Happy Pastor Appreciation Month! As the pandemic continues with no end in sight, pastors face increasing pressure to care for and comfort their flock. Here at Givelify, we refer to pastors as faith responders. Like first responders, pastors are on the front lines against depression, anxiety, fear, and faith crises which have all increased in staggering rates since the virus has entered into our daily lives. In a recent poll, Monmouth University found that 55 percent of people said their stress levels have increased since the pandemic began. Likewise, faith responders are not immune to the increased stressors of COVID-19.
In fact, a recent LifeWay research study found that pastors are now experiencing mental health concerns related to the global pandemic.
- 26% of pastors reported worry over finances
- 16% feel pressure over technological challenges
- 12% felt pressure offering pastoral care through a socially distanced format
Since this month is Pastor Appreciation Month, we’ve invited our friend Reverend Russell St. Bernard from Ministry Pivot to share about what he’s learned talking to other pastors about how they have dealt with the intensified pressure during this unprecedented time.
About our Guest Blogger: Reverend Russell St. Bernard
Reverend Russell St. Bernard has almost two decades of ministry experience with small, medium, and large size churches. Understanding first-hand how Covid-19 was impacting churches and leaders he founded Ministry Pivot with the goal to help them navigate through this “new normal.”
Ministry Pivot: Self-Care for Faith Responders By Pastor Russ
A topic that is often omitted in many conversations among church leaders is about how leaders and pastors take care of themselves in the midst of caring for everyone else. And because it’s Pastor Appreciation Month, and my family is wildly appreciative of our senior pastor, I thought I’d talk to other pastors about their process for pivoting their own self-care practices so that pastors like mine would recognize their need to change up how they are caring for themselves among all the changes and challenges of this time.
I recently had a conversation with three pastors doing amazing kingdom work and discussed their unique pivots to self-care plans: Pastor Heather Palacios (Pastoral Staff at Church by The Glades in Florida), Pastor Adam Durso (Executive Director of Lead NYC), and Pastor Brian Bullock (Pastoral Staff at World Overcomers in NC).
I’m sharing excerpts from our conversation here. You’ll also find important tools and resources that will help faith leaders to take better care of themselves.
Q: I fully believe that this season of pandemic is not supposed to make us tired. When we finally get out of this season, we should be more energized and more excited than we have been before. So my question is this: What are the signs that start to show that you are in need of some self-care?
Pastor Heather: My calling before COVID is still my calling to this day, which is to stop one more suicide. So I’d say suicidal thoughts are the biggest sign. I myself have struggled with this same issue so I know what it’s like. And this is a common experience that is increasing among pastors because of the pandemic. So first know that you are not alone. And one suicide in the kingdom is one too many.
Q: Even though most of us are working from home, is there a balance between your work and your pastoral life? How should leaders and pastors be looking at transitioning somewhat back into in-person worship?
Pastor Adam: What we learned in this season we can’t forget in the next season. Last year, I traveled one 130 days, and all the things that we were doing — preaching and teaching all over the globe — came to a sudden halt. Then all of a sudden, I’m home and all the things that I enjoyed most, which might have been physically exhausting, they were filling my bucket emotionally… For one, the distance between work and home has gotten shorter for many of us, we go downstairs or we walk down the corridor of a hallway and all of a sudden, we’re at work. It really is more important now to establish discipline and boundary, because the lines have been blurred. And balance isn’t just about saying I gave X number of hours to my work, so I’m going to give X amount of time to my family, because oftentimes the issue is that we’re not fully present when we are with our family.
Q: What do you do to keep from getting to the place of exhaustion? Do you have any checks and balances? And how can others notice if you are in need of care?
Pastor Heather: I have three people that know how I am doing: my three are my pastor, my husband, my psychologist. And when I start to slip down the slope, I have got to let them know. Then they know what they need to do in their respective roles. What can somebody that might be living with a pastor do? Notice changes in their behavior: Do they start to withdraw? Do they start to give away gigs, are they giving away traveling speaking opportunities? Are they giving away their books? Are they short-tempered when they’re usually more docile? Check out the Suicide Warning Signs resource we are sharing with you!
