Pastoral Care

Who Is Carrying The Weight?

Six Strategies To Manage the Weight Of Ministry

The popular TV show Survivor features tribes of people competing to survive under challenging circumstances.  Each episode includes some kind of challenge where tribes face off in a physical contest. One such contest provides an analogy for the pressures and toll that affects clergy and churches today.

The Challenge

In this game, each tribe member carries a backpack containing an amount of weight equal to a percentage of their body weight. This ensures that everyone gets an equal chance to succeed and that the load is fairly distributed throughout the tribe. Once weighted, tribe members start walking under the weight of their packs. The rules for this challenge state that once the tribe starts moving, individual members can drop out. But, when each person makes the decision they can’t go on anymore, they must hand their weighted pack off to one of the other tribe members who continue to walk. The start of this challenge is fairly boring as everyone is pretty comfortable with their reasonable load. Eventually, the elements start to effect the contestants as sun, heat, rain, poor footing, or insects take their toll. One by one, tribe members tire and begin to drop out.

How It Ends

As individuals leave the contest, the tribe needs to choose who will carry the load for those who can no longer go on. In nearly every group there is one person who others see as the strongest. Tribes do their best to keep one or two of these folks around as long as possible so they have someone to handle the big challenges. As more and more individuals stop walking with their weight, these strong one or two tribe members end up carrying the lions share of weight for their group. The challenge concludes with one final tribe member bearing the tribe’s entire load. The contest is over when, finally the strongest member reaches a breaking point when they either collapse under the weight, or simply give up and quit moving.

Surviving The Ministry Load

If you work in ministry, the parallels between this Survivor challenge and your work are obvious.  Here are six strategies you can apply to the collective weight of your ministry tribe.

  1. Divide The Load Wisely – Identify the weight that everyone is designed to carry.  Everyone who works in ministry is well aware of their gifts and strengths. If you are in a staff leadership position, take the time to reflect on which specific responsibilities feel heaviest to your team members. Is there any way to relieve a bit of the burden or to temporarily redistribute specific tasks?  Many staff conflict issues arise out of a misunderstanding of everyone’s role and who is carrying the most weight. In any role there are invisible weights that other team members aren’t aware of.  Make sure everyone knows how hard others are working to carry their share of the weight.
  2. Make The Weight Seem Lighter – Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11(ESV)    If you lead staff members, encourage your team at every opportunity, but deploy your church Body too.  Your church is filled with people who have been given the gift of encouragement.  Know who these people are and ask them to help lift up your staff.  Consider building an exhortation team for your staff.
  3. Observe Your Team Wisely – Most leaders believe that they are skilled at judging others and select who they see as strong team members.  Great leaders recognize that strength ebbs and flows.  Just because someone has always been strong in the past doesn’t mean they are strong today.  Even the strongest people are affected by the challenges of life.  Often the stronger a team member, the less likely they are to share their struggles.  They may be emotionally exhausted and weak at home and in the car on the way to work, but as soon as they walk into the office they turn on the “strong” switch because that’s what they’ve always been and what they believe is expected of them.  Great leaders don’t rely on appearance to judge strength, they take the time and create processes that allow them to evaluate how team members are doing on an ongoing basis.
  4. Add New Tribe Members – How can you engage others to pick up part of the load?  We all know that the work load increases at times during seasons of the ministry year or during times of growth.  Take the time to prioritize and make strategic decisions about what weight you absolutely have to carry and what could be handed off to others.  Are there people like former staff members, high level volunteers, seminary students, or others who can pick up the weight of a few specific tasks for a short term assignment?
  5. Maybe You Don’t Have to Do Everything – We all suffer from Shiny Object Syndrome (SOS) at times.  We read about a new mission, outreach strategy, Sunday school curriculum, leadership book, ministry conference, technical gizmo, etc. and we want to put it to use in our organization.  Most of us have run across someone who flits from one new thing to another like a hummingbird.  They have a lot of frantic movement and energy, but they’re hard to keep track of, and they sometime aren’t too productive.  One strategy that helps me avoid SOS is to limit change related decisions to four specific times per year.  Each quarter, I schedule time to sit down and strategize about new projects, initiatives, even to make decisions about what books I’m going to read.  These decisions aren’t hard and fast, but they help me avoid being distracted by the newest shiny object in my world.
  6. Sometimes You Just Need to Stop and Trust – Recognize that no person or organization is capable of succeeding without God.  If you find that you have become the last person in the challenge and that the weight of your tribe is too much to bear, hand it all off to God and stop walking.  Trust that he will keep moving for you all.

