Today my grandmother passed away. Even though she was 90 years old and in frail health, you are never really “ready.” My memories of grandma are of a fiery, passionate woman of God who loved gum drops, root beer and Burger King. She had the energy of a hyperactive chipmunk after 4 monster drinks. She was so full of life (and orneriness) we all thought she’d outlive us all! At 80 years old she was diagnosed with cancer and the doctor told her she would need a permanent port because she was not going to survive it. She answered, “Well, just because you said that, I’m going to beat this cancer- just to spite you!” And she did. She was cancer free by 82. When I was feeling down or someone had been nasty to me, she would “preach” at me, “You get that chin up right now young lady. You’re a child of God! You are a Stevens!” Grandma had a great singing voice and was also a good shot at the shooting range. A few years ago I had the privilege of riding the Badger Ferry with grandma and my kids- we had a blast, even though Grandma sneaked her tiny dog on board and ate doughnuts the whole trip.

We are weeks away from Thanksgiving. And these holidays will be without grandma. You do not get to choose when you lose someone. You do not get to choose (sometimes) when a church transition happens. You may not get to postpone a heartache until January.

Some of my dearest friends are in the middle of fiery trials and ordeals right now. My heart aches for 2 of my friends who had major tragedies last week. Another of my close friends is in a gut-wrenching church battle right now. Perhaps you too are facing a different kind of holiday season this year.

If you are having a fantastic holiday and so is everyone you know, fantastic.  That’s wonderful. But this blog may not be relevant for ya, at least not this year. I would like to have a word with those of you who may NOT be having a great holiday season right now….

Several years ago, Christmas Day- As my little 2 year old daughter began opening her third gift, I heard my phone ring. I was confused at first seeing that my phone wasn’t on; THEN I saw it was the on call phone. I picked up the phone and answered.  On the other line I heard the tired voice of an older man.  He asked me, “I want you to give me one good reason not to end it all right here and now.”  Hey family, I need to go outside for a bit. I need to take this.

You have probably heard it said that the Holidays are the hardest time of year for some people. When I was younger I never knew how true that was. Coming on staff at a large church, I thought the reason none of the staff wanted to be on call during the holidays was purely due to family obligations. But having holiday time with the family was only PART of the reason that the pastoral staff did not relish being on call for Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Years. My first year, as the newbie on staff, I was on call during Christmas Day. It really changes your whole perspective on the holidays talking to people who are suicidal on Christmas. And your eyes are opened to the very large number people all around us who are hurting at the “happiest” time of the year.

Perhaps we are not as aware of this sadness in the church, because we have created a culture that says, “If you are really a good Christian, you will be happy all the time.  You will live in victory daily.”  This causes many Christians to hide their very real feelings, and the fact that they need a friend, because they are pretending to be “happy”. And some of these Christians wonder, “Is there something wrong with me, because I am not happy right now? Would other Christians understand or even be able to help?” We live in a broken, fallen world. The church and our American culture have created this artificial reality- that we are immune to heartbreak if we do the “right” things.  We can stay young, wealthy, have all we want and need.  As the poet aptly said, “Childhood is the Kingdom where nobody dies.” -Edna St. Vincent Millay. When you grow up, you begin to see, on planet earth bad things happen to ALL people, good, bad…etc. And if we will be honest, that is exactly what the Bible says- and what Jesus told us would happen: “In this world you WILL have trouble….they will persecute you and throw you out of synagogues for My Name’s sake….some of you will be delivered over to death…but the end is not yet etc etc etc” I do not believe Bible stories are just “stories”.  The accounts of certain lives are there for a reason! EVERY single one of the heroes and patriarchs of the Bible went through terrible times. And we are not exempt. We weren’t promised to be happy all the time.

I have two separate friends who lost their moms this year.  Another good friend lost a baby. One needs major heart surgery for herself, and she has 2 small children at home. I know they are going into the holidays uncertain.

I remember at least one holiday season that was  the worst time of my life.  I ended up curled up over the steering wheel of my car, listening to the sleet pelting the roof, outside of Lowe’s, crying my eyes out.  I knew I had to go home and make Christmas as wonderful as possible for my two young children.  But I remember thinking to myself, “Is this really Christmas for us this year??? This isn’t supposed to be how it is! Wait, where is the ‘holiday magic’ that somehow swoops in and makes this all ok?”

So if we know that the holidays are harder for us (even Christians) sometimes, then what can we do to get through the holidays on a difficult year? What can we do to help those in our lives who are struggling this season? Here are a few suggestions:

1. Know that you are not “bad” or “abnormal” to feel down at times during the holidays.  It is perfectly normal to be reminded of a loss at important events. It is normal to feel down, stressed and even blah. The thought of being on a huge emotional high through the whole holiday season is an unreasonable and unrealistic expectation for anyone.

2. You are not alone.  A lot of people have major lows during the holidays.

3. It is ok to go talk to someone and get help.  You owe it to yourself and your family to be honest and take care of YOU. That doesn’t make you less of a Christian, a strong person or a parent.

4. It is ok to have some happiness during the holidays even if you have had a major loss. Some people feel very guilty if they feel happy during the holidays if they have lost someone. It’s ok to laugh and have fun too…there’s no rule book for how you have to feel.  And more than likely the person or people you are missing would love to see you smile too.

5. Create some new traditions.  It is great to keep up old traditions. But one thing that is very healing after a loss is to incorporate a new tradition or two.  A tradition to remember the good that was, and a tradition to look forward to the good that will be. Which brings us to:

6. Remember that there WILL be better seasons to come. Everything in this life comes in seasons. In the middle of a tough holiday season, it is easy to think, “This is how things will be from now on. It will always be this way.”  But a good friend once told me, “There is life out there beyond this. And no it’s not the same as before.  But it’s a good good life.”  I hung on to that during a dark time, and it proved to be so true.  Life will continue to change; but good IS coming.  God’s Word promises us that God’s plans for us are GOOD.  And that “all things work together for GOOD for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

7. Last but not least: Make a list of all you are thankful for. Now before you shriek, “Wait? You want me to be THANKFUL after the year I’ve had?” remember that pain can blind us to everything that is still good in our lives. Remember the story in the Bible about the widow and her two mites? Jesus said she gave more than anyone else because she gave all she had.  Perhaps the one who is sad on Thanksgiving, but who stops to thank God for all the good still in their life, is so very precious to God, because it probably takes everything they have. “In EVERYTHING give thanks, for this is the will of God.” It is easy for someone in a good year to be thankful; but if you’ve had a rough year, your thanks and praise are much more of a sacrifice.  And I have found that stopping to thank God, when there seems to be nothing going right, is when I seem to feel Him here, and sense His working the most.

Are you having a wonderful, fun filled Thanksgiving and Holiday Season? Fantastic! That’s great. Are this year’s festivities particularly difficult? I am wishing to send you a great big hug right now through my laptop and say, “you are loved, and good IS on the way”. God bless you this Thanksgiving and Christmas and all through this next year- whether a good or a bad year- may you feel Him with you, working in your life. Love Trisha  and P.S. Grandma, I love you. So glad you made it home. I will remember to keep my chin up.

sad_holiday

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My apology letter to my body-

It dawned on me today that you and I have been together now for 41 years….more if you count growing time in the womb. Yes, we sure have seen a lot, been so many places and we’ve done quite a few amazing things. And you’ve been there, for each and every moment- the high and lofty pinnacles but also the dark ugly trenches of our life. They say when you are young, you think you are invincible, and you do things to your body that you will feel (and regret) in your later years. And I have been sitting here today, just thinking, that there were definitely times, I did not treat you very well. And there were times I took you for granted. Seems to me I have much to be sorry about (including all those years in the ring in karate, although that WAS fun, and I gave as good as I got!).

