Testimony of a Pastor’s Wife (Mine!)

The spouses of pastors often find themselves in a more isolated world of hurt than the pastors themselves. Thus, the need for CPR for spouses is just as great. If you are interested in helping to start CPR for spouses of pastors in your area, please complete the “survey” you can link to on this page that will let us know of your interest.

My wife, Julie, recognized the need in her own life and courageously chose not to wait for a spouse group to come available at the time, but travelled the 12 Step journey with a group of ladies connected to our church’s Celebrate Recovery ministry. I asked her for permission to share her testimony here with you and she graciously agreed. I trust it will bless and encourage you as it has others.



“Hi. I am a believer in Jesus Christ who struggles with being an adult child of family dysfunction. My name is Julie.

As long as I can remember my family went to church. My uncle was the pastor, my father was a deacon and my mother was the Sunday school secretary of our small neighborhood church. I loved church so much; I would pretend and play “church” just like I would play “school” or “dolls”. Church attendance was an activity I never questioned. We were there whenever the doors were open. I’m thankful for the opportunities I had as a child learning truths from the Bible that my aunt taught me in Sunday school. My interest and love for music was encouraged and nurtured in my church. Even though it was small, my church was an extended family that loved me very much.

At home, though, we lived out secrets that were never mentioned at church. On one side of the coin was a family who were founders and pillars of a church and on the other side were secrets of verbal abuse, affairs, sexual abuse, lies, alcohol and drug abuse.

Growing up I never would have labeled my family as dysfunctional. I knew deep down we had issues as a family but how does a person know what is or isn’t normal when dysfunction is all they’ve ever been around? We were who we were! Don’t get me wrong. There were some happy times; we had fun family times on the lake water skiing and fishing; through the years, relatives from out of town would often visit and stay with us in our home; my mother DAILY prepared a delicious home cooked meal for us and mother and daddy were my biggest supporters in my piano lessons. In fact, my dad would lie on the couch and listen to me play the piano for hours! But as I have discovered in recovery, we were a poster family of dysfunction.

And, I pretty much did everything I could to keep anyone at school from knowing much about my home. I was evasive. I didn’t want friends to come over to my house because I would never know when my father would be yelling at my mother, criticizing her or belittling her. When he wasn’t doing that he was usually quiet. Embarrassingly quiet. My mother would hardly ever respond back to my father and when she did, daddy would reprimand her as if she was a child.

My mother was a stay at home mom, pretty much sacrificing her personality and identity. She seemed to deny herself from hobbies and friendships. She still made sure, though, she did not deny herself of getting her hair done every Friday at 11AM! During the week, between her beauty shop appointments, mother would wrap her hair up in toilet paper to protect her teased hair! She had such a fun personality under all her toilet paper. I remember, though, being terribly frustrated, even as a little girl at mother. I felt like she could be so much more than what she was. She was bright, beautiful and fun loving, yet, she seemed so suppressed or locked up.

I recall a time I was in the car with my mother when we had been doing errands. We were near my father’s workplace. We passed by my father’s truck. He was driving and sitting right next to him under his arm was another woman. My mother didn’t say a single word. She kept driving. I didn’t say anything, either. There was another day around that same time period when I was with my mother and she drove by a house where my father’s truck was parked. Even at a young age, I knew that my dad should not have been at that house. I was so sad because I could tell my mother was heartbroken. I recollect another memory in my father’s upholstery shop, which was in the basement of our home. I loved hanging around him and making pillows on his sewing machine. I opened the basement door of the shop and obviously surprised my dad with his “female helper”. To my knowledge there was never any type of confrontation on the issue of my father’s obvious problem with affairs. It was a mute subject. It was one of many secrets in our family that was swept under the rug.

My parents weren’t the only ones to keep secrets. I learned early that keeping secrets was the way we functioned. One of my secrets was that a boy that lived one block from our house sexually abused me as a child. He was my brother’s friend. When the neighborhood boys would play ball or army he would stay behind and visit with me. Of course, I loved the attention. I was only seven years old. The boy was in junior high school and it was fun to be included. There was a neighborhood tree house that had been built across the street from our home. We would meet alone in the tree house when all the other kids were away playing. He would show me pictures from magazines and books that young innocent eyes should have never been exposed to. He introduced me to situations I wasn’t prepared or able to handle at a young age. He would assure me it was all right. By never telling my parents about what happened in the tree

house I set myself up for a lifetime of lying and avoidance of truth.