Q: I want to ask you specifically about the importance of legacy for your self-care. Why are you taking care of yourself and what is it to care for your legacy?
Pastor Brian: I remember well when the quarantine first started, one of the joys that I had was being able to spend and take uninterrupted time with my daughter. There’re things that I know that she’s going to remember from this season for years to come. That’s important to me, because I only met my dad three times, literally. It’s helped me realize that church wasn’t necessarily my legacy. My legacy was those people at home. So for me, the idea was, hey, if I am going to pass myself down, I can share myself with the world that’s fine. But let me pass myself down, my values, my principles, my beliefs, my time to the people that God has assigned me to first. And that’s my family, not just my wife and children, but my sphere: my mom, my dad, my siblings, my circle. And since I’ve done that, it’s made me more healthier, and it’s made me serve in a better way because now I’m not giving from an empty bucket.
Q: Last question: What are some things you do for self-care? I love cycling. That’s what I do. What are two or three practical things that you all do in order to fill that self-care bucket.
Pastor Adam: Real practically, for me if I don’t schedule it, it doesn’t happen so I have to actually put things in my schedule. Whatever it is. If I need time to myself, I schedule it. I put my devotional time in my schedule. I put my “sharpen-the-sword” time in my schedule. But recently I started to cook, and particularly, cook with my 15 year old daughter. She became my sous chef. So I had to schedule a hard stop to make sure that we could eat together, that we want to eat as a family. The truth of the matter is, it really was just something that filled my bucket. I love getting on the grill. I love being with my daughter. I had to choose to be in that moment and not to feel guilty that I was choosing to neglect something else.
Pastor Brian: I love walking. I try to walk 30 minutes a day every day, where I’m listening to something on my headphones, where I’m getting air. I used to go to Barnes and Nobles. I am a book junkie. I would just sit in there with some coffee and just enjoy myself. I have been against PlayStations forever, but the other day I was at someone else’s house, and the father was playing PlayStation with his son. I’ve been against it, but I’m buying a PlayStation and me and my son are going to play some games together. Because I’m willing to do anything at this at this moment to have that quality time.
Pastor Heather: Wherever I am, I practice what I call “Inhale Exhale Jesus.” Since Jesus is two syllables, I will inhale on the JE- and I will exhale on the -SUS. That is very calming for me and doesn’t cost any money.
Key Takeaways for Pastor Appreciation Month
- Your lack of self-care can result in suicide and the fight for life being lost. Pastor Heather gives the example of several people in her life who lost their battle to suicide.
- A key to self-care is being able to take a moment for rest and refreshment. Pastor Adam speaks of us needing to take those moments in order to be the best of who God has called us to be.
- Pastor Heather shared the importance of being honest with your “three” people. Her three are husband, pastor, and psychologist.
- Pastor Brian warns leaders against people-pleasing. If we become people-pleasers, we will miss the opportunity to give our best selves to those who are the most important.
- We need to reexamine our desire to leave a legacy. Are we taking care of ourselves in a way that leads to our destination? Find what fills our bucket and ultimately serve better.
- Self-care is not a popular term in the ministry world, but burnout is. Before you burnout, look in and see if you are in need of some refreshment and filling. Ask God to give you ideas, ask the Spirit to warm and open the eyes of your heart so that you see where he is leading you to find life.
- To listen to the full Self-Care for Faith Leaders audio and more conversations with Reverend Russ, visit www.ministrypivot.com.
What’s Your Self-Care Plan?
Do you have a self-care plan for pastor appreciation month? Tell us about it so other pastors can be inspired to do the same! Tag us at @Givelify and use the hashtags #PastorSelfCare #FaithResponder.
If you don’t have a plan yet, what is one thing you can do this week that will refresh you and fill your cup? Tell us your self-care activity for this week on social media at @Givelify and use the hashtags #PastorSelfCare #FaithResponder
Let’s make sure all ministry leaders are cared for since they are truly our Faith Responders in a global crisis. Making sure our church leaders’ cups are full before they pour out care to others.
Discussion Questions for Pastors:
Resources/Tools for Pastoral Self-Care:
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