By Tom Osanjo
The recent suicide of an American pastor has once again brought to the fore the many pressures men and women of the cloth go through, but which are normally swept under the carpet or ignored altogether.
Those who should come to their rescue concentrate on the more “important” chores of fighting the devil and winning more souls to the Kingdom of God.
According to CBN News, Inland Heals lead pastor Andrew Stoecklin died in hospital on Saturday, August 25, after trying to take his own life the previous day. It was later established that Pastor Stoecklin was suffering from depression.
From interviews with various Kenyan pastors and information gleaned from the Internet, it is clear that many of those called to the pulpit are under immense pressure to perform, leading to depression and, in the case of Stoecklin, suicide.
With social media becoming more and more like the validation point, it seems pastors are not spared the need to prove that they do belong.
Commenting on Stoecklin’s death, Pastor Paul Valo of Christ Church in Orlando, in the United States, said: “Depression is real and pastors are not exempt. In this generation, pastors are expected to be business savvy, Instagram quotable preaching celebrities, fully accessible, deeply spiritual, not too young and not too old.”
Talking to Kenyan pastors, the picture that comes out is a group under pressure. Gibson Anduvate, the senior pastor at the International Christian Centre, Nairobi, says many pastors are subject to high expectations from the congregation and the society as well.
“The demands of the ministry are immense, and it can at times be very difficult to manage them,” he said.
Apostle Nickson Orieny of the Temple of God Ministries agrees. He says loneliness and lack of reciprocity from the flock are some of the issues pastors have to deal with on a day-to-day basis.
“Many times, pastors do give their best in terms of time and resources to ensure their flock is satisfied, and well nourished, but receive nothing or less from the same flock whenever they fall in need. This does leave a majority broken, with a strong feeling of having been ‘used,’” he says.
For nearly all the pastors we spoke to, the need to have a healthy work, family and personal time balance is of utmost importance.
Pastor Anduvate said one must learn to set apart a day for rest and also plan well to spend time with the spouse and children.
Apostle Orieny said for him another trick was staying near the church. “I always ensure I comply with God’s timetable set for me in Church. Since I reside near the church, it is much easier for me to attend to the urgent needs of the church and family, promptly, whenever needed.
“This also provides me with ample time with my family and myself without losing out on any. Staying far from a church station can be a very costly affair,” he says.
For Pastor Isaac Migwalla, sometimes the very congregation one leads becomes the source of problems.
“People view pastors as some demi-gods and yet they are normal human beings who face the same challenges everyone is going through. They therefore expect a lot from them and pastors are under a lot of pressure to perform, hence ending up burning out.”
In dealing with this, the lead pastor at Power Impact Ministries International said: “There is time for everything. I allocate equal time for work, family and personal time and I don’t allow one to eat into the other and I also don’t carry work stuff to the house or family issues into my work, when it’s time for work, it’s work and when it’s time for family its family only.”
All the pastors agreed that a strong family support system as well as the backing of fellow clergymen was crucial.
“Pastors going through hard times should not suffer in silence, they should come out, look for mature ministers to share with. They are not angels and once in a while will face challenges, but as they share with someone they are able to get the necessary help they need and later on be of help to others who will go through the same issues,” Migwalla said.
Pastor Anduvate said he had benefited a lot from group and individual counselling sessions.