I have two older brothers. Paul, who is now deceased, and Steve. Paul was our “Bubba”. We called him that with much love, admiration and endearment. He was very charismatic, fun loving and a leader who carried more responsibility for his family than he probably should have. I’m sure he knew the secrets, too. As I reflect back on the past, I believe Bubba tried to smooth over many rough times by talking to my mother on the phone when my father was stoic and cold or angry and volatile toward her. Bubba was the one that would provide a peaceful place by encouraging me to have my friends over to his and my sister in law’s home because he knew the chaos of yelling either by my dad towards my mom or my other brother, Steve, towards my mom. He and my sister in law would be the ones to attend most of my extra curricular school activities. I remember my friends would think that they were my parents. There were times I wish I had lived with them instead of my own home. Bubba would also bale Steve out of many situations so mother and daddy wouldn’t be bothered or get upset with “who knows what all” Steve was involved with.

Steve was someone who could have possibly benefitted from adolescent counseling or

therapy, but it just wasn’t the thing to do in the sixties and early seventies. Honestly, even if it was, I believe my parents would have been too prideful to pursue help of that nature. Remember…our family kept secrets. Steve was not one to engage with others socially. He was a loner. I believe he probably had a low self-esteem as a child and adolescent. Steve fulfilled his deep, deep void of loneliness with alcohol, drugs and pornography. My parents never held him accountable to much of anything. It was as if they had their heads buried in the ground unable to face the truth that Steve needed help. The sad story is Steve is now a 58-year-old homeless man who is still addicted to drugs, alcohol and pornography searching for something or someone to fill his void.

When my husband, Hess, began to talk about a ministry called, “Celebrate Recovery” I wondered if this might be something God could use to help my brother, Steve. When I heard the life transforming testimonies given by people involved with Celebrate Recovery it gave me hope for him.

So, I began my first CR step study in 2008 thinking it would give me the tools to deal with my brother. However, I did not complete my first step study. Guess when I quit? If you said during the 4th step you are correct! When we got to the personal inventory part, it was too personal! Of course, after quitting I was ashamed and felt really unspiritual because I, the pastor’s wife, could not finish a step study. I was also prideful blaming the reasons for not completing the study on my very busy schedule filled with commitments I had convinced myself were much more important than a CR step study. Instead of getting real I was staying busy.

I started another step study in September 2010, and knew without a doubt that after the first lesson, the CR step study was for me. My brother, Steve’s, issues were out in the open and obvious to everyone. But my issues were hidden. Secrets buried for many, many years. I realized after the first lesson (the second time around) I had been living in denial for a long, long time. I realized I needed recovery from habits that were embarrassing and shameful. I needed healing from hurts that I had been stuffing way deep down inside. My hang-ups were forming all around me and I was literally getting to the point that I was becoming irreversibly hardened to the idea of God ever being able to change me for His purpose. After the first lesson in September 2010, my prayer to God was, ‘O.K. God. It is now or never. I can’t wear my mask of ‘pastor’s wife’ anymore. This is the raw me. I’m going to be honest. I choose to be transparent. I know honesty is the only way we are going to get anywhere. I don’t want this to be like all of the other Bible studies, conferences or trainings I’ve gone to in the past. I want this to work. If it doesn’t, I think I’m done.’

In the first lesson of the step study it says that we are “as sick as our secrets”. I grew up in a family with many secrets and I learned in childhood and adolescence how to keep my own. These secrets included misusing alcohol during high school. Alcohol was readily available among my friends. I also discovered I could order alcohol in certain restaurants without being carded. And with my impulsive nature, I had no boundaries as far as knowing when to stop drinking. I was involved in wrong relationships and I found myself lying to anyone and everyone to cover up my impulsive and compulsive behaviors. Unfortunately I carried the damaging habits of my lies, my impulsiveness and compulsiveness into adult life as well. Where it has been most damaging has been in my marriage. I would often lie or be evasive with Hess, particularly in relationship to our money. I also chose to be isolated from others because I feared anyone knowing that I had struggles. I didn’t want anyone to know that I was not perfect, which is so prideful. I thought I could not allow anyone, including my family, know how sick I was because of my secrets. So, I wore a mask at church, work and at home…a mask of a person that was non-challant and happy go lucky. At times, though, I could not maintain that mask, especially at home. I would often erupt in unexplained anger and rage with Hess and the girls. My daughters would sometimes refer to me as the “Incredible Hulk” although there was nothing incredible about it.

