Ephesians, in which we were preparing guys for their teaching and preaching. And I used to say, "You know, if you're in a traditional church, that's three times a week. So, that's Sunday morning, Sunday evening, take a little breath, Wednesday night. Sunday morning, Sunday evening, take a little breath, Wednesday night. And that little beat just keeps on going."

And you're preparing for what you're gonna say, but then there's the whole relational side of ministry, which comes alongside that, in which all these other things are happening. And in the midst of thinking about how you're going to care for the spiritual needs and for the theological nurture of your community, you've got all those relational things happening.

And I remember a conversation I had with a pastor who I had interned under when I was a student. He ministered in North Carolina and had gone to Illinois and had been there for several years, a very prestigious church.

And we were visiting, and he said, "I feel like a Coke machine in which someone keeps pulling out Cokes." Those old Coke machines that had the little hinges on them, and you pulled the little glass Coke out of this. If you're a younger person, you probably don't get this illustration, but that's okay. And you keep pulling.

And he says, "And what I've discovered is I'm out of Coke, and people are still putting their money in the machine." And that's how he felt.

And I thought, "Man, that is a really graphic image of what's going on.
Bruce Ewing
It's true, isn't it?
Joe Allen
Terrific illustration.
Darrell Bock
Yeah. And so, he felt spent. I mean that was – and I could tell everything about him was so different than when I had interned under him, oh, probably a decade-and-a-half earlier. And I remember walking out and visiting with my wife afterwards and said, "You know, Pastor –" we'll leave the name unnamed, "– you know, he isn't the same person. I can see that he's under the weight of ministry."

So, we want to kinda talk about a few things here. We've talked about kinda what produces the weight of ministry. And so, on one side we want to talk about how does the pastor care and protect himself from getting into that situation, 'cause obviously it's better not to get into that situation, and then secondly, what are some of the things you can do if you find yourself in or on the edge of that situation that can help you?

So, let's talk about first pastoral care in a kind of preventative mode to start off with and ask the question – and I'll ask this to you, Bruce – what kinds of things do you recommend to pastors to kind of help them avoid this sense that there's – I'm being pulled on all the time, and I'm running out of stuff to offer. The tank is empty.
Bruce Ewing
Boy, that can happen so quickly, can't it, Joe? And it'll blindside you. Because we wouldn't be doing what we're doing if we didn't have a strong call to the ministry. And most of us can't say no. That's just who we are, and that's the way God wired most of us that are in pastoral roles.

One of the things that I think a guy has to have is one or two confidants, preferably outside the church. You have to be in an environment where you can let your hair down, be transparent. I know some guys, friends of mine who graduated from the Seminary; they have real good friendships in another state where they even get together on a regular basis.

It took me a while to develop that, because we planted a church, and it wasn't until about five years that I found that my best relationships were in ministries I had outside the church. I enjoy working with businessmen, plus I did a lot of chaplain work for athletic teams.

So, there was one particular football coach, college coach, that I was able to be transparent with. The guys in my Bible study that I have over at a country club, we just – I would trust my life with them. But I think it's really critical, I would say, Joe, that we have someone that we can really be transparent with.
Joe Allen
Oh, I echo that 100 percent.
Bruce Ewing
And it's so hard to find. It's so hard to find. The second thing I would mention, and I was surprised when I looked at the statistics on this, less than 30 percent of the pastors have a time in the Word apart from sermon preparation. That's not good. I found that the more I could spend time one on one with God, just alone with him, take a passage and not expect to get anything out of it except Him. That bailed me out on many occasions.
Darrell Bock
You know, that's an interesting observation, 'cause this is a variation of something that I like to say, and that is I think that what happens to many pastors is is that they go into the Word, and they consciously think about preparing to teach or teach for someone else. And they spend all this time in the Word, where the Word is not speaking to them.
Bruce Ewing
You're so right.
Darrell Bock
And so, because I'm thinking about what I'm gonna say to the group, and so, I actually think – now, this might be a – produce a conversation between the two of us – I actually think that thinking about having a quiet time distinct from when you prepare is not the way to think about this.

