5 Ways Pastors Can Manage Their Own Mental Health

1

Intentionally develop genuine friendships with other believers
God created us with a need to have him and others in our lives (Gen 2:18). It really is not good for us to be alone in our spiritual walk. In healthy relationships we find love, support, accountability, and examples. In these relationships we find fellow spiritual warriors who help us fight against the enemy’s arrows. To choose to be a loner, though, is to invite trouble. Our struggles almost always increase when we fight alone. 

2

Enlist an ongoing group of prayer partners—and daily give them prayer needs
Don’t wait until you have a significant need to request their prayer; instead, every day ask them to pray for you. Invite them to join you in praising God. Ask them to cover your day in prayer. Share your needs and burdens so they might pray for you with intentionality and insight. Something powerful happens within us when we know brothers and sisters are praying for us every day: we gain renewed hope because we know others have our back. 

3

Invest in 2-3 other believers and model good spiritual disciplines for them
I’ve learned by experience that focusing on others helps turn our attention away from burdens that can wear us down. Others watch our lives. They look to us as spiritual examples. They pray for us and challenge us even as we equip and guide them. When we practice good disciplines, we feed our own souls and show them how to do the same for themselves. The joy of a growing relationship with God and others results. 

4

Regularly take time off
Frankly, I confess my own struggle here, but I’m learning. In particular, I’m learning there’s nothing spiritual about ministry workaholism. At least one day each week, let the work go and relax. Take a walk. Get some exercise. Enjoy a hobby. Hang out with a friend. Then, be sure to plan your vacation—and take it. Make it long enough that you actually relax a bit. A rested pastor is almost always a healthier pastor. 

5

Don’t be afraid to talk with a Christian counselor
For some reason, many pastors aren’t willing to do what we recommend others do: talk with another believer trained in counseling. Our ego gets in the way. Fear of what others will think captures us. Sometimes it feels like leaning on someone else is an indication of faithlessness. And, we aren’t always sure how to find someone to help us. What we do, then, is remain silent—and we miss an opportunity for another Christian to help us manage our own mental health. 

Chuck Lawless is dean of doctoral studies and vice president of spiritual formation and ministry centers at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. For more from Lawless, visit chucklawless.com.

Dean of Doctoral Studies, Vice President of Spiritual Formation and Ministry Centers
Chuck Lawless
Southeastern Seminary
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