I thought I was successful at wearing a mask. I thought I was getting away with living a lie. I really didn’t think anyone knew but they did. Most of all my family. My denial of who I was and what I had experienced had kept me in the dark for many years. My life was a type of a tornado on the inside just waiting to spew out. In God’s word it says: ‘They cried to the Lord in their troubles, and he rescued them! He led them from their darkness and shadow of death and snapped their chains.’ Psalm 107: 13-14. When I began my step study in 2010, I literally cried out to the Lord and He was faithful to rescue me! He was the only one who could snap the chains of secrets that had been built up in me for years. I realized that I was not God and I admitted to Him that I was powerless to control my tendency to do the wrong things and that my life was unmanageable even though I was in church whenever the doors were open.

Working through the twelve steps and eight principles of Celebrate Recovery has been the tool God continues to use to break the cycle of the insanity created in my life that has been filled with lies and secrets. God is literally giving me the “serenity to accept the things that I cannot change and the courage to change the things I can.” I’m so grateful to Him for not giving up on me.

Now when I go to church, I’m not wearing a mask. I am soaking up every sermon preached, every scripture read, every testimony shared, every song that is sung and every bit of fellowship and communication shared with others knowing how fortunate I am to be a part of a community of people that are choosing to live out God’s purpose. I make sure I share any potential “secrets” and confess them either with my sponsor, some of my accountability girlfriends, with my husband or with one (or all) of my daughters.

God didn’t give up on me and I need to tell you He did not give up on my father, either. In 1980, when my father was almost 60 years old, he committed his whole life to Jesus Christ. The same man that was filled with anger and selfishness so many years became a sincere and faithful worshiper of the Lord Jesus Christ. I’m so thankful God allowed me to experience the joy of watching my dad grow in His relationship with Jesus before he passed away. As difficult as it is at times, I still have hope for my brother, Steve. I know the Lord wants to meet Steve where he is. I know only God has the power to heal him.

I don’t want to pick the mask back up again. I want to be exactly who God has created me to be. Like the Apostle Paul says in Philippians, ‘Dear brothers and sisters, I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing; Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven.’

Thank you for letting me share!”


We’ve talked for some time now about the need for a safe place where pastors can find help and healing for their hurts, habits, and hang-ups. That’s the purpose of CPR (Celebrate Pastors in Recovery). But something we haven’t talked about nearly enough is the need for a safe place where spouses of pastors can find help and healing. The need is just as great, if not more so. The depth of feelings of isolation, loneliness, and fear in the midst of struggles is often greater for spouses than for pastors.

Several years ago an old college friend and his wife were leading a church in the Midwest. They went through a period of time in which they experienced some struggles in their marriage- nothing of an immoral nature, just struggles. She needed a friend in whom she could confide and who would be a prayer partner concerning the need. There was only one woman in the church she felt she could completely trust. That woman was a little older and had been one of the apparent spiritual leaders among the women of the church for many years. One morning, my friend’s wife bared her soul to this church leader as a confidant. Well, you probably know where this story is heading. Turns out, the woman was not trustworthy at all. And it was only a brief time later that other key leaders in the church were made aware of my friends’ struggles. To make a longer story shorter, my friend ended up having to leave that church, both of them tragically broken over the betrayal that had taken place.

