Years ago I heard a story that left an imprint on me. It was about a boy named Tommy. Tommy was the only child of good and caring parents with limited financial resources.
Tommy’s passion was circuses. When he learned that a circus was coming to town, his heart’s desire was to go and see the circus. After long discussions, Tommy’s parents determined to make the necessary sacrifice in order for their son to see the circus.
On the appointed day, Tommy finished his chores early, showered, put on his best clothes, and rode his bike three miles to town. Already people were lining the street. In the distance he could hear the band and knew that following the band would be various animals and circus performers.
Excitement gripped Tommy as the elephants went by. And he could hardly contain himself as he watched the lions, tigers and other animals that he had read about as they roared from within their cages. Next were the trