Surprising Ways We Sabotage Our Ministries… and How to Avoid Them – Michael MacKenzie
The truth is that we may be derailing our ministries without even realizing it because we are unaware of some of our less-than-healthy habits, attitudes, and baggage. In this conversation on FrontStage BackStage, host Jason Daye is joined by Michael McKenzie. Michael is an ordained pastor, a licensed professional counselor, the executive director of Marble Retreat, and the author of Don’t Blow Up Your Ministry. Together, Michael and Jason explore some surprising ways that we can self-sabotage our ministries. They also provide hope by highlighting some healthy habits and practices that ministry leaders can engage in, so they can give God, their families, and their ministries their absolute best.
Looking to dig more deeply into this topic and conversation? Every week we go the extra mile and create a free toolkit so you and your ministry team can dive deeper into the topic that is discussed. Find your Weekly Toolkit below… Love well, Live well, Lead well!
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- Audio links to this week’s episode – easily share with the ministry leaders in your church
- Additional resource links from this week’s conversation – so you and your team can easily find what is mentioned or referenced
- Ministry Leaders Growth Guide – key insights and concepts from this week’s conversation as well as engaging questions for you and your team to consider and process
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Additional Resource Links
Don’t Blow Up Your Ministry by Michael MacKenzie – In this book, Michael deals with the issues beneath the issues, such as shame, fear, and pain. If we don’t address our own weakness and brokenness, we will hurt ourselves and those around us.
Marble Retreat – Micheal serves as the executive director of Marble Retreat. Marble Retreat was born out of the conviction that clergy and others in Christian service, have extreme job demands which can frequently result in symptoms of depression, anxiety, frustration, discouragement and burnout. Worse still and because of their position, they find it difficult to seek help. Marble Retreat has served the Christian counseling needs of more than 5,000 Church leaders who have come from every state and more than 60 countries.
Connect with Michael MacKenzie – Website
Feeling overwhelmed, burned out, or just want to talk? Complimentary 1-hour Coaching Session for Pastors http://PastorServe.org/freesession
Ministry Leaders Growth Guide
Key Insights and Concepts
- The vocation of pastor is “dangerous” for several reasons, including the reality of spiritual warfare, the fact that pastors have trouble finding safe places where they can share their own struggles, and the amount of pressure and responsibility associated with the role of pastor.
- Pastors are human and have their own struggles, anxieties, discouragements, and disappointments
- Every pastor needs to have a safe relationship where they can just be themselves and share their doubts, struggles, etc, without fear
- The act of confessing your struggles, doubts, shame, and brokenness can be very freeing and allows those issues to be dealt with because they have been brought out into the light
- As pastors, ministry is definitely important, but you should not make it such a priority that you do not have the time, energy, and focus to put on other important things like your marriage, your family responsibilities, even your own care
- Too much focus on performance without focusing on your relational health, spiritual health, and emotional health can easily lead to burnout
- The three biggest root causes for problems experienced in ministry are unrealistic expectations, isolation, and poor boundaries
- If you want to change the culture of your church you must educate your leaders. If changes need to be made regarding the expectations or responsibilities of the pastor, let your leaders explain that to the church.
- Perfectionism (which can be masked as “doing everything with excellence”) is unhealthy for pastors and can lead to unhealthy staff and ministry leader relationships and burnout
- Stepping out of your regular life routine for 2 or 3 days every once in a while is healthy. During this time you can reflect on your life and assess how you are really doing.
- Having at least one person in your life who really knows you, can truly see whether you’re doing well or not, and is willing to ask you the tough questions is imperative for every pastor.
- Pastors are often willing to help others address their baggage but unwilling to address their own baggage
- Mentorship is a healthy way to develop as a pastor or ministry leader
- Community is such a vital part of being healthy in life and ministry. Relationships with people you trust and can be yourself around, a trusted individual that provides a safe space for you to share your struggles, and a mentor to provide guidance and direction are all important.
Questions for Reflection
- Would I describe my vocation as “dangerous”? Why or why not?
- Do I have a safe relationship with whom I can share my struggles, doubts, anxieties, and disappointments? Who is that in my life? How regularly do I share with them?
- When is the last time I confessed my struggles, doubts, shame, and brokenness? To whom did I confess?
- Am I prioritizing my ministry over my spouse? My family? Caring for myself? Are there any changes i need to make? If so, what will I do?
- Am I focusing more on my performance as a ministry leader than I am on my spiritual health, emotional health, or relational health? Are there any changes i need to make? If so, what will I do?
- Does the culture of our church put unhealthy expectations on me as a ministry leader? If so, how can I begin to help shift the culture? What leaders do I need to educate? What resources will be most helpful?
- Am I a perfectionist? Is my bent toward perfectionism harming relationships with our staff, ministry leaders, and/or volunteers?
- Am I willing to address my own baggage that I am carrying around from my past experiences? If so, how will I do this?