Pastor’s spouses, just as much as pastors, desperately need a safe place where they can find healing, too. That’s where CPR groups for spouses can be of critical help. Listen to the following two testimonials I have received in recent weeks from pastor’s spouses who have courageously walked through the 12 steps of Celebrate Recovery in a CPR group for spouses…

Being a pastor’s wife can sometimes demand perfection from this world. I believe it’s easy to feel pressure from this world to be someone we’re not. I am a child of God dealing with sin, striving to accept His grace daily, realizing that the enemy desires for my life to be entangled by his lies, yet my Savior is beckoning me to freedom everyday. And I’m understanding more and more that I cannot do this alone. What a beautiful thing…I don’t have to walk alone, none of us do. My pride, control issues, codependency issues, and performance addictions can destroy me. But with the help of my Heavenly Father, my spouse, accountability team, and others around me, I can strive to walk with freedom with true joy on this earth, as I look forward to being supremely happy with our Father one day. I am grateful… for the Lord’s work in and through this ministry. I am thankful for brokenness, and for a group of women who know me well enough to encourage me, ask me hard questions, pray for me, and love me. I am grateful for a program that is a tool to help find healing and restoration from our Jesus. Praying others will journey through this someday.

Being in the position I was in as a pastor’s wife put me at a disadvantage when it came to discussing the real hard and very deep things that people experience. I felt that I couldn’t share the ugly stuff for fear that people would view me or my husband differently than the position that we held. I needed to look like I held it together at all times. But the truth was that I faced all sorts of struggles and trials… I found that being a part of a CPR step study group for pastor’s wives was truly a blessing. I discovered that my struggles aren’t isolated to just me. We all have stuff! I got to share without feedback or fear. You don’t realize how much vocalizing your heart can also help heal it. It was a wonderful experience to have been a part of that group of women. I no longer believe that I am singled out because I happen to be married to a pastor but I am responsible for allowing God to use my hurts, hang-ups and habits to glorify Himself.

Help spread the word. The need is enormous. We are ready and willing to be of help any way we can in getting CPR groups started for pastors and for spouses. If you are interested or you know someone who may be, complete the 4-question interest survey in the “Connect” box on the right hand side of this page and you’ll receive a confidential reply from us shortly.


I am and lead a church that is a cooperating member of the Southern Baptist Convention. I grew up in an SBC church. I was there from the first time I pooped in my diapers until I left for college. When I say I was there, I mean every Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, and many days and nights in between for eighteen years- with the exception of vacation or highly contagious illness. And, I am deeply grateful that for all those years I was blessed to have the same pastor (a miracle of longevity I was unaware of at the time).

It was a great church filled with lots of great people, many of whom God used to shape my life and prepare me for ministry. The only public disagreement I ever witnessed took place during my junior year in college in 1974. I just happened to be home from college on what turned out to be a historic spring Sunday in the life of our church, which was located in the heart of Memphis, TN. On that day, for the first time since the founding of the church in the late 1800’s, African Americans presented themselves for membership.

The typical routine when someone joined in those days was for our pastor to introduce the new member candidates to the congregation immediately after the invitation and to actually vote to receive them. After saying their names, he would ask, “all in favor say, “aye,” and then pause as the 1500+ in unison always said, “aye.” Following that, he would say, “all opposed with like sign.” That phrase was merely a tacked-on afterthought and, without pausing for a response, my pastor typically would continue on with the order of service. But that was not a typical morning.

He had never paused and there had never been a “no” vote… until that Sunday. He still didn’t pause, but in spite of that, for the first time in the 20+ years I had attended, there were a couple of “no” votes- loud ones. Then my pastor did pause. He spoke a brief, kind, but pointed word, and graciously called for an “all opposed” vote again, clearly hoping that this time minds would change and there would be none. Unfortunately, he was wrong. A handful of others became emboldened and there were more harsh “no’s.”

I had never experienced such an air of tension before. Several of the teenagers raced out of the sanctuary into the lobby in shock and in tears. My pastor then seated the family (who had bravely and awkwardly stood there during the proceedings). Many men in that circumstance would have settled for letting the “ayes” have it and moved on, allowing things to fester, but not my pastor, Dr. R. Paul Caudill. He was not willing to settle for ANY opposition. So, before dismissing the congregation, he called for an emergency mandatory meeting of the deacons for that afternoon.

I wish I could have been in that meeting. My understanding is that he simply told the deacons that the church should unreservedly welcome this family into our membership or he could no longer serve as the pastor of a church that would not. In his mind and heart, there was no other choice. For over 35 years he had been beloved by the people and the city. So, there apparently was very little discussion. That said a whole lot not only about him, but also about the character of most of the deacons present as well.