Whenever you open the Word, the first goal should be to have God speak to you, whether you're preparing to preach or teach, or whether you're in your own devotional time. And I think we've set ourselves up for fall, to a certain extent, by creating the mentality that says, "There are certain times, when I'm in the Word, I'm in the Word for someone else, and there are other times when I'm in the Word, and I'm in the Word for me."

And I think that – what I tell students is you lose control of that switch. If you set it up, eventually you lose control of that switch, and you find – you can't turn it on or off.

So, if you develop the habit of whenever you open the Word, that – the first things you want to hear is what God is saying to you, because if God is teaching you through the Word, he's actually setting up what he may be teaching others as well. And if you circumvent yourself from that process, it seems to me that's a – that's a danger. Does that make any sense?
Joe Allen
Yeah, and I don't think it's either/or, and I don't think Bruce meant that.
Bruce Ewing
No, no, not at all, no.
Joe Allen
I think it's both/and. I think it's both/and. I do think you'll need to have a time where it's just you drawing close to the Lord. But you're right. It's both/and; it's both/and. And I'd be – I would have been sunk had I not tried to get something out of even when I'm preparing for others.
Darrell Bock
Yeah, 'cause I find some of my most effective teaching can be where God has been teaching me something about what He's done in the Word. And then all that – and when I translate that into, "This is how God interacts with people in the midst of life," that works.

And so, I think – I think you're right. I think that the way we interact with the Word in our preparation is important. And if I think I'm kind of on assignment, if I can think of it that way, that's another thing that can eat at ministry I think.
Bruce Ewing
My wife has a saying that, "You never draw water out of a dry well." And to me, I've been spending a lot of time, for instance, reading this little book Abide in Christ with – who is it? – Andrew Murray.

My goodness, as he ties that in, all of a sudden that energizes me on a personal level and gives me – I think we have to take ownership of Scripture. It has to own us.

And I think we do categorize too often without really allowing – you look at Psalm 119, you see how in every one of those versus – how many are there? – 148 verses, every verse has something about the Commandments, the Word, the Law of how it relates to me on a daily basis.

And if I'm not having intercourse with Scripture, in the most intimate of form, then I don't have anything to say to people. I may give them some facts, but it has to be out of our own, I think, experience.
Darrell Bock
Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. So, we've talked about having that friendship outside the circle of the church, someone we can really confide in. We've talked about – and it's interesting; these are both relational, heavily relational – the other is having that relationship with God as you're interacting with Him in the Word.

And, of course, it is the relational parts of the pastorate that are potentially draining. So, I guess it shouldn't be a surprise that it's the relational element that we really have to nurture in order to stay relational.
Joe Allen
Amen.
Bruce Ewing
There was a recent article in Leadership Journal. N. T. Wright says, "It's not the workload that takes you under. It's not the time factor that takes you under. It's the pain of relationships that take you under." And in all my research as I've prepared for today even, it's amazing, 80 percent of pastors do not have a friend. It brings in 80 percent of pastors say, "It's taking a toll on our marriage."

So, t he relational aspect of it, Miller, who wrote the article, goes on to say that if we knew that we were gonna sign off, write a contract that said it was going to be – involve deceit, deception, discouragement, judged motives, all of those things that we all struggle in pastorate, we probably would have never signed up.
Darrell Bock
Mmm, mmm. I want to bring in one other factor that's obviously important in all this, and you've alluded to it, and this is – hopefully this will cover us, I think, up till the break, and that is the role of the spouse in all this.

It seems to me there are a couple of dangers here. One is the spouse who ends up being so detached from our ministry that the demands of the ministry suck us in and really break the relationship that we have with the spouse. That's one danger.

And the other danger is what I would call perhaps the over-protective spouse on the other end, the spouse who's so concerned about the reputation of her husband and the way that he's viewed that it almost becomes an additional pressure to deal with in ministry.