- When was the last time I took 2 or 3 days to unplug and reflect on my life? If it has been awhile, when will I make time to do this?
- Take some time to look back at your life and process the following questions: What can I learn? What needs to be healed? What lies are still hanging around in my heart, soul, and mind from that time?
- Who is my mentor? How often am I checking in with my mentor? If I do not have a mentor, when will I get one?
- If you are looking for a safe place to talk, PastorServe is offering a complimentary 1-hour Coaching Session for Pastors http://PastorServe.org/freesession
The truth is that we may be derailing our ministries without even realizing it because we are unaware of some of our less-than-healthy habits, attitudes, and baggage.
In this episode, I’m joined by Michael McKenzie. Michael is an ordained pastor, a licensed professional counselor, the executive director of Marble Retreat, and the author of Don’t Blow Up Your Ministry. Together, Michael and I explore some surprising ways that we can self-sabotage our ministries. And we provide hope, by highlighting some healthy habits and practices that we can engage in, so we can give God, our families, and our ministries, our absolute best. Are you ready? Let’s go.
Hey, friends. It’s Jason Daye coming to you with another insightful episode of FrontStage BackStage, where every single week, I have the privilege of sitting down with a trusted ministry leader, and diving into a topic to help you, and ministry leaders just like you, embrace a healthy sustainable rhythm for both life and ministry. And we are proud to be a part of the PastorServe network. And our coaches at PastorServe want to bless you pastors with a free one-hour complimentary coaching session. And so you can learn more about that at PastorServe.org/freesession. If there is something you’re going through, you just want someone to talk to, we’d love to have the privilege of sitting down and connecting with you. So you can find out more details that PastorServe.org/freesession. And then as I mentioned, we are part of the PastorServe network. And one of the cool things that we do with every single episode is we create an entire toolkit absolutely free for you, that helps you and your ministry leaders dig more deeply into the topic that we are discussing, so that you can grow. And you can find all of that, that complete toolkit, at PastorServe.org/network. So be sure to check that out. It’s just a way for you and your team to grow as ministry leaders. And now if you’re joining us on YouTube, give us a thumbs up and just drop your name and the name of your church below. We love to get to know our audience better. And our team will be praying for you and for your ministry. And whether you’re joining us on YouTube or your favorite podcast platform, please take a moment to subscribe, to follow because you do not want to miss out on any of these great conversations. And as I said, I have an excellent conversation for you today. I think you’re going to find a lot of value from this. And I’d like to welcome Michael McKenzie to FrontStage BackStage. And so Michael, welcome.
Thank you very much, Jason. So great to be here.
Yeah, it’s good to have you, brother. It’s good to get to introduce you to our audience. And one of the things that you share. You have a lot of things going on in your life. And you have the privilege of really walking alongside of pastors and ministry leaders. So Michael, can you just share with us a little bit about kind of your role in the kingdom? What it is you do?
Yeah, currently, I’m the director of Marble Retreat. Marble Retreat is an intensive Counseling Center for pastors and other Christian leaders, but pastors are the main client that we see there. And they come for eight days. So it’s called intensive, it means a lot of counseling in a short period of time. And it’s up in Marble, Colorado, kind of the back side of Aspen, beautiful lodge been up there for near 50 years now. And my wife and I were there for a lot of years, like 15 years. And we were counselors and directors there. And we just transitioned to a different role. And I’m the executive director there currently.
Excellent. That’s awesome, brother. Now, one of the things that you share, and you share this in your most recent book, Don’t Blow Up Your Ministry, which is a fantastic book, but you talk about the idea that being a ministry leader is really a dangerous job. And I’m sure a lot of pastors and ministry leaders who are watching or who are listening in would agree, and I would tell you, that it’s not an easy job. It’s not a stress-free job, right? It’s not always an appreciated job. But Michael, help us understand what exactly do you mean by the fact that it’s a dangerous job?
Yeah, I think there’s a few unique, you know, factors to a pastor’s position that make it dangerous. One is just the spiritual warfare aspect. Who else does Satan want to take out more than a pastor? How much more can he damage the kingdom than by taking out a pastor you know, and their, the people that they minister and that they influence and all that, so I think that’s a part of it. Another part is that the nature of ministry –and this shouldn’t be the way it is– but it is often the way it is, is that we’re not always free to talk about our struggles when we’re pastors. It’s not always a safe place, especially right within our own community. And so we will be struggling, because we’re humans like everybody else. But we have to kind of feel like we need to keep it a secret and secrets are dangerous, as the old saying is, we’re only as sick as our secrets. So I think that’s another factor that makes it dangerous, that a lot of pastors are wrestling and struggling, but they don’t know where to go, who to talk to, where it would be safe to begin to share what they’re going through because their risk, maybe they their fear, they might lose their job, or people won’t respect them if they know they’re having doubts, or depression or anxiety. So I think that’s another big factor is just that, is it safe for me to be open and honest about my struggles? The third is just the immense pressure that we carry. And that’s external at times, but also internal. I mean, it’s a serious role. We know the importance to the kingdom. And that’s why we serve pastors, we love pastors, they’re on the front lines, we want to be there for them, because we believe in the importance of their role, but with the importance of that role comes a lot of responsibility, which can turn into stress and pressure. So I think that can add into the mix as well to make it all dangerous.