I’m delighted to say that the very next Sunday the family was unanimously received into the church, while the church waved “goodbye” to the handful who had been so vocally negative. They were never missed. If memory correctly serves me, our church was the first “white” church in the city of Memphis to receive a “black” family into its membership. That spring Sunday in 1974 was historic for the First Baptist Church of Memphis. And, yesterday, a summer Wednesday in 2012, was historic for the Southern Baptist Convention. The SBC, for the very first time, elected an African American as President. It was a blessed day.

My prayer now is two-fold. I pray that this will open the door for much more diversity in our convention as a whole. And, I pray that Dr. Luter will lead us not only toward more extensive racial reconciliation, but toward reconciliation regarding the rift that was created through the 80’s and 90’s that divided our convention right down the middle. Many good leaders who were no less conservative but had a disdain for the politics of those years, were told, in effect, “you have no place here.” It was prejudice, just of another variety. Most have long since moved on, just grateful for the autonomy of the local church. Many others simply could care less anymore. However, I can’t help but think that an expression of reconciliation would go a long way toward healing long lasting wounds and strengthen our convention.

I’m grateful for Dr. Fred Luter. And, I’m grateful for Dr. R. Paul Caudill and others like him who courageously helped lay the foundation for such a day as this.


For nine long years I watched a dear friend practically killed himself- and I mean that literally- trying to pastor a church. During that period of time, the church more than doubled in size to an average attendance of about a 1000 (in a town of less than 10,000), the budget tripled, and more baptisms took place in that nine year span than had happened in the previous fifty. The reason he practically killed himself was not so much because of all the hard work, but because there was a dysfunctional group of longstanding “influencers” who were constantly at odds with him. Finally, that small group made it impossible to continue on and my friend was faced with a decision to either split the church and go start a new one- which he could have easily done with several hundred folks; or, simply walk away. Mercifully he walked away. I mean mercifully for him and his family- not the church. It was a wise decision.

The good news that resulted is that within a few short months, my friend moved to another state to pursue his Ph.D. Shortly after enrolling in school, he was called to be the interim pastor of a small, struggling church. Today, he is still the pastor. And God has blessed as that small struggling church has been the fastest growing church in the city for the 16 years he’s been there.

The bad news? The church he left, the church to which he gave his life’s blood for nine years before having to leave, quickly shriveled to a small group of families who struggled to keep the doors open.

Let me ask you a question. What if you knew that the church or ministry you are currently killing yourself to build and grow was going to end up in the tank?

Toward the end of the Book of Deuteronomy, in chapter 31, God reveals something to Moses that almost takes your breath away. Moses has just given his life’s blood for forty years to lead the Israelites to the Promised Land and they are about to enter in. Then, the startling revelation:

Deut. 31:20-21; “ For I will bring them into the land I swore to give their ancestors—a land flowing with milk and honey. There they will become prosperous, eat all the food they want, and become fat. But they will begin to worship other gods; they will despise me and break my covenant. 21And when great disasters come down on them, this song will stand as evidence against them, for it will never be forgotten by their descendants. I know the intentions of these people, even now before they have entered the land I swore to give them.”

God’s saying, “Moses, after all you’ve done these past forty years to get them here, let me tell you what is going to happen to these people from here. They’re going to take this land of promise. But, after they fatten up a little, they’re going to forget me. They’re going to follow other gods and turn their backs on me- completely desert the faith. Then, disasters are going to come their way as a result. I even want you to write a song about it.”

The Bible doesn’t say how Moses responded to God’s announcement. On the one hand, it could not have been a complete surprise, given the track record of the Israelites for the previous forty years. But, on the other hand, I wonder how those prophetic words made him feel after all he had done to finally get them to the Promised Land? “For nine years you’re going to practically kill yourself building and growing this church, but shortly after you leave, disasters are coming and there’s not going to be much left to show for it.”

So, how would that make you feel? How do you resist the temptation to become an angry cynic? Why do we do what we do?

I think the commentary on Moses’ life in Hebrews 11:26 is the best answer. “He thought it was better to suffer for the sake of Christ than to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to his great reward.” For Moses, the ultimate prize was never the Promised Land or the people. It was the reward of Christ.