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Bringing Your Mess To Church Is A Good Thing

Helping People Talk About Mental Health

There are lots of reasons people don’t like to talk about mental health struggles. 

  • We don’t want to make others uncomfortable
  • We don’t like to be seen as weak
  • We’re afraid of professional repercussions
  • We think we’ll be treated differently
  • If we talk about our problems we’ll have to actually do something about them. 

When it comes to church, some people believe that their personal issues won’t be welcome or that the messiness of life doesn’t belong at church. 

For those who work in church ministry, being open with mental health struggles can be very challenging.  Pastors and other ministry workers can feel a pressure to be examples of some imaginary Christian ideal. Church staff also carry the weight of always needing to “be there” for others, which makes it easy to set their own struggles aside so they can focus on caring for others. 

The Mess Belongs In Church

There are people in every church who are simply consumers.  They show up each week with expectations of what church should look like.  These people often don’t like change and they don’t want to see messiness.  If you are reading this you probably see the value in welcoming the messiness of life.  The “Consumers” need your help to see that when people can bring their mess to church, authentic discussion can happen and it becomes possible to talk about the way God fits in even the ugly parts of life.  One of the important jobs of ministry is to help everyone in the church see that dealing with the mess is an essential part of who the church is.  One of the most important, ugly things to talk about is suicide.

Suicide Isn’t Going Anywhere

  • The number of suicides in the United States is rising dramatically from 36,900 in 2009 to more than 48,000 a decade later.
  • Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States.
  • Every 40 seconds, someone in the world is dying of suicide. Every 40 seconds. Let that sink in.  Since you started reading this post, at least two people have died by suicide.
  • Every year, over a million people, worldwide, die of suicide.

Before His Death By Suicide, One Pastor Shared His Wisdom For The Church

Fortunately, there are simple solutions for stigma of mental health in the church.

You don’t have to be a trained counselor or therapist to stop stigma in its tracks.

“Here is what we have to realize: You don’t have to do a lot to help a lot,” said Jarrid Wilson on The Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast.

Wilson was a pastor at Harvest Christian Fellowship Church in Riverside, CA who struggled with mental health for many years.  His death by suicide in 2019 shocked the world and brought much-needed attention to the topic of mental health in the church.

“The reality is, if the local church wants to be the hope of the world, then it needs to step into situations that people find themselves hopeless, and one of those things is mental health,” Wilson said. “That doesn’t mean you have to suddenly create 40 books, or a curriculum…you can literally stand on a stage and say, ‘Hey, I know a lot of you are dealing with depression and suicidal thoughts right now, I just want you to know, as leaders of this church, we love you, we care about you, we know that is the battle you are dealing with and we will be here to support you. If you are struggling, don’t be ashamed. Come talk to us.’ That right there, just talking about it, is what will end the stigma and could literally save lives because then someone might be like, ‘Wow, I am not ashamed because I can talk to someone about this because my church has my back.’”

Simply talking about mental health and welcoming those to just come share about it is the first, and biggest, step to ending stigma in your church.

4 Ways To Help Your Church

  1. Start With Your Team – Make sure your church staff knows that it’s okay to bring their mess to work with them.  Build in processes and opportunities for sharing, staff to staff support teams, and bring in or refer staff to trusted mental health professionals when needed.
  2. Lead By Example – If you work in ministry, start by talking about any struggles you have.  If you teach from the platform, be willing to let your church family in and show them that it’s okay to talk about these subjects. Help them see that God can be part of their struggles and their solutions.
  3. Be Prepared to Respond – Make sure your staff members (and lay-leaders) have the information and equipping they need to respond when someone comes to them with real life struggles. Be prepared with referral information to appropriate professionals.  If you are in Minnesota and are looking for a Christian mental health professional in your area, check out our directory here with listing by city.
  4. Offer Training to Your Church – at LifeSupport, we offer churches our Caring For Mental Health curriculum free of charge to help equip the Body of the Church to come alongside others in need of support. Get more info, access, and/or facilitator training here.

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Facing Anxiety In A Fear Based Society

I received a phone call the other day…

This is never a good way to start a conversation when you’re in the ministry. Growing up a pastor’s kid and being a pastor’s wife for so many years, phone calls immediately gave me anxiety. They continue to make my heart stop a beat, to this day. A respected friend tagged it “PTMSD” Post Traumatic Ministry Stress Disorder. Many of you who are reading this can relate to this type of anxiety. The unknown of what will happen next, the fear of who will stand by you, the question of how it will affect your family and your spouse’s job are all real possibilities.

