I was talking to Pastor Amy Truhe on the phone when she gave me this piece of advice for surviving pastor burnout: “everybody needs to orgasm.”
We had a chuckle, and I realized the wisdom of her words.
Nothing in church life has been the same since mid-March. There’s plenty of pastoral resources for help conducting online worship, following health guidelines, offering pastoral care, and creating community (https://www.christiancentury.org/blog-post/guest-post/10-guidelines-pastoral-care-during-coronavirus-outbreak). But, who takes care of the shepherd? Who is checking on the pastor while she rushes to meet the needs of her congregation?
Barna published research and a conversation in May about pastor stress levels (https://www.barna.com/research/covid-19-pastor-emotions/) and Duke’s Faith and Leadership recently published an article on the secondary trauma of pastors (https://faithandleadership.com/jessica-young-brown-who-cares-shepherds-secondary-trauma-faith-leaders-must-be-addressed).
But, it’s important to ask the question, six months into a global pandemic, how are pastors doing mental health wise? What are you doing to avoid burnout and stress? To answer this question, we’ve invited our Moses pastors to join the conversation and offer their strategies for building resilience and staying the course, to talk about the struggles and reflect on the toll of making what used to be basic decisions (i.e. can we hold in person worship, do kids ministry, serve Communion, sing).
This brings us back to Pastor Truhe.
Pastor Amy knows there’s a constancy to the work of pastoring that’s overwhelming. Depending on the season, she leads 3-5 services a week between her call at Messiah Lutheran Church and Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas. A pandemic hasn’t made that workload any easier.
Her comment about orgasm is about the importance of finding emotional release. To avoid burnout, she says “find an anchor or a root to ground you in the simple” and make time to disconnect several times a week. Do things with good friends like play board games, go bike riding, enjoy good food, listen to music, sit outside around a fire pit, and importantly turn off your phone, Pastor Amy recommends. While there may be torn brambles all around, she suggests looking for the simple foot path and developing a strong support system. Your strong support system doesn’t always have to agree with you, she explains, but should be made up of those who are willing to walk together with you.
And, of course, find those moments of release, because we all need them.
We live in a time when crude language and behavior is ubiquitous. Pastor Amy’s comment was not meant in that context. It speaks to the full expression of humanity and serves as a witness of what God does in our lives. See David T. Lamb’s book Prostitutes and Polygamists or Beth Felker Jones’ work Faithful: A Theology of Sex.