One of my favorite things to do with pastors is to get them away from the busyness of their roles and invite them to join me and a few of their peers at a retreat. We may get together at a beach house near my home in Charleston, or we may go to a Crow Indian reservation in Montana. I ask the pastors to tell us the highs and lows they’ve experienced in the past year. They often talk about something God did in their own lives or their families, such as a long-hoped-for pregnancy, the return of a prodigal child, or a breakthrough at their church.
After each person has talked about the highs, I ask them to be honest about the low points—difficult situations, and heartaches they’ve endured. In this kind of setting and with an invitation to be vulnerable, they find the courage to be brutally honest. Many are obviously struggling, even though they put on a positive face around their staff and the people in their churches. I could tell many of them felt overwhelmed and deeply discouraged.
I’ve realized that a lot of their discouragement comes from self-imposed, unrealistic expectations.
They feel ashamed because they haven’t hit the numbers others have listed in blogs and articles, and they can’t face the shame of not measuring up. They also mention struggles about people leaving the church, finances, and family problems.
If you are feeling discouraged, please know, you are not alone. Others, including me, have walked where you walk. The pages of this magazine are filled with stories like yours, and resources that will help you renew your vision for the future. If you are not already, jump into this ARC Family. We want to see you and your church thrive. That is how we will reach more people with the message of Jesus.