So dear body, here are just a few things I would like to apologize for, over these last 41 years:

1. Those 70+ hour work weeks. I drove you hard, and pushed you beyond what you were designed to do. You were screaming for mercy, and I gave you none. I put everyone’s needs ahead of yours. When I counseled others at work, I told them to take better care of themselves, and told them not to be so hard on themselves. But I did not extend that mercy to you. I did not want to let anyone down so I “did it all”- all the events at the kids’ school, sports, 70+ hours of work, date nights with the husband and much more. But when I thought I “got away with it”, I was really writing checks that my body couldn’t cash. And I thought you would just “take it”. Perhaps I thought that could just go on and on.

2. Ignoring your cries for help. frequent colds, flus, infections, ulcers, fatigue, migraines etc etc etc. You did everything you could to get my attention, to warn me, to get me to listen, to get me to change. And I would only lash you harder. And that reminds me of…..

When I was seventeen years old, driving to work one day, my trusty old Pontiac Grand Am began to act VERY strangely. Although I kept pressing the gas pedal further and further down, the car was slowing down. Finally I had the pedal all the way to the floor, but the car slowly ground to a halt. I was aggravated that my car would let me down like that. I was so sure it was the transmission that I told the mechanic not to bother doing too much to fix it. He graciously told me that he would look at it for me for free, just to confirm that the car was really toast before I sent it off for scrap. A few moments later, the mechanic came back out to the lobby and grabbed a quart of oil, then went back to my car. A minute later he came back and got ANOTHER quart of oil. This he repeated 2 more times. The last time he came back to the lobby, he glared at me. “Young lady, that will be 17.45 for the oil. I have never in my life ever seen a car that bone dry. It is literally a miracle that you didn’t destroy this car. Wasn’t the oil light on for awhile now? The engine heat signal? Didn’t you smell smoke?” Still in shock I stammered, “Well, yeah, but I thought it was like the check engine light that comes on and just stays on. And Dad said he checked the oil last year.” The man was horrified and disgusted (and rightly so) “Last year??? Honey, this car was screaming at you for help for some time and you ignored all the signals. Cars MUST have regular maintenance, including oil changes. Start listening to the signals, or you’ll do permanent damage to your car- or lose the car.” I realized in that moment, the car hadn’t let me down; I let the car down- I didn’t respond to the signals.

Body, many times when I got so mad at you for getting sick at the worst times, or being exhausted on a big work week- it really wasn’t that you let me down. I had let you down. I didn’t respond to the signals. You did not have what you needed to keep operating. Sometimes you were “bone dry” and I still slammed the pedal to the floor and yelled at you in exasperation while you finally ground to a halt. Years later I got a new car (and was VERY careful to get those oil changes and maintenance)- but I CANNOT go buy another you….you are the only body I have-the only one.

3. Underestimating your worth- oh the amazing things you do! No technology on earth can compare to this remarkable creation, the human body. Only days old in the womb, my heart started beating, and it has never stopped since. Twenty four hours a day, seven days a week without ever getting a break or a day off. So many automatic processes that I do not consciously control- hair and nails grow, food is digested, images I see are interpreted, I taste wonderful things. I have lost count of the germs and illnesses you have fought off; I am filled with wonder at how you build up so many immunities! And on top of that, wonder of wonders, you, my body, teamed up with God and made two brand new human beings- two beautiful babies that grew inside me, and delivered with shockingly little input from me. The autopilot there was amazing. It felt like having a car for 25 years and suddenly finding out it had a hidden hovercraft feature! And then after my children were born- NOTHING was in the right place! I would have SWORN my body was ruined forever. And I was so wrong- you pulled yourself back together and strong again in such relatively short time….no machine on earth could ever do that!

So dear body….what I wanted to say, is that I am sorry that I drove you so hard all these years, and thank you for continuing to serve me well. And I want to do and see so many more great things together for many years to come. So in this new year, I want to do a better job at treating you right. Giving you the rest, nutrition, exercise and laughter you need. Being a little more forgiving of those stretch marks and tired days. Most people’s new year’s resolution is to drive their body harder- but I like how much healthier I have been lately. I would rather give you what you NEED and trust your design. This is the start of a GREAT year to come….. “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Ps 139:14, “You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you.” Song of Songs 4:7

burnoutA Recent Research Paper of Mine for my Doctorate

(Please comment with your thoughts on this important subject! Bibliography at the end lists many more resources on leaders and burnout).

The Problem

Burnout has been defined as “emotional collapse or breakdown that sometimes comes as a result of stress.[1]” Unfortunately, stress can profoundly affect even those who serve the church. Ministers actually rank fairly high on the Maslach Burnout Scale[2] and the Francis Burnout Inventory[3]. In fact, clergy members rank on the same stress level as other occupations that serve the community, such as social workers, counselors and nurses[4]. Certain occupations, including pastoral ministry, have been found to be more inherently stressful than others[5]. The fallout of this stress manifests in the life of pastors in various ways.

Several modern studies have proven a direct correlation between stress[6] and increased physical health problems[7]. Ninety percent of pastors in a recent study reported chronic fatigue[8]. Fifty percent were overweight, twenty-three percent reported being obese. Most said that they had no time to eat well, exercise, or sleep adequately.

Younger pastors are more prone to burnout, and to leaving the ministry[9]. One study found that seminarians in their senior year, when given a stress test, scored an average of 348. This is alarming since the average population generally scores between 75-150 and a score of 300 is considered dangerously high[10]. These stressed out seminarians are often sent from school straight into a “high demand” church, without having learned any coping methods for dealing with stress. Older pastors who have managed to stay in the ministry for the long-term, were only able to do so because they developed effective coping methods for managing stress.

Female clergy do not have an advantage over their male counterparts when it comes to stress and burnout[11]. Several studies found that women and men are suffering from burnout equally[12]. Other studies argue that women’s stress is actually higher. Women do report a higher level of conflict and bullying in ministry. Some women report feeling added stress brought on by trying to be seen as “legitimate” in their role.

Studies did not find a significant difference in stress and burnout rates across ethnic lines[13]. However, it can be argued that much more research could be done on this subject. One study did find that African American pastors had higher emotional stability, and better coping mechanisms than Caucasian pastors. However, African American pastors scored lower for overall physical health[14].

One of the worst casualties of clergy burnout is the pastor’s family. Pastors rank third for divorces among professionals. When asked why they are leaving the ministry, 1/3 of ministers cited “family reasons”. This family stress is cyclical, in that ministerial stress exacerbates family stress, which in turn contributes to worsening loneliness and burnout.

The minister’s stress and burnout affects everyone around him or her, including his or her fellow staff members and the church body as a whole. Rather than being a local church problem, ministerial burnout is a universal church issue. The leader’s ministry will not be as effective because there is not enough mental, emotional or physical resources left to give to anyone else.

Once the pastor begins to “go numb” from burnout, then “depersonalization” often sets in[15]. This means that the pastor stops being able to truly care for their congregation or themselves properly. This is a negative coping method characterized by withdrawing from conflict and difficult situations rather than facing them. Whether a service or a program went well or was a disaster, he or she no longer cares.