Yeah, that’s helpful and, Michael, as you talked about this idea of a safe space to share. Shared with us a little bit about, because I imagine many who again, are watching or listening in, resonate a little bit with that, where there is a little bit of a feeling of perhaps, I don’t know if fear is the right word, but just unsafety, right, like, like a lack of safety, rather. There’s, you know, when we’re trying to wrestle through things or move through things in our own lives, navigate things, it’s hard to to be open. So talk to us a little bit about that safe space, and the value and importance of that when it comes to having a healthy ministry.
Well, I think a lot of pastors have just learned to naturally be a bit self protective, and don’t even realize we’re doing it at times. I say we because I’ve been in that space in my life. You know, and so we don’t realize that there’s a bit of a guard up and we’re, we’re weighing our words, and we can’t be just totally ourselves. And we have, we got so used to it we don’t even know. So if you’re really going to grow and learn, especially about our own brokenness, which is what I deal with in the book, then we need a place where we don’t have to measure our words or worry about consequences or worry about how they’re going to be taken. But that takes sitting across from a very mature, trustworthy, loving person who can see us as a pastor, but even more, to see us as a human, as the person that we are, whoever we may be. And so just that having that that person, that relationship, or people that we can really just let down our guard, and especially about the tough stuff. I mean, the negative things, the things that often at Marble Retreat in our, you know, we used to do a lot of group counseling. And I heard so many pastors say, I’ve never said this out loud before. And then they would say it and I Well, that’s a shame that you’ve been carrying that for 10-20 years, and never felt safe enough to say it out loud, until this moment in time. But then when they said it out loud, not only was there healing in that, in confessing to one another, even if it wasn’t sin, but confessing brokenness and doubts and shame and struggles, but then we could work on it, because now it’s out in the open, it’s in the light. And so it’s so important, but you have to be wise, we do know that you do have to be wise, who you do open up with.
Yeah, that no, that’s, that’s really helpful. One of the things that you talk about, and you reference to this even in the idea of the fact that it’s dangerous, you know, in ministry, ministry leadership is dangerous, is the idea of kind of performance, the idea of expectations, and you you refer to the silver bullet of ministry performance, and oftentimes, I think we as pastors may not even realize that we’ve been shot by the silver bullet. Can you, Michael, share some examples of what this may look like in our lives as ministry leaders. Simply because sometimes we have this, you know, heart for ministry to such a degree that we’re pressing, we’re pressing, we’re pressing, and we don’t even realize that we’re, you know, getting close to or maybe even entering into some unhealthy spaces in our lives and ministry.
It definitely is gray because we should take it seriously and try to be the best we can be in our responsibility as pastors. And so I think there is why it gets confusing, but we do go down that slippery slope of taking it more and more on our shoulders for this ministry to be successful. Here’s a recent example. I was at a pastor conference just a few months ago. There’s approximately 1000 pastors attending this conference and then they did the typical breaking out of workshops, and the big main workshop was in the main auditorium. And it was basically about how to grow your ministry by a pastor of a very large church. And he’s upfront speaking, and I walk into that workshop. And there’s approximately seven to 800 pastors in there. So nearly everybody is in that one. Then just down the hall a little way, there is a workshop done by a doctor, who not a medical doctor, but a psychologist who, you know, is really wise and well-spoken, well-written on the topic of marriage, and he’s doing a workshop on how to feed your marriage, keep it healthy while you’re in ministry. So I wandered down to that one, because I’m kind of just cruising around, you know, because I’m not there as a participant, I’m there, you know, to be at my booth and talk about Marble Retreat. So I cruise into that one, two pastors in that one. And this is what struck me about that. We know in those 700 pastors that were in the other one, a lot of them are having marital issues, but they are they’re focusing on how do I grow my church? Now, that’s not a bad thing. It’s a great thing. You know, it really is important to be well equipped, and what do I do, but their focus is locked on to that, in a sense, but my marriage may be struggling. And so one of the things that I find that we need to be careful of in this journey is, okay, I make ministry a priority, and it needs to be a priority. But do I make it such a priority that I don’t have the time, energy, focus to put on these other important things like my marriage, my family responsibilities, even my own care, you know, and so, I think that’s one example is that we over and over, prioritize the ministry to the deficit of potentially some other important things in our life, and then they begin to struggle. And then sometimes we’re not even aware they’re struggling, that our marriage isn’t doing as good as we think it is. Because our wife maybe is not speaking up or our spouse is not speaking up. So that is just like one example. I think, also, you know, it’s also we lose the joy of ministry, and it’s kind of a slippery slope, that we get into it. We’re so excited. So passionate, we’ve discovered Jesus, we want to share that with the world. And man, we want to get equipped, we want to go out there and plant a church or join a church, we want to be teaching and preaching and sharing. But slowly but surely, we’re getting more tired and we get take things more seriously, we rationalize it as well, this is just the way it is as you mature and grow. And we begin to lose our joy and our passion, it becomes more of a responsibility more of a duty. And, you know, that also can be a sign that, okay, we’re getting, we’re taking too much onto ourselves in the performance way, and not remembering this is God’s ministry, and I can just be who he called me to be and be the best version of me. But yet, I don’t have to carry all this weight and it becomes such a burden.
