Imagine the fallout when the congregation learns you need guidance? Imagine the questions: How can I support our youth pastor when he's in therapy? How can she lead our teens when she can't solve her own problems?


Congregations and pastors both suffer from what psychologist Louis McBurney calls a "neurotic transference problem." In other words the child in each of us always hopes for a perfect parent-and ministers are likely objects for the fantasy. So when Christian leaders are unable to cope with life stresses, the urge to seek professional help is often avoided because we in ministry are tempted to protect this image. And in doing so, we perpetuate this storybook caricature.


In time all of us at one level or another will suffer from emotional stress while serving in ministry. I've grown to understand that when you care for people, it's inevitable.


But after you've done everything you can to heal yourself (e.g., reading through the Psalms, Job, and other Scriptures; prayer; fasting), remind yourself of this: God has placed supporters (gifted people who love and care about your success in life, as well as in your ministry) to comfort you in times of need.


When I was struggling emotionally, God gave me three sources of encouragement: My wife, my senior pastor, and a close friend in my church. Hopefully at least one of these sources of comfort-or perhaps a source I haven't mentioned-is in your life, too. The important thing is that those who encourage you have a healthy, balanced view of leadership-broad enough to allow that youth workers are normal, fragile people who struggle with life's demands like everybody else.


My Story


An ill-conceived small business failed miserably, which caused me great public embarrassment and personal financial loss. My aggressive financial decision and the subsequent hopelessness I felt also caused me a great deal of guilt. I was moving toward clinical depression. I struggled emotionally like never before.

My depression first manifested itself by a loss of energy and interest in activities I once thoroughly enjoyed. I was an avid-no...make that obsessive-golfer. I always looked for excuses to play, conducting "discipleship meetings" on the second 18th tee-even selecting volunteer staff based on character qualities a game of golf revealed in them! Golf was one of my greatest passions. Then after my business failed, I lost all interest in golf. I started making excuses not to play.


Then I began feeling a kind of emotional numbness about...everything. Food tasted fair-never excellent. Sleep always was interrupted with tension; I either had very little solid rest or long periods of nothing but sleep. Good friends, even life friends, were avoided. Spending time on the school campus became a chore. Even reading the Bible for pleasure-one of my greatest enjoyments-was difficult to do.