Mental health and pastoral ministry

God has blessed His Church bountifully with called and ordained pastors who teach, preach and administer the sacraments faithfully. They care for souls within the church and bring God’s life-giving Word to the unchurched as well. For many pastors, the ministry is a joyful vocation. In their service to God’s sheep and lambs, these men are rooted in Scripture, effective and vibrant. They are spiritually mature and resilient, and they inspire confidence among parishioners as they provide both godly spiritual care and capable leadership.

Yet as a Christian clinical psychologist in private practice for 25 years, I’ve met hundreds of faithful pastors who have struggled to find joy in ministry, despite their love for the Lord and their zeal to serve their parishioners. Some were distressed, discouraged, depleted or clinically depressed. Others were anxious and weary, reeling from personal attacks, financial crises or churchly divisions. Most of these pastors admitted that their personal psychological and spiritual needs had not been tended to. Over 70 percent of the LCMS pastors I’ve met clinically acknowledged that they had never spoken with a brother they considered to be their personal pastor. They were even less likely to have sought psychological care.

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