One study found 75 percent of pastors report high stress and depression[16]. One-third report daily frustration and fatigue at even the thought of going into the church office. Two-fifths report being totally drained by their duties[17].

Studies varied greatly as to how many pastors are really contemplating leaving the ministry. One study found that 30 percent were thinking of leaving[18]. Another study said that 90 percent of pastors are thinking about quitting. Half of that second study group said they would definitely switch careers if they could[19]. The number one method listed by pastors for dealing with extreme stress and burnout is “getting out[20].” Given that many communities are already dealing with a shortage of pastors, with some pastors having to cover more than one parish, pastors leaving ministry due to burnout is a tragedy indeed.

Between 17 percent and 30 percent of pastors admit to engaging in dangerous coping methods such as alcohol or other “substances” to manage ministry stress[21].

 

The Causes of Ministerial Burnout

 

Too many leaders leave seminary and enter the ministry with clearly unrealistic expectations. This “role dysphoria”, which happens when talents and role expectations do not line up with the actual duties of the position, can quickly lead to frustration and burnout. Often the pastoral role is ill defined and varies by church, denomination and geographical area.

Several studies named “loneliness” as a key factor in clergy burnout[22]. Pastors reported not having friends or support systems or anyone outside the church to talk to. Spouses reported higher loneliness, but that could be because clergy are trying to appear “more spiritual.” Loneliness could be due to high expectations of the congregation[23], or inability to be completely transparent with people in the church. Rural pastors have a unique problem with loneliness due to depopulation of rural areas, and subsequent shrinking of their church membership as jobs move overseas[24].

Pastors consistently rated “church conflict” and “high demand” churches as major stressors. This conflict tends to become personal and persistent in nature, affecting the pastor’s home and personal life[25].

Modernization has also had several noticeable effects on the way we carry out ministry[26]. First, church attendance continues to be in decline in many countries around the globe[27]. Secondly, our contemporary parishioners may be more inclined to recognize secular authority over ecclesiastical authority. Thirdly, the church has adopted more secular (democratic) methods of governing that decrease the authority of the pastor[28]. Lastly, consumerism has also made its way into the walls of the church. Congregants may believe that they are “paying a pastor for goods and services” which they arbitrarily define[29].

One of the toughest times in a pastor’s life and ministry is when he or she is called upon to minister through a time of tragedy that affects their congregants and affects them personally[30]. This can happen when a hurricane, earthquake or other natural disaster strikes, causing loss of life and property. This can happen when a community has suffered a devastating act of violence, such as a mass shooting. The pastor may have lost their home or a friend or family member. Yet, the minister will still be expected to counsel their parishioners, to help congregants and community members find resources such as housing and food. The minister may feel obligated to ignore their own needs, to focus on the needs of others or of his or her own family. Pastors are visible public figures who are expected to outwardly present a message of hope no matter what they are personally going through. This is a particularly dangerous time for clergy marriages[31], which can fall apart due to neglect[32].

Pastors tend to be massive workaholics spending an average of 55 hours a week at the church office, but only 27 waking hours per week with their families[33]. This imbalance leads to increased family dysfunction, family breakdown and inability to cope. Many pastors report not having enough time to do all that they are expected to do. They definitely lack the time for reflection or self-care.

Burnout has been defined as “the result of mental fatigue.” Serving a congregation can be extremely emotionally draining[34]. This exhaustion is called “Compassion Fatigue”[35] and “Secondary Traumatic Stress” which describes the emotional drain that happens just by hearing and walking through the horror stories and the trauma of the people we counsel. Compassion fatigue has been found to come on suddenly as opposed to burnout which seems to build up over time.

Clergy members are “wearing too many hats.[36]” Possibly due to the breakdown of civil services, pastors are picking up a lot of counseling and social services. Even when other options are available, pastors feel obligated to self sacrifice. Since the church is one of the only multi-dimensional resource centers, parishioners are often going to their pastor before any other professionals. Pastors find themselves doing marriage, addiction and mental health counseling[37]. Pastors are helping people find resources such as housing, clothing and food. Pastor’s wives report working to keep the house, raise children and complete various “expectations” of the pastor’s wife[38].

Without clear boundaries, a pastor and their family suffers “boundary ambiguity” and becomes completely enmeshed in their parishioner’s lives and problems[39]. There is no life “outside of church.”  This can cause pastors to feel that they cannot leave town for vacations or family get togethers because their parishioners need them too much. On the other hand, pastors tend to uproot and move every few years, possibly due to burnout[40]. Each time the minister moves, they suffer the loss of their entire “world” (enmeshed environment within the church) and must start all over.

Pastors report having too few resources including finances. Pastors and their spouses tend to be well educated. However, the average salary for a minister in the United States has not changed in over 20 years[41]. Some cannot afford to seek professional help for themselves or their marriage. They cannot afford ongoing training or vacations.

 

Proposed Methods to Prevent or Treat Ministerial Burnout

 

Over and over again, studies have proven that spiritual resources were the most important factor is surviving ministry over the long haul[42]. Pastors who maintained the regular religious disciplines of attending worship services, prayer, and Bible study reported much lower levels of depression and burnout than pastors who did not regularly engage in spiritual practices[43]. This was the same for clergy spouses, however, pastor’s spouses reported feeling like they had fewer spiritual resources that the clergy person had[44].

Ministers need a strong commitment to physical and mental health, exercise, healthy eating, seeing the doctor regularly, sleeping, and taking vacations. Self-care needs to become a habit. Pastors who have survived burnout and have bounced back highly recommend taking sabbaticals and other times away to reflect and recover[45].

Finding a way to limit the enmeshment and put strong boundaries in place between church and home is crucial. This is part and parcel of reassessing priorities and committing to better time management. A pastor’s marriage and family have to have quality and quantity of time.

Strong support structures outside of the church can help a pastor adapt and flex to withstand adversity. This support structure should include ministry peers, the minister’s family, and perhaps a professional therapist. A minister needs to have a person they can speak honestly with and just be heard[46]. However, this should not spiral into a “venting” coping mechanism that becomes merely a focus on the negative. Also, this support structure should include the “secular” social services resources that exist in the community. The pastor must stop trying to “do it all.”[47]

Denominations and congregations need to implement more holistic training[48] at the seminary level. Young students need experienced mentors[49] who can guide them on how to cope with stress and how to develop reasonable boundaries[50]. Interventions can also be done when a pastor is in the middle of a ministry crisis[51]. In patient short term therapy has proven effective as well as sabbaticals[52]. Pastors also need ongoing training and support long after seminary. The key is to intervene with a variety of methods, not an either/or.

Job satisfaction, a feeling of being successful, of having control and having choices is so important to avoiding burnout[53]. Burnout can come with a feeling of powerlessness and failure. Ministers who had a strong internal sense of their own goals, their own calling and their own “merits” did much better in fighting off depression and burnout[54]. Those who adhered to external criteria for success, such as congregants’ expectations, tended to become frustrated and hopeless over time[55].

Pastors who scored higher in hope and resiliency had drastically lower levels of stress and burnout[56]. The innate challenges of ministry did not go away. Instead, the minister learned how to reframe difficult circumstances as a positive[57]. He or she could still envision a future where their internal goals could be met. Hope does not seem to be an inborn trait, but rather a fluctuating coping ability that gets stronger with conscious use. Hope and resiliency can come from learning how to recognize Christ in every situation.

