work-ethics-with-millennials

Wow- last week’s blog got a lot of traffic! So many of you said that you now realize you are in a toxic church work environment. That is a huge first step- to be able to realize what is really going on. So now what? What do you do when you know you are in an unhealthy church work environment? Well actually, immediately stomping out the door is not on this list. Here are some steps to take right away when you know your work environment has become toxic:

  1. The most important question of all is, “Am I still called here?” If God has called you to stay at the church, He will empower you to make some changes within that environment. In fact, God may be using you to guide your church staff into becoming a healthier place! I never advocate running abruptly without a lot of thought and prayer. However, if God only called you there for a season and that season has ended, don’t stay too long. I have spoken with many Christian leaders who stayed too long in an abusive environment and then needed time away to heal. I myself can be very stubborn 🙂 Corrie Ten Boom, the famous survivor of the Holocaust is credited with saying, “Do not hold onto anything in this life so tightly, that it will hurt when God has to pry your fingers.” I think God has had to pry my fingers more than once. The crucial thing here is finding out what God is asking you to do. On a more practical side, if you would like to go more in depth on this topic, I do write more about the signs that your season at a church may be coming to an end in my book Why We Quit. https://www.amazon.com/dp/1695238397/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_U_XijmEbR8AAN13
  2. Talk to someone not associated with your church. It is not a good idea to talk to congregation members within the church since they are likely influenced by the same dysfunction, and you may make it worse. But I cannot stress enough how important it is for every minister to have someone (more than one person) that you can speak honestly too- pour your heart out. Sometimes an outside perspective is exactly what you need. A professional counselor is a great idea here too. These conversations may help you discern which steps you should take next to advocate for health for yourself and your congregation.
  3. What should you say to your senior leader/elders? A good rule here is to “talk up” meaning that you work to influence those who supervise you or are coworkers with you. I would suggest lovingly pointing out what you are seeing to your supervisors. Expect that they may not see it at first. You will probably have to point out potential abuses many many times until (hopefully) they can see it too. And make sure if you point out problems that you also offer potential solutions as well. For example, if you are making a point to the senior pastor and/or the elder board that the pastoral staff are not taking even one real day off per week, and that a day of rest is Scriptural and necessary, offer ideas for protecting staff days off. (IE giving the church secretary the phone numbers and only being contacted for actual emergencies etc.) Speaking the truth in love here to the right people is beyond important. Bad things tend to grow best in the dark. Your church may NOT know how to do confrontation in a Biblical manner. It is difficult, but imperative, to model Christlike confrontation and conflict resolution, even when others are NOT.
  4. Set up and enforce boundaries- My father always said, “People will take you at the price tag you put on yourself.” In other words, you train others how to treat you. I hear so often, “But you don’t know Pastor Trish! I have to do this and this and this and _______________________ is expected of me!” And we sound like and become victims held hostage to all the things that are “happening” to us. It is possible to take control of your life and your schedule. You have a lot more influence on your schedule than you think! It may be time to replace “I have to” with “I choose to…because….” You may need to say, “Sorry, that is my day off and I’m out of town that day” or “Lately, when we talk, you seem to be negative and angry. I feel like you are talking down to me. How can we have better communication?” etc. Decide what your main priorities are and design your schedule accordingly.
  5. Take care of yourself. Self-care is always important, but arguably more so when you may be serving in an unhealthy environment. Are you really destroying your health, happiness, family life etc for Jesus? or is it because of people’s expectations? Taking care of YOU really matters if you want to be in ministry anywhere longer than 5 seconds. I believe God wants us to be good stewards of the mind, body, emotions and family He has given us! This can mean making the time to eat well, exercise, taking your days off, taking your vacation days, talking to a counselor, sleeping at night, having days with your friends, pursuing a hobby, going to a conference and more! If you do not take care of YOU, you will not be able to give out to others for long. A better YOU equals a better and more effective ministry.

What steps did I miss? What steps should someone take if they know they are working in a toxic church work environment? If you already know this is you, know that you are valuable to God, just for being who you are. I am praying for you this week and GOD bless.

Love Trisha

Toxic

“I want to work at a church, because I am fed up with the dog eat dog business world. I just want to work at a place where people love each other and pray together and encourage each other every day. I want a work environment without arguing and gossip.”

This was a statement made by a young woman who was interviewing for an admin position at our church. I had just asked her the standard question, “Why would you like to work here?” Her answer left both myself and my fellow staff member next to me temporarily speechless. We looked at each other and then back at her. We did not end up hiring her for the position. Part of my reason for not hiring her, was I did not want to ruin her idealistic vision of working at a church. I also did not want to ruin her worship experience at our church, which was HER church too. Perhaps, I did not want to explain to her the difficult truth, that pastors and boards are human beings too, complete with flaws and very bad days. EVERY church encounters conflict- it is just part of working with people. Sometimes the schedule gets hectic and people-even Christians, forget to be encouraging. It is HOW an individual pastor, staff, church, board or congregation deals with these tough situations over the years that will determine if the culture of the church is a healthy one or not.

Over the past 17 years as a staff pastor, I have worked in healthy, amazing church/work situations and I have worked in some uglier places. Some pastors and staff may ask, “How do I know if I am currently working/serving in an unhealthy church environment?” If you are seriously pondering this question, then you probably already know. But here are a few of the key warning signs that I tell ministers to look for, if they suspect their church culture may be a toxic working environment:

  1. Recurring “Volcano” emotions- It is one thing to have emotional blowups at church from time to time. Ministry is not like any other job on earth. If ministry and church life does not affect your heart and emotions, I would really wonder if you were called. Loving other people can really tear you up sometimes. However, if you are going home over and over in tears or angry or distraught, that is typically a sign that something is wrong. An eruption of emotion is not “wrong.” The emotion is trying to tell you something- fear, frustration, burnout,  disappointment, exhaustion, grief. You can try to stuff these feelings down temporarily, but eventually, they will keep coming up and out. Ask yourself, “What is at the bottom of the feelings that keep coming back?”
  2. Too much conflict- A church will never be free of conflict, UNLESS it is completely free of PEOPLE. Since the whole point of “church” is to worship and proclaim God together in a community- there will be conflict. But when conflict gets REALLY ugly, personal and goes on and on and on- this is a sign that something very unhealthy is going on. Usually too much conflict means that bad behavior is being allowed and not confronted. Woundings but no apologies…fighting without forgiveness… ranting, but no resolution. As a result, nothing gets solved and the problems only get worse because they compound on top of each other. Leadership in a church is supposed to teach and model Biblical conflict resolution and hold members of the body accountable. This means that confrontations and discipline may need to happen. In extreme cases, someone may need to be asked to leave the church until they are ready to stop hurting others. Ignoring a tumor only makes it worse.
  3. Emotions such as guilt and shame used as a weapon- Unfortunately, this one can be found in too many church environments. Passive aggressive guilt and shame attacks can be disguised as “Christian” directives. For example, “Well everyone here is tired and sick and we are all still here. No one else would complain. How do you think Jesus feels about you complaining?” “Sacrifices are part of ministry. Your family needs to get used to that.” “Pastor’s kids should know better.” “We all need to pray that __________ learns to manage their time better.” Everyone has to deal with some criticism. Ministers have to get a thick skin in order to survive. But too much criticism can kill your spirit! Constant tear downs cross the line out of being constructive and plunge directly into emotional abuse. So how can we tell if shame or guilt is motivating our actions? The question to ask isWhy am I doing ______________.” Is it because you truly believe that it is what God has asked you to do? Is it because you believe it is the best decision? OR is it because you are afraid of what _________________ will say or do? Are you making your decision because you feel guilty or were shamed into it? A good friend of mine once told me, “Trish, before you do something say, ‘I CHOOSE to do this.’ Don’t say, ‘I have to do this or this is happening to me.’ If you can’t truthfully say, ‘I CHOOSE to do this because…’ then you need to make some changes.” Honestly, advice changed my life. Why are you doing, what you are doing?
  4. No boundaries between work and home- This entanglement of work, home, church and life itself is called “emmeshment.” It means that you have no other life outside of your church. No outside friends, no outside hobbies, no outside goals and dreams. Your and your family’s entire life and world completely revolve around the church 24/7. This is very unhealthy. Most ministry positions only last between 3-5 years. This means total and complete upheaval of family, friends, job, church, home, support system- every few years. We all need a support system that stands the test of time. And we need our families and marriages intact when the smoke clears. Keep building that life outside your church bubble.
  5. Power struggle- An ongoing power struggle can make a church a terrible place to be. This can be between the pastor and the board, or the board and the staff, or one key family and a pastor, a parent and a teacher etc. etc. But when Christians think they know best and fight for power, it gets ugly fast and a lot of people get hurt. Eventually, that power struggle will come to a head. One will either cave under, or one will leave. Jesus said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Without resolution, pride and struggle for power will keep the church environment toxic and eventually kill the church.

Stay tuned for Part 2 Next Week: What can I do if I suspect that I am working in a toxic environment? Remember, this week that you are so valuable and loved by God! He sees you and He cares! If the above situations sound all too familiar, will you make the decision to talk to someone privately OUTSIDE of your church situation this week? Don’t know who to talk to? Message me- I have some great friends who know how to listen and understand. Love you and God bless your week! Trisha

PS- I am talking about the same subject on my ministry channel on YouTube- “The Peach Buzz.” Make sure to like and subscribe today!

PSS- I write a lot more on this topic in my newly released book, “Why We Quit,” now available on Amazon.

Feeling Blue - One Depressed Person

The audience seemed to hold its collective breath. The lady next to me put her pencil down on her planner. Many heads came up to see if they were hearing her right. To be sure, Christine Yount Jones had everyone’s full attention. You see, Christine, a respected kid’s ministry voice for most of her life, was a key note speaker at this past January’s CPC (Children’s Pastor’s Conference). And Christine had just broached the subject of anxiety, depression and the ministry leader. With thoughtfulness, humor and raw honesty, she validated a lot of people there that day; talking about the different ways that God “calms the storm” in our lives.

After I got home, I noticed a conversation on a popular kid’s ministry forum, possibly sparked by this session. A children’s pastor shared that she battled with depression, but that God was giving her the energy and strength every week to minister effectively to families. Her comment seemed to break an unseen barrier as more and more leaders began sharing their stories as well. One leader, an older man, shared that he had felt like a failure after going in for counseling after a particularly rough church transition. But he discovered that this counseling was the best decision EVER for him, and for his family and his ministry. Yet another pastor said how tough it can be to fight through your own battles to minister to others who are in need. How many of us HIDE it from others-especially at our church-when we are anxious, depressed or hurting? Do we feel like “lesser” ministers when we are depressed? Can God use us through our own pain, to help others?

I highly recommend reading this article from churchleaders.com: https://churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-articles/144651-silent-suffering-pastors-and-depression.html. It includes among other facts:

The likelihood is that one out of every four pastors is depressed,” said Matthew Stanford, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. But anxiety and depression in the pulpit are “markedly higher” in the last five years, said Smoot. 

Nearly two out of three depressed people don’t seek treatment, according to studies by the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. Counselors say even fewer depressed ministers get treated because of career fears, social stigma and spiritual taboo. “Clergy do not talk about it because it violates their understanding of their faith,” said Scoggin. “They believe they are not supposed to have those kinds of thoughts.” Stanford, who studies how the Christian community deals with mental illness, said depression in Christian culture carries “a double stigmatization.” Society still places a stigma on mental illness, but Christians make it worse, he said, by “over-spiritualizing” depression and other disorders—dismissing them as a lack of faith or a sign of weakness.”

