Wounded ministers find encouragement, healing

Wounded ministers find encouragement, healing

I’m emotionally tired and mentally exhausted today, but I’m encouraged as we go back home.”

Those words from a minister’s spouse from Texas summed up feelings expressed by many who participated in the 143rd Ministering to Ministers (MTM) Wellness Retreat hosted by the Center for Congregational Resources (CCR) at Samford University on July 8–12. 

“Our office handles the logistics for these retreats and the university invests in the expenses,” said CCR director Michael Wilson. “Our group this week represented several states and several denominations, but they all expressed grief that came about through crises in ministry. What we try to do is offer healing and hope in a confidential setting.”

Cynthia Barnes of Richmond, a licensed professional counselor and marriage and family therapist, served as onsite clinician for the week.

Barnes said shame is the major reason ministers are reluctant to share their stories and reach out for help. MTM retreats encourage them to tell their stories, to deal with issues needing improvement and also to consider new opportunities for ministry.

“These ‘survivors’ can’t say where they might’ve been today or that they would have chosen the road they took,” she said. “But their stories encourage us to trust in the redemptive plan of God.”

Mike Tate, president of On The Same Page Consulting, spoke to the group about transferrable skills that may enable participants to earn a livelihood in a secular vocation.

MTM founder and Alabama native Charles Chandler, now retired, began the ministry in 1994. His research found that about half of retreat participants return to full-time vocational ministry and the remainder find new career directions and perhaps perform bivocational ministry.

“Don’t waste your pain. Grow from it,” Chandler told retreat participants. “Wounded ministers can have a new dimension of ministry and a new level of compassion for hurting people.”