Our church recently started a coed cycling club. Every Saturday morning a dozen or so of us meet in the church parking lot, hop on our road bikes, and go for a ride of twenty-five or thirty miles. It’s turning out to be a good outreach, as several non-churchgoers have joined our little band. I’m learning how important it is to stay in a line and cycle as close as possible to the bike in front of me. This is called drafting. Each cyclist creates a vortex, or a low pressure area, that pulls the cyclist behind him or her forward. It is far easier to be behind someone and get in his or her draft, than to be alone or out in front. “Cyclists who are part of the group can save up to forty percent in energy expenditures over a cyclist who is not drafting with the group,” says scientist Paul Doherty.
In like fashion, your ministry will be easier, and a lot more fun, when you ask for and receive the help of other people.
In many ministers of the gospel (and in my own heart) there is a prideful resistance to receiving help from others. We want to be superheroes who rescue our poor parishioners in distress—and, incidentally, receive their adulation. It’s our way of building a record and earning righteousness apart from Christ. Depending on other people indicates weakness. And weakness, say1 Michigan psychologists Dane Ver Merris and Bert van Hoek, is what many pastors are loath to reveal:
Ministers are understandably reluctant to admit shortcomings on the psychological tests we use. Instead, pastors view themselves as highly principled, moral, and virtuous. Test instruments are quite good at detecting this defensiveness, and the pastors we have counseled often have been reluctant to admit even minor flaws or emotional discomfort—even to the point of threatening the validity of the test results. Rather than be surprised (or unduly troubled) by pastors’ strong tendency to be defensive, those who are in a position to help must simply acknowledge the strong pressure pastors feel to make a polished presentation of themselves in spite of their obvious and genuine struggles.
Ver Merris and van Hoek’s observations come from years of working with burned out pastors. They go on to say that emotionally healthy pastors “accept criticism with grace, have a realistic notion of their own worth, [and] value positive interpersonal relationships….” In other words, resisting the Lone Ranger mentality is key to effective pastoral ministry.