I hesitated writing this message this week. But after a lot of prayer, I felt that some of my fellow ministry leaders and fellow believers may need this word. Here are some things I really really want you to know:

  1. Anxiety and Depression are mood disorders- they do NOT disqualify you in ministry, any more than having diabetes or a thyroid disorder would. Some of the most talented, creative pastors I know battle bipolar disorder or anxiety.
  2. So many suffer, in the shadows. Sometimes you may think you are the only one- and you are not. People are not always as sunny and perfect as their Facebook may lead you to believe! We really do not know someone else’s struggles from day to day
  3. God understands- He really does, and He cares. God wants to ease our anxiety and our depression. Did you know that there are over 500 Scriptures in the Bible about dealing with fear (anxiety)?? We wouldn’t need all of those promises from God if Christians got a free pass for no anxiety or sadness. We are never promised a life free of pain this side of heaven. See below for some of my favorite verses for anxiety, sadness or confusion. We need to remember that Jesus understands. He was fully human as well as fully God. He even said, speaking of His soon approaching death, “I have a baptism to be baptized with (the Crucifixion), and how ANXIOUS I am until it is accomplished!” (Luke 12:50, emphasis mine). In the Garden of Gethsemane He said, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow even unto death!” Mark 14:34. He understands! And He hears and He acts to help.
  4. Counseling/A doctor IS a great idea. Who would ever shame a diabetic for taking their insulin!? But for the ministry leader who is focused on helping everyone else- getting help can be the hardest part. But you cannot go trusting everyone around you with every one of your private battles. You need someone safe that YOU can talk to openly. I went in for professional counseling several years ago, as I struggled to get over a devastating loss. As tough as that was, it was such a great decision. I needed to heal in order to keep giving out in ministry to others.
  5. Ministry can make us prone to depression. I know what we deal with on a weekly basis. People are hurting and broken. We ministers love others through the fallout of deaths, sexual assaults, broken marriages, abused children, suicides, car accidents and so much more. Ministry is not a 9-5 job; it is your whole life a lot of times! It consumes your whole heart and soul! That is why we have to be on our guard to minister to our OWN soul. Pastors are terrible about not taking their days off, or their vacation days. We work WAY too many hours. How’s your heart? How is our relationship with Jesus? Yes, self-care matters.
  6. God created you, He loves you and His plan for your life is not over because of what you are going through. As Paul said, “His strength is made perfect in our weakness.” Yes, God can and will use you, in your brokeness. But He also cares about YOUR health and joy.

A few weeks ago, a well known pastor of a very large church in my area took his own life. The whole city, as well as his family and his congregation, are reeling from the loss. He helped so many people, including some who were depressed themselves.

Can I just say, if you are feeling down or overwhelmed, please do not harm yourself. Do not be embarrassed to go in for help. Many people love you and would be so lost without you. If you were asking God to speak, maybe this is Him speaking into your life saying, “I love you. It IS going to be OK. I do have an amazing plan for your life. You are not a failure, you’re My special creation. Hang on, this WILL get better.

I truly did not mean to write so much on this topic, but please feel the love and encouragement behind it. All my love- Trisha

National Suicide Prevention Hotline (24 hours)

Call 1-800-273-8255

A few of Trisha’s favorite verses to read in time of anxiety and/or sadness:
So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God. Psalm 43:5

But when I am afraid, I will put my confidence in you. Yes, I will trust the promises of God. And since I am trusting him, what can mere man do to me? Psalm 56:3-4

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Psalm 27:13Please share YOUR favorite verse that has helped YOU in a difficult time!

One of my favorite parts of the kid’s ministry service is the worship time. Kid’s can and should enter into powerful worship! Interested in taking your kid’s ministry worship to the next level this year? Here are a few of my best tips for a dynamic kid’s worship service!

  1. Choose the right number of songs. If you typically have a 30-45 min kid’s service, choose 2-3 songs. 60-70 min, you can stretch out to 4-6 songs.
  2. Put your fast songs first, right at the beginning. Children can get their energy going. It looks fun and well planned to the kids and the parents too! What do parents see when they drop off and pick up? Crazy games? Or something planned and fun? When I first started at one of my staff positions, every kid’s church service started with a game called “Battle sock,” which could more accurately be called “blood sock.” Kids were getting injured, crying, speakers getting knocked over.  I knew right away that things had to change. Parents were concerned to even leave their kids at a scene of chaos. New visitors were reluctant to stay. Starting with fast worship was such a welcome change!
  3. Don’t use puppets or comic characters during slow worship. Characters always command attention. It can confuse the kids when their attention in supposed to be on God.
  4. Put the slower songs later in your lineup. Absolutely no cutting worship and prayer- so do not put it at the very end. About 2/3rd of the way through to 3/4 of the way through usually works best. I typically put games or a craft at the end that I can cut if church gets out early.
  5. Don’t clump the music all together. Your lineup should NOT be: A. puppet song B. all five worship songs C. special music D. drama with music E. memory verse F. lesson G. prayer. If you want to keep the children’s attention all the way through to the end, space your music throughout your kid’s service, more like this: A. three fast worship songs B. Welcome skit and rules C. puppet song D. verse E. lesson F. Drama with music G. two slow songs H. prayer. See the difference?
  6. Use students in the worship ministry-Get some of your more enthusiastic kids up front helping lead the worship! Have them really rehearse those movements and songs. The big thing here is heart, smiles, and enthusiasm. I would rather have three kids so in love with Jesus and who love to worship with joy than two hundred amazing singers who just want to be stars. I have several kids on our worship team who cannot sing, but who dance, do motions, play a drum, or do a costume character to the music. Do not let just anyone jump on stage. Don’t allow chaos, pushing, yelling, or fighting for mics. I find a place for everyone who wants to serve. They must first come to rehearsals, and get on the schedule. The children who are scheduled that day wear their ministry T-shirt so I know who should be on the stage. Keep working hard on this one, because a team of kids up front who are passionate about Jesus and worship will change the entire culture of your kids’ church.
  7. Yes- REHEARSE. Preparing will not make your worship ministry less spiritual. Our rule is, “If you do not prepare, you do not go on. We don’t give God our leftovers. God gets our best.”

