After 3 days of the John Maxwell Team International Certification Event, I have a lot to process. Certainly there are some personal changes to make, as well as a lot of good stuff for a project I have looming head. All of that leaves me with a lot to blog about.
Today, I will once again board a train (a coworker called me “old fashioned”) and begin that long trip back home. When I miss home, and that is often, I wish I had flown, but with so much to process I am glad I took the train. I’ll find a nice spot to settle in with my notes and a new book or two and begin making some plans.
One thing I am left thinking about is something that was said during lunch. People were going around the table sharing what they hope to do with all of this training. When it was my turn, I explained my experience in ministry, my depression breakdown, and my recovery and how I hope to go in to churches and tell my story.
“Is there a market for that?” One man asked.
“Every time I tell my story,” I replied, “I am contacted by someone that tells me that after hearing my story they began getting the help they need.”
“Sure, “ the man said, “it helps that one person, but I don’t think its a business model.”
I began to wonder if this man was paying much attention to John Maxwell.
“Well, I also have a book being published along these lines. Books can promote speaking gigs and speaking gigs promote books.”
He shrugged and then left the table.
“Hey,” The man sitting next to me said as people began leaving the table. “Yesterday a friend of mine called me. He’s really worried about this guy he knows and he was asking me for advice. This guys is really depressed, and I mean REALLY depressed. They are worried about him but nobody knows how to help.”
We spent the next half hour discussing depression and ways to get help. Then he left to make a phone call to pass along what I had said.
Every. single. time.
1 in 5 people struggle with Depression or Anxiety and 80% of those people never seek help. So just to be clear, I am not interested in whether or not this dream of mine is a business. I want to tell my story as often as I can to as many people as I can. If it makes a little impact every time, then eventually it makes a big impact.
Keep making a little impact!
Aaron Davis is an author, speaker, and life coach. His novel, "Street Preacher" is available now and his memoir, "Baggage Claim: my journey through depression, ministry, and finding peace" will be released in the Summer of 2017! If you would like to have Aaron speak to your church, ministry, or organization, contact him here.
At the beginning of the month, I accepted a position as a hospice chaplain. This seems to be a good fit for me, since I have the education and 15 years of experience in pastoral ministry. It does not have all the stressors of pastoring a church, and for someone who burned out on church work, it fits well.
If you know me personally, or you read my blog, then you know that I struggle with very severe depression and anxiety. This has caused some to wonder if I am going to be ok constantly dealing with death.
It is true that my work week is always surrounding death. I visit people who are not expected to live longer than 6 months. I also have the responsibility of visiting everyone for whom death is imminent. I attend as many as 3 funerals per week. I make phone calls to grieving families, and I am getting ready to begin a grief support group. It is true that I am surrounded by death.
People mean well when they ask me if this job is going to be ok. I know a lot of people worry about my depression and how I am doing as I deal with it. However, what I am finding is that being around sad things does not magnify depression. Granted, I need to keep it all in check. Being around sad things can make me feel sad, but that is different from depression.
There is a temptation to think that the best way to deal with depression is to avoid any sad or difficult aspect of life. This might be necessary in a crisis situation, but it is not a good way to approach depression. It is impossible to live life and not have to deal with anything sad or difficult. Thus, the only way to avoid such things is to withdraw from life, and that kind of thinking leads to addiction.
To truly overcome depression, I have to learn to deal with the things in life that are sad or difficult. In this regard, my new job has been a tremendous help to me. Every day, I have to face the fact that death and grief are real parts of life. There are healthy ways to grieve and there are unhealthy ways to grieve, but we will all grieve at some time or another.
This morning, my pastor spoke about a story in the gospel of John, chapter 6. The disciples had set out across the sea of Galilea. Halfway across, they encounter a severe storm. Then, in the midst of such fear and trial, they see what they believe is a ghost. It is not a ghost, however, it is Jesus, walking on the water. He tells them, “Do not be afraid, I am here.” However, the most literal translation from the original language is “Do not be afraid, the I am is here.”
Jesus refers to himself as ‘I am’ in other parts of scripture. The ‘I Am’ is not a reference to self, but to God. When Jesus called himself the I AM, he was using the name that God introduced himself to Moses with.
There is something else interesting about John’s telling of this story. He leaves out the part where Jesus calms the storm. It seems that the point John wants to make is this: To know Jesus and to know who He is antithetical to fear. I have no need to fear because Jesus is the great I am and He is with me.
Thinking back about how a person might struggle with depression but face everyday difficulties, it is important to note that Jesus need not calm every storm in my life. It is enough to know Him and to know that He is near. There is no need to hide, no need to withdraw. There is endless glory in facing the day with Jesus.
Ministry burnout is more than just ending a career in the ministry. Burnout can damage churches, families, and yourself. Here are some warning signs and some tips for saving yourself from ministry burnout
1. I do not have time for important things!
Many ministry leaders will say that their marriages and their families are most important to them, but the demands of the church make those things take a back seat from time to time.
When you have a moment to think clearly, make a list of the things that are most important to you. If you find that you do not have time for those things, you are in danger of burn out.
2. These people are awful!
Does it feel like life would be so much better if your church was different? Are the individual idiosyncrasies of your lay leaders occupying more and more of your conversations and your thoughts?
Every church has its problems. However, ministry ought to bring more joy than pain. If you find yourself thinking and talking more about the problems of your church, you are probably beginning to burn out.
3. I cannot talk to anyone!
Ministry is a unique situation, but not so unique that no one can possibly understand it. If you find yourself thinking that you cannot talk to anyone about your struggles then you are not only on the path to burnout, but you are on some shaky personal ground as well.
4. I want out!
Escape fantasies may range from longing for a different church, to longing for a different job, to even wanting a completely different life! It is common to think that the grass is greener on the other side from time to time, but when escape fantasies become more common and more grandiose, burnout is taking place.
Steps to take to prevent burnout
1. Evaluate your health
Are you exercising? Are you eating right? Are you following your doctor’s orders? There are 4 aspects to being healthy. Read more about them here.
2. Evaluate your time
Remember that list of things that are most important? When you schedule your week and your day, do those things get a place on the calendar? If you cannot find room to spare, consider ending a few projects or delegating some responsibility in order to make room.
3. Evaluate your calling
Spend time with a coach or mentor and get to the center of your calling and vision. Sometimes the day to day work of the church gets further and further away from this. Make a plan to get things back on track.
4. Consider taking a sabbatical.
Not every pastor is in a position to take a year off to study. However, it may be possible to take a week or two off from preaching in order to get refreshed and reorganized.
When to take emergency action:
If escape fantasies involve the end of your marriage or your life, or your family is experiencing major stress at the expense of the church, you need to take emergency action. You need to speak to someone and make a plan immediately!
Aaron Davis is the author of the novel Street Preacher and is currently working on a memoir, Baggage Claim. He is developing a speaking and coaching ministry to address mental health in the church and ministry. If you are interested in having him speak to your church or organization, click here for more information.
Author, Parent, Husband, Christ-follower