Now, those are two ends of the spectrum, it seems to me, one a very detached, and the other a very engaged spouse. And keeping your spouse properly attuned to what's happening in ministry, I take it, is also a pretty important thing. Right, Joe?
Joe Allen
Absolutely. When I started off, I used to have the idea, "This is my soul mate; I'll share everything with her." And I realized, after a while, that's not always so wise, because I also took a vow to protect her.

And my wife is at one end of the spectrum, where she wants to make sure that I'm protected. And by the way, Prof. Hendricks used to say, "A man who doesn't listen to his wife is a fool." And I totally agree with that. And she's, by the way, a great barometer to tell you when, "Hey, we need to get away."

Vance Havner's the one who said, "Come apart, or you'll come apart." And so, I would always try to listen to her. But I would also try to protect her. Because if somebody in the church did me dirty, I didn't go home and tell her about it, because I didn't want to color her view of that person. She didn't need to have that. She needed to be a good pastor's wife and love everybody. And thankfully, I have a wife that does love everybody.

But yeah, I do think there's an element of protecting her involved that I've always tried to live by.
Darrell Bock
So, I suspect, Bruce, that when you interact – and we don't have a lot of time for this, but when you interact with a pastor, you're actually interacting with the couple in most cases.
Bruce Ewing
By all means, yeah. It's amazing. There's a number of wives that really feel left out. I see deer-in-the-headlight of the pastor when all of a sudden she begins to talk a little bit. And that was true of my wife when I retired. She finally told me, she said, "You were so committed to ministry, I felt like when we used to play crack the whip –" you know that game? "– I was always at the end, and I was getting flipped off."

And that just broke my heart. And then I was preparing for a conference here in Branson the other day, and got a hold of one of her journals, and I asked her for permission to read it, and it broke my heart when I saw how I had left her out. And we – every Thursday night was date night, and we always had time together, but somehow I really blew it.
Darrell Bock
Serving as an elder, I've been in situations where I've – where someone has reached out to a husband in a context of ministry and has left the wife unaddressed, and you get feedback that way. So, this is a common problem oftentimes.

And I'm reminded of a situation in a church, that I'm aware of, where the church program was being assessed in a very public way, in a very public meeting in a series of small groups. And the pastor's wife was attending, and she couldn't take the – well, the assessment that was going on, which brought –
Bruce Ewing
It was criticism
Darrell Bock
– inevitably criticism, and became very, very defensive.

And all of a sudden, the pastor is not just dealing with what's going on in the meeting about the church, which is a process that he, to some degree, initiated, but now he's dealing with his wife's reaction and what's going on around him. And that's just one example of a disruption.

Joe, you were sharing with me another example of the type of thing that sometimes pastors run into.
Joe Allen
Well, just personal pressures that come to bear on his life. In 2007, my daughter was diagnosed with cancer and my dad died. And I was very, very close to my dad. And so, it was a tough time.
Darrell Bock
And these two things happened kinda on top of each other.
Joe Allen
Yes. Just – yeah, within close proximity. And you're dealing with that, and you just forget about the church pressures, and they're always there. But then to have added pressures, it can weigh heavily on you.
Darrell Bock
So, Bruce, you walk in on a regular basis to these churches, and you get to know these pastors, and you get to interact with them and oftentimes with their spouses. I think you alluded earlier to sometimes when the spouse speaks, the pastor gets a deer-in-headlights look because – do those pastors know what's coming, or are they caught by surprise, or is it a mix? What's going on there?
Bruce Ewing
I'd be interested to know what Joe says about this, but it seems to me like because of the nature of the work, we get so caught up in it, and we feel like probably you always hurt the one you love, that old ballad. And our wives are the easiest ones to leave out of the equation.

