What kind of personal pain would cause a 42-year-old pastor to abandon his family, his calling and even life itself? Members of a Baptist church here are asking that question after their pastor committed suicide in his parked car in September.
Those who counsel pastors say Christian culture, especially Southern evangelicalism, creates the perfect environment for depression. Pastors suffer in silence, unwilling or unable to seek help or even talk about it. Sometimes they leave the ministry. Occasionally the result is the unthinkable.While not all churches or traditions stigmatize depression as much as the article depicts, even pastors of the most understanding congregations face a constant and tough choice: if they are honest about their discouragements and even depression, they're likely to bum out even the most sympathetic listeners. And they stand the risk of coming off like a whiner instead of a spiritual leader.
Experts say clergy suicide is a rare outcome to a common problem.
But Baptists in the Carolinas are soul searching after a spate of suicides and suicide attempts by pastors. In addition to the September suicide of David Treadway, two others in North Carolina attempted suicide, and three in South Carolina succeeded, all in the last four years.
Being a pastor — a high-profile, high-stress job with nearly impossible expectations for success — can send one down the road to depression, according to pastoral counselors. (Read the whole USA Today article HERE)
Well, too bad. I see a counselor regularly. I am profiting from various mechanisms for self-care. And I do my best not to hide behind a false facade, if only so my best prayer supporters know how to pray for me.
There's not a pastor I know who wouldn't profit from more attention to self-care. Even shepherds need shelter.