Yeah, that’s helpful, Michael. You’ve identified in kind of the research that you’ve done, and of course, you know, working with with countless pastoral couples, you know, ministers, those in ministry leadership, you identified the three biggest root causes for problems that we actually experience in ministry as unrealistic expectations, isolation, and then, poor boundaries. So those are like the three biggest root causes for issues that arise in ministry. And I would say that when we hear that list, I think every pastor would agree. Like, you know, would say, yes, that those are kind of the three biggest areas. Unrealistic expectations? Yes, we experience those. Isolation? Yes, we can easily isolate ourselves. And then poor boundaries, you know, do we open ourselves up to too much? What’s interesting is it seems that the culture of the institution of the Church, Michael, really, in our present day, actually feeds into these root causes, in many ways, rather than sort of protecting against them. So how can a local church pastor really kind of address some of these tendencies that are already often ingrained in how ministry is perceived or how ministry is actually executed?
Yeah, you know, it’s it’s tough to change culture. I mean, I’ve heard it said it’s easiest thing is to change, you know, your behavior and one of the hardest things to change is the culture of a church or any institution. And I really think it does come down to though beginning with educating the leadership. And so you know, I work with a lot of pastors and had a pastor that I worked with just not too long ago, who he is in the culture of the church, the senior pastor who was supposed to do kind of everything, but the church had grown tremendously, which is great, over the last 10 years, and so they had hired associates, but the culture was still having the senior pastor do a lot of things that he should have no longer been doing. So it was really beginning to get out of hand, everything he was expected to do. But that was the old culture. So we worked, he came to Marble Retreat, because he was burned out, he was ready to quit. Phenomenally talented guy, gifted guy passionate, so it would have been a great loss to the Church, to the kingdom. You know, but he was like, I know, I need to make these changes but the church culture, I don’t think will allow it. And I’m like, Well, you know, you’ve got to start with your leader. So in that situation, that denomination, that was elders. So he called, basically, a long elders meeting and what he called it was a wrestling match with them of like, are you guys going to be here to protect, you know, me and my family, so to speak, or are we going to protect the culture and the expectations? And so he did some education with them. You know, one study showed that if you give pastor a sabbatical, if they have a very specific job description, and if you take counseling off their load, if that’s not their area, gifting, it really lowers the amount of burnout and no church wants their pastor to burn out. So there’s different ways, you know, he educated the elders on Look, here’s what would be healthy, and then I can be in my sweet spot, and I’ll be even better at the main roles of preaching and vision casting, and those things that he was really supposed to be there for. And so finally, they came around, and we’re like, Okay, we’re gonna change some things, you’re no longer gonna be doing as many weddings, funerals, hospital visitations, all these things that they had staff to do, but it was always supposed to be the senior pastor. And so they finally came around, and then they were the ones to communicate it to the church, here’s going to be a change. So I think it is hard to change a culture. But I think you can educate your leadership. And there’s lots of studies to do that to back you up. It’s just not you’re trying to get out of work or trying not to do the things that they always want it the pastor to do. But it’s saying, Hey, if you guys want me to be good in these areas, then I need to not be doing these areas. And here’s even some research that would back it up. And then once you get leadership on board, then they communicate it to the church body, not the pastor saying to the church body, hey, I’m no longer going to do these things, sorry, folks. But you know, it’s leadership saying, Hey, we’re protecting our pastor, we want him to stay focused on these areas, so that’s why he will no longer be doing these, and they take it on themselves as the decision that they’ve made. So I think that’s one potential path, but it’s definitely is hard to change culture when it’s been a certain way for generations or decades.
Yeah, no, that’s, that’s very helpful. Michael, I think that’s a great little blueprint and, you know, real -ife example of how we can approach that. Let me ask this, kind of on that same topic. What about the pastor who doesn’t recognize themselves that they are, you know, creating that lifestyle, they’re contributing to that culture? How can pastors, I’m thinking of those who are watching along listening right now? How can they become aware of, are there certain things, certain red flags that can help them as they’re trying to navigate, you know, just a healthy sustainable rhythm in their life and in their ministry?