And so, we go on with the ministry, and a good ministry, but we just leave the wife out. And we don't realize that. And I wish I could go back. But my wife – and again, the disposition of the wives is different. Some are probably more demanding. My wife was a low-maintenance wife. So, I was fortunate. You know? But it took a toll on us, too.
Darrell Bock
Mm-hmm. So, really we've mentioned three – we haven't even mentioned the Church per se, we've mentioned three core relationships that really are important to pastors. One is having someone that they can confide in, at least one person, who's outside the circle of the church, with whom they can be transparent. We've talked obviously about their walk with the Lord and how that works. And the third figure in this – kind of a pastoral trinity maybe – is the wife and making sure that she's in a proper way, in a healthy way, in the loop.

So, those are kind of three ways to – for pastors to kind of make sure that they're not isolated and that there's some form of protection.

Okay, well, let's shift gears now. You walk into a church, and you meet with these pastors on a regular basis, Bruce. And when you do this, oftentimes you discover a pastor is hurting. What – obviously these are individualized situations, but are there general things that you see on a regular basis that kind of says, "Yeah, all the symptoms are here?
Bruce Ewing
Yeah. And again, every situation's different, and every pastor it changes throughout the year. So, I'll make a visit one year, come back the next year, and he's dealing with a whole different set of issues because of the complexity of what ministry is.

I think the biggest issue that most pastors have, across the board, is one of trust. I remember one of the first people I went to visit, a rather significant church, I kinda had to trick the secretary into even getting into see him. And finally, I went in, and he's sitting behind his desk like this, just looking at me.

And he said – the first question out of his mouth was, "What do you want?" Because that's the mentality. Everybody wants something from – they want to get another Coke out of the machine.

And I said, "I want all the money you've got. I'm with the Seminary." And we just kinda stared at each other. And he kinda laughed a little bit.

And we talked a little bit, and he began to open up a little bit more. And he said, "I want to know if I can trust you or not." And out of that relationship has become – I mean he has shared with me personal things that he otherwise wouldn't share. And I think that's one of the great ministries we could have with each other is just to listen and let 'em know that this is confidential; I trust you.
Darrell Bock
And what I'm hearing, kind of on the backside is is that one of the danger and subtle things that can happen in ministry is you build up this wall of self-protection. And in thinking that you're building a wall to protect yourself, you're actually building a wall to isolate yourself and set yourself up for a fall.
Bruce Ewing
Trust and isolation, I think, are the two big things that take guys under.
Darrell Bock
Interesting.

Joe, what's been your read on what happens when things are starting to go South?
Joe Allen
I would agree with what Bruce said. You take a church, and it takes you – if you take an established church; it's different than Bruce's situation, since he started a church; he created his own problems.
Joe Allen
But you inherit problems when you take an established church. And they say it takes anywhere from five to seven years to become the pastor, and it took me nine. But people have to see that you're human and that you have to go through suffering, and you have to marry 'em, and you have to bury 'em before they trust you.

And so, it took me nine. And I can put my finger on the very day or the very evening I became the pastor of the church. We were in a deacons' meeting, and, of course, we used our deacons as elders, just raised the standards –
Darrell Bock
So, a Baptist church or a Baptist-like church?
Joe Allen
Yeah, a Baptist church.
Darrell Bock
You gotta do all the theological translating for everybody. Okay.
Joe Allen
And we were at a deacon retreat, and two guys ambushed us. Two of the deacons ambushed us. It doesn't matter whether you have deacons, elders, or how you're running your church; the character of the people involved is what counts.
Darrell Bock
Right.
Joe Allen
These guys ambushed us. They ambushed me; they ambushed the staff; they ambushed the chairman of the deacons. And they made accusations that – nothing about doing something illegal, immoral, or unbiblical; they just – things weren't going the way they wanted 'em to go, and they had hooked up together.

And so, they made these accusations. And I can remember that the rest of the deacons – we had a big U-shaped table, and the deacons stood up – literally stood up and said, "This is our pastor. He's a godly man. He's working hard. We're gonna back him."

