Already Gone?

by C
(USA)

I have been on leave from my pastorate since October 2010. I left because of a series of panic attacks, caused primarily by the stress that had built up in my life. Being Methodist, pastors are subject to being moved by a bishop, but in 19 years in ministry I had been in 10 different appointments! The last one was 50 miles from where my family lives, but we didnt want to move into the parsonage because my wife works two blocks from where we were living.

The long commute seemed to exacerbate issues I had had before in churches. After only 4 months, two ladies of the church met with me to tell me -- you aren't "social' enough, you are very awkward around people, you don't seem connected here, and we really feel a need for more involved leadership. I began to have panic attacks that night, and left the church before the week was out at the urging of a denominational supervisor.

Since then, I have been in therapy. I have learned that I have several fairly severe Personality Disorders as well as ADHD. The only interest my denomination has taken in me is to make sure I fill out all their appropriate forms. I have received virtually no support, and my wife has receieved none whatsoever. Ironically, the only way I can retain my ordination status is to remain actively involved in a Methodist church. My family has not been going to church with me.
I can't see any way of ever getting back into the pastorate (my wife doesn't want it.) But there is simply no other career that has meaning to me. I am 53, and see no prospects. I can't imagine what I would be able to do, and would want to do, that someone would hire me to do. And, most of the time, I am frankly too depressed to mke any progress on all that.

I guess I sort of flamed out rather than burn out. And all I have been saying since October is, "I need more help." Any ideas out there?

Comments for Already Gone?

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Already Gone?
by: E Levesque

Dear Pastor C:

I don't know if you are still checking in on this site. I understand you can't go back to the pastorate and I didn't go back either. In fact, both my husband and I work now. Out in the community. It isn't a lot but it is our money. We work at a convenience store. I know this sounds awful but it is so much better than pastoring you cannot even imagine. We ring up gas, slurpies, chips, candy, baked goods, and coffee. We are cashiers who run a cash register. We can have all the coffee/tea/slurpies we want. At night the left over sandwiches and bakery are ours if we want. We live frugally. We live off the protein of these items and salads. Sometimes I buy a chicken or hamburger. WE have never been poorer. Or happier. I would never go back. I know this sounds ridiculous but the only thing we have to worry about is which gas pump to put the money on or how low the slurpee machine is getting and to make sure we have enough cups and straws, coffee and cream. Small things. It is a neighborhood convenience store and many people know us by name. The other day someone said, "Do you own this store? it feels like an old fashioned Mom and Pop store." We have many regulars. We are known and respected. WE live in this neighborhood. We have some crabby people but all is good. I know this sounds strange but I hope and pray you read this and I hope and pray you have found something to do, however meager, however low the pay, that makes you feel humanly respected again. I know people with PhD's who flip burgers. Food service and food is healing. I chopped vegetables in catering for 5 years. Very healing. Blessings and Prayers.

Dear "C"
by: Elizabeth Levesque

I completely understand you! I am so glad you wrote back! One of the serious problems in pastoral ministry is that pastors like you threaten other pastors, did you know that? You have a legitimate issue about not being able to pastor in such a toxic environment and you think it is your problem? No, it is not your problem. You are normal! Your are so, so normal. Until these churches admit to their wounding, hurting, abuse and bullying and non existent pay for pastors, and stop what is essentially a damaging and corrupt system, then pastors like you and me will continue to have to speak out and say, "it's you...not me!" Why would you go back to such an awful place that hurts and wounds you? You are wise to leave! You are the smart one! I applaud you! If I could throw you a big parade for leaving I would! But, beware, those still in the pastorate, who are "sticking it out" will try to talk you into staying, or getting help, or some other nonsense, when in fact, if they could be gut level honest, they would say, "this sucks!" and leave too! However, leave how? with what? they were not trained for anything else and who would leave when you have invested decades in your church pension and that $24,000 M-Div education? Not to mention the BS in Bible. See? Many cannot leave the church because they are not educated for anything else. They would be at minimum wage out there and that is seriously frightening, right? So, they give you awful advice. The kind of advice they would never take if they were you. So, seriously, take time to heal. Find something else. I have. I did. Listen to your own heart. Listen to the sound of your own thoughts. Get in touch with your own spirit once more. You will be so glad you did. I left the pastorate at 50 with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, burn out, high blood sugar, you name it. I have never been happier than I am right now and you can be happy again. I know you can. It is a big beautiful world. Just get out in it when you feel yourself capable and breathe in the fresh air. I spent many months enjoying nature, taking drives by the river, out in the countryside. You will be okay. In a bit of a while. You will come back to yourself. Eventually. Everything will heal. I wish you all the best! Elizabeth+

Response
by: C

To those of you who responded to me, thank you. But you don't understand. I can't respond to God's call. I have been so wounded in churches that I have zero confidence to step in front of a congregation. Besides, my denomination won't have me back. I wish I could make someone -- anyone -- understand and take me in hand and help me forward, but I can't.

Me Too!!
by: Paddy Venner

Hey mate - so sorry to hear how you've been treated - you don't deserve that. Forgive them and move on, as hard as that might be.
I too have ADHD (albeit a borderline version of it)and use it to my advantage - in fact two of my friends in ministry have it too and we call ADHA - it's not a disorder, but an Advantage!! We get to multitask and think huge and diversely in the way others can't. My wife and leadership team know about it and allow for it, which is why I surround myself with people with strong management and administrative skills because I just don't DO that stuff lol. Learn to celebrate your uniqueness and never apologise for it. You are called for a time such as this where you are confident in who you are in Christ. You are a gift to the local church (Ephesians 4) and anyone who comes to me the way a certain person did to you and says you are not connected will be asked to leave. You are the leader, you are the man of God and you walk in the authority that is yours. you are not a nothing but you are the gift ministry to the church. Gather strong leaders around you who have got your back and who make sure your needs are met and that your family is happy. Leaders who don't do that don't last long on my team. I wish we were not a continent apart, (I'm in England) as I think you need a man hug, some strong coffee and a friend. Feel free to chat with me.

Man of GOD
by: Mike

I will skip my frustrations and go right to the point. I've not been through what you just did/still are. I'm sad by the reactions you've gotten but I say, mighty man of GOD, GET BACK UP!! If GOD has called you to ministry, DO NOT let a religious mind sets hinder the call GOD (not man) placed on your life! If a particular group/denomination wants to act that way, you go where GOD leads you. He has ordered your steps, not a church building or group of so called "supervisors." I will pray for you specifically today and any other day GOD lays you on my heart! GOD is faithful! I say it again...GOD IS FAITHFUL! Keep pleasing GOD by your faith, your obedience to the call HE placed on you! So, "kick the dust off your feet" and pursue GOD, preach where He says preach, GO where He says go! Praying for you...

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