 

In conclusion

 

Researchers agree that there has not been nearly enough study done in the area of ministerial burnout[58]. Since pastors are key figures in our churches, in our family lives and in our communities, it benefits us all when we learn how to better serve those who serve the church.

 

 

Bibliography

 

Abernethy, Alexis D., Gillian D. Grannum, Carolyn L. Gordon, Rick Williamson, and Joseph M. Currier. “The Pastors Empowerment Program: A Resilience Education Intervention to Prevent Clergy Burnout.” Spirituality in Clinical Practice3, no. 3 (2016): 175-86. doi:10.1037/scp0000109.

Adams, Christopher J., Holly Hough, Rae Jean Proeschold-Bell, Jia Yao, and Melanie Kolkin. “Clergy Burnout: A Comparison Study with Other Helping Professions.” Pastoral Psychology66, no. 2 (2016): 147-75. doi:10.1007/s11089-016-072

Bevere, John. The Bait of Satan: Living Free from the Deadly Trap of Offense. Lake Mary, FL: Charisma House, 2014.

Blanton, Priscilla W., and M. Lane Morris. “Work-Related Predictors of Physical Symptomatology and Emotional Well-Being among Clergy and Spouses.” Review of Religious Research40, no. 4 (1999): 331. doi:10.2307/3512120.

Chandler, Diane J. “Pastoral Burnout and the Impact of Personal Spiritual Renewal, Rest-taking, and Support System Practices.” Pastoral Psychology58, no. 3 (2008): 273-87. doi:10.1007/s11089-008-0184-4.

Darling, Carol Anderson, E. Wayne Hill, and Lenore M. Mcwey. “Understanding Stress and Quality of Life for Clergy and Clergy Spouses.” Stress and Health20, no. 5 (2004): 261-77. doi:10.1002/smi.1031.

Doolittle, Benjamin R. “The Impact of Behaviors upon Burnout Among Parish-Based Clergy.” Journal of Religion and Health49, no. 1 (2008): 88-95. doi:10.1007/s10943-008-9217-7.

Edwards, GeneA Tale of Three Kings: A Study in Brokenness. Augusta, ME, United States: Christian Books, 1980.

Fallon, Barry, Simon Rice, and Joan Wright Howie. “Factors That Precipitate and Mitigate Crises in Ministry.” Pastoral Psychology62, no. 1 (2012): 27-40. doi:10.1007/s11089-012-0486-4.

Feuerherd, Peter. “Groups Aim to Help Pastors and Strengthen Parishes.” National Catholic Reporter, July 15, 2016.

Harbaugh, Gary L., and Evan Rogers. “Pastoral Burnout: A View from the Seminary.” Journal of Pastoral Care38, no. 2 (1984): 99-106. doi:10.1177/002234098403800204.

Lee, Cameron. “Dispositional Resiliency and Adjustment in Protestant Pastors: A Pilot Study.” Pastoral Psychology59, no. 5 (2010): 631-40. doi:10.1007/s11089-010-0283-x.

Maslach, C. (2003). Job burnout: New directions in research and intervention. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 12(5), 189–192. Maslach, C., Schaufeli, W. B., & Leiter, M. P. (2001). Job burnout. Annual Review of Psychology, 52, 397–422.

Miner, Maureen H. “Changes in Burnout over the First 12 Months in Ministry: Links with Stress and Orientation to Ministry.” Mental Health, Religion & Culture10, no. 1 (2007): 9-16. doi:10.1080/13674670600841819.

Miner, M. H., Dowson, M. and Sterland, S. (2010), “Ministry orientation and ministry outcomes: Evaluation of a new multidimensional model of clergy burnout and job satisfaction.” Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 83: 167-188. doi:10.1348/096317909X414214

Muse, Stephen, Milton Love, and Kyle Christensen. “Intensive OutPatient Therapy for Clergy Burnout: How Much Difference Can a Week Make?” Journal of Religion and Health55, no. 1 (2015): 147-58. doi:10.1007/s10943-015-0013-x.

Ochberg, Frank. When Helping Hurts: Preventing and Treating Compassion Fatigue. Gift from Within, 2006.

Palmer. Let Your Life Speak. Listening for the Voice of Vocation. John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated, 2009.

Randall, Kelvin J. “Clergy Burnout: Two Different Measures.” Pastoral Psychology62, no. 3 (2013): 333-41. doi:10.1007/s11089-012-0506-4. 01/03/2013

Roll, Steve. Holy Burnout: Turning Brokenness into Blessing, through the Power of Gods Restoring Love. Tulsa, OK: Virgil W. Hensley, 1996.

Scott, Greg, and Rachel Lovell. “The Rural Pastors Initiative: Addressing Isolation and Burnout in Rural Ministry.” Pastoral Psychology64, no. 1 (2014): 71-97. doi:10.1007/s11089-013-0591-z.

Shelley, Marshall. Well-intentioned Dragons: Ministering to Problem People in the Church. Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1994.

Sullivan, James E. The Good Listener. Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press, 2000.

Visker, Joseph D., Taylor Rider, and Anastasia Humphers-Ginther. “Ministry-Related Burnout and Stress Coping Mechanisms Among Assemblies of God-Ordained Clergy in Minnesota.” Journal of Religion and Health56, no. 3 (2016): 951-61. doi:10.1007/s10943-016-0295-7.

Warner, Janelle, and John D. Carter. “Loneliness, Marital Adjustment and Burnout in Pastoral and Lay Persons.” Journal of Psychology and Theology12, no. 2 (1984): 125-31. doi:10.1177/009164718401200206.

Wells, Carl R. “The Effects of Work-Related and Boundary-Related Stress on the Emotional and Physical Health Status of Ordained Clergy.” Pastoral Psychology62, no. 1 (2012): 101-14. doi:10.1007/s11089-012-0455-y.

[1] Abernethy, Alexis D., Gillian D. Grannum, Carolyn L. Gordon, Rick Williamson, and Joseph M. Currier. “The Pastors Empowerment Program: A Resilience Education Intervention to Prevent Clergy Burnout.” Spirituality in Clinical Practice3, no. 3 (2016): 175-86. doi:10.1037/scp0000109.

 

[2] Maslach, C. (2003). Job burnout: New directions in research and intervention. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 12(5), 189–192. Maslach, C., Schaufeli, W. B., & Leiter, M. P. (2001). Job burnout. Annual Review of Psychology, 52, 397–422.

 

[3] Randall, Kelvin J. “Clergy Burnout: Two Different Measures.” Pastoral Psychology62, no. 3 (2013): 333-41. doi:10.1007/s11089-012-0506-4. 01/03/2013

 

[4] Warner, Janelle, and John D. Carter. “Loneliness, Marital Adjustment and Burnout in Pastoral and Lay Persons.” Journal of Psychology and Theology12, no. 2 (1984): 125-31. doi:10.1177/009164718401200206.

 

[5] Adams, Christopher J., Holly Hough, Rae Jean Proeschold-Bell, Jia Yao, and Melanie Kolkin. “Clergy Burnout: A Comparison Study with Other Helping Professions.” Pastoral Psychology66, no. 2 (2016): 147-75. doi:10.1007/s11089-016-072

 

[6] Blanton, Priscilla W., and M. Lane Morris. “Work-Related Predictors of Physical Symptomatology and Emotional Well-Being among Clergy and Spouses.” Review of Religious Research40, no. 4 (1999): 331. doi:10.2307/3512120.

