An experienced priest, a friend whose wisdom I value a lot, recently pointed to a blog post, Healthy Leader, Healthy Church. Some people could too easily be put off by that post’s language and theology, but the central message is, I think, very important.
Churches are, so often, places of emotional unhealthiness. And that includes emotionally-unhealthy theological beliefs (the lenses through which we interpret our experiences, and make decisions). Clergy and church leaders often preach wellness and live unhealthily. Lay people are often overworked, so that enthusiastic lay leaders are burnt out, and the next one comes up to fill the gap – only to go through a similar experience.
Sure, there is something wrong with a Christian community if a person with emotional issues doesn’t feel welcome – every good Christian community will have people struggling with significant emotional issues.
The article focused on five headings, drawn from the work of Dr. Pete Scazzero, about unhealthy emotional spirituality for church leaders. Working on these flows over into a healthy church community.
Here are the five headings from the article with a couple of quotes from it:
Using God to run away from God
I often write about means and ends (goals), and distinguishing them clearly. God is our goal. Ministry is one means to that goal. Once we make ministry our end, our goal, however delightful it is, however successful it is, that is an idol, it is a god. Instead of worshiping God, we worship the ministry God has called us to.
Ignoring the emotions of anger, sadness, and fear
Dying to the wrong things
Pastor, what do you enjoy outside of ministry? Church leader, are you having fun in life? Do you enjoy your marriage and family? Do you have real friends?…Ministry leaders need to take time away from the places and people they serve in order to refresh themselves.
Denying the past’s impact on the present
Dividing our lives into secular and sacred components
We begin to see ministry as a job instead of a calling. We begin to see preaching or leading the staff as our ministry, yet we miss that serving our spouse and parenting our children is our first, and most important, ministry.
What do you think of this list?
Can you add other points to this list?