Dear Pastors and Session and congregation members,
I am concerned.
At the annual Pastor’s Boundary Training workshop on Thursday we were reminded of the things that may lead to the crossing of pastoral boundaries. One area that the facilitator highlighted was “isolation”.
In some ministry areas pastors are surrounded by people each and every day. Yet because of the role of the pastor, that person may feel alone and isolated from connecting or sharing his/her concerns, joys, anxieties or fears. In other ministry areas the pastor maybe isolated by geography or size of the community or generational differences. Ministry as a pastor can be very isolated and lonely work.
The feeling of isolation and loneliness can take its toll in a variety of ways such as physical health issues, addictions, divorce, behavior issues, mental health issues such as depression, sadness and anger and sometimes suicide.
Pastors (which includes chaplains and CREs) provide emotional and spiritual care to so many each day. In my experience Pastors are not that proactive in seeking assistance for themselves or taking the time to renew their own soul or to face their emotional, spiritual and physical health. Over the years in my role as a Presbytery Leader I have had to suggest, nudge, and occasionally mandate that a pastor seek assistance and care for issues around physical, spiritual and emotional health that often stemmed from being isolated and lonely.
Pastors, I encourage you to be proactive about your health. Seek out and connect with other pastors on a regular basis. Come to presbytery meetings or other presbytery events. We do try to provide time to connect with others. Reach out to others if you are finding yourself in a lonely or dark place. The Board of Pensions provides many services to assist you. Take advantage of those benefits.
Session members, I encourage you to pay attention to whether the pastor is taking his/her vacation and continuing education. Perhaps it can be written into the annual terms of call that pastor is encouraged (or required) to take a spiritual retreat each year. When you meet with the pastor for the annual review don’t start with “what have you done for us” this year but instead “what have you done for your physical, emotional and spiritual health” this year. Starting with that question will definitely change the tone of the review in a positive way.
October is also Pastor Appreciation month. I have seen on several Facebook and Instagram postings congregational celebrations of their pastor (s). It’s not too late to let your pastor know that his/her ministry is appreciated and supported.
Pastors take care of yourselves. Connect with others. Call me if you need someone to talk too.
Peace and grace to all your houses. Jeanne