A Letter to the Sheep: Our Responsibility to the Sheperd
By Jennie Birkholz
In Pastor Brad Hoefs powerful blog post Pastoring and Suicidal: Insights from a Pastor Who Has Been There he brought to light many challenges pastors face in modern-day ministry. Pastors have blessed me and my family with their words and actions throughout the years, but this article made me stop and think about how to purposefully return the blessing.
Here are a few starting points to consider:
1. Creating a Safe, Supportive Workplace –
Mental wellness, just like physical wellness, is impacted by stressors in one’s environment which include a person’s workplace and personal life. Some basics for a supportive workplace include giving your leaders the tools they need to do their job effectively, ample compensation to support their family and health insurance. They should also have access to pastoral care and a mentor.
2. Give leadership opportunities for Renewal and Growth –
Regular sabbaticals and time for renew should be part of the culture. Leaders should also be encouraged to attend conferences, trainings or be with mentors.
3. Stop complaining and start doing-
If you want something to change or a new program be the leader or coordinate it AND financial contribute to it.
4. Be a friend –
Being a leader is lonely and being in the pastoral role is no exception. The pressure to present as perfect or grace filled can be stressful and lead to self-isolation. Pursue a friendship with them that makes room for them to be their authentic selves. Have fun and do stuff outside of church events!
5. Show true appreciation –
Grand gifts and gestures are not necessary. Simply sharing how their words impacted your spiritual growth and life may rejuvenate their purpose.
And for those sheep that complain about the church. I am at fault too, but we need to catch ourselves. Remember is it a conviction or a preference. Would the nation of Israel really care about the carpet color in the sanctuary?
Let me know what your thoughts are!
Jennie Birkholz, MHA is the Principal with Breakwater Light, a consulting firm that partners with multi-sector organizations, churches and communities focused on positive social impact. Using a trauma-informed, equity lens, projects are oriented around innovative leveraging of community assets, creating powerful networks for change and fostering resiliency. She is an innovative collaborator for faith and health, a trauma informed care trainer and expert on community behavioral health and substance addiction. Jennie served in the community behavioral health and substance use disorder field for over 15 years before becoming a national consultant.