An event promoting mentally healthy pastors and churches

Church always has been a place where people can act foolish with little consequence — where people have the space to act out toward clergy in ways that aren’t safe to do toward their bosses or their spouses. Being a pastor never has been easy, but this is a new level of hell that pastors are living.

I came across the above quote in this article written by a pastor about the struggles of his fellow pastors in a Facebook post from a pastor who used to serve at my church highlighting the burdens that pastors and church staff have been experiencing while doing ministry in the middle of a pandemic. A study from the Barna Group in the early days of COVID-19 noted three in ten pastors (31%) say they are currently struggling the most with their emotional well-being, while a quarter (26%) say this about their relational well-being.

When I think about the families I work with through my practice and the leaders I come in contact with through our ministry, few professions have faced more adversity during the pandemic than folks serving on staff at church. I’ve previously referenced the Social Readjustment Rating Scale – a tool used to calculate the risk of medical illness based upon the individual’s experience of 43 potentially stressful life events in the past year.  The higher the score, and the larger the weight of each event, the more likely the individual was was to become ill. Consider what many in ministry have experienced so far during 2020 from the list of stressful events…

  • Business readjustment (39 “stress points”)
  • Change in financial state (38)
  • Change in responsibilities at work (29)
  • Spouse begins or stops work (26)
  • Revision of personal habits (24)
  • Change in work hours or conditions (20)
  • Change in church activities (19)

A recent study from the City College of New York and Duke University demonstrated that higher levels of spiritual well-being were protective against increased depressive symptoms in pastors, even when controlling for perceived emotional support.

Our team had been wrestling with what we might do to be supportive of our brothers and sisters involved in ministry while helping them care for individuals and families inside and outside of their churches who are struggling during this time. We came up with the idea of an event focusing on pastors, mental health and the church combining an online retreat with a mental health ministry conference. We’re planning the event in partnership with a pastor and media consultant (Nils Smith) who has an established track record of success in creating events similar to this one  and has worked with our ministry in the past.

Our Online Pastors’ Retreat seeks to:

  • Provide resources and support to pastors and church staff to help them attend to their mental health needs and the needs of their families.
  • Promote the development of mental health ministry strategies guiding care and support to persons inside the church and outreach to individuals and families with mental health concerns without a church.

We reached out to colleagues involved with mental health ministry along with pastors and other church leaders recognized for their concern for clergy well-being when we came up with the idea for the retreat. We were blown away – and very blessed by the willingness of leaders of churches and ministries far more prominent than ours to participate in the event. Some of the folks who will be participating (in alphabetical order) include…

  • DJ Chuang (Erasing Shame Podcast)
  • Jack Graham (Prestonwood Baptist Church)
  • Brad Hambrick (The Summit Church)
  • Craig Johnson (Lakewood Church)
  • Pete Scazzaro (Emotionally Healthy Discipleship)
  • Heather Sells (Christian Broadcasting Network)
  • Greg Surratt (Seacoast Church)
  • William Vanderbloemen (Vandebloemen Search Group)
  • Kay Warren (Saddleback Church)

You’ll also recognize a number of prominent mental health ministry leaders who have been part of Key Ministry events in the past, including Jermine Alberty, Brad Hoefs, Joe Padilla, Shannon Royce, Amy Simpson and members of our Key Ministry team. We expect to finalize a few additional presenters leading up to the retreat.

The retreat content will first be made available on October 5th-7th. All of the sessions are pre-recorded and will become available to you on those dates. There’s no expiration date so participants may take as much or as little time to watch as you need. We’ve also set the retreat up to be accessed “on-demand,” whenever it’s most convenient for you to do so.  Binge watch like you would a series on Netflix, watch a little in the morning or over your lunch break, or take part of a morning each week to go through it a few sessions at a time.

While the content for the retreat will be available on-demand to be consumed in any order, the event is organized as if it were a three day conference.

Day One presentations are focused on self-care – how to recognize when you need help; how to maintain emotional health in ministry and how to do self-care with a pastor’s schedule.

The Day Two focus is on church care – basics on mental health for pastors and church leaders, understanding the need for staff and volunteers to be trained in Mental Health First Aid and supporting ministry colleagues and individuals and families within your church impacted by mental illness.

Day Three presentations address becoming a mental health-friendly church – introducing a model for developing a mental health inclusion strategy, three models of Christian-based mental health support groups, mental health ministry success stories and emerging mental health ministry models.

Since one of the things we miss the most about live conferences are the connections with the other speakers and attendees, we’ll be building opportunities for interaction into the retreat. There will be discussion questions for some presentations and opportunities to chat via Zoom with the speakers for others. We’ll have a section for comments associated with each presentation similar to the boards commonly used with online college courses. We hope the comments section for each presentation fills up with great insights, questions and engagement.

We’d like to encourage everyone we know who is actively engaged in ministry – pastors, church staff members and their spouses, parachurch ministry leaders and high capacity volunteers to join us as we seek to better understand how to care for ourselves, our families and the people we’re meant to serve in ministry in the midst of a pandemic, economic crisis, a highly divisive culture and social unrest. We’ve sought to keep the cost as modest as possible so that as many pastors and ministry leaders as possible may take part. Check out the retreat website or click here through September 23rd for a $39 “early-bird” rate to access all of the presentations and resources our gifted leaders and speakers have assembled.

Hope you’ll be able to join us in October!

In Mental Health and the Church: A Ministry Handbook for Including Children and Adults with ADHD, Anxiety, Mood Disorders, and Other Common Mental Health Conditions, Dr. Stephen Grcevich presents a simple and flexible model for mental health inclusion ministry for implementation by churches of all sizes, denominations, and organizational styles. The book is also designed to be a useful resource for parents, grandparents and spouses seeking to promote the spiritual growth of loved ones with mental illness. Available now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, ChristianBook and other fine retailers everywhere.

About Dr. G

Dr. Stephen Grcevich serves as President and Founder of Key Ministry, a non-profit organization providing free training, consultation, resources and support to help churches serve families of children with disabilities. Dr. Grcevich is a graduate of Northeastern Ohio Medical University (NEOMED), trained in General Psychiatry at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at University Hospitals of Cleveland/Case Western Reserve University. He is a faculty member in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at two medical schools, leads a group practice in suburban Cleveland (Family Center by the Falls), and continues to be involved in research evaluating the safety and effectiveness of medications prescribed to children for ADHD, anxiety and depression. He is a past recipient of the Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Dr. Grcevich was recently recognized by Sharecare as one of the top ten online influencers in children’s mental health. His blog for Key Ministry, was ranked fourth among the top 100 children's ministry blogs in 2015 by Ministry to Children.
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