By Robert White

Dr. Robert White was raised in central Florida and completed his Bachelor’s degree at the University of Central Florida. After college, he completed the Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees at Luther Rice Seminary in Atlanta, Georgia. For more than 40 years he has served as pastor of churches in Florida and in Massachusetts. In October 2016, Dr. White joined Care For Pastors as a Pastoral Counselor/Coach. Robert currently resides with his wife, Kaye, in Leesburg, Florida.

    Failure to Follow Through

    Wednesday, February 01, 2023

    Care for Pastors offers support, encouragement, counsel, and resources to pastors and their families. It is our mission to see every pastoral family experiencing spiritual vitality, making an impact in his or her communities, and thriving in ministry.

    As I write this article, I am sitting at my desk, having just experienced what I’m writing about today. A client had an appointment and failed to show up for the appointment.  The client failed to follow through. Why does this happen?

    In a counseling ministry such as Care for Pastors, we see something that happens to pastors regularly. It’s called the S.E.R. cycle. Here is a brief description of what takes place when a pastor reaches out to us for help.

    Pastors and/or their spouses find themselves in one or more of these areas of need:  

    First, Marital Challenges – Marital challenges (communication, loneliness, isolation, neglect) are magnified by the unique demands and pressures of ministry life.  

    Second, Ministry Fatigue or Empathy Fatigue – This occurs when the pastor and/or spouse is taking care of everyone in the congregation but not taking care of himself or herself. 

    Third, Church Conflicts – This can be anything from a power group in the church wanting to get rid of the pastor, unrealistic expectations,  or a clash of visions between the pastor and some individuals or groups within the church.  

    We also counsel pastors and spouses who are experiencing sexual brokenness, addiction to pornography, and strongholds of oppression.

    The pastor and/or spouse reach a point of exhaustion and hopelessness. They realize there is a problem and they need help. They reach out to Care for Pastors and the S. E. R. cycle begins.

    Surge – There is a surge of energy and almost a sense of relief. The pastor has shown courage and faith by reaching out to us.  “I’m finally going to get some help with my problem.”

    Euphoria – the Surge is followed by Euphoria, an almost exhilarating feeling of hope. “God is going to work in my life and I am going to get some answers.”

    Relapse – The Surge and Euphoria are enough to keep the client going and give him or her a false sense of well-being. “I’m feeling much better. Maybe my problem isn’t as serious as I thought.”  

    • This false sense of well-being leads to the wrong conclusion – “I really don’t need help.”  
    • This inevitably leads to a relapse.  He or she falls back into the behavior that led to a crisis in the first place.
    • The pastor then doesn’t follow through with an appointment, a phone call, a scheduled meeting, or an assignment.  He feels guilt and shame because he has relapsed into depression, despair, discouragement, or defeat.  

    So, what is the answer? Realize what is happening. Treat the relapse as an event, not as a definition of your personhood or your ministry. It’s a relapse and it should be confronted, but don’t allow the relapse to keep you from getting the help you really need.  

    Pastors, you are not alone. Care for Pastors is here to help you navigate through the unique challenges of pastoral ministry. Reach out to us.

    Help us continue providing resources of care for pastors and their families.

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