 

[7] Randall, “Clergy Burnout”, 334

 

[8] Lee, Cameron. “Dispositional Resiliency and Adjustment in Protestant Pastors: A Pilot Study.” Pastoral Psychology59, no. 5 (2010): 631-40. doi:10.1007/s11089-010-0283-x.

 

[9][9][9] Miner, Maureen H. “Changes in Burnout over the First 12 Months in Ministry: Links with Stress and Orientation to Ministry.” Mental Health, Religion & Culture10, no. 1 (2007): 9-16. doi:10.1080/13674670600841819.[10]

Harbaugh and Rogers. “Pastoral Burnout” 101

 

[11] Randall, “Clergy Burnout”, 337

[12] Lee, Cameron. “Dispositional Resiliency and Adjustment in Protestant Pastors: A Pilot Study.” Pastoral Psychology59, no. 5 (2010): 631-40. doi:10.1007/s11089-010-0283-x.

 

[13] Lee, Dispositional Resiliency” 341

 

[14] Lee, “Dispositional Resiliency.” 339

[16] Abernethy, et al. “The Pastors Empowerment Program: A Resilience Education Intervention to Prevent Clergy Burnout.” 182

 

[17] Lee, Cameron. “Dispositional Resiliency and Adjustment in Protestant Pastors: A Pilot Study.” Pastoral Psychology59, no. 5 (2010): 631-40. doi:10.1007/s11089-010-0283-x.

 

[18] Lee, “Dispositional Resiliency” 334

 

[19] Abernethy, et al. “The Pastors Empowerment Program: A Resilience Education Intervention to Prevent Clergy Burnout.” 185

 

[20] Randall, “Clergy Burnout”, 340

 

[21] Harbaugh and Rogers. “Pastoral Burnout” 101

 

[22] Harbaugh, Gary L., and Evan Rogers. “Pastoral Burnout: A View from the Seminary.” Journal of Pastoral Care38, no. 2 (1984): 99-106. doi:10.1177/002234098403800204.

 

[23] Abernethy, et al. “The Pastors Empowerment Program: A Resilience Education Intervention to Prevent Clergy Burnout.” 183

 

[24] Scott, Greg, and Rachel Lovell. “The Rural Pastors Initiative: Addressing Isolation and Burnout in Rural Ministry.” Pastoral Psychology64, no. 1 (2014): 71-97. doi:10.1007/s11089-013-0591-z.

 

[25] Bevere, John. The Bait of Satan: Living Free from the Deadly Trap of Offense. Lake Mary, FL: Charisma House, 2014.

 

[26] Lee, Cameron. “Dispositional Resiliency and Adjustment in Protestant Pastors: A Pilot Study.” Pastoral Psychology59, no. 5 (2010): 631-40. doi:10.1007/s11089-010-0283-x.

 

[27] Harbaugh and Rogers. “Pastoral Burnout” 105

 

[28] Visker, Joseph D., Taylor Rider, and Anastasia Humphers-Ginther. “Ministry-Related Burnout and Stress Coping Mechanisms Among Assemblies of God-Ordained Clergy in Minnesota.” Journal of Religion and Health56, no. 3 (2016): 951-61. doi:10.1007/s10943-016-0295-7.

 

[29] Shelley, Marshall. Well-intentioned Dragons: Ministering to Problem People in the Church. Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1994.

 

[30] Abernethy, et al. “The Pastors Empowerment Program: A Resilience Education Intervention to Prevent Clergy Burnout.” 180

 

[31] Warner and Carter,  “Loneliness, Marital Adjustment,” 130

 

[32] Abernethy, et al. “The Pastors Empowerment Program: A Resilience Education Intervention to Prevent Clergy Burnout.” 180

 

[33] Darling, Carol Anderson, E. Wayne Hill, and Lenore M. Mcwey. “Understanding Stress and Quality of Life for Clergy and Clergy Spouses.” Stress and Health20, no. 5 (2004): 261-77. doi:10.1002/smi.1031.

 

[34] Blanton and Morris, “Work-Related Predictors,” 331

 

[35] Ochberg, Frank. When Helping Hurts: Preventing and Treating Compassion Fatigue. Gift from Within, 2006.

 

[36] [36] Scott and Lovell. “The Rural Pastors Initiative,” 78

 

[37] Fallon, et al. “Factors That Precipitate and Mitigate.” 38

 

[38] Warner and Carter,  “Loneliness, Marital Adjustment,” 130

 

[39]  Scott and Lovell. “The Rural Pastors Initiative,” 93

38Fallon, Barry, Simon Rice, and Joan Wright Howie. “Factors That Precipitate and Mitigate Crises in Ministry.” Pastoral Psychology62, no. 1 (2012): 27-40. doi:10.1007/s11089-012-0486-4.

 

[40] Fallon, et al. “Factors That Precipitate and Mitigate,” 36

[42]  Scott and Lovell. “The Rural Pastors Initiative,” 95-96

 

[43] Abernethy, et al. “The Pastors Empowerment Program: A Resilience Education Intervention to Prevent Clergy Burnout.” 180

 

[44] Warner and Carter,  “Loneliness, Marital Adjustment,” 135

 

[45] Fallon, Barry, Simon Rice, and Joan Wright Howie. “Factors That Precipitate and Mitigate Crises in Ministry.” Pastoral Psychology62, no. 1 (2012): 27-40. doi:10.1007/s11089-012-0486-4.

 

[46] Sullivan, James E. The Good Listener. Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press, 2000.

 

[47] Doolittle, Benjamin R. “The Impact of Behaviors upon Burnout Among Parish-Based Clergy.” Journal of Religion and Health49, no. 1 (2008): 88-95. doi:10.1007/s10943-008-9217-7.

 

[48] Harbaugh and Rogers. “Pastoral Burnout” 101

 

[49] Miner, “Changes in Burnout.” 10

 

[50] Randall, “Clergy Burnout”, 337

 

[51] Feuerherd, Peter. “Groups Aim to Help Pastors and Strengthen Parishes.” National Catholic Reporter, July 15, 2016.

 

[52] Muse, Stephen, Milton Love, and Kyle Christensen. “Intensive OutPatient Therapy for Clergy Burnout: How Much Difference Can a Week Make?” Journal of Religion and Health55, no. 1 (2015): 147-58. doi:10.1007/s10943-015-0013-x.

 

[53] Harbaugh and Rogers. “Pastoral Burnout” 101

 

[54] Palmer. Let Your Life Speak. Listening for the Voice of Vocation. John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated, 2009.

 

[55] Doolittle, Benjamin R. “The Impact of Behaviors upon Burnout Among Parish-Based Clergy.” Journal of Religion and Health49, no. 1 (2008): 88-95. doi:10.1007/s10943-008-9217-7.

 

[56] Abernethy, et al. “The Pastors Empowerment Program: A Resilience Education Intervention to Prevent Clergy Burnout.” 180

 

[57] Edwards, GeneA Tale of Three Kings: A Study in Brokenness. Augusta, ME, United States: Christian Books, 1980.