The definition of anxiety is as follows: “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.” However, when the definition invites its way into our own personal lives and stories, it doesn’t quite describe the crippling fear that so many of us face when the “unknowns” become our reality.

I am reminded of this anxiety every time I turn on the news or open my phone or computer–the panic of the unknown and the jolt of our greatest fears coming true. I did receive a phone call the other day from a young pastor and his wife. This young pastor was forced to cut his childcare workers and take a pay decrease due to the virus, COVID-19. Unless you are in the midst of ministry, most people wouldn’t think of the stress, the helplessness, and the fears that we face serving in a church. The church is still held to the same high standards that we always were. Now, we are expected to completely change the way we do church because everything has changed around us, and so much has changed in such a short time! Yet through this change, and in this crisis, there is forced surrender to things we can’t control.

Here’s the other side to it: In that surrender, we find ourselves in a place where there is an opportunity—an opportunity to give it to the Lord, an opportunity to minister without walls, an opportunity to grow spiritually, and an opportunity to serve in new and inventive ways. In our surrender, forced or chosen, we can remember that no season is wasted and we can proclaim the truths of Scripture. We now have the chance to live out what we spend our life teaching others. One of the best things I’ve learned in my lifetime of ministry is that surrender is not giving up. It is giving in to God’s plan. The same God we know in the good, will be the same in the bad. During this time, I’m constantly proclaiming these truths over my life, over the lives of pastors and their families, and over the lives of friends and family:

Psalm 94:19 – “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.”

Hebrews 12:2-3 – “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

I don’t know your individual stories. I may not even understand them, because I do not walk in your shoes. I do know that we have at least one thing in common: no matter how difficult our circumstance may be, we each serve the Lord Jesus, who …“is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

As a counselor, I work with anxiety on a daily basis. I work with pastor’s families, laypeople, Christians, and non-Christians. I often struggle with anxiety. Sometimes it can get so bad that you feel that nothing will make it lessen or go away. But as many can testify, it can go away and usually does. I encourage you to utilize some tools suggested below. Make your own list of things that may help you when you’re feeling like your anxiety is affecting you. Remember that our ministry, Care for Pastors, will pray for you as you are going through these changes and challenging times.

Tools to help with Anxiety:

  • Identify it as anxiety and say it out loud to the Lord
  • Write it down and/or journal about it
  • Prayer/Meditation: See example below
  • Deep Breathing: See example below
  • Walk outside
  • Call a friend
  • Exercise
  • Speak with a Counselor
  • Share or reach out to the women on The Confidante
  • Utilize Care for Pastors Resources

Exercises for you to download:

About The Author

Krissie Garland is the PK Ministry Director/Counselor for Care for Pastors, an organization with the mission to  uphold pastoral families in ministry by providing the safest place for them to turn, an ongoing relationship of encouragement and counsel, and resources that ignite growth in the pastor’s family, church and community.

Krissie was born and raised in Texas. She has two amazing boy/girl twins, Joah and Selah. Krissie is a Licensed Professional Counselor in the state of Texas. She holds a Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Counseling from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. For over 8 years, Krissie has counseled with people of all ages and from all different backgrounds. Her experience and training have prepared her to work with individuals and families struggling with depression, anxiety, parenting, grief, and everyday life stressors. Krissie has an extensive background working with local churches and ministries. She grew up a Pastor’s kid and served in the ministry alongside her husband for eight years.

Krissie shares more of her story on the LifeSupport Podcast.

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Facing Mental Illness As A Church Leader

Pastoring Through Mental Illness

Facing mental illness as a church leader is scary.  Pastors and church leaders are held to a high standard. But what about those who have a mental illness? Are they capable of doing the work of the Lord?

A LifeSupport Podcast welcomed a man with a captivating story as he shared his struggle with Bi-Polar Disorder while pastoring and the hopelessness he felt. His story shows that there is always hope in Christ and God can use anyone no matter the illness or disease.

Pastor Brad Hoefs

Brad was loving his growing church. He became a senior pastor at just 29 years old and his church was one of the fastest-growing churches in North America and word was spreading all over about it. He was determined and driven by his work, and it was his life.

This led to hypomania as Brad delved deeper and deeper into his work. An attempt to relocate his church brought on a dispute with the city and that led to more and more stress. This is when he started to experience some different kinds of behavior associated with mania. But he believed he could handle things and didn’t want to tell anyone about it.

