Leading through depression

The truth is that pastors and ministry leaders deal with depression but are often the last to realize it or at least, the last to admit it. In fact, in Dr. Gary Lovejoy’s book A Pastor’s Guide for the Shadow of Depression, he wrote about a pastor’s tendency to hide his or her battle with depression and said, “Pastors routinely disguise it, privately pleading with God to help them control their terrifying implosion, to heal them from the fatal flaw of despair that threatens their ministry.”
Some studies report that as many as 7 out of 10 pastors suffer from depression — a staggering number…
So, a couple weeks ago I sat down and had a conversation with Dr. Dan Sartor on this very issue. My hope was that he could shed some light on this darkness that, in my opinion, doesn’t get nearly enough attention and has left our pastors and spiritual leaders suffering in silence.
Dr. Sartor shared a bit of his own story during our interview:
I felt like I had to live in a way that looked like I had found the answers. And yet inside, the disparity began to become larger and larger, which meant more depression for me, more isolation for me, because I was afraid to go to certain people, because it’s sort of like when we’re in pastoral roles, it’s our job on the line. Not only are we trying to be there for others, but in some cases it’s like, well, if people know about my struggle, then they doubt my leadership.
Most pastors today deal with a very real sense of loneliness and isolation. They usually wrestle with the pressure to not only wear multiple hats, but perform well while wearing each one. It’s usually this same pressure that makes it difficult for pastors to establish healthy boundaries in their lives for the sake of his or her own mental, emotional, and relational health. On top of all of that, they carry the same pressures at home that everyone else does.

…creating safe spaces for conversations that are honest and that are deep. And explore the ways in which God may be present in these avenues of suffering and avenues of struggle that may be unexpected.  – Dr. Sartor

Depression among ministry leaders for some reason, at some point along the way, has become mysteriously unacceptable. So, when pastors deal with it, they feel they need to hide their private struggle in order to maintain their public image – creating the perfect storm.
But we can do better.
We must do better.
My hope is that this interview:
  • Helps church members get a broader perspective and deeper understanding of what their pastors go through and helps create a safe place for spiritual leaders to both hurt and heal.  
  • Helps pastors and leaders break free from the ungodly condemnation they feel for walking through the same darkness the people they lead walk through.
  • Helps pastors and their families find the road to healing and wholeness so they can get their lives back.
Leader – don’t throw in the towel, you’re not alone; better days are coming.
Click the links below to listen to my interview with Dr. Dan Sartor.
Pastor Travis Hall