Why do we do it? Is fulfillment in ministry finally found in the butts, buildings, baptisms, and budgets? All of which are at risk of being here today and gone tomorrow? Ultimately, like Moses, it comes down to one thing- the faithful pursuit of the reward of Christ. That requires eternal perspective. And, no doubt, that’s why the writer of Hebrews goes on to say in ch. 12, “And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.”

Ministerial Meltdown

A friend called my attention this week to a good article from Leadership Journal entitled, “Ministry Meltdown,”by a pastor named, Bob Merritt. Pastor Merritt describes his downward spiral into burnout as a result of being overextended beyond his capacity. He then goes on to explain his rescue by a member of his church board who introduced him to a life coach. God worked through the life coach to change his life and ministry. That’s an extraordinarily valuable process. In fact, it’s life-changing for those, as Merritt states, who have enough humility to receive the coaching and act upon the counsel given. However, as my friend pointed out, how many pastors can afford a life coach to lead you back to health and sanity?

That’s where CPR can come to the rescue instead! Or, I should say, the Holy Spirit at work in and through a CPR group experience. Try CPR- the price is right- it’s FREE!

Here’s a link to the article. It’s worth the time to read. And, again, remember, there’s another option for help!


CPR Pastors In The News

The Rev. Hess Hester, pastor of Southern Hills Baptist Church, started a Celebrate Recovery chapter for pastors and church leaders where they could be honest about their problems and work through them in the privacy and safety of a small group of colleagues. JAMES GIBBARD/Tulsa World

CPR for pastors: 12-Step Program Helps Ministers


World Religion Writer
Saturday, March 03, 2012
3/3/2012 5:22:39 AM

Ten years ago, the Rev. Hess Hester was thrilled with the impact a new 12-step program was having at Southern Hills Baptist Church.

Then he realized that he himself needed to go through the program.

“After Celebrate Recovery got started in our church, it was a joy to watch,” Hester said.

“But something happened as I began to hear the testimonies of so many who were experiencing God’s healing of their hurts, habits and hang-ups. … I began to yearn for the same.”

Hester found himself in a situation familiar to many pastors: struggling with personal and congregational issues, but unable to address those issues openly in churches where, as the spiritual leaders, they are expected to be paragons of virtue.

And so about six years ago, Hester started a Celebrate Recovery chapter specifically for pastors and church leaders, where they could be honest about their problems and work through them in the privacy and safety of a small group of colleagues.

“I was personally going through what I call my own perfect storm – one of the most difficult ministry periods in my life. It was a series of both personal and ministry situations that were sucking the life out of me mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically,” he said.

“My pastors’ 12-step group became a lifeline for me.”

That first group – five United Methodist pastors, four Baptist pastors and a Bible Church pastor – took 14 months to go through the 12-step program, identifying and owning their personal issues, surrendering them to God and making amends as needed.

Since then, 125 pastors in 14 groups have gone through the program in Oklahoma.

Among them was the Rev. Brent Kellogg, pastor of Cornerstone Church in Sand Springs.

“I grew up in a great family, with a mom and dad that loved me, but we didn’t talk about our issues,” Kellogg said.

“Here I was pastoring a church, and I had these issues running in the background … a failed marriage, Internet porn. I had never unpacked all that.”

He joined a Celebrate Recovery pastors’ group that met almost weekly for a year.

“When I was finished, I felt like 1,000 pounds had been lifted off my back,” he said.

Tulsa’s pastors program has become a model for the rest of the nation and has been given a formal name: Celebrate Pastors Recovery, or CPR.

Hester was invited to speak about his pastors recovery program at the annual Celebrate Recovery conference at Saddleback Church in California. Celebrate Recovery has chapters in 19,000 churches reaching 1 million people in 20 languages.

Why a separate 12-step recovery group for pastors?

Pastors deal with the same range of issues as everyone else, but their position in the church often makes it more difficult for them to be transparent enough to get the help they need, Hester said.

“Pastors are put on a pedestal. They’re not supposed to have any problems.”

They can be carrying baggage from their family of origin, from sexual abuse as a child, from a sense of perfectionism from an overly strict father.

They can suffer from anger, depression, drug, alcohol or pornography addiction, marital infidelity.