Then out of nowhere, something went wrong. Terribly wrong.

Brad had a manic episode in public, he was ticketed for it, and it was all over the news. He was forced to resign from his position. A group of people came to him and told him that they believed this was mental illness and not sin. This same group ended up starting their own church and asked Brad to pastor it.

Brad took a lot of time off to get better and went back to pastoring. However, everyday was still a struggle. After seven years of pastoring at the church, he went back off the rails mentally when he mixed his medication. Another manic episode landed him in the hospital, and he was in the news again.

In an attempt to learn more about Bi-Polar Disorder, Brad attended some small groups. Unfortunately, though, each time he left these groups, he felt more hopeless as they did nothing to help, but talk about how bad and difficult the disorder was. Brad was desperate for something that was hopeful, and faith based.

Without any luck, Brad decided to start his own group and over the years that group grew into several groups all over the world.

Mental Illness is a ‘Brain Problem,’ Not a Sin Problem

In the LifeSupport Podcast, Brad explained the depths of mental illness in hopes that others would have a better understanding of what it is.

  1. Mental illness is a result of a broken world – Like any other disease or illness, mental illness is the result of a broken and sinful world. This does not mean the person with the disease is more sinful than a healthier person. Brad said this fact gave him solace and more hope in knowing that.
  2. Mental illnesses are ‘unseen’ – Unlike other illnesses that have physical ailments, mental illnesses are ‘unseen,’ meaning you can look at someone and have no idea. The symptoms from Bi-Polar disease are the behaviors or thoughts that come from having a ‘bad brain.’
  3. Compassion is required for mental illness – Brad said he believes the church needs to understand the functions of the brain to really understand mental illnesses and people suffering from them. He says the same level of compassion needs to be brought to these people, just like people with other kinds of illnesses.
  4. There is hope for people with mental illnesses – Brad mentioned that anyone with a mental illness can live well if they receive the proper treatment and receive the proper care.
  5. Love is needed – As simple as it sounds, loving someone with a mental illness can make the biggest difference in someone’s life. Many people with mental illnesses have trouble loving themselves and despite the challenges, someone coming into their life and loving them for who they are can bring the hope that person needs.

Fresh Hope is There for Those With Mental Illnesses

After starting his own mental health group, it took off. Now Brad is the founder of a ministry called Fresh Hope For Mental Health a safe place for people to process their pain and guide and support them along with their loved ones.

God is now using Brad in ways he never imagined. He is now able to help many people who have the same struggles he once did. Brad wrote a book called ‘Fresh Hope: Living Well in Spite of a Mental Health Diagnosis. He is also a State-certified Intentional Peer Support Specialist, and he was appointed by the Governor of Nebraska to serve on the State Advisory Committee on Mental Health Services.


We created to help you start discussions about mental health, to help remove stigma so people can find hope and healing through God. We pray that LifeSupport helps you grow your church.

Please email any comments to [email protected]

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A pastor wrestling with his thoughts

A Pastor’s Suicide

Table of Contents

Suicide Among Pastors is a Real Possibility in Your World

Suicide among pastors occurs for similar reasons as in any other group of people.  But, suicide among pastors seems different somehow.  In some ways we hold pastors to a different standard.  In our ignorance, we think they shouldn’t react to struggles and mental illness the way the rest of us do. Some pastors hold onto this impossible view of themselves too.  Suicide is a major killer in America and is almost always attached to mental illness. Those with suicidal thoughts usually have little to no hope, experience tremendous pain, and often feel alone.  Pastors and other church leaders are not immune to mental illness or to thoughts of suicide.

Andrew Stoeklein was a young pastor who was on fire for God who experienced significant mental health struggles.  In a recent LifeSupport Podcast, Andrew’s wife Kayla shared the painful story of the events that led up to Andrew’s suicide and what she learned from it.

Ministry leaders can learn some important lessons about mental health and suicide from the insight she received after these traumatic experiences.


National Suicide Prevention Lifeline


Faith Does Not Eliminate Mental Illness

Kayla described her husband as someone who dedicated his life to God. Andrew, was the son of a pastor and when his father passed away, the torch of pastoring the church was passed on to him. Andrew was still growing as a pastor and this was a big role to fill.  People place a lot of expectations on ministry leaders (and themselves).  When it comes to mental health, those expectations are often unrealistic.