So what about YOU? What are YOUR best tips for taking kid’s ministry worship to a whole new level?

worshipkids

Did you make New Year’s resolutions this holiday season? Most people do. But avoiding to the U.S. News and World Report, almost 80 percent of people-4 out of 5- do not reach those goals. In fact, the majority quit on their resolution entirely by the end of January.

All of us have dreams and goals for our lives. So how can we better ensure that we are among the few who DO succeed and reach this year’s goals? After all, we won’t wake up some day and magically see all of our dreams come true. Those lifelong goals are only met as the yearly goals, the monthly goals and then…the daily goals are met. The older I get, the more I realize how FAST time truly flies- whether or not we are having fun. I want to have an impact- to do what God put me on this earth for! There really isn’t time to waste. Here are six proven ways to CRUSH your goals this coming year:

1.Make your goals bigger, not smaller.  It is so much easier to just make “tiny” goals that we know we can easily succeed at, so we do not have to face the risk of failure. But if we do not challenge ourselves, we will not grow. I have heard it said, “If your goals are so easy that you can do them without God’s help, then your goals are too small. If your goals are beyond what you can do without God’s help, you are probably on the right track!”

2. God’s priorities need to come first. Are our goals God- honoring? When we put God first, “He will direct our paths.” Too many New Year’s goals are all about us (I’m bad about this)- “be more organized” “lose weight” “save money.” For a person of faith, our highest goals need to be about pleasing God and spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ. Personal goals are GREAT! But I now try to start with spiritual goals such as, “I will do a missions trips this year” or “I will read my Bible cover to cover this year” etc. I believe God can let us know how to challenge ourselves spiritually, mentally and physically all this coming year.

3. Be specific- Are our resolutions MEASURABLE? Again, it is so much easier to just say, “I’ll be more loving this year,” or “I’ll be more fit.” That way, we hope to protect ourselves from potential failure. This fear of failure can hold us back from achieving all God has for us. But to really achieve our goals, we need to first SPELL THEM OUT. Instead of saying, “Be more loving,” you could write, “With God’s help, I will raise _________ for the local homeless shelter,” or “This year, I will invite 3 new church families (or unchurched families!) to dinner at my home.” Instead of, “I’ll be healthier” try “I’ll walk for 30 minutes 5 days a week.” See the difference? It needs to be crystal clear if you did or did not reach your goal for the year. It needs to be clear what you need to do to succeed.

4. Don’t keep your goals a secret!- Secret goals are so much safer aren’t they? Secret goals have less risk of public “failure.” There is that fear of failure again! But secret goals are also much easier to back out of. Everyone needs accountability partners. For an exercise plan, it is a lot more difficult to back out of that daily walk if your walking partner is on her way to your house. If you skip your personal Bible study, only you and Jesus will know. But skip out on your small group Bible study- more people will know. Truly, we live better when we live life together. Take a deep breath, take a chance- and share that dream God has been laying on your heart with someone close to you. Sometimes just the act of saying it OUT LOUD can get the wheels of that vision turning. Who can you talk to about your dreams and goals? Who can you trust to call you on it when you start slacking off? I am eternally grateful to my friends, family and accountability partners who asked questions and kept me motivated in those last weeks before my last book was released. I was bogged down with so many little details, and I needed that extra push.Things WILL get tough and frustrating. That is when you need your cheerleaders to help you press on.

5. Don’t give yourself a way out- If you give yourself an “emergency exit” you WILL use it. Seriously. No diet would be successful if you kept your cupboards stocked with chocolate and chips “just in case this gets difficult.” Attaining your goals WILL be difficult. Do not give yourself a “back up plan” for when I fail at this. Creating a back up plan, usually a lesser goal, is another attempt at avoiding “failure.” I would rather aim high and not quite make it, then aim for the dirt and succeed. WHEN we fall or fail, we need to get back up and go back to it- not give up on the goal.

6. Plan backwards and set “mile markers”. It helps to look at the end of the year and work your way backwards, to see what needs to be done and by when. Celebrate each and every win. Each goal for your year should be broken down into quarterly, monthly and even daily goals. And even the biggest goals seem doable when we look at them one step at a time! And do not wait until the end of the year to celebrate; celebrate each “little win” along the way to keep yourself motivated.
What about you? What do YOU do to help you reach your dreams and goals? Do you have any secrets to share with us?
God bless your new year- Love Trisha

For the purposes of a project for my doctorate, I had the privilege of interviewing an expert in pastoral restoration (after a moral failure). I interviewed Rev. George Stahnke, an ordained minister, who serves with both Focus on the Family and the Rocky Mountain District Restoration Team in restoring fallen pastors. Stahnke has been active in restoring fallen ministers for decades.

Here is our conversation, word for word. I found it enlightening, thought provoking and…scary.

Interview Verbatim

Peach: Thank you so much for being willing to meet with me. Do you get a lot of calls to restore fallen pastors?

Stanke: Oh yes. We have hundreds and hundreds of calls all the time. We get calls from pastors, churches, spouses…We stay very busy.

Peach: What resources would you recommend for pastors or churches that are looking into pastoral restoration after a fall?

Stahke- Great question. Of course, I highly recommend the latest Focus on the Family pamphlet on restoring a fallen pastor. The newest version with all the latest resources it provides comes out in late 2019. I actually designed the progressive restoration plan that is used in the pamphlet. Some other great resources we recommend are Can Fallen Pastors Be Restored by John H. Armstrong, Restoration Manual: A Workbook For Restoring Fallen Ministers and Religious Leaders by Thomas L. Pedigo and the official Assemblies of God position paper/plan on restoring fallen ministers. Of all the restoration papers of the churches out there, the Assemblies of God plan is the most comprehensive and the best we have seen. It includes a lot of detail.

Peach: Thank you so much. What percentage of the pastors you work would you say are successfully restored?

Stanke: The numbers are not good. No matter which restoration program is used, the chances of a pastor being restored to full time ministry are not good.

