When God changes the paths of ministers and leads them in new directions, it can feel isolating and discouraging. Transitioning from life as a pastor to life outside of the pulpit can be a difficult and challenging process as those who have spent their entire career as pastors adjust into a new career. Pastors in Transition, founded by Mark Fitter, is a ministry that seeks to help pastors as they move from the pulpit to the workplace or any other directions God is leading.
In February of 1976 I accepted my first full time ministry position in a church of about 200 in Southern California. I remember a piece of advice from a former pastor that went something like this.
“If you can do anything else don’t go into the ministry.”
I often thought about that statement over many years of serving the Body of Christ as a pastor. Although I do not totally agree with the statement, there are some underlying truths that make the statement poignant. The church has changed in many ways over the years, both positively and negatively. Amidst this change, there is one great need that still remains in many places. That is the need to help pastors who are experiencing burnout, rejection and depression, as well as what to do after leaving the ministry.
Leaders and ministers take a variety of professional paths, with one commonality being challenge along the way. Many of us wrestle our whole lives with finding balance between ministering to the hurt and broken pastor and remaining emotionally healthy ourselves. Even the healthiest pastor can succumb to years of stress, misunderstandings and disappointments. In 1982, I experienced a challenging transition myself. That is when I left a church where I had ministered for 11 years. It seemed that no matter what I did to leave in the right manner, hurtful responses continued to my transition continued to sprout up. Gossip, innuendos, accusations, and hurtful statements followed. A very wise mentor said something to me that defined what I was feeling:
“David, you will never leave in the ‘right’ way.” After two additional church experiences spanning over 20 years, it seemed true that the church is the only organization that shoots its own wounded. Fortunately I had finished a Graduate degree in Counseling and discovered that I was more effective by treating individuals and families who had been scarred by life experiences including, the ministry.
A few years ago I was asked to be part of a ministry called Pastors in Transition (PIT). Pastors In Transition is a ministry specifically designed to help Pastors and leaders navigate the difficult waters of hurt, misunderstanding, rejection, and transition.
Counseling pastors has always been special to me so I consider it an honor and blessing to be able to serve through PIT. There is a growing need not only to minister to pastors but to their wives and family members. I recently read an article about the things that pastor’s wives experience in this challenging and difficult role. My wife often tells a story about ministry that she calls the “Two for One.” In other words, it is frequently expected that the wife will be able to fill in all the other needs in the church such as playing the piano, planning all the social events, leading the women’s ministry, etc. And she should always be happy, willing to serve and friendly at all times.
Yes, there is growing numbers of wives and children who become resentful and angry due to unrealistic expectations. Families of pastors are not immune to mental health struggles, and those prone to anxiety or depression can be pushed further into their struggles by feeling like they live in what has been described as a fishbowl. I counsel many of these people who are angry at God and the church. Many have walked away from God because of this. It is for these and many other reasons that Pastors In Transition is so desperately needed in the body of Christ today.
It has been great getting to know Mark Fitter who has a great heart for this ministry. Perhaps you have wanted to expand your counseling into areas of serving God’s wounded leaders? We are in need of people willing to volunteer an hour or two a week or an hour or two a month. I can certainly tell you that it will be an hour or two well spent. You can read more about Pastors In Transition at: pastorsintransition.net. And here’s how you can help:
- Pray for your pastor
- Pray for the ministry of Pastors In Transition
- When you hear it, stop gossip about the pastor and/or his family
- When walking out of church, offer your pastor a word of encouragement
- Donate 1 to 4 hours a month to provide pro bono counseling for a pastor
David M Gutknecht, M.S., LPC is a full time counselor and life coach in Westminster Colorado. He is the author of the book, The Word By Steps, and has a new book called Let God be your life coach.
To get more information or start helping now, you can contact Mark Fitter, Directing Pastor at Pastors In Transition, at 949-212-5959 or email@example.com.