No Different Than Anyone Else
(Article first appeared in the December 19, 2011 issue of the Christian Courier.)
For nearly a decade now, I’ve been writing articles about sustaining pastoral excellence. In approximately 20 articles, I have tried to share tips, experiences, and the latest research about healthy pastors and congregations, covering topics like peer support, looking after the pastors’ family, lifelong learning and how to prevent stress and burnout.
Along the way, I learned that pastors – despite their unique position in the church – are not special or unique in terms of what they need to thrive. Like us, pastors need to be surrounded by peers who support them, hold them accountable and encourage them. Pastors, like all of us, need time to relax and opportunities to learn and sharpen their skills. They need to be able to devote time to create healthy marriages and families. Finally, like all of us, pastors need to be a part of a loving community and have meaningful relationships.
“Peer groups help pastors learn that the value of working together is in being challenged to think outside of one’s normal paradigm,” he said.
In recent years, peer groups have thrived in the CRC and other denominations. But peer support isn’t limited to participation in structured groups, and neither is peer learning the exclusive domain of pastors. By taking part in mentoring relationships, joining book clubs or study groups or even participating in a hobby or sports club, peer support can make us stronger and help us find solutions for challenges we face.
Healthy Marriages and Family Life
“Experience has taught us that healthy marriages contribute to healthy homes and healthy children, and happy homes support and contribute to healthy and vibrant pastoral ministries,” said Gerber.
Rev. Bob Zomermaand, a retired parish pastor, learned the hard way. “I myself fell victim to the temptation to work too much,” wrote Zomermaand in his article “Caring for Pastors.” “I became fatigued in my spirit, in my emotions and my body. As a result, I lost my ability to be a useful tool in the Lord’s hand. The very thing I so desired to be and to do was beyond my reach.”
“Pastors are no different than anyone else,” said Rev. Mark Vermaire, pastor of Crossroads Christian Reformed Church in San Marcos, California. “We were created by God to live in community.”
What pastors “really want is to know and to be known,” concluded Rev. Don Orange, pastor of Fellowship Christian Reformed Church in Greeley, Colorado. “Isn’t that what everyone’s heart is crying out for?”
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