You know, yeah, I mean, I think it’s a good mindset to always have and this is not from some type of a cynical, but just a cautionary side, you know, viewpoint is, if you’re a pastor, you’re at risk of burnout, just accept that, you know, that is a risk. It’s just inherent in working with people. And in carrying the responsibility of your role. It’s just inherent, so then it is being aware. And so one of the things of course, of why pastors call us is some symptoms that they’re experiencing that they don’t like, that may be depression, it may be irritability, it may be sadness, anger, just different things that they’re feeling that they don’t like, like, I just don’t feel good. I don’t feel like myself, or to others behaviors that they’re seeing, I am drinking a little more. I am like, I’ve cut out a lot of my vacation days. So I used to take all them and now I’m not skipping my Sabbath. I’m just, you know, there’s things are changing that I know aren’t healthy. But I feel like I have to in this season and there’s always a season and a reason you know that we skip things. So I think, you know, looking for behavior changes that, you know, okay, I’m justifying it. I think I have to do it right now. But okay, is this turning into a pattern here? The other thing is really the importance of just having at least one person in your life who really knows you and can really see whether you’re doing well or not. I mean, just having that community/accountability, I think is huge for somebody to say, you know, you’re you’re kind of, it seems like If you’re hurting, you know, because we can have our heads down and just keep going. And, and pastors are known for that. I mean, I think a lot of pastors have a great work ethic. They’re very devoted, they’re very committed to the point that I’m not stopping to say, How am I doing? So I think just having somebody who truly has their eyes, you know, on you, in a sense to say, Hey, I’ve noticed you’re not taking your Sabbath any longer for the last while, I’ve noticed you’ve been just a little more impatient, a little more irritable, like somebody who can actually speak to you. Which then leads to another way, I think stepping out of your life once in a while is great. I think, you know, two, three days, somewhere quiet is just great. I think it’s sometimes when we step out for just a short period, we can look back and say, you know, when I look at myself in the last three months, compared to myself five years ago, here’s I don’t like what I’m seeing. I mean, five years ago, I had this energy and this joy, and now I look at myself, and I’m like, wow, I look tired. I mean, I’m just, you know, it’s, I think, just stepping out. Because once we, when we’re in our life, we wake up every day and myself, like a lot of us, like, what do I have to do today, and we just start doing it until the end of the day. And then next day, we repeat pattern. I think it’s huge just to step out of your life, sometimes for two, three days, partly for the purpose of looking at your life, and saying, How am I doing? How am I doing? You know, how am I feeling? Do I feel full? Or do I feel empty? Do I feel rejuvenated? Or do I feel drained? Do I feel peace? Or do I feel agitated? I mean, what’s going on and then begin starting to ask the questions. Okay, Where’s that coming from? What’s causing that underneath? So you can go down another layer?
Yeah, yeah, no, that’s good. Michael, I’m pressing a little bit on this, because you’ve had so much experience, you’ve had the opportunity to work with so many different ministry leaders, and kind of walk this path with them. I think that oftentimes, whether we’re doing it or not, as ministry leaders, we know that kind of Sabbath, you know, rest is important. This idea, just like you said, I’ve taken a few days to step back and kind of reflect. So we know that that’s vital. We know that the idea of isolation, you know, when we isolate ourselves, when we find ourselves going out the back door after worship gathering as opposed to going out in the lobby, you know, we start and we don’t really have friends or even spiritual mentors, or people that we’re doing life with around us. That’s dangerous, right? You know, the whole kind of becoming a workaholic and just, you know, putting ministry ahead of our family and ahead of our own kind of physical health. So those things, I think that they’re not super surprising, right? Like whether or not we’re doing them. We see them, we hear about them. But Michael, have there been any kind of surprising findings from your work with pastors? Or, you know, some things that you’re like, Oh, that’s interesting, that you’ve seen come up maybe multiple times, in a pastor or ministry leaders life, that, you know, kind of contributes to derailing them a little bit, that might be something a little different that we may not, you know, readily recognize, as Oh, yeah, that’s one of the biggies. But it’s still something that you’ve noticed, you know, does cause friction and tension and can lead to, you know, difficult times in ministry in life.
