Tag Archives: church leadership

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

TULSA WORLD

BY BILL SHERMAN
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.

Still Too Much Silence?

Photo by nicmcphee via FlickrThis morning, we received a comment on the “Too Much Silence” post, which has already generated its fair share of comments and reactions.  I’m bumping this response to the top because I think it prompts the kind of honest dialogue that we desperately need.  The comment as written:

My parents went to Hunter’s Glenn Church. I went once in the late 80s. It was a typical “Plano” church. They were a 501c business, in a very well to do town, with a reasonably client base. Look, I’ve been burned by “Christians” too many times. My bet is his gay lover was about to “out ” him, or he was molesting a child or something was about to be brought into the open.  At least he didn’t kill his family.  – Steve

I’ll lead with my response, but I invite everyone into the dialogue.  It’s an important one.  How will you respond?

Steve,

I’ve posted your comment in its entirety, without redaction, for a number of reasons.  First off, you’re not the only person who feels this disenfranchised with the church and church leadership.  Without taking too many liberties, I can safely say that many of us who are a part of the CR movement and the CPRpastors movement in particular have been a part of the problem before trying to be part of the solution.  For my own duplicity and hypocrisy while serving as a leader of churches, I offer you a most sincere amend (an apology plus a declaration of having examined my ways and chosen to be transparent, living in accountability).

Secondly, the Celebrate Recovery movement and its sibling, the Celebrating Pastors in Recovery movement, are unfortunately a rarity amongst typical pastoral communities in that I have found them to be a safe place to be real, to be broken, to drop the facade, and to heal in community.  There is a phrase floating around CR: “You’re only as sick as your secrets.” – it succinctly captures why your comment needs to be read, examined, and responded to by those who are in the community of church leadership.

Though I have no particular knowledge of the Hunter’s Glenn situation other than what has been reported by the media, I can offer much less dramatic, yet nonetheless salient, pieces of my own experience as a leader in the church.  You may (or may not – I make no assumptions out of respect for the wounds you have sustained by those who are “Christians,” as you have written) be surprised to learn that many church cultures of which I (and my colleagues over the years) have been a part actually preferred the facade of being “fine” worn upon their pastoral leadership rather than the authentic patina of human, fallible leaders called to serve.  The church culture placed both unrealistic and wholly unhealthy expectations upon leaders.  Let me be absolutely clear: such a climate of expectation and denial in NO way excuses the behavioral atrocities that have made the headlines, nor especially the behavior of leaders that continue to exist in protected obscurity.

The responsibility to address this corporate and cultural denial is twofold: the churches must reexamine the notion of authentic, Biblical servant-leadership; and leaders finding themselves in such cultures of denial and duplicity must no longer ignore the responsibility to seek a healing community where transparency and rigorous self-examination exists in the company of leaders seeking to live out the truthful ways and means of Jesus.

In my experience and observations, sick cultures breed isolation, which in turn skews sensitivities and quickly leads to an uncalibrated life.  We, the church, have a sound Biblical model for living in community, but it must be one that transcends an hour on Sunday morning and that doesn’t vilify discussion of the human condition.  Celebrate Recovery makes a viable attempt to drop the pretense, to create a safe venue where Jesus can meet us where we are, and to draw us in and through community to a place of greater honesty, humility, self-examination, and service, just as Jesus models.  Rome wasn’t built in a day – it has taken decades and even centuries for some of these cultures of denial to calcify and to cement their ways as normative with a distorted yet powerful coefficient of “God” – an unfortunate phenomenon.

Hope is rising – communities like Celebrate Recovery and Celebrating Pastors in Recovery (CPRpastors) are opening their doors to the wounded and the wounded leaders.  In some church communities (I’ve been spent a lot of time in Richardson and Plano, Steve), it might mean an expansion of the ecclesial lexicon to include the utterance of words like pornography, binging and purging, alcohol, emotional abuse, rape, incarceration, control issues, anger, and many more.  We know these issues to be prevalent in our communities.  If we are not explicitly addressing genuine issues in the gathering of the church, what, then, are we left to address?  Has our dance of avoidance become so sophisticated that we are no longer in sync with the music we must face?

Steve, and others who have been “burned” or wounded by the church, I can only hope that you see a genuineness in the likes of CR and CPRpastors to embrace the wounded as Christ would, but to also catalyze a movement of grateful followers of Jesus Christ who may struggle, but continue to grow in community, living examined lives, and inviting others into this way of living.  I don’t pretend to think that a few words in response to your genuine declaration of hurt, disenchantment, and eventual dismissal of the church on a blog could even begin to be enough.  I do write with sincerity, Steve – I am truly sorry that you got burned.  If it means anything, I did too.  Thank you for taking the time to post your experience.  My first hope: that you would give us another chance to show our sincerity through our actions and our words.  My second hope: your honesty will open some dialogue. – Cavett

Have you been hurt?  Have you been a part of a church culture that hurt people?