Stigmas often paralyze. Leaders must avoid fostering shame when decisions fail to measure up to expectations. The consequent environment created by making disgrace a feature of leadership may mean there is nowhere for the leader himself to turn.
Marty Duren draws attention to the unthinkable – pastoral suicide. He offers a series of suggestions to create a climate for pastors who face emotional stress, depression, even mental illness. I spoke with Marty about this piece and hope he offers a follow-up. But, in the event his schedule does not allow it, I would simply add that the recommendations should be the sort of atmosphere churches create for each other.
What I mean by that is the relational matrix runs both ways. Leaders must foster some of the very elements for their congregations Marty suggests churches offer their pastors. Take this one for example,
Stop acting as if your pastor and his family will never do any wrong, and stop judging them if they do.
I can only imagine the number of pastoral marriage arguments that take place trying to fulfill the expectations of church members. What he should wear, where she should sit, how the kids should behave (perfectly, of course), should his wife lead VBS or play the piano, and on and on.
Pastors are not perfect and their families can be just as troubled as any other family in the church. If you want a perfect pastor’s family, call Ken and Barbie. Replace the kids with some Betty Spaghetti characters. Then, mold the entire family as you see fit.
How often do pastors preach and teach with an air of judgment? When we do congregations internalize that same sense of judging others and that includes pastors. Could we not say that pastors and leaders often expect perfection from those they serve with?
I am well aware of abusive congregations. And, I am aware of abusive leaders. What I am cautious of is not that churches might consider needs their pastors never want to talk about, instead I am concerned that churches and their leaders have combined to create an environment that keeps all of us suffering needlessly.
What are your thoughts?