Peach: Why do you think that is? Why are more pastors not restored to ministry?

Stanke: The biggest problem is the fallen pastor’s attitude. In almost every situation, the pastor is forced into the restoration program by the spouse or the church, because they got caught in a moral failure. So many times the pastor’s ego and pride are completely out of control. Every day we have pastors tell us, “Well, yeah, my wife has forgiven me, or she will soon. I prayed, and I’m sure God forgave me. So I’m back preaching on Sunday, right?” The overwhelming majority of pastors we work with will not accept stepping down from ministry for the two years that our program requires. Even when their credentials are taken away from them, the pastor usually “goes independent” and starts their own church. These pastors resist any form of submission or accountability, especially ongoing accountability. They want a quick fix. They are in such a hurry to “get this over with” that they do not fix the problems in their heart. You know how the Apostle Paul talks about how godly sorrow leads to repentance but worldly sorrow leads only to death? What I deal with day after day is “worldly sorrow.” This is the sadness that the pastor got caught. This is a shallow, non effective grief. True repentance does not grasp for positions. True repentance is truly sad because they are starting to see the level of pain and damage they have caused their spouse, their family and their church. The reason that too many pastoral restoration programs fail is that the minister will not submit to the restoration process, will not take a break from ministry to work on themselves and their marriage, and will not listen to the wisdom of the restoration team.

Peach: I have heard you mention a “team” working on the restoration of a fallen minister. So you use a team approach to restoration?

Stanke: Absolutely. I have never seen a pastoral restoration be successful without a team. A team is crucial to success. On that team, I highly recommend having sexes, one therapist, one fellow pastor and a psychologist. Your team should be well rounded. Also there needs to be at least one person on that team that is there for the spouse and the family. People tend to forget about them. The spouse and kids deal with so much shame and isolation after the minister’s fall. They need help and compassion too.

Peach: You said that your process takes two years. Why do you have a two year program as opposed to a different time frame?

Stanke: In my private practice, I work with marital couples who are trying to stay together after an affair. I always tell them upfront that it takes about two years to work through a sexual failure. It does not always take two years of just counseling, but it takes two years to completely heal. The two year restoration plan is something that works for psychologists and counselors, and it seems to work best for pastoral restoration as well. I cannot stress enough that this process takes time. This hard work cannot be done in a day, a week, or a few months.

Peach: What warning signs have you seen that someone may have a moral failure?

Stanke: Oh, most of the pastors we work with have been battling isolation and loneliness for some time. Also, almost all pastors who have affairs admit that their marriage was in bad shape before the affair. In the restoration process, I usually have to do a lot of work on the marriage right up front which has been in terrible shape perhaps for many years. No one wakes up one morning and randomly has an affair. There are always underlying issues that must be worked through.

Peach: Thank you so much for meeting with me today. This has given me so much you think about…

End verbatim

I really want to hear your thoughts on the subject of pastoral restoration. What have you seen, noticed?

For more information, I urge churches to obtain the newest pastoral restoration material from Focus on the Family by calling (800) 232-6459 or visiting their website http://www.focusonthefamily.com

Love Trisha

Merry Christmas! We hope God grants you peace and time with family this Christmas.  We are so appreciative for all of our family and friends- thank you for being in our lives! What an amazing year this has been for our family. We are grateful that God has been so faithful. We were able to attend my grandmother’s funeral in MI last spring; I was so glad to get to be there. I also was able to visit my other grandmother in TX last summer. In July, a terrible storm destroyed our backyard gazebo and the roof of our garage. We are all ok and most of the damage has been repaired. So here is what we have been up to in 2019!

SCOTT: Scott has had another great year at his job in Appleton. He has impressed his employers time and again by solving some major problems. Scott loves living in Wisconsin, being so close to our families, getting to help his parents on their farm now and then, and having so much snow around Christmas. He still loves making improvements on the house. You should have seen his epic pond this year- wow! This year he totally won Christmas by surprising me early with a massage chair!! I love that chair..er, I mean, Scott! He also fixed the garage door, installed a new dishwasher, built a new wooden corral gate and a new wooden garden gate. WOW! His current project is a wooden gazebo (screen porch) in our backyard, to gaze at the pond mosquito free. It is so nice to not spend all time off driving. Scott is so excited for Christmas- he’s been playing Christmas songs since before November 1!

Trisha- I had an epic year. My third book was finally released- all about ministry burnout and why pastors leave ministry! It is getting good reviews so far. Scott and I celebrated 20 years of marriage in May by taking a Dells Sunset cruise with my sister and her husband. What an amazing trip. We had such a great time!! Twenty years of marriage-that is like 2,342 years in Hollywood years. I love you babe! I did more traveling than ever before this past year- FL, MI, WI, TX, OK, MN, MS, and IL- and even the Bahamas. It was a busy year of ministry, but I loved it. I wrote articles for a few children’s ministry publications. I’m still working on my doctorate at Bethel, and it is going well! I am still also teaching English online from home- which I am loving. Life has been busy, but oh so wonderful. We had so many fun holidays with both sides of the family! It is a privilege and a joy for us to do ministry together as a family.

Logan- Our amazing son is 16 now. How is that possible??? Logan is finished driver’s ed?? He is so smart, funny and loveable. He is doing great in high school and has several good friends. Logan got a perfect score on his physics final last spring- and he certainly didn’t get his math skill from me lol. He still reads his Bible nightly and now he hits me with some really tough Bible questions! It was such a joy to have both kids traveling and doing ministry with me last summer. Logan even choreographs some of our puppet songs now. Both kids also worked on my inlaws farm one day a week last summer; that was a great job for both of them. Logan loves animals, especially our dogs Ursani and Sam. He is growing a bit of facial hair now…Logan and Eliana still love spending time playing with their cousins Isaac and Caleb.

