Too many pastors commit suicide. Most recent is Isaac Hunter who founded the a megachurch called Summit Church in FL. It seems like every few weeks you hear about another pastor taking his own life. Suicide is always shocking, but many people seemed extra shocked when they hear that a pastor committed suicide. Honestly it doesn’t shock me. Being in a pastoral position myself, I understand the frustrations and demands pastors face. However, most people don’t understand what pastors go through on a daily basis. My friend Blake Appleby posted this on Facebook: “Ministry can be brutal. Most people have no clue what ministers battle on a daily basis.” Don’t get me wrong, pastoral ministry is a high calling and it’s an honor to serve Jesus in this way, but the job doesn’t come without many frustrations and struggles. I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I believe there are a few practical things pastors can do to protect themselves from every going down the road of suicide. Pastors don’t wake up one day and decide to take their life, it’s a struggle that usually starts with something “small” and goes unchecked.
Take a day off. This is simple. Pastors need take a day off. Many pastors work long hours Monday throughout Friday and then work again on Sundays. There only day off tends to be Saturday, but that usually gets eaten up by sermon prep or finishing up something that didn’t get finished Friday. Pastors must learn to take a day off and really take it off. Don’t answer e-mails, phone calls, or work on ministry stuff. Take a day off and get away from work the best you can. I’m grateful to work for a church that allows me to take a day off. Pastor, if you don’t take a day off each week, start doing it now. It’s worth it.
Have a hobby outside of ministry. Not only do pastors need to take a day off, they need a hobby and something to do that’s not ministry related on those days off. Many pastors take a day off, but they always end up still working because they don’t have a hobby. Pastor, find a hobby and do it on your day off!
Spend time with your wife. Not always, but many suicide stories I read about pastors seem to always include some type of marriage problem. It may be an affair or may be a marriage that is falling apart for some reason. Pastors need to spend time with their spouse. Instead of bringing more work home with you, turn your computer off (or just leave it at the office!), ignore your cell phone, and spend time with your wife. Watch a movie with her, take her on a date, or jump in bed and have some fun (yes, I just said that, but hey it’s true). I’d recommend pastors read two books related to this point: Date Your Wife by Justin Buzzard and Choosing to Cheat by Andy Stanley.
Accountability. Too many pastors don’t have regular accountability. This is why I believe you hear of so many pastors having moral failures or committing suicide. The Christian life and pastoral ministry are too hard to do alone. Pastors need someone to come along side them to keep them accountable. Someone to ask them the tough questions and make sure they are on the right path. Pastor, if you don’t have an accountability partner, make it a priority to get one as soon as possible!
Have people praying for you. Pastors need to be ok with asking people to pray for them. In fact, Paul asked people to pray for him all the time (Romans 15:30; Ephesians 6:19; 1 Thessalonians 5:25; 2 Thessalonians 3:1). Pastor, find someone or a group of people who will commit to praying for you. Swallow your pride and realize your need for prayer.
These are just a few practical ways I believe pastors can protect themselves from going down any road that may lead to suicide. It’s a serious subject and one we cannot take lightly. What are some ways you think pastors can protect themselves from suicide?