Suffering Well

Suffering well in ministry isn’t easy. This guest post from Krissie Garland, Ministry Director and Counsellor with Care For Pastors shares life and scriptural wisdom from the wife of a pastor who died by suicide. 

Krissie shares some of their story, as well as the questions she faced and faces in the aftermath of her husband’s death.

Krissie will be joining us in the near future as a guest on the LifeSupport Podcast to share more of her story.  Read more about and link to Care For Pastors and A Right Heart below.

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Are FREE For Ministry Use

Visit the blogsite for A Right Heart for the article

Care For Pastors

Care For Pastors has a vision to see every pastoral family persevering in ministry, developing a healthy church, and leading in community transformation.  CFP’s bold mission is 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.  For more than a decade Care For Pastors has come alongside thousands of pastors, spouses and pastors’ kids to provide in person and virtual counselling and coaching as well as on-site week-long counseling for pastors and spouses.

A Right Heart

A Right Heart is a ministry that serves the broken hearted and lifts up the name of God so that people know Him, who is true Hope and Healer of all people. ARH equips and empower people wherever they are on their faith journey, providing tools and resources they can use every single day. Through biblical meditation, devotional blogs, personal testimonies, Bible reading plans, classes, and grief support, the hope of ARH is that you will know God and have a greater revelation of who He is and who He’s always been.

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She Thought She Should Kill Herself

She Thought She Should Kill Herself - She Went To Her Pastor Instead

A pastor told us about a girl who was encouraged to kill herself by other teens online. A few rare and fortunate things happened that may have saved her life.

  • She attended a weekly student ministry.
  • She felt safe approaching her pastor for help.
  • Her pastor recognized that he had a role in caring for the mental health of young people.
  • Her pastor had a process in place to refer her out to professional help.

Most young people are not as fortunate.

  • Many young people have abandoned church (or never attended), in part because they don’t see church as relevant to their life or the struggles they face.
  • Many ministry leaders and volunteers have not been equipped to have serious discussions about life with young people.
  • Sadly, many churches still fail to recognize that Christ and the bible provide answers for the everyday struggles that people face (including mental health struggles).
  • Some churches are still resistant to work with mental health professionals to be part of a community of care for their church family.

The devastating truth is that an alarming number of young people are dying by suicide. The church can be part of the answer to this crisis.  With a small donation, you can help us produce resources that help churches fill their role in saving lives?

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Pastor in Prayer

Youth Suicide Stigma

Stigma Of Suicide in Youth

We’ve been told by pastors, parents, survivors and therapists that churches need resources to address the stigma of youth suicide.  Here’s what Pastor Kevin shared with us.

“Many young people struggle with thoughts of suicide or self-harm during their teen and young adult years, and because of shame and fear, most of them tell no one. The church needs to be a safe place with effective resources to help start difficult conversations.”

There are a number of resources that train people to see the signs and symptoms of suicidal thinking but there aren’t resources designed for student ministry environments that share real stories to help people respond well and have healthy discussions about suicide with young people.

Please consider helping us create these resources to help start discussions, reduce the stigma, and support churches that influence young people for Christ.

Donate to help us at

Read about Justin, a survivor of youth suicide here –

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Suicide Survivors

A Survivor Of Suicide

Justin - A Survivor of Suicide

Justin is a survivor of suicide.  He grew up in a good Christian family.  He grew up in the church and knew Christ since he was a little child. 

In the first grade. He began experiencing mental health issues and depression. Headaches and stomach pain were a common occurrence. Justin didn’t know if there was something was wrong with him, he just didn’t feel right. 

He first experienced suicidal ideations in the third grade. Death was on his mind constantly.  His mental health issues grew over time. By the time he was in high school, Justin knew he was in trouble.

Justin, like so many young people wanted a way out of the pain of depression. Off and on from the ages of 8-19 suicide was Justin’s companion.  Suicide was a way out and it was a way to make the pain stop.  Other people in Justin’s life thought there was something wrong but didn’t know how to help.

There are young people like Justin sitting in our churches, quietly struggling with thoughts of suicide.  Many of them will not survive.  People see that something is wrong but they don’t know how to help.

Will you help us create a resource so people will know how to help?  Visit our GoFundMe to learn more.

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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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