In April, our fourth Guerrilla Pastor Emily JoAnn Haynes shares with us her local pastoral ministry which takes a refreshing approach to discipleship and equally considers both the health of the congregation as well as the health of the pastor.
 – Discipleship as Mutuality ft. Emily JoAnn Haynes – Guerrilla Pastors
You can listen to her story in the episode above and read her thoughts on what clergy health looks in light of the conversation she had with us:
Mutual Care: Pastoral Leadership Without Sacrifice –
Rev. Emily JoAnn Haynes
Recently I spoke with Ryan Fasani about the church I pastor, Kaleo Nashville, on the Guerilla Pastor’s Podcast. We spoke specifically about discipleship and the shifts that our church has embodied and how those have evolved in my congregation and context. As it happens, Ryan, Josiah and Brian heard and focused on a small part of something I said that surprised me: mutuality.
As one of our church’s core values, mutuality is ordinary, common, and mundane to me; but perhaps this is not the norm in most churches? Maybe not all pastors are on the receiving end of pastoral care?
Before I jump into just how I have practiced a value of mutuality in my local context, I wonder if we could first just wonder… how have churches gotten here?
Christians may believe in a priesthood of all believers, but the pastor and the priest have a salary, job description, and title. That, unfortunately, may be part of the problem.
To embody mutuality would mean that the pastor also becomes a receiver of all the gifts of the body of Christ alongside all laity. That the pastor contributes their part and steps back so other’s can fulfill their callings as well. The pastor leads by equipping everyone else to use their gifts and graces in the body.
If this was happening broadly in the church, I wonder if it would start to address poor clergy physical health and mentally illness? Could it be connected? Could what is good for churches and discipleship also be good for the pastor themselves?
Sharing the load is all a good idea on paper, but when it comes down to making the necessary shifts it may seem unprofessional, selfish, or even narcissistic for a pastor to be on the receiving end of pastoral care. Meanwhile, I know many pastors who bend over backwards, are on call 24/7, and work 80-90 hours a week to serve their church communities.
It shouldn’t be this way.
How do we subtly resist the god-complex in ourselves without losing our jobs for not doing them?
How do we teach the church that we deserve care just like the rest of everyone else?
How do we get volunteers to accomplish the things that are currently in our job descriptions?
I’m not here just to ask questions though. Practically speaking, “mutuality” may be a little shocking when it comes to how it affects pastors when we start to put a little flesh and bones on the concept; I want to give you real (shocking) ideas you can try though.
So here we go:
Set (spiritual) health boundaries for yourself.
Do you take a sabbath day each week? Do you turn your phone off one day a week, sleep with it in another room, or get away from technology regularly? Do you have a primary care doctor? Do you have a therapist or a spiritual director? Do you exercise? Do you eat vegetables? Do you read things you like or have hobbies?
Even though Gnosticism was condemned a heresy hundreds of years ago, we still are fighting the demons of a disembodied gospel. How can a pastor speak to “good news” of resurrection, when there is still so much dead, outside-of-God’s-reign areas of our physical bodies?
Take ownership of your own spiritual growth.
Growth encourages growth. If you are growing as a person of faith, your journey will absolutely affect others. Unfortunately, pastors and leaders are so focused on giving spiritual nourishment that there isn’t any time left for receiving.
Our job is not to give people spiritual nourishment. Let me say that again… our job is not to give people spiritual nourishment!!! Our job is to be faithful to our Lord as a disciple ourselves. Once we own our personal discipleship, we can become a disciple who has disciples who follow our example; but that isn’t the end goal, that’s the gift of God.
Make a new best friend.
Wherever you are in life or ministry, you don’t know where you will be tomorrow or next year. You can’t control it if someone decides to use something personal you have shared to hurt you. You aren’t in charge of your next call yet. You are here, and here is the only place you can be right now.
So, who are your friends at church? You need some. You don’t have to be best friends with everyone, but you need some best friends at church, and you need to find spaces where you can be vulnerable with them and deepen those friendships on a weekly basis.
Who are your people? Who can support you when you’ve just received devastating news? Who do you have fun with? Who can pray for you when you are depressed or hurting? Who will take you out for your birthday? Who will understand your role, respect you, AND be your best friend, here, at this church?
It may take some trial and error, most people have never had a best friend for a pastor, but I hope to see that change. We really do need each other and pastors really do need friends at the churches they pastor.
Assess if everyone is serving!
List all the names of people in your church (including the ones you might normally exclude or write off… ughm… kids), is everyone using some gift they have? Does everyone contribute to the life of the church? Is anyone missing? Why? Maybe the person isn’t known enough to be engaged, maybe they haven’t been asked, maybe their gifts are not singing or working with kids.
Where do the gifts of your people and the opportunities for ministry collide? Maybe ask them? Who knows, you might have a bunch of new opportunities for service and impact just by talking to people who aren’t yet engaged in using their gifts!
Don’t fill in the gaps.
For there to be a gap that isn’t filled in. An empty space in your church’s ministry that makes you feel embarrassed, uncomfortable, or just downright wrong.
You must leave the gaps though.
If you have done your part, you must resist doing another’s part. You can voluntell people what to do, and you can share the need and the reality that it won’t get done if someone doesn’t step up, but whatever you do don’t fill in that gap yourself. If you step up every time someone drops the ball or there is an unfilled need, you are not allowing God to work on the person who is supposed to be filling that need, stepping up, leaning in, or reaching out.
Ask others to ask others.
As much as some of us would like to be the end-all, be-all to everyone at church, that just isn’t and will never be true. Some people will respect you and follow your every suggestion, others will be annoyed or downright offended at the actions you take.
When you need people to help with something, but see if others will help you engage those people individually. You can chart who follows whom in your church and go from there. Who are the matriarch and patriarch? Who has power or influence who doesn’t necessarily have “position”? Meet with those folks and ask if they will help you. Ask if they see the vision and what they can do to help you mobilize others. See if they will have significant conversations.
Study what you do.
Do a time study, track everything you do for the church and how much time it takes in a single normal week. Now, out of that list, what is taking time that someone else could help you with? What do you want to be on that list that isn’t? Who can help you accomplish what is needed and free you up to serve where your heart is in the ministry? What can you just stop doing all together? Is there anything you can just throw out?
In the book, The 4-Hour Workweek, Timothy Ferriss offers are some good ideas, like batching tasks, that pastors could use to get their workweeks down to… let’s just say, down to 40 hours.
To conclude I’ll say what I haven’t that undergirds this all. You must share the need. You must explain the reason you will be turning your phone off and be unreachable. You must know and value your 40-hour contributions and know and value the care of yourself (and family where applicable) to stop working. You must know yourself to know when you need a week off, or a day off, or a friend to come and sit and cry with you for a while.
Mutuality puts pastors and parishioners on the playing field together and one isn’t asked to die so the other may live. We already have a savior, who defeated death, so all of us can have “abundant” life. Pastors aren’t an exception; they are just kind of like cobblers, who need to care for their shoes too.
Links on Clergy health for your consideration:
Barna compares pre-pandemic anxiety to today, and you can imagine the results
The pastor’s mental health and the COVID-19 pandemic
Clergy of color face unprecedented mental health challenges
Listen to Emily’s complete interview by clicking one of the links below!
And finally, here is our round table response to Emily’s interview: