Tuesday, March 28, 2006


Holmes and Rhea established an instrument to determine the likelihood of serious illness based on a stress level indicator. Even good stress, such as buying a new home, landing a new job etc. There are also negative stress factors, all which predict the possibility of personal illness. While there is some value to this stress indicator, other factors will vary the results. How each person handles medical situations, our general attitude, family support all alter the projected outcome.
One area not fully explored is how trying to work in a job we are educated in and trained to perform, when the job becomes more frustrating then we anticipated. Such is the world for most “after-pastors.” Seminary education, associated Field Education, and personal experience within the church, may not really prepare us for the frustration of serving a church where the members of the congregation do not trust the person holding the pastoral office. If one steps into a position of leadership when a previous pastor has violated the trust, we are met with suspicion and often are subjected to hyper vigilance by those who do not want to be caught unaware again.
I am living (almost dying) proof of the physical cost to living in these stressful churches. Medical issues abide with me and I must deal with too many medications, treatments and cautions every day. Others I know have also been plagued by illness, depression, anger issues and assorted maladies.
I found out almost too late about the central role of good self-care, while doing this demanding work. Interests outside of the church became a cornerstone element for me. If any pastor focuses entirely on life within the church, that is a formula for disaster. I needed to find a niche where I was accepted just for who I am. The expectations of clergy are high enough, but when trying to re-establish a trust relationship, which you did not violate, the ministry becomes frustrating and demeaning.
I discovered that I need to be near the water. I live by a lake, visit the ocean, like to kayak, canoe and drive the motorboat. Sometimes I sit in the boat out in the lake, fishing pole in hand, with no bait on it, just to relax and so that well meaning boaters do not come by and ask if I need assistance.
I own an old muscle car (Olds 442) and take it to car shows, talk with other “motor heads” about automotive topics. In these situations, I am just me, set free from expectations for a time. It is refreshing and renewing.
Good self-care involves doing what makes you whole, refreshed and affirmed. My self-care is not expected to work for anyone other than me. Each person needs to find what is best for themselves.
What is crucial, is that self-care balance the frustration and demands of serving wounded, “after-pastor” churches. For more information on this subject see my web site at: www.afterpastor.org. I welcome your comments below