Eliana- Our daughter is a sunshine in our lives. She is so smart, witty, hilarious- social butterfly with a lot of friends. She is a friend to anyone who needs a friend at her school. This year she tested in the 98.7 percentile for math in the state of WI. She tested out of 8th grade math and has jumped to high school advanced placement algebra. She is leaning towards a career in graphic design. Eliana, now 14, loves Jesus and reads her Bible nightly. She and Logan still get along great and are best friends. She adores her cat Midnight who sticks to her like glue. She is quite the gifted artist, if I do say so myself. Her artwork has improved so much in just one year! Our family still loves playing board games and watching movies together.

We love you all and wish you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Thank you for making our year even brighter. I pray for a good year for you and your family in 2020. God is so faithful.

Love Trisha, Scott, Logan, Eliana (Ursani, Sam, Danny and Midnight)

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Here is what I am MOST thankful for this year! My son feels strongly  that the very important holiday of Thanksgiving often gets completely overlooked in the rush to get to Christmas- perhaps Christmas does get most of the spotlight. But on this Thanksgiving week, I am intentionally pausing to contemplate what I am MOST grateful for RIGHT NOW:

  1. God’s love never gives up- His love never fails. Jesus never gave up on us; He lived a perfect life and then died in our place. No matter what we are going through, no matter what we are facing, God knows, He understands and He has a plan. Through God’s unending love, we will someday again see those we have lost. Because God’s love never quits, our hope is never gone. Even in the worst, darkest chapters of our lives, some part of us knows that the story (which is already written) has a happy ending. In Christ, we can find the strength to keep going too.
  2. One of God’s greatest gifts in this world is family. i’m thankful to have been raised in a Christian home, with two amazing parents. It is wonderful to be close enough to both sides of the family to enjoy these moments. I’m grateful for my amazing husband Scott (who gave me a massage chair for Christmas!! ahhhhhhh!). We have been married for 20 years now, weathered good times and rough times. I’m so grateful for his sense of humor, and daily little touches of showing his love. I’m grateful for our kids, (16 and 14), and how they have dug into Scripture for themselves and are serving alongside us in ministry. I love our family board games and family trips! This year the kids traveled with us to MI, TN, MS, IL etc. I love the laughter, good food and pranks. Thankful my cat Danny Boy was found safe and is home!
  3. I’m grateful to still have the freedom to worship God, pray and preach openly- many people in this world do not have this freedom. I pray to be able to use this freedom wisely and well. God forgive me for all the freedoms I take for granted every day- free speech, food, clean water, education, work, travel etc. etc. I hope we have these freedoms for a good long while yet. And I lift up my prayer today for those who not have these freedoms.
  4. I am so thankful today for all of my wonderful friends in so many states- and countries! This year I made some new friends in the Bahamas! I am so blessed to have such great friends, many that have been loyal, loving friends for decades now. Friends are truly gifts from God! I am thankful for the chance to do so much traveling this past year in MN, WI, MI, IL, OK, TX, FL and the Bahamas. (Thankful my third book “Why We Quit” FINALLY came out). I’m thankful for all of YOU- some of whom I’ve only met across the miles!

These are the biggest reasons I am thankful this Thanksgiving. Thank you for all you do for Jesus and for your families and friends. God bless you and have a very Happy Thanksgiving. “May the peace of God which passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil 4:7

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Undoubtedly, pastoral failure has surely plagued the church from the very beginning. It does seem that in our modern age there are a lot more major pastoral falls than there were in any previous time in history. Some would argue that ministerial “falls”- whether they be sexual, financial or substance abuse failings- have not really increased but are only more visible today due to the prevalence of social media and news outlets. However, the data does seem to show a steady breakdown of conduct among pastors. A 1988 poll by Leadership Magazine revealed that 23 percent of pastors admitted that after entering ministry they had done something sexually inappropriate with someone who was not their spouse. Almost 12 percent of pastors reported having committed adultery. According to the Fuller Institute of Church Growth, “37 percent of ministers have been involved in inappropriate behavior with someone who works in the church.” More conservative church members have theorized that these moral failings occur more often in congregations that are more liberal theologically. However, research has proven that this is simply not true. The increase in pastoral moral failure seems to be affecting small and large churches across the United States regardless of denomination or affiliation. Perhaps even more disturbing, is the fact that the Leadership magazine poll, found that only 4 percent of pastors who engage in sexual misconduct are ever found out. This means that most congregations whose pastor is or has engaged in some form of sexual sin will not know about it. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that churches do not often communicate with one another about the real reasons why a pastor left a certain ministry. Too many fallen ministers resist attempts to hold them accountable by fleeing to a different pastorate and most likely, falling again in a similar manner. If the reasons for the moral failure are not found out, confronted and worked through, the chances are high that the sinful behavior will reoccur. What are some of the reasons that pastors have moral failures? Here are some of the key reasons that pastors say led to their “fall”.

1.Personality Type. Most of the individuals who are drawn to vocational ministry fall into just a few personality types. Pastors tend to be outgoing, driven, people and vision oriented.The pastor’s own personality flaws may set them up for a fall.

Most of the individuals who are drawn to vocational ministry fall into just a few personality types. Pastors tend to be outgoing, driven, people and vision oriented. The pastor’s own personality flaws may set them up for a fall. Dr. Gary McIntosh and Dr. Samuel Rima, authors of Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership, outline five specific leadership pitfalls that must be guarded against- narcissism, passive aggressiveness, compulsiveness, co-dependence and paranoia. A narcissistic leader has a strong need for approval. He or she begins to see the church as an extension of themselves, believing that the church could not succeed without them. Every program of the church reflects the pastor’s personality. The passive aggressive pastor will resist any measures of success or performance due to fear of failure. They will never engage in direct confrontation, but will instead do “underhanded” things behind the scenes or use condescending, manipulative comments to get their way.The compulsive pastor has a need to control everything around him or her, including their family, the church staff and the board. They desire order and perfection, especially in appearances. The co-dependent pastor is thrown every which way trying to please everyone and meet every demand. They have trouble ever saying no or confronting anyone. The paranoid leader battles jealousy and suspicion. He or she does not trust anyone. This leader will keep meticulous tabs on “their” staff and “their” church members’ conversations and travel. Do any of these personality pitfalls seem familiar to you? Each pastor must understand their own needs, needs for appreciation, for approval or for control. Their natural charm and ability to “seduce” makes them good at working with people, recruiting and building teams. These pastors are often very caring and interested in relationships and what is going on in people’s lives. Fifty percent of pastors come from dysfunctional homes, making him or her far more likely to be a “fixer,” one who gets involved in other’s problems in an effort to “help” them. This may put the pastor at higher risk for having an affair. The first one to be seduced here is the minister themselves. One fallen pastor reflected on the time he was having an affair, “I actually had deluded myself to the point that I thought, ‘I am under unbelievable stress. I deserve this.’” His line of thinking is unfortunately not all that uncommon.