You know, I think there’s a couple things come to my mind, and I wouldn’t say one isn’t that far off of what you’re mentioning, and one is perfectionism. You know, I mentioned it in the book in a couple of examples. And I’ve been surprised at the amount of times I’ve run into that, you know, and it’s, it’s not a problem until it’s a problem. And so it gets very affirmed in in the church, and of course, and a lot of places in this world of doing things really, really well. But then it becomes perfectionism, and it begins to leak out on other people, and eventually wears the pastor down themselves. And it seems like the, like the go to place to ward off insecurity, fear of failure, all that stuff. And so it’s just I have seen it repeatedly in pastors who come who have burned out, and I’m talking about the pastor who goes up to preach and then has a panic attack on stage, ends up in the fetal position has to be carried off and then he comes like, I didn’t even see it coming. Like but then I look at his life like, Okay, tell me about the last year and it was this very driven, perfectionistic lifestyle that was just increasing pressure to perform. That’s one. The other one that I’ve been kind of surprised at, you know, pastors are some of the most educated folks of any career, you know, very highly educated, very intelligent people, very sharp people. I love engaging with pastors about the Word, about lots of topics. I mean, just, just great. Just great, intelligent, insightful people except for when it comes to themselves. And I’ve worked with them. And I give you the example, I think in the book, but even I’ve worked with so many pastors who have said something to this effect. I was sexually abused as a child. I’ve never done anything about it, but I don’t think it’s affecting me. And I’m like, as a counselor, of course, I’m like, oh, yeah, it’s not affecting you. Look how you do boundaries. Look how you do intimacy, look how you do, like lots of things where it’s flowing out. And so they come to Marble Retreat, they’re wondering why this is going wrong, that’s going wrong. So it comes out. No, I was sexually abused, and sometimes fairly significant. And then the dots begin to connect. And man, I was surprised. And the two main reasons they say it doesn’t affect them is I don’t think about it, and I have forgiven the person, which is is not an indicator that it’s not affecting you. It’s a you know, that’s a good thing to forgive, obviously. But yeah, how has this shaped you? How has it changed you? And that’s been a surprise to me, to see pastors who have who have if there was somebody in their congregation, they would say, you need to get help, you need to find some healing in that area. I think that’s probably had a lot of effect on you. But for themselves, they’re they’re kind of glossing over like, I’m fine. You know, and again, that’s somewhat a guy thing, and somewhat a pastor thing of like, I’m fine, you know, it’s not affecting me. But that’s caught me off guard a few times. And I’ve had pastors say that, when it’s clear, it is playing out in some of their current struggles, but they had never connected the dots before to that. So it comes back to even this broader issue of how is my past brokenness playing out in my current ministry? I don’t feel like it is, but it probably is. And that makes it once again, a dangerous occupation, if we’re not at least aware of what my brokenness is, and some of the symptoms of it. You know, that’s half the battle right there. I’m aware that I have this struggle with insecurity or this struggle with boundaries. So now I can react differently, because I’m aware, but sometimes I don’t have that awareness. And that’s been a surprise to me.
Yeah, no, that’s really helpful. It’s interesting, as you’re sharing that, I was thinking about the fact that oftentimes in ministry, we’re very good at at helping others through their, you know, past traumas, or struggles or difficulties with their baggage and brokenness, those types of things. And yet, we aren’t very good about doing that for ourselves. Nor do we tend to turn to others to help us do that. So Michael, let me ask you this question. Should every pastor… this is kind of a little bit of a setup, but it’s just, you know, a question. Should every pastor take the time to seriously look at, you know, their upbringing, their past experiences, and how those have influenced or shaped them into the person they’ve become today? Because I do not think that, you know, everyone stops to do that. Is that something that is a healthy move? Could it possibly be unhealthy? You know, where do you weigh in on that, as someone who does this type of work, you know, for a living for the kingdom,
I’ve been supervising in a doctoral program and a student has finished his, his DMin project, and it was on emotional intelligence and pastors. And he did this study and had a group of pastors do an intervention. But there was a fairly significant number, I’d say, 25% of pastors that were operating at what has been termed a adolescent level of emotional intelligence, meaning they’re reactive, they’re defensive. They don’t know why they feel, they, they don’t know why they feel the way they do, why I’m reacting the way I don’t know how to read other people. And of course, part of his project was making the case that puts them at a major disadvantage and doing ministry and reading a room of elders or leaders or people congregants, and it was interesting to me, again, a fairly significant number scored pretty low on emotional intelligence, whereas other areas of intelligence, they would score very high. And a part of that, again, goes back to not knowing how their upbringing has affected them, and how their wounds and traumas have affected them, whether in their upbringing or later in life. And so yeah, I mean, I’m a counselor, so of course, I’m gonna bite on that. But yeah, I think there’s so much value in that not only for personal healing, I mean, I see pastors carrying stuff that they don’t need to be carrying, and they can experience so much more joy and freedom and life for themselves. But also they so desperately want to be better at ministry, that they’re also missing an opportunity there to be freer to do ministry. I think the way God intended to do it through them, you know, to be freer, and doing it and not carrying some of the burdens they are carrying. And so yeah, I think there’s so much to be gained from look, taking some time looking back at your life and saying, What can I learn? What needs to be healed? What lies are still hanging around in my heart and soul and mind from that time, that I’m still trying to shake and still trying to work my way out of and all that kind of stuff?
