People in ministry need counseling too, but some are reluctant to get it. There’s a stigma. Here’s biblical encouragement for your pastor, pastor’s wife, and anyone in ministry. By guest writer Eliza Huie.
“Is there a back door?”
The question was not only unexpected but also a bit bewildering. The caller was confirming her counseling appointment and wondered if there was a less conspicuous entrance she could access. She went on to explain that her husband was a pastor of a church in the area. This is one reason she was afraid to be seen coming into a counseling office.
This desire for anonymity didn’t have to do with our counseling center. She also shared how we came highly recommended. It didn’t have to do with any high-profile situation or scandal. It had everything to do with the fact that she felt shame from the reality that she, a pastor’s wife, was needing counseling.
Shouldn’t people in ministry — and especially the pastor’s family — have it all together? Shouldn’t she be the one doing the counseling? And what if her husband were to join her for a session? Would they ever be able to conjure up a good enough reason to quiet the barrage of suspicion that might be raised?
A back door seemed the easiest answer.
The Shame of Needing Care
The caller is not alone in her fears. Indeed, many people in ministry go without care simply because of a common misconception that they should “have it all together.” How can a pastor, pastor’s wife, ministry leader, missionary, or the like be competent for ministry if they need counseling? People under their leadership might ask this question. It is a question that, like the caller, may bring shame.
The concern isn’t fully without merit. Certainly there are things that can cause a pastor or leader to need to step away, but just because people in ministry are seeking counseling doesn’t mean that they are dealing with that kind of a situation. This stigma may keep them or their family from getting the care they need.
I have had the privilege to care for several people who are either directly in ministry or part of a family in ministry. So I know how providing a safe and confidential place to process life can be incredibly valuable for people in the ministry spotlight. Counseling has been an infusion of sustaining hope to those who find themselves facing personal trials amidst the call to ministry.
I read a personal story of one pastor who benefitted greatly from taking the advice that he had given countless times to people sitting in his office. “Set up an appointment with the counselor I’ve suggested to you. You need safe ears—someone with years of experience who doesn’t know you as well as I know you.” Taking this step himself changed his ministry. His only regret was not doing it sooner. It is now the advice he shares will those entering the ministry.
Encouraging Counseling for People in Ministry
If that is the case why would we ever want a stereotypical stigma to get in the way of anyone getting this care? In fact, people in ministry are more energized for ministry when they are also cared for. Since this is the case, shouldn’t churches and ministry organizations encourage this for those in leadership and their family members? This is the “putting on your oxygen mask first” concept encouraged by those with years of experience in leadership.
I personally know a church that leads the way in breaking this stigma by providing 10 counseling sessions to anyone on their staff. No strings attached. Ministry leaders can take advantage of this at their own discretion. Another ministry I’ve worked with provides mandatory counseling sessions at their yearly leaders’ retreat. The counseling was provided by a trusted third-party team of biblical counselors. It provided confidential space for leaders to share their heart without judgement. Since everyone at the retreat had a complementary session scheduled into their retreat time, nobody was singled out. By introducing this avenue of care in this way, it broke the ignominy that can accompany leaders or their families when they seek counseling.
Step Toward Help Today
The woman looking for the back door that day ended up coming to our counseling center for the next six months. By finding a place to work through her struggle she found new ways of processing and understanding her circumstances. And even better, she found fresh hope in her ministry role as a pastor’s wife. She never used the back door (though that was the subject of a couple of our counseling sessions). What is even better she now feels no need to even ask for it.
If you are in ministry or leadership you shouldn’t be ashamed to get the help you need. Whether it is dealing with a significant crisis or even processing the everyday realities of ministry life, you will flourish when you are cared for. Take the step today and contact a trust faith-based counselor who can walk with you in the midst of your ministry calling.
Do you need help finding a biblical counselor? Biblical Counseling Center offers complimentary counseling to pastors and their families. Contact us here.
Also, the Biblical Counseling Coalition, the Association of Biblical Counselors, and the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors all have connection pages to help people find a counselor near them. You can also contact the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation.
About Eliza Huie
Eliza Huie is the Executive Director at Life Counseling Center, a biblical counseling ministry in Ellicott City, Maryland. She has a master’s in counseling, advance certificates from CCEF, and holds a graduate license in counseling. She is the author of Raising Teens in a Hyper-Sexualized World and Raising Kids in a Screen-Saturated World (released Spring 2018) and is a contributing writer for various biblical counseling blogs. In addition to writing, she serves as a council board member for the Biblical Counseling Coalition and is a member of the Association of Biblical Counselors. Her approach to counseling brings biblical truth in a way that is encouraging, practical, and personal.