2.Poor Personal Boundaries- A pastor must place boundaries in their lives to make sure that they are not just using their congregation to get their own needs fulfilled. Many of these needs are forged in childhood and carried unconsciously into adulthood. It is strongly suggested that every minister complete a genogram, which is a map of their family of origin and compare their personality profile with that of those in their family. Only by finding out where the “fences are down” can we build up proper boundaries. Pastors are at high risk for “emmeshment” meaning there is no boundary between work and home life, and no boundary between the pastor’s self-worth and their title. Their entire life becomes “church work.”

 

3.High Expectations- Ministers may feel that they are “being put on a pedestal,” and that they are not able to keep up with the church’s expectations. Many fallen pastors blame their fall on congregation expectations being way too high. These pastors ask to be viewed as fellow human beings. It is noteworthy that pastors in the New Testament, as well as modern day China, did not become the pastor of a church merely by education alone. They became pastors by exhibiting skill and by the body of Christ (the church) acknowledging the call of God on their lives. Nevertheless, pastors were then and are still held to a higher standard as far as living standards and morals.

 

4.Unhealthy coping methods- 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. The dictionary defines an addiction as: “The state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.” In other words, an addiction is a habit or practice that you become so completely dependent on, that it begins to interfere with your everyday life, and you have a decreased ability to function without it. What comes to mind when we think of the stereotypical “addict” is an alcoholic, or someone who is dependent on an illegal drug such as cocaine, heroin etc. Alternatively, there are other negative coping methods for the stress of ministry, such as social withdrawal, overeating, viewing pornography, gambling, shopping, sex, television, the over consumption of alcohol, or prescription drug abuse. Of course, these coping methods can have devastating consequences for the pastor, his family and for the church. The word “addiction” actually comes from the Latin, meaning “to give over to” “to surrender to.” Addiction can start as something necessary for a time (prescription pain medications), but after too much time goes by, the brain and body literally change their chemistry, needing the drug just to “function.” Sometimes an addiction starts as a recreational or social pastime, used as a “coping mechanism” in order to deal with emotional or physical pain, stress, loss or illness. The coping mechanism releases feel good endorphins and stress releasing dopamine to counteract pain and stress. This is what the body and brain are supposed to do to get us through a brief time of “fight or flight.” However, over time, the body releases less of these pleasant hormones or simply builds up a tolerance to them. Then, the individual must have more of the substance or behavior in order to get the same relief as they did before. Addiction can become a major problem for a pastor. Pastors live in a relative state of high stress. They are at the side of those who are dying. They counsel families who are living through loss. They minister through tragedies. A pastor’s work week is never 9-5, and they certainly do not stop when they get home. They are the sounding board for those who are hurting and suffering. All of this together can be a recipe for disaster. Pastors may pride themselves on never smoking or drinking, yet go for the more acceptable addictions such as binge eating, sometimes late at night or in secret? This often leads to diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease and other medical problems. Other leaders secretly spend too much money, running up way too much credit card debt in an attempt to ease stress. When they have a major financial crash, it can impact their credibility in handling the church’s finances. The problem may be much deeper than we know, because pastors are reluctant to reach out for help until the scandal explodes publicly, which it eventually does. The devastated congregation is usually grieving and bewildered, thinking, “How could our pastor have fallen like this?” Churches must remember that pastors are human beings too who face incredible pain and stress. We often judge our Pastors more harshly than we would judge ourselves. This adds hurt upon hurt for the Pastor and his family.

Not all coping mechanisms are inherently “wrong.” The Apostle Paul said it best in 1 Corinthians 6:12 when he said, “I will not be brought under the power of anything.” Here are a few ways that are and are not appropriate for managing of the high stress of ministry, though this list is certainly not exhaustive. Some examples of unacceptable coping methods would include illegal drug use, pornography, adultery/fornication, violence, destroying things, threats, self harm, stealing, legal drug abuse, and excessive spending. Acceptable coping methods, when not taken to extremes) would include exercise, talking to a friend, taking your days off weekly, taking your vacation days, having a weekly date night with your spouse, reading a great book, having a healthy hobby, listening to music, praying, going to a counselor, going to a church service to be ministered to, gardening, journaling, eating well or hiking.

 

5.A Poor Marriage and no support structure- This of course is directly related to having poor boundaries. The overwhelming majority of pastors who have been caught having an affair, admit that they secretly also had a poor marriage and poor devotional life for sometime before the affair. A common factor in almost every case of pastoral sexual failure is the fact that there were preexisting problems in the minister’s marriage. Sometimes the pastor is aware of the problems in his or her marriage and sometimes the minister does not realize that the marriage is rocky until after the affair begins. Author Ray Carroll suggests that when a minister has an affair, usually this new lover is not their first “mistress”. The author refers to a pastor’s tendency toward workaholism, making the church work itself his or her “first mistress.” When the pastor spends upwards of 50-80+ hours a week “doing the Lord’s work,” gone many nights of the week, gone most holidays, and gone all weekends the marriage begins to suffer from neglect. The spouse feels like a single parent. Nearly all of the minister’s emotional energy is going into the church, not his or her family. The pastor is then wide open and vulnerable for a moral failure. Several studies named “loneliness” as a key factor in clergy burnout. Pastors reported not having friends or support systems or anyone outside the church to talk to. Loneliness could be due to high expectations of the congregation, 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.