In many churches, it can be unsafe for a pastor to be honest about his own struggles, Hester said.

“Vulnerability in a dysfunctional church can be very dangerous. It could definitely cost him his job,” he said.

Pastors can be left feeling friendless, isolated and alienated, with no place to turn, he said.

“So, a CPR group serves as a safe, 100 percent confidential context for a pastor to deal with and experience healing … to deal not only with current struggles, but with any anger, pain, or lingering bitterness from the past as well as the fears or anxieties about the future.”

Hester said CPR can help remedy issues that lead to pastor burnout and to pastors dropping out of the ministry altogether.

The Rev. Bob Pierson, retired pastor of Christ United Methodist Church in Tulsa, who is now a church leadership consultant nationwide, said burnout is a major problem among pastors.

“When you’re asked to be God’s representative, which is what ordination is, that in itself creates a unique kind of isolation,” he said.

He said his Tulsa-based Leadership Nexus Foundation is planning training events to equip clergy to handle conflict in congregations, a major cause of frustration and burnout.

The Rev. Randy Kanipe, executive director of the Stressed Clergy Association in Georgia, called clergy dropout a huge problem.

He cited Barna Group research that 80 percent of seminary graduates leave the ministry within five years of serving the church.

“Seminarians are not prepared for reality. The reality is, it’s a war zone,” Kanipe said.

“Our society is highly anxious, and that anxiety finds its way into churches.”

He said three decades ago, insurance companies rated the ministry as a healthy profession. Now it outpaces law enforcement for stress-related health problems such as depression, cancer, heart disease and high blood pressure.

He said the top three reasons are unrealistic expectations placed on pastors; toxic conflicts aimed at pastors, usually by a small group in the church; and lack of denominational support.

Pastor burnout

  • 50 percent of pastors reported being so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could. (June 2000)
  • 70 percent of pastors report constantly fighting depression.
  • 80 percent of seminary graduates who enter the ministry will leave in five years.
  • 80 percent of pastors’ wives wish their spouses would choose another profession.

Source: Various studies assembled by Michael Hurdman, The Ministry Application Project, Southwestern Christian University

Original Print Headline: CPR For Pastors
Copyright © 2012, World Publishing Co. All rights reserved .  Used by permission.


One of the questions Im often asked in one form or another is the following: Why do pastors need to have their own special group, why cant they be courageous enough to be transparent with the church they pastor?

The answer to that question is easy for most pastors to understand but its a challenge to communicate to someone whos never been a pastor before. If youre a pastor, you already know the answer: most pastors do not feel safe enough in their churches to be as transparent as they need to be in order to experience the healing they seek. I wish that were not the case. If every church were what a church should be, then more pastors than not would feel safe. But, unfortunately thats not reality.

For example, one of my dearest friends from college days was pastor of a church in the Midwest. At one point during their ministry in that church he and his wife were having some struggles. Divorce was never discussed, but they were struggling. His wife, feeling very isolated in the situation, took into confidence the one woman in the church she felt she could trust 100%. She shared with this woman a little of the nature of the problems they were having in their marriage- which, by the way, had nothing to do with anything immoral. Turned out, the one woman she felt she could truly trust was not trustworthy at all. The end result was a lot of gossip which ultimately led to the resignation of my friends.

Tragically, I could tell many similar stories and those are just the ones I know about. And, I hear new ones every day. Bottom line: far too many churches are not safe and a pastor has to be very discerning as to how transparent to be regarding his own personal struggles. And, that not only goes for pastors, but too many churches are not a safe place even for laity to share their issues without being made to feel like one of those people.

Why are so many churches not safe? Ironically, its because the church itself is in need of recovery- corporate recovery! Such churches become a major contributing source of why many pastors ultimately seek recovery themselves. Thats the role of CPR- to provide a safe environment in which pastors can recover in Christ and find the support they need along the way.

I cant conclude this post without saying how grateful I am to be in a safe church. What a privilege! Believe me, I realize how fortunate I am, not only because of what I hear and observe, but also because Ive been a pastor or on staff in my own share of unsafe churches in the past. If youre interested in CPR, look under CONNECT on the right hand side of this page, click on, Tell me more…, complete the survey form and well be in touch!