So, these guys had to tuck tail. And one of 'em left the church, and the other never gave me a moment's trouble. And that's when I became the pastor. And we had a great ministry from there on out. For me, I can deal with the three sermons a week and all the other stuff, but it's those relationships – if they go south, that's when the pressure really comes.
Darrell Bock
Right, right, 'cause you feel like you're out of sorts in some ways. Here you are, called to minister to people, and for one reason or another, they're not responding, or you've got them on the wrong side of the equation; they're wrestling with trusting you.

You're doing your best. You're spending all this energy, and nothing seems to be coming out of it. And that's – feels like a little bit like you're hitting your head against a wall in ministry. And that can't be a good thing.

So, you walk in, and you're dealing with a situation where you recognize something's not quite right. What do you do? I imagine the first thing you do is you do a whole lot of listening.
Bruce Ewing
That's the hardest thing. You know, there are so many seminars. Everybody's got a seminar that's gonna fix the problem. I'm really partial to leadership. I just love to help in the area of leadership. The hardest thing for me to do is shut my mouth and listen. And eye contact, let them know that I really do care, because when you get down to it – my friend, who's a collegiate football coach, says – we have a lot in common – "You're as good as your last game." And people sometimes just don't care. But I think to be able to truly listen and then they will – it's wild what they come up with as to the things that are – and it's things that Joe's struggled with, things that I've struggled with.

Most of it revolves around relationships, power struggles within the church, and then being able to come to grips with the fact that each one of us have a sin nature, not just the deacon that jumped on your case. But a term I try to use is, "Am I responding or reacting to the situation." And the human nature, the – I think the big thing is guys struggle with power struggles within the church.
Joe Allen
Oh, yeah. Ego and –
Darrell Bock
And I find another one that I've run into is they struggle with their own competency in their midst of their ministry. You know, "Why isn't my church –" and then you can fill in the blank of the expectations that they may have had coming in and what they're actually dealing with. And they take full responsibility for that, if they feel like it's coming up short, and raise questions about their own competency.

It seems to me that that's – in the situations that I've been involved in, that's been the major thing that I see, 'cause I get – I do get to travel the country; I get to walk and speak in a lot of churches. And oftentimes I'm going to lunch with the staff or with the main pastor or had dinner the night before.

And because I'm an outsider, it's almost like sometimes I'm a release valve for that pastor, and they get to share what's really going on in the church, or they have a question, or, "Something that's really bothering me –".

And I find there's a lot of self-doubt in ministers, particularly if the church is – I'll say even if the church is just kind of average, which isn't a bad thing, but they view it negatively in a reflection no their competence.

So, between relational struggles and self-doubt, it seems to me, those are the things I tend to see the most. Is there anything else that goes in that list?
Bruce Ewing
I think we – those are the two –
Darrell Bock
Those are the two big ones?
Joe Allen
I would add personal struggles again. I was very fortunate to have good kids who served the Lord. But you got a lot of pastors whose kids aren't –
Darrell Bock
Now that's true. Yes, absolutely.
Joe Allen
And those things that – we were in a small, sleepy, southern town in South Georgia, and my birthday was coming up, and my wife went to Walmart, after dark, to get some birthday stuff. She had invited some friends from Atlanta and relatives from Atlanta, and she was attacked in the Walmart parking lot. And that'll rock your world.

I show up, and the police are everywhere, and she's got blood coming out of her ear and nose, and that'll – but – so, in other words, personal things come in. And thank goodness, Bruce, I'm like you. I've got a great wife, tough as nails, and she was having her personal devotions a couple of mornings later.

And I need to memorize where it is, but it's in Psalms where it talks about, "When men attack me, You will protect me." And I walked up on her, and she's always faithfully having her devotions, and she was crying. And I said, "Are you okay?"

And she said, "Look at this." And she said, "He cares about me." And she's never had a problem with it since. And the guy was sent up for 19 years or 20-something years. But it was more than just attacking her. He was out – he had broken probation. He was in prison before; he had molested two girls. So, anyway, it's – there are always – the pastor has to live his life as well. So, I do think that weighs in on the situation.
Darrell Bock
Yeah. I'm gonna put a metaphor in front of you guys and see what you think. It's a little bit like – I'm gonna use a picture of carrying a load, and it's a little bit like – okay, you've got the bricks of your own life sitting on your shoulders. Okay?