 

[58] Warner and Carter,  “Loneliness, Marital Adjustment,” 130

 


Right now, I hold in my hands the brand new book Rise Up: Choosing Faith Over Fear in Christian Ministry by my friend and fellow author Vanessa Myers. What an honor to be on her blog tour this fall! What Vanessa has to say is badly needed among ministry leaders right now. I do believe that the number one reason we feel held back in our ministries is NOT lack of budget, talent or motivation. Our worst hindrance in ministry is FEAR. And I like the fact that Vanessa calls that out like it is. She points out that it is usually not “everyone” who is against us-it’s out own fear that we will be rejected or left lonely. It is not that our ministry is not wanted, we are AFRAID that it will not be wanted, or that no one will listen- or worse- that we will FAIL. My favorite part of Vanessa’s book is when she starts calling out all the excuses we use for not stepping out to do bigger things for God, the things we are really feeling called of God to do. “People will reject me” “I’m not a good enough speaker” “I’m afraid of my boss,” “I just can’t get over my hurt”etc. She shares from Scripture that our favorite Bible heroes faced fears, failures, dangers, loss, hurt, inexperience, frustration, disabilities and more- and yet God used them to do amazing things. God planned to use them all along and it is about His power, not our weakness. They had to get over their fear and step out. And so do we. What would be possible in our ministries right now if we could just get over our fear and RISE UP into all that God has planned for us? The time is here to find out. Take the time TODAY to order Vanessa’s book. Take that first step toward overcoming fear and letting God use you on a whole new level! God bless you and your ministry today and always, love Trisha Peach J

Yes I’m angry. More importantly, I’m motivated.

I am a wife, a mother, a doctoral candidate, an author, a life-long educator- and a proud native of the Badger State. Before 2016, I never spoke up about politics. After the disastrous Kavanaugh vote/circus, I literally walked into my local GOP office and said, “What can I do to help? I’ll make phone calls, go door to door, put up signs- What can I do?” My mother and sister are doing the same in their counties. I do not vote for a certain personality or gender, but rather for whichever candidate better represents my deeply held convictions on the issues. I am passionately pro-school choice (Wisconsin has always led the nation in charter school excellence), pro free speech, pro lower taxes, pro smaller government with more accountability, pro fiscal responsibility, pro immigration reform, pro law enforcement and veterans. The DNC has gone so far to the left- sky high taxes, radical socialism, “Impeach 45!”, doxxing- they have left families like mine far behind. Yes, I’ll be voting RED this 11/6. And at this point, I’d crawl over broken glass barefoot-Die Hard style- to do it.

Trisha

Have you noticed that our elections in the U.S. have become all about personalities and not issues? I have heard it said that this vote is about who people are voting AGAINST, not what issues we are voting FOR. I propose that every American should vote, not for or against a personality, but for the issues that matter the most for our faith, our families and our future.

Our future starts with educating ourselves on the issues at hand. And I do not mean just glancing at CNN once in awhile. Like it or not, our elected officials will make decisions on several pending cases that WILL greatly affect churches, denominations, Christian schools and colleges. Yes, I believe God is Sovereign- but I also believe we need to stop jumping off of high places expecting angels to catch us before we hit the ground. We have to do our part, educate ourselves, and vote.

I have been researching the issues at stake for awhile now, and I do have to say, I am surprised at the conflicting information, or missing information out there in the media. But here are the key issues I look at when voting. Feel free to discuss, share as you wish. These are not in any order of importance.

1. School Choice-

This one is very dear to my heart. School Choice means that the parent is allowed the right to choose the school that they consider to be best for their child. This includes public schools, private schools, charter schools, Christian schools, home schooling etc. Several states offer voucher programs in support of parent school choice. In my home state of Wisconsin, Tony Evers is extremely anti school choice.

2. Abortion-

I am looking for which candidate (if any) is pro life. I avoid candidates that are for a late term abortions and partial birth abortions and using tax dollars for abortions.

3. Upholding the bill of rights-

Which candidate is more likely to protect freedom of speech, of the press, etc etc. Which will defend the Constitution as written?

4. Religious Freedom. There are many crucial lawsuits pending against churches, denominations, and Christian schools. Which candidate is more likely to align themselves with people of faith?

5. National security/terrorism-

We just had the poison powder scare at the Pentagon and in Texas. Terrorism is still alive and well around the world. Isis is being obliterated but we need to keep the pressure on! Which candidate can handle fighting to keep us safe? Which is pro law enforcement, pro military and pro veteran?

6. Taxes-

Which candidate is going to be for lowering taxes? Higher taxes stagnate the economy and hurt businesses. Our economy is on fire right now. Many families, like mine, are relieved and encouraged by the recent tax breaks. I have no desire to see the taxes go back higher again.

7. Breaking up Gridlock.

Which candidate plans to work to impeach Trump? (Polls show that the majority of the country doesn’t want that upheaval). Which will oppose anything of Trump’s, to the point that absolutely nothing gets done? Which candidate is willing to work, even across the aisle, to get things done?

8. Strength-

It is heartbreaking to say, but this is not politics as usual. This is a vicious, awful environment. Whoever I vote for must be able to stand strong against death threats, and the worst attacks imaginable. I can’t imagine what they go through. But this is a whole new environment.

So these are the 8 key reasons I MUST vote in this crucial election seasons. I am not voting for a personality. I am not voting for a perfect person. I am voting based on my conscience, a lot of prayer, and a lot of research. These 8 keys are far to crucial to ever let slide by. What keys are driving YOU this election? Did I miss any of yours? Please check out my sources below for more information. Keep educating yourself, register and get out to vote! Trisha

The pros of being a bi-vocational minister-

You see them at conferences, or on the forums. The person who dreads the question, “So where are you pastoring at?” Followed immediately by “Oh are you part time or full time?” And this person, without fail, looks down at their shoes, shuffling their feet and says quietly, “Oh, well, it’s still a church plant” or “the church is hoping to bring me on as paid staff really soon.” And then they mumble sheepishly, apologetically “Right now, I am bi-vocational…you know, to pay the bills, until the church can bring me on.” You can tell that they may have been made to feel “lesser” by other pastors- the “REAL” pastors who are paid to do what they do. And even worse, these bi-vocational pastors may even be beginning to BELIEVE that they and their ministry ARE lesser, in comparison to the paid pastors. It’s kind of an assumption that the “real” and “effective” pastors will of course be paid, and the “not so good pastors” will have to stay bi-vocational until they are “more successful.”

I felt that I needed to bring up this subject for a few reasons. First of all, bi-vocational ministry is definitely on the rise. There are entrepreneurial ministers all around us in rural areas as well as the bigger cities, trying to launch brand new churches, and trying to support themselves for awhile (sometimes a long while). Secondly, I can see that the church as a whole has bought into a way of thinking about ministers, that closely mirrors our American culture, but not always Scripture. Lastly, instead of being bi-vocational as a negative thing, I actually see some definite positives for those ministers who are out in our nations workforce! What are those positives? Well here are just a few pros to being a bi-vocational minister:

PROS:

