This is written to the struggling leader. I frequently hear from you. Email appears to be a safe place to reach out to someone — and for that I’m thankful. Some of my pastor friends are lonely or about to collapse. There are some business leaders crashing.
Recently, someone emailed me for help and I told them email alone was not enough. As much as I appreciated the opportunity, this pastor needed more. Which prompted a great question.
Where does the Christian leader go for help?
It’s hard, isn’t it? It’s difficult to be transparent. You have an image — a reputation — you want to protect. You’re not sure they will follow you as closely if they know you struggle too. And, the reality is some will even more — and some do have an unrealistic expectation for you to be above the normal struggles of life. It’s tough to know who to trust or who will use the information against you. So, that puts it back in your court.
You know you need help. Where do you go?
Here are 7 suggestions:
God – He’s the obvious answer, isn’t He? But, seriously, have you taken the issue you’re dealing with to God specifically? Maybe you’ve prayed general prayers, but have you been specific with God your needs? It’s not that He doesn’t know — but He longs to hear from His children. Sometimes we don’t have because we don’t ask. Spend some extended, non-sermon writing time in God’s Word and talking to your Father.
Counselor – There is nothing wrong with a pastor or any leader (or anyone) seeing a professional counselor. In fact, there is everything right about it if you have need. They are professional. Confidentiality is always the objection I hear, but in my experience these are professionals. It is the extremely rare exception — just as it is hopefully for pastors — that confidence would ever be broken. The value of the help outweighs the few stories you may have heard or fears you may have.
Coach – There are paid professionals who aren’t counselors necessarily, but their job is to help you think through life — where you’re at and where you’re going. As for the counselor and the coach — there are often associations, denominations and non-profits who will help pay for these services. A dream of mine is to develop a collective resource site with this information. But, it’s worth the time to look for good help. And, if you know some, share them in the comments for others.
Couch – This word seemed to fit, since the last two started with a “C”. You may need rest. Forced if necessary. Sometimes that makes all the difference. It might be an afternoon nap or an extended Sabbatical, but it can be a life saving discipline to stop everything and physically and mentally recover.
For best results, the next three usually require preparation before the crash is eminent, but they are wonderful resources for every leader. I often find, however, that leaders have these in their lives — God often does the preparing for us — but we’ve failed to reach out for help.
Mentor – I have consistently surrounded myself with people wiser than me about an issue. It could be in ministry, finances or family, but I want a human resource of wisdom when I need one. And, when I get to know those who seem like they’ve figured something out with which I’m struggling, I find they once struggled just like me — which is why they make a good mentor.
Friends – “A friend loves at all times and a brother is born for adversity.” The original “phone a friend” option was God-ordained. Use it.
Family – I offer this one with caution. There are times when family is the best place to turn and times when they aren’t. I’m not suggesting hiding from family but sometimes families are too emotionally attached to be objective. But, with that caution, I’d rather see a leader run to family than crash and burn alone.
Struggling leader, be vulnerable. You can recover better and faster if you raise the flag of distress than it you keep the mask covering the suffering.