And now I'm gonna add onto that the bricks of every member of the congregation for whom I feel pastoral responsibility. And a pastor who really does his job feels that pastoral responsibility. So, it's like being under a load of bricks sometimes.
Joe Allen
Mm-hmm.
Bruce Ewing
Yeah, and that is a big one because, like in a marriage, a husband knows he's supposed to be the priest in his family. As a pastor, you're supposed to be the priest of the leadership and of the staff. But who's my priest?
Darrell Bock
Mm-hmm.
Joe Allen
There you go.
Bruce Ewing
And I never had a mentor. I haven't talked to that many guys that did have a mentor. Fortunately, I had about three guys here at the Seminary – Dr. Getz, Dr. Reed, Dr. Pentecost was a major part of my life – and I had the freedom to call them. But I didn't have a mentor.

And then I got to thinking, "Well, who did Jesus have as a mentor?" And that took me into a better of understanding of the vital nature of having that relationship with God – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – and know that I've been grafted into that.
Darrell Bock
Yeah, and I think another protection on this one is the idea of really thinking through what the body of Christ is supposed to be, that sometimes what we do is we put all that responsibility on our own shoulders as one person. And no one can bear up to that kind of a load.
Bruce Ewing
And they'll never understand.
Darrell Bock
That's right. And so, the idea that the body really is designed to be a shock absorber, if I can say it that way –
Joe Allen
That's great.
Darrell Bock
– and share the load, and share the pastoral responsibilities. I happened to minister in a church where the elders are very, very active in the pastoral care. They share the pastoral care with the pastor. They do the hospital visits in many occasions. They do the visit with the family. They may be connected to a small group that they oversee, that kind of thing.

And the caring relational parts of the ministry are divided out in a way in which the body bears the burden. And that seems to me to be one – if you can ask – if you were to ask me how a pastor could structure his ministry in such a way that there's some built-in protection, one of them is to make sure that the ministry of the community is distributed and the church understands that the pastor can't do everything.
Joe Allen
There are other people who can do this, too.
Bruce Ewing
That's right, amen. Yeah, amen.
Joe Allen
You know, I pastored Southern Baptist churches for all these years, and they've got a pretty good system. They've got – when our daughter was diagnosed with cancer, a guy came out from the state convention, down from Atlanta, and took us out to eat and just –

You know, it's sort of like the article I read when I was a kid, when I was first reading. I got my hands on a Reader's Digest, and these people's home had caught on fire, and they made it out alive, and they're standing there at night by a buy road, with their bathrobes on, watching their house burn. And the cars just kept zipping by. And finally, somebody stopped, came up, and just stood there with them. It's not really that they had to say anything. They just had to be there.
Darrell Bock
Yeah.
Bruce Ewing
That's true.
Joe Allen
And so much of that – and I think that's a lot of what you do, Bruce, and hopefully a lot of what I do. Just –
Bruce Ewing
Well, I want to put a plug in for the Seminary here. Dr. Bailey – my hat's off to him, because he recognized a need and then Kim Till got involved, Greg Hatteberg got involved, Mark Yarbrough, and they began to see that there's a lot of hurting guys out there. And when you think about the investment they've made for their education, the investment that the Seminary's made in the education, what are we doing to feed them while they're out there?

So, that's when they brought me on board, and I'm pleased to say that we've been able to – we just hired a guy for the West Coast and a guy for the East Coast to divide this thing up a little bit, and we're still inadequate.

But I think for the guys to know that we're here, and to be able to call upon Chaplain Joe and be able to say – and the profs – to have that networking going.
Darrell Bock
And that's actually part of something that's happened to us, too at the center, as we've done our conferences, and particularly as we've moved outside the city to do our conferences. And we're getting feedback from the pastors, in some cases who are reconnecting to the Seminary for the first time in a long time, that kind of thing.