Yeah, that’s good. Now Michael, some, or maybe many, pastors and ministry leaders tend to be pretty charismatic, you know, outgoing, kind of extroverted, very comfortable in social situations, those types of things. And, and sometimes that can make you feel as if you’re okay, right? I feel like, like, you’re okay. Because you’re very comfortable around people. You’re very charismatic. So there’s this, just kind of sense that, hey, nothing’s wrong with me. Talk to us a little bit about how even kind of those skill sets or that giftedness doesn’t mean that you’re not going to have, you know, kind of hang ups when it comes to, you know, emotional intelligence, or relational intelligence and working with people. Talk us through that a little bit.
Yeah, I mean, you’re right, that we’re great at putting on that kind of mask or role. And it ties in often to a natural giftedness and natural personality, being charismatic, being people-oriented. And we come across great. To every strength there is the downside. The dark side, so to speak, is that we can use that as a cover up for the real pain that we are feeling and carrying. And that comes back again, of having this safe space, where somebody can ask us the real questions and say, hey, you know, I don’t want you know, your happy face, so to speak today, I want to know, how did that really affect you? When so and so died in the church? I know you did their funeral, you did a great job. But have you grieved yet? How does it affect you, that person you knew them for 10 years, you know, for 20 years? What are your feelings? Having somebody who can push in and get beyond that facade, because that facade will will pop up with it’s just a generic, hey, how you doing pastor? But if it’s somebody you know, that really knows the pastor and the pastor trusts, and it’s a good trust, meaning, okay, this person is safe and wise, and really is here for me, you know, then that person can hopefully push through that kind of natural reaction to say, I’m fine, I’m doing great, you know? And so like, how did that really affect you and give them that permission to actually go deeper and actually push them a little bit, encourage them like say, you know, Pastor, I know that affected you? And then, just tell me about it. What’s going on here? So I think it’s important again, to have that person in that place where you can push beyond that.
Yeah, that’s good. Michael, if you’re sitting across the table with a pastor, and they’re not able to go into an intensive, you know, an intensive time, but you’re just speaking into life, maybe they are a young minister, you’re speaking into their life and trying to provide some guide rails, perhaps some guardrails to guide them? What are a handful of things that you might encourage them with, to really, you know, pull these into your life so that you can, you know, pursue ministry and be effective and fruitful for the long haul?
You know, I think one thing and I think there’s some more denominations getting on board with this, and even some Bible colleges and seminaries. But I think mentorship is huge. I think finding somebody who’s 20 years ahead of you in the game, and spending some time with them. You know, I know it’s hard to find some time, they have the time, I have the time, we have the time we can find in our schedule. But boy, I think that is so huge that they can tell you here’s the lessons I have learned about how to do well in ministry, I’m 20 years in now. And I still have my marriage. And here’s what I did wrong. Here’s what I did right. You know, so I think that’s you just just being mentored. I mean, I think it wasn’t that far long ago in history, when that was more of a way we came into most professions was through mentorship. And now you graduate, get your degree and boom, you got a job. And it’s like, Ooh, that’s a little scary at times, you know, and then all of a sudden, you realize, Wow, this is the real world. It’s different than the seminary world or the Bible college world. So I think it’s huge. If you can get a mentor who can really pour into you to you know, somebody in your immediate community again, and I’ve mentioned it three times, I must be on this topic in my mind today with somebody who’s that safe person, the person who takes you out for coffee or breakfast, every couple of weeks kind of thing and really is there for you, and that they really have the maturity to be able to see you as you, and not care about, so to speak, you as a pastor but you as a person. And so I think that’s huge to have that because, you know, sometimes it has to be outside the immediate local community, I know that it’d be ideal if it was, but sometimes it’s not available or you don’t know the people if you’re new to a ministry. But having that person, even if it’s, you know, somebody you went to Bible college with or seminary, but somebody who you touch base with. I’ve got a couple of people like that in my life and it’s just so key for staying healthy, to be able to be like, I didn’t even know I had anything to talk to. And so I started to engage with them, I’m like, wow, I really have something on my mind, because they’re so safe, I just start going, and then all of a sudden, I’m talking about something and realize, Wow, that really has been weighing on me. So you don’t even know at times until you’re in the right setting to work through some. So having that one, two relationships and not putting all that on your marriage. I mean, I think that’s a struggle we often do in ministry is unload everything onto our spouse, because they’re safe, that it’s good to talk to your spouse to the level that you guys have worked out and agree to. And that’s different with every marriage, I have found. But don’t put it all on your spouse, you know, put have somebody that you can go to, that you can talk through these things. And then I’d say do a little bit of reading on healthy, being healthy in ministry, you know, there’s some tons of great resources. When I started in this field 20 some years ago, it was harder to come by stuff. But now there’s so much great stuff, so many great studies, so many great books that say here is a way to be healthy in ministry, without negating effectiveness, which is often the pull back like I don’t want to do those boundaries, because I don’t want to be less effective. And that’s not true. It’s actually the opposite, you know, is that you’ll be more effective, you know, when you are full of life and joy and your cup is running over and you’re not dragging yourself in dreading the next meeting, like oh, I can’t play it, I gotta do this, again, that kind of thing, which where you get to when you are heading towards burnout?