 

Bottom line is that ANY pastor can fall. Perhaps the one that is most at risk is the one who truly thinks, “It can never happen to me.” Churches and pastors need to be alert BEFORE a fall happens, to look for the above warning signs and to be willing to love someone enough to confront and to hold them accountable. Overall however, I hope to point us all to the restorative, gracious and faithful nature of God. This brings incredible hope to understand that God’s grace and compassion are available for pastors too. I want to see more of God bringing hope out of terrible situations. Whether or not a pastor has had a moral failure, the enemy, and the pastor’s own insecurities can make them feel that they have failed too much for God to ever use them again. The examples of Peter, John Mark, Abraham and David fill me with hope, that not only does God forgive and restore, the best days of ministry may yet be ahead, not in the past. Blessings and love- Trisha

In His Service,

Pastor Trisha Peach


An overwhelming majority of all new visitors to your church will make up their mind whether or not they will come back to your church within 10 minutes of their arrival. This is a scary statistic since, in just 10 minutes, a brand new visitors barely has time to see your parking lot, your welcome greeters and your…kid’s ministry check in. These new visitors haven’t even had a chance to hear your amazing worship team, or hear the clever opening to your message! In my traveling and consulting, the kid’s ministry check in-especially for brand new visitors- is often a sorely neglected area.

How can a church do better at welcoming new families to their church? I think we can all agree that the goal here is retention. You succeeded in having new people attend your church. Great job! Now, how can you invite them to come BACK? And your children’s ministry check in can be the BEST place in the whole church to get followup information on new visitors. Why? Because in our modern age of hacking, identity theft, over solicitation etc. many new visitors will not fill in the visitor cards completely that you have in the sanctuary or in your church bulletin. I can’t tell you how many we get handed in each week with just a name and no contact info. But when it comes to our children, most parents will complete the check in information clearly and completely. Below are some of the best ideas I have seen for visitor welcomes. Please comment below with the best ideas you have seen and/or used in your own ministry!

 

  1. Update your parking and the outside of your building- It can be smart to have an “outsider” take a look at this, since after a year or two, you and your church regulars will begin to miss certain things, such as that grass beginning to grow in cracks in the foundation, weeks in the parking lot or a severe lack of decent parking. Remember that your parking team (if applicable), your parking situation, the outside of the your building and your greeter team will be the very first impressions that your new visitors get.

 

  1. Separate new family check in: I do not suggest having new families figure out on their own what line to wait in, and how the check in system works. A better idea is to have a well marked, bright and friendly “New Guest Check In” Booth. I highly suggest putting your most smiley, outgoing people person here. Our booth has fun lights and balloons and every candy!  Help the new family go through check in step by step. This should include getting any relevant medical information such as allergies, diabetes, seizures etc. Make sure your check in forms do not just say “mom and dad.” More and more kids are being brought to church by grandparents or foster parents now, so I suggest using “parent, grandparent or guardian.” Have a second person available to offer a tour to the family of the church’s facilities, explaining weekly check in/check out procedures, including how the parent will be contacted in the unlikely event of an emergency.

 

  1. Streamline your check in process- the longer a family has to wait in line to check their child in, the less likely they will be to come back. How can you make your weekly child check in a little faster, more efficient, while at the same time keeping everyone safe? Can you open another kiosk? Can you use self-check in kiosks for your regulars? Please do not hand parents a massive booklet of policies and procedures. They will not read it. It will be overwhelming to say the least. I recommend putting your welcome, positive discipline policy, simplified procedures etc, on one page, no more than 2 pages.

 

  1. Welcome gifts- Many churches offer a “welcome packet” to new families. These can include a mug or pen with your church’s logo, service times info and more. The reason I do like the mugs/pens idea is that a person may use these items daily and be reminded of their experience at your church. Remember that the goal is for them to come BACK. So another great idea is to include a gift card for your own church’s cafe or bookstore if you have one, and a flyer for an upcoming event you would like them to know about. If you do include candy or mints or a treat, please be mindful of all the allergies people may have. Try to include a brochure of ALL of the ministries that your church offers. What is available for the parents to attend? What ministries could their teenage child be a part of? Is there ministry for 60’s +? Singles? Foster and adoptive parents?

 

  1. Buddy System- This ended up being one of the best ideas we ever implemented. The Buddy Team is a group of 5th and 6th graders that pair up one on one with visitor children and/or children with special needs. This “Buddy” stays alongside their assigned child for the entire service, sitting beside them, helping them with the songs/actions, answering questions and guiding them where they need to go. We found that our 5th and 6th graders were exceptionally good at this. Many of our Buddy Team middle schoolers said that this became their ministry. I believe it has made many of them more caring, compassionate and outreach minded. One team member said that she now believes God is calling her to work with special needs children later as a career. Parents and new children seem to feel more confident when they have a “guide” for the service, and are not feeling alone. We have special T shirts for every member of the Buddy Team, and they meet before services for short trainings, story sharing and prayer.

 

  1. Follow-Up- This is the area where many churches drop the ball. They may actually get accurate contact information for visiting families, but then fail to make any followup contact with the family. Most of the time, this happens because no one is specifically assigned to contact the family personally. Whenever it is assumed, “someone will do it,” you can bet “no one will do it.” Each new family should be specifically assigned to one or two people for followup. And that contact needs to be made in the first week after the family has visited. I usually suggest a welcome letter from the church, as well as a personal call or email from one of the staff. It is crucial for the church to implement some accountability to make sure that every new guest is being followed up on. Usually, right after a busy Sunday, we are already knee deep in working on next Sunday. But we do not want people slipping through the cracks!

 

So how about you? What things have you been doing to help those new visitors come back for a SECOND visit? What are you best tips for boosting new visitor retention. Thanks so much! Trisha

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