This need of this particular area is actually why we're doing this podcast, and why later we're going to be doing a pastor's lunch to try and build some of these relationships, for these guys who may feel isolated, and give them the opportunity to connect.

We felt the exact same need in the Center that you're sensing in the Alumni Relations Office. And, of course, we're doing a podcast, and the podcast isn't Seminary specific. The podcast is really about ministry in general, and what we're talking about is something that runs through ministry in general as well.

And we're trying to alert not just the pastors that they might be in a cycle that they can catch themselves in the midst of, which would be one way to think about it, but to also help the people who are listening who aren't pastors but who don't understand what the pastorate involves, to create some sympathy and understanding for them about how, in some cases, people within church communities can rally around their pastor in a way that's helpful

So, let's talk a little bit about that. Let's talk about how churches can rally around their pastor and help them in the midst of this kind of situation. Obviously, we've suggested that the pastor himself's got to take some initiative to build some relationships outside the church so there's a kind of valve.

And he's gotta be careful about making sure that he's staying healthy in his relationship with God, and he's got to pay attention to his – obviously to how his wife is involved. But what can church people do to help the pastor?
Joe Allen
I think words of encouragement. I live off of words of encouragement. Let me flip it a little bit, just a little bit. We had a – our student pastor, at the church where I most recently was, has two little girls. And both of them have cystic fibrosis. And we were good friends; and he about the age of my son. And just in talking with him, I would say, "Chris, this is –" And he would open up, and I would say, "Chris, this is really one that you'll never get over. You'll live with this the rest of your life and the rest of their lives."

But you know, just him knowing that somebody cares. I mean we're coming full circle here, but just him knowing. And I still stay in touch with him, and every once in a while, if he gets down, he'll call me. And I have other guys from the church, they call me here, "How's it going out there?" You know, just words of affirmation. It's huge; it's huge.
Bruce Ewing
A couple of things that I would add to that, people don't realize that pastors need a break. And I know of some boards that they watch the pastor closely and said, "You haven't had a week off," or, "You haven't had a weekend off; you're gonna get it."

I was very fortunate in the early years of our church. Somebody found out Linda and I like Jamaica. And they would surprise – 'cause I'm like a racecar without a governor; I can't shut down. Somebody has to get me, and then if they don't, I crash.

And I think the second thing is the sabbatical. I think every seven years there ought to be at least a month to three months sabbatical.
Darrell Bock
Yeah, I know one of the pastors that I'm really close to, here in the city, gets six weeks every summer in which he has no responsibility at all, and then I think there's probably – it's eight to ten weeks total in that period where he's not responsible for preaching.
Bruce Ewing
Sounds good to me.
Darrell Bock
Yeah. I mean that's a –
Joe Allen
Well, especially when the average church member says, "Well, how hard could it be?"
Bruce Ewing
There you go.
Joe Allen
"You're just – you're getting up there and speaking one day a week. How hard could it be?"
Bruce Ewing
"And what's your handicap?"
Darrell Bock
Yeah. And what they don't realize is is that you're out most nights of the week at this meeting or that meeting with that group. You've got that emergency call that comes, etcetera. It's pretty overwhelming.

Well, believe it or not, our time has just kind of slipped away from us, and we've – we're used to saying this on The Table – and we've only scratched the surface of what we could discuss. But I really do appreciate your willingness to come in and talk to us about what's involved in pastoral burnout.

And hopefully those who are listening have gotten a glimpse of kinda the other half of what pastoral life can be like and have a sensitivity for it. And if you are a pastor, first of all, well done, good and faithful servant. And there's our word of encouragement to you.

And secondly, I think a word of encouragement to make sure that you're building and keeping an eye on three key relationships that sometimes can get lost in the isolation and the lack of trust. One is with someone on the outside. The second is, obviously, your walk with God. And third is keeping a close eye on how you're relating to your spouse and that she's in the loop in a positive way and not in a negative way.

So, we thank you for being a part with us here on The Table. And we thank you for being a part of The Table with us, and we hope to hear from you and see you again soon.

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