Yeah, that’s helpful. You know, it’s interesting how so many of those things that are helpful and healthy for sustainable ministry. revolve around community, really, it shouldn’t be a surprise, God created us for community, with himself and with others. And it’s interesting to think that in the field of ministry, which is all about in so many ways, being in community, that we can miss those relationships that are really key in helping us to be fruitful and healthy. So thank you for for bringing that to mind. I just think that’s kind of a fascinating thing to reflect upon. Michael, tell, tell our viewers, our listeners, if they want to learn more about you, if they want to connect with you, if they want to find your new book, Don’t Blow Up Your Ministry, what’s the best way for them to connect with you and your ministry?
Well, marbleretreat.org is where you’ll find the ministry. And there’s some information of course, about myself and my book on there. So go to marbleretreat.org, you’ll find out about the ministry of Marble Retreat, as well as some of the things that I am involved in as well. And of course, the book is available, wherever books are available, you know, Amazon and those kinds of things, but you can Google it, or search it or go on Amazon, if you’re interested in getting it. It’s a great book that lays out a cautionary tale, but also one of hope and some some very practical leading of how to look at some of your own brokenness and get ahead of the game. Because sooner or later it will catch up to you in ministry. And you know, of course, I see those folks who are like, asking me, how did this happen, and they wish they could dial it back 10 years and say, I wish I would have made some changes 10 years ago, and I wouldn’t have had to go over this cliff, you know. And so that was the genesis of the book of just sitting with pastor after pastor who had blown up their ministry and they’re grieving, lamenting very deeply now, how did this happen? I never intended on doing, and you fill in the blank, and then they look back and they saw it coming but didn’t stop it. And just thought they could push it a little further and a little further until it did blow up. And you know, I just I don’t like to see pastors getting to that point. Nobody does and it doesn’t have to be that way. As always the sad part is they realize it didn’t have to go down this way, that God actually provides a different path. And for different reasons. I didn’t choose that path.
Yeah, yeah. And I agree that’s one of the things you hope to catch people earlier, you know, earlier and that’s why community is so important like we talked about, right? Got to catch ourselves earlier but as you said, Man, the book, absolutely excellent, Don’t Blow Up Your Ministry, encourage you guys to grab a copy. Just what you said Michael. It is that cautionary tale but so so full of hope, as well. So really want to encourage everyone to check in on that and you guys can find all kinds of stuff at PastorServe.org. Again, the complimentary coaching session, you can go to PastorServe.org/freesession. But all the information connecting to Michael, to Marble Retreat to the book itself, lots of other resources are available in the toolkit which you can find at PastorServe.org/network. So we want to make sure you guys get those links, can find the book easily, can find Michael and Marble Retreat so you can learn more about that ministry. So once again, thank you so much, Michael, for being with us. I appreciate you making the time to really share from your heart and spend some time with us. And thank you for the book, thank you for putting your heart into that. And what a great tool I think this will be for the Kingdom, and just an opportunity. So thank you for just doing what you do for the kingdom brother.
Thank you very much. And I really appreciate PastorServe. You guys are a great resource for pastors, so great to talk to you today and get to participate with PastorServe in doing this work of caring for the kingdom’s leaders.
Amen, brother, thank you so much. God bless you.
Hey, take care.
Now, before you go, I want to remind you of an incredible free resource that our team puts together every single week to help you and your team dig more deeply and maximize the conversation that we just had. This is the weekly toolkit that we provide. And we understand that it’s one thing to listen or watch an episode, but it’s something entirely different to actually take what you’ve heard, what you’ve watched, what you’ve seen, and apply it to your life and to your ministry. You see, FrontStage BackStage is more than just a podcast or YouTube show about ministry leadership, we are a complete resource to help train you and your entire ministry team as you seek to grow and develop in life in ministry. Every single week, we provide a weekly toolkit which has all types of tools in it to help you do just that. Now you can find this at PastorServe.org/network. That’s PastorServe.org/network. And there you will find all of our shows, all of our episodes and all of our weekly toolkits. Now inside the toolkit are several tools including video links and audio links for you to share with your team. There are resource links to different resources and tools that were mentioned in the conversation, and several other tools, but the greatest thing is the ministry leaders growth guide. Our team pulls key insights and concepts from every conversation with our amazing guests. And then we also create engaging questions for you and your team to consider and process, providing space for you to reflect on how that episode’s topic relates to your unique context, at your local church, in your ministry and in your life. Now you can use these questions in your regular staff meetings to guide your conversation as you invest in the growth of your ministry leaders. You can find the weekly toolkit atPastorServe.org/network We encourage you to check out that free resource. Until next time, I’m Jason Daye encouraging you to love well, live well, and lead well. God bless.
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