“I think the biggest misconception is that when someone has enough faith, they love God, spending enough time in scripture, that they’ll never struggle with their mental illness,” Kayla said.

Take it from a pastor’s wife… “having all the faith in the world cannot keep you safe from mental illnesses.” And yet, in the presence of mental illness, some churches question a person’s faith, addressing the sin in their lives in an attempt to diagnose the issue.

“There is also a misconception that mental illness, like depression and anxiety, is something that can be treated right away,” Kayla said. “And I think those misconceptions are harmful, I think they are hurtful, and I think that they are not accurate.”

Mental Illness is a Physical Illness

Our church culture has differentiated mental illness from other illness and that has created a stigma around it that creates shame and guilt for those battling it.

Kayla made the point that we must view mental illness like other illnesses and health issues.

“It is a real physical illness,” she said. “Andrew had a real chemical imbalance happening in his mind, his mind was really sick. It’s a pain problem. You know, it was this real physical illness, it wasn’t a choice. He never would have chosen this.”

God Never Abandons Those Struggling With Mental Health

Just because you have a mental illness or your loved one has a mental illness, does not mean that God is not present in the situation.

We live in a fallen world, which brings disease and death to all mankind. Mental illnesses are a part of that fallen state, and Christians of all kinds will be impacted by it.

“I would say keep showing up,” Kayla said. “If you feel like God is silent, if you feel like God’s not there, I would say keep allowing yourself the space to sit with him. None of us are exempt from those desert seasons, you know, they come for us all. But I truly believe that God has promised to be there with us, and I think he is there with us whether we feel like he is or not.”

Suicide Among Pastors is a Real Possibility in Your World

  • It’s hard for pastors to feel like they can show any weakness.

  • It’s hard for pastors to feel like they have the space to be human.

Apply This Information

  • Define a safe, non-judgmental process in your organization (with specific people responsible) that allows ministry leaders to safely reach out for help when they are struggling with any mental health issue including suicidal thoughts.
  • Educate all ministry leaders on suicide prevention resources. We recommend LivingWorks prevention training 
  • As a leader, deciding how much to share about yourself can be difficult. Develop advisors or consult team members who can pray, guide, and encourage you through these decisions.
  • When deciding how much to share, ask yourself what positive outcome could come from your transparency for someone who is suffering a similar struggle.
  • Plan an annual mental health message series for your church. Enlist church staff/leaders to contribute their own struggles for illustration purposes.  We have a library of short sermon transition videos with stories of mental health struggles at

Kayla Stoeklein is the author of the book “Fear Gone Wild,” which addresses mental health issues and how to walk alongside someone with mental illness.

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Church Staff Meeting

Maintaining A Healthy Church Staff

* Including the Free Video Resource with Scott Rideout.

Maintaining a healthy church staff is a challenge in the best of times.  The world we live in today makes that job even more difficult.  In a recent LifeSupport Podcast, we were joined by Scott Rideout, President of the Converge movement of churches.  Scott shared these 4 key strategies to help your team stay mentally and emotionally healthy to do the work of ministry.

Avoid Decision Fatigue

  • You don’t need to make every decision. Let your team help you.
  • Innovation has a price tag. Moving forward may feel expensive but if you have the resources it’s always okay to pay a fair price for something of value.

Focus On Advancing The Gospel

  • The gospel work of your church starts with your team. If your team isn’t healthy, your church can’t flourish.  Enlist the Body in new ways to fortify your team.
  • Empower you team to help the people of your church step into opportunities to scatter your ministry into the community.

Stay Connected

  • Make the most of your meeting times.
  • Connect to God, to each other, to training, and to mission.

Have The Right Mindset

3 foundational attitudes (to have and to model) for ministry survival

  • Humility – It’s okay to not have all the answers.
  • Gratefulness – Focus on what you have and model joy.
  • Generosity – As a team, you are living for something bigger than yourselves.

Content for this was originally presented as part of the weekly LifeSupport Podcast, available through the LifeSupport YouTube Channel, or on the Faith Radio Network.

A Free Video Resource

We Can Help You Equip Your Healthy Church Staff

The LifeSupport Library of resources has been built in consultation with church leaders like you, along with a team of Christian mental health professionals to bring you practicaltools to help you equip others for ministry.  Contact us if you are looking for resources you can’t find on our site.

Looking For Ways To Engage Your Church For Care?

Our Worst Loss Conference is designed specifically for church staff and ministry leaders to help you create a culture of support that engages your church to come alongside those who are going through pain and suffering.

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