I was speaking to an Australian psychologist who has 30 years experience caring for clergy and their families. They had some very honest insights which they have kindly put in this article. It is insights like this that encourage open discussion about the hard seasons or experiences of ministry. If you would like to share your story anonymously (encouraging or hard), please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What’s it like?
- To have the phone ring and your heart starts racing
- To be asked to do something, yet again, and you feel like screaming
- To have to give an encouraging talk and have no ideas
- To give your best effort talk and get criticised
- Or to receive no response whatsoever
- To doubt your long held beliefs and can’t tell a soul
- To feel like you are always in damage control
- To work for an organisation where everyone seems to think they are your boss
- And they’re willing to let you know it
- And suggest, sometimes seriously, you only work one day a week
- To devote yourself to a calling and then resent those you are meant to love
- When you’re not sure your spouse loves you anymore
- And your children are, what they call, acting out
- When what you profess to believe morally hardly matches with what you do
- To tell others what to do morally or spiritually when you are not up to it yourself
I’ll tell you what it is like. It is like being a clergy person. Clergy suffer stress, burnout, and depression at alarming rates. Lack of self-care, lack of boundaries, a workplace prone to excessive and unrealistic demands, you name it, clergy cop it.
It was once said there are 10,000 ex-clergy in Australia. That is a huge dropout rate from a group where each person set out with high ideals and a calling to serve God and humanity.
Clergy need support, help and oversight but too few access supports for such a demanding job. Burnout characterised by anger, depression, isolation and lethargy are all too common.
Christian Counselling Service (Victoria Based)