In November 1993, the Federal government mandated state employment commissions to provide a higher level of services to displaced workers whose profiles indicate they need additional assistance in their transition to new employment. The services include workshops that train recipients in fundamentals such as resume writing, search techniques and interviewing skills. While state agencies cannot attempt to meet the emotional needs of displaced workers, they do recognize them. Consequently, the workshops provide a component on networking, or making contacts with friends, colleagues, and churches in an effort to heal from the trauma of losing one’s job and moving into productive employment.
One segment of our society, however, does not benefit from the above-mentioned workshops or other tangible concerns – pastors or ministers who have been forced out of their ministry position by their congregations. In the secular world, when a person loses his or her job, they normally have a pastor and church family to walk with them and encourage them. When ministers are forced out, they lose not only their source of income but also their support system.
The most recent figures I have read indicate that approximately 1,600 Protestant ministers experience forced termination each month in our nation. A study by Texas Tech and Virginia Tech Universities published in the March 2012 Issue of the Reviews of Religious Research shows that 28 percent of ministers have been forced from their ministry position at least once during their career. That’s one out of less than four.
As a result of the deep wounds inflicted during forced terminations from ministry positions, only 54 percent of those forced out continue in a church related ministry position. Some of the best of God’s chosen servants are lost to parish ministry. The Ministering to Ministers Foundation, Inc. (MTM) was developed in order to (1) help prevent the expanding number of ministers and churches affected by forced terminations, and (2) to provide good trauma care to ministers and spouses who have been wounded by such experiences.
Most major hospitals have spent millions of dollars to provide facilities, equipment, and train specialists for their Trauma Care Unit because they have discovered that with good trauma care, patients heal faster and more completely, often growing stronger at the broken places. The same principle is true with emotional and spiritual trauma. Experience has proven that with good trauma care, ministers who have experienced forced termination can become healthier than they were prior to the trauma of forced termination. That’s our goal at MTM.
As ministers and spouses arrive at a Healthy Transitions Wellness Retreat, their trust level is zero, their self-esteem is dragging the ground, and their self-confidence is eroded – sometimes completely gone. They feel they have failed their family, church, and God. Whether real or imagined, the isolation is overwhelming. They often feel guilty, thinking that perhaps they were not spiritual enough. Some are in a state of denial. Usually there is an enormous amount of anger, often suppressed, because Christians in general and ministers in particular have been conditioned to believe that good people do not feel or express anger. Most have at least a low-grade depression. During the five days of the wellness retreat, the participants develop a safe setting that enables them to bond and together work through many of their areas of need.
I am amazed at the change in the countenance of the participants from the first to the last day of the retreat. I marvel at the trust that develops within the group in such a short time, especially considering their lack of trust upon arrival. I have met some great people through the retreats whose friendships I will cherish for years to come.
MTM will continue to try to help wounded ministers and their families begin the process of healing. With the increase in calls for help, we hope to increase the number of retreats in order to provide good trauma care to more people. I invite you to partner with us through prayer. We believe that healthy ministers help produce healthy churches and that healthy churches help produce healthy communities and that healthy communities help produce healthy societies. Too many God-called but wounded ministers and spouses are left to suffer alone and in silence. That’s why good trauma care is so important.
Abilene Texas, Reporter News; December 14, 2000 Issue