Relevance. You have your finger on the pulse of what’s happening in your city, right where God has called you. Pastors are often accused of being “out of touch” with those in the pews they are speaking to. I vividly remember getting up to speak at our church, and my husband heard my message for the first time during first service. He pulled me aside right after the service ended and said, “Honey, do you realize how careless that sounded? You are asking people to be at three different meetings here at the church on 3 DIFFERENT nights of the week! We all have jobs, and kids, and you have to be considerate of that! My husband, who works as a full time I.T. guy for a large corporation instinctively knew what many people in our congregation were feeling and living each week. 50+ hours a week of work, followed by night classes for another degree, sports and family time. The church’s demands on our overtaxed family’s was coming off as clueless, uncaring and demanding. I quickly changed what I had to say for the next 3 services (we consolidated meetings into one evening or one after school session. I got a much better response. Sometimes full time pastors ARE clueless, because we forget….we lose touch with our target audience and because that much less effective. You will know that culture inside and out and therefore be able to ‘speak the language’. You have earned a right to be heard.Time Management. One of my friends complained, “I never have time to get anything done for my house. I don’t have time to work out.” Then she took a full time job. Now, counter instinctively, she is keeping her house so much neater and she gets to the gym daily. How on earth is that possible? It’s the same amount of time in each day! The truth is that bi-vocational ministry forces you to be a ‘ninja’ at time management. You have to make every second count. You know who you are: the one writing messages on the back of napkins on your lunch break, and reading the latest ministry statistics late at night when everyone else is in bed. You have less time to devote to ‘ministry’- so you give it all you have, no time wasted!Passion. You are not getting paid for the ministry you do. You are there purely because…you are CALLED. Just as called as any full time pastor at the largest church in the world. You are called by a God Who hasn’t changed His mind. You work your full time job to pay the bills. You do your ministry out of a passionate love for Jesus and for people- and it shows. You are there because you want to be- above and beyond what you are already doing. This passion fuels your energy and creativity. You HAVE to problem solve and find a way- because no one is waiting with a check book to bail you out! And that send your faith through the roof- because God has made a way again and again and again, when there really shouldn’t have been a way. You are called. Salary or no salary. And God does NOT have a lesser class of ministers. So don’t ever apologize for being ‘bi-vocational’. Trust Who called you and let that passion BURN.

4. You are just like Jesus, Paul and others when you are in bi-vocational ministry. You think Jesus had a high paying salary? NO way. Sometimes He had nowhere to lay His head. He had sponsors who supported His ministry. Paul of course did “tent making” and fundraising to support his- and he was an apostle! You are in GREAT company as a non-salaried pastor. Our American CULTURE tells us that the “greatest” are paid more. Jesus says, “Let the greatest among you be servant of all” and “The last shall be first and the first shall be last.” Let’s stop confusing real Christianity with our American culture of corporate ladder climbing, status grabbing and greed.

5. You will likely have more time to spend with pre-Christians. Too many full time pastors have to admit that they do not spend a lot of time with non-Christians, and they are not doing much in the way of personal evangelism. I am pointing at myself here, when I say that ministry within the walls of the church building CAN because all consuming- all your time, all your focus goes there instead of into the community, reaching lost people. Jesus spent His time out with sinners. We can become so self focused that we miss the people who are the whole reason we do what we do.

Tune in next time for Part 2- Overcoming the Challenges of being a Pastor with an outside job(s). What are your thoughts? Are you a bi-vocational pastor? What are the best parts about it? What challenges do you face that salaried pastors may get to avoid?

Love Trisha

image

“Any Christian with half a conscience cannot vote in this election!” he said angrily. “All of these candidates are horrible, and a vote for them is a vote applauding their evil.”

I sat listening to my brother in Christ vent his frustration about the upcoming elections. And to be fair, he has some good points. He is also not alone in his feelings; I have seen a few Christians now on social media afraid to vote this November. I myself have to admit, that before 2016, I completely avoided the news, because it can be so depressing, biased. I think we all sense that this election is different. Our country has never been in this situation before. I’m watching the news VERY closely. And while I love you no matter what you decide to do, I have been praying and thinking a lot about this Nov election, and I would like to offer up some food for thought.
Reason #1 All of the candidates are so awful. Politics have gotten so combative, why even try? Why get involved? I’ll wait till things get better.

My Pushback: History has shown us that many of our American leaders, even presidents, have been less than paragons of morality. There have been so many scandals that I’ve lost count. I fear that if we wait for a candidates that talk, walk and act how we would like, dress how we like, and have an unspotted past, we will never vote again. This is the same thinking I have seen in some Christians about going to church: “I just can’t find a church that isn’t full of hypocrites. Every pastor lets my down. I’m not getting “fed” by any church.” These are usually people who do not go ANYWHERE to church because they are still waiting on that “right” one. The fact is that we live in a broken world. And the more you find out about that candidate, the worse they are going to look. Like it or not, a certain group of people are going to be governing our nation for the next several years. Only God can change a person’s heart- I pray for our government every day- so I am voting the best I can bearing in mind the issues that mean the most to me as a Christian. (A bit more on what those are in a minute).

Reason #2 to stay home and not vote: The Bible doesn’t say anything about voting. Jesus and Paul never voted. We should just stay with separation of church and state. If I do vote, I need to check my Christianity at the door of the booth and vote what might benefit me economically.

My Pushback: The Bible doesn’t address voting that I know of, because voting did not exist, at least not for Palestinian Jews. The Bible also doesn’t address TV, high heels or Miley Cyrus. So we Christians make our decisions on modern moral dilemmas based on the principles that God’s Word DOES show us. And I would bring up the fact that Jesus directly confronted the screwy politics that had infiltrated the church, the governing religious leaders and He even spoke the harsh truth to the appointed political authorities of the day: Pilate, Herod, the Pharisees etc. Jesus did not excuse political corruption; He addressed it head on. And if all Christians had followed the aforementioned “don’t get political” thinking, slavery would still be legal in this country. Christians wishing and hoping slavery would go away did not do a whole lot of good; brave people had to speak up, and inevitably fight it out in the political arena. You can follow Jesus AND fight for justice. My ancestors were all Quakers who fought slavery- in politics. I’m so thankful for people like Martin Luther king Jr. Who followed Jesus AND fought for justice in the political arena. If Christians are going hands off, then we are hoping that someone else will speak up. In our system, everyone has a say (theoretically). We shouldn’t abdicate ours…What a horrible place these arenas would be without Christian input…Yes, there are still Christian politicians fighting hard in our government.

Reason #3- Jesus is just coming back soon anyway so it doesn’t matter who gets elected. And the Bible says the world will continue getting worse and worse until Jesus comes back, so there’s no point in trying.

My Pushback– They say almost one third of Generation X (my generation) is not here today due to abortion. I think that Christian generation was too busy being uninvolved, astetic, non political..too HOLY to be involved in earthly things..sitting on a roof believing Jesus would be back next week. I believe that generation of Christians are partially responsible for that holocaust. God never said every thing that happens was what He wanted. God didn’t bring abortion. He isn’t bringing this current violence and racial hate. We’re supposed to be salt and light in a very dark world. We still have a choice. I want to know that I spoke up. That I at least tried to speak for those who couldn’t. And sure, I know things will be horrible in our world when Jesus comes back. But we do not know the day or hour. We are supposed to stay busy serving for Him until He returns. We don’t have time to waste sitting on a rooftop.

Reason #4- It’s just one more pointless election that won’t change anything. It is the same old same old and doesn’t affect me or my family.

My Pushback- As you may have heard by now, the outcome for the Supreme Court and the laws of our land, federal judgeships, the direction of our nation literally hang on what happens Nov 6. (We know God is sovereign- and sometimes He allows us to wallow in the aftermath of our laziness or terrible judgment…aka 40 more years around Mt. Sinai?) These lawmakers will make, repeal the law of the land which affects us all. Abortion, religious freedom, school choice, fight against terrorism, taxation, health care…so much is at stake. Truly this is a battle for the soul of our nation. Shouldn’t Christians speak into that?

Please know, no matter who you vote for, or don’t vote for, I love you bunches. Can we stop all the hatred, name calling, posturing etc.? I saw several posts today that said, “If you don’t vote for ____________, you are not saved.” I must have missed that verse. But we DO need to educate ourselves, and keep learning this balance of being IN the world, but not OF this world. Let’s shine wherever we can in this dark world. And please keep praying about this coming election and for our nation and our world. In ask upcoming post, I’ll be talking about the key issues that decided how I will vote. What about you? Do you believe a Christian should vote, even if they do not like any of the candidates? Are we Christians treating each other in a loving manner this election? Love Trisha

cartoon_bad_choices_r644x415

I hope you all enjoyed the tips from part 1 last week, on how to make sure more parents attend your parent meetings and more volunteers attend your trainings. It is so important to increase attendance at these meetings! Here are a few more strategies to try:

  1. Honor their time by keeping to the point and being brief. Stick to your notes. Better to end early than irritate people with a never-ending meeting. Yes, you probably have a lot of things on your heart to go over, that need changing in the kids’ area, but this is not the time for that. Stick to the reason you have them there. If you don’t, they won’t come to the next one.
  2. Do not give out information early. This is an important lesson I learned as a children’s pastor. When I went on staff at a certain church, I was told that “no one shows up for parent or volunteer meetings.” I wondered why. Then I called a meeting about an important security change. Right away the phone calls started coming in. “Um, I can’t make the meeting. What’s the announcement?” “We are out of town. Just give me the details.” Right away I realized why no one came to the meetings. There was no reason to. They got a few abbreviated details over the phone, passed them on to each other, and skipped the meetings. The meetings were no longer of any importance. People were shocked as I told them one by one, “I’m sorry to hear that. This will be a very important change happening. I want it to first be presented to the people present. Wouldn’t want it to get out over the grapevine. I highly suggest you get with one of those who were there after you return and get their notes. That’s a bummer, because I really would have liked your input. But maybe after you get back you can make an appointment with me and I can try to catch you up.” This had a dramatic effect. First they pushed for more info. I held to my guns very politely and wished them a great trip. Word got out that something “big” was going on. Nine times out of ten “their schedule just cleared up.” And I spoke to a packed house. Give them a reason to show up and be really present. Ask yourself these questions: Is this change something you want discussed in the court of public opinion before you even present it? Do you want to give ammo to those who resist change? Do you want parents and volunteers serving with only partial or possibly incorrect information? Do not call a parent or volunteer meeting for any petty reason. But when you determine that the change affects everyone and they need to be there, do not give out an abbreviated version before the event.
  3. Give people a chance to provide input, feedback, and ask questions. Be prepared to give well-researched answers to their questions. If you do not know the answer, take down the questioner’s name and respond, “I’m not sure, but I will find out.” You will gain parent support and more volunteers if you allow honest feedback and questions. I usually take notes during that time. People will show up if they have buy-in.
  4. Do not let anyone monopolize the discussion. Especially if you are a young or new children’s leader, stay in charge of that meeting and keep it on the task at hand. Do not allow the topic to get derailed to something else. Do not let it be a forum for debate. Your response when challenged sets the tone for your ministry. Also, don’t be defensive or argumentative. You’re not trying to lead the meeting, you are leading it. It is not the place to aim anything at anyone or have a great big public argument. There are people in this world who jump at the chance for public drama. That is the biggest drawback to having a parent or volunteer meeting. Don’t give anyone a pulpit for a public drama. Shut down anything nasty as soon as it starts.  Many parents and volunteers do not want to attend group meetings or trainings because they know someone always monopolizes the meetings and/or they become negative bashing sessions. You can change this perception. If someone starts something say something like this:

“That is a whole different discussion, for another time. Make an appointment to see me about that” (they usually won’t because they want an audience).

“Okay, let’s hear what some other parents think about this topic.”

“Interesting, but for the sake of time, let’s stay on topic.”

“I know you probably have more you would like to share on this topic. Good thing I am putting my email up on the screen! I am also handing out these feedback forms. Please put your name on it if you wish to be contacted. Everyone please fill out a feedback form and leave it on your chair.” (Instead of public meetings, some churches now use only email and forms for feedback. I understand why.)

Remember that the purpose of the meeting is to communicate vision, convey information, and occasionally to garner feedback. It is not a debate. Do not imply that the church’s decisions are being debated or being voted on. You are letting them know that a decision has been made or that a change is coming. Never use one of these meetings to attack someone or any area of the church. Do not retaliate in any way if someone makes a snide comment. You set the tone. Make sure the parent or volunteer meeting is a positive, uplifting, and beneficial experience for everyone involved. Make all of your parents and volunteers eager to be at any meeting you call.

Can you think of any more tips on getting people to your meetings? Please share in the comments below so we can all have better, more effective, better attended trainings and meetings. Love and blessings! TrishaIMG_20160503_082534

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Some information—the very important turns and changes in the ministry, whether they be leadership changes, curriculum or scheduling changes—must be clearly communicated to the parents and leaders. But how do you go about relaying it to parents and volunteers? You are going to have to be strategic, persistent, and consistent to get information across. So I encourage you to use some or all of these methods to convey information:

  1. Use live meetings with a big group sparingly. Mass meetings are not a method to use weekly. They should be only by used to convey something of great importance (examples: major curriculum change, service times change, key leader stepping down, brand new security procedures that affect everyone). That way, when you call a meeting, they will know it’s important.
  2. Advertise it at least one month in advance, and advertise it in many ways.
  3. Be specific. Who is supposed to be present? When you say “parent meeting,” is that all parents? Parents of kids up to twelve years old? Parents are understandably irritated if they clear their schedule (especially if they paid a sitter) to go to your important meeting, only to find out you didn’t mean them. Which volunteers did you need at this training and why? Be specific about the location. Can anyone find that room if they are new? What time is it? Is there child care provided? How long will the meeting be? Indicate why the meeting is important, like a leadership or curriculum change, but don’t go into too much detail. One church I visited handed out a leaflet during the service that said, “Parent meeting right after service in the choir room.” Parents were in a mass of confusion. I heard them saying, “Meeting right after which service?” “Why do we have to go? Is the pastor leaving?” “I’m a parent of two junior-highers. Do I have to go?” “I’m new. Where on earth is the choir room?” That parent meeting was a total disaster. I heard that the youth pastor who called the meeting never made that mistake again. But sadly the congregation didn’t forget it soon either.
  4. Be respectful of people’s time. I didn’t fully understand this when I was a new children’s pastor, but now that I have kids of my own, it makes more sense. For example, do everything in your power not to take another night of the week. Parents and volunteers are already, on average, gone at least five nights a week with church, sports, recitals, plays, and so on. If you pick a night during the week, unless it is an emergency meeting, many will not be there. And the ones who show up want a sense that this was important to take some of the only family time they might have that whole week. Try to have the meeting when they are at church already—first service, if you have two (this takes care of someone to watch their kids too); directly after a service (some will complain about lunch); before or after midweek service (some will complain if it gets late for their kids to be out on a school night). No matter when you pick, someone will complain, so you cannot please everyone, but try to be considerate. They will already be resentful of you if they feel you do not care about their family time, and you need them on your team!
  5. I do not recommend sending out a survey asking what time to have the meeting. You will get thirty-seven different answers; one person will get their way (and probably not show up) and the rest will think, “no one cares that I filled out the survey” and not show up. I personally ask one or two people I trust and then make a decision and stick with it.
  6. This is going to sound awful, like bribery, because it is bribery, but we always have more people show up when we offer food. So we offer refreshments if we really need people to hear what we have to say. Advertise that you will have refreshments!

Please stay tuned for next week’s part 2! What are your best tips for getting your team to trainings and your parents to parent meetings? Love and blessings- Trisha