Getting Real About Clergy Support Systems

There are some terrifying stories in Lloyd Rediger’s Clergy Killers. Laity and clergy alike would benefit from reading this, as he describes and gives coping strategies for the different kinds of conflict that one finds in church.  Part of Rediger’s argument, based on service as a counselor to clergy for decades, is that clergy support systems are embarrassingly inadequate:

“The breakdown and malfeasance statistics for clergy are high (upward of 25 percent) and rising. Because the health of the clergy is crucial to the health of the denomination, realistic clergy support is mandatory. This does not imply pampering incompetent and lazy clergy; it means encouraging al clergy toward excellence. It is obvious that traditional assumptions and strategies regrading clergy sport are inadequate. Perhaps clergy, out of self-interest and pastoral concern for their families, and the church, can lead the way.”

(Clergy Killers [Louisville: WJK Press 1997], 144.)

To my clergy colleagues: do you have an adequate support system?

To those in the church who care for their pastoral leaders: are you doing all you can to encourage and resource your pastors for their own spiritual, physical, and emotional well-being?

Never forget: the most dangerous pastor in the world is the lone ranger. We can’t do this alone: we need God, we need each other, we need friends and loved ones. An isolated ministry is a dangerous ministry, for everyone involved.

As go the leaders, so go the church. Healthy institutions require healthy leadership at all levels.  Rediger’s wisdom is a good reminder of this.

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2 thoughts on “Getting Real About Clergy Support Systems”

  1. Being part of a clergy couple makes the question of support systems interestingly tricky. On the one hand, I have an easy accessible colleague who can hear questions, offer ideas, and brainstorm together. On the other hand, that blurs even further the lines between home and office, work and family.

    We’re ministry partners to be sure, but I wonder if clergy couples have an even more pressing need to seek support outside of one another.

    1. John, that’s a really good point, and one I hadn’t even considered. I’m sure it is even more difficult for clergy couples in rural areas with fewer peers, outlets, and other resources. I think you are right; that is a lot of pressure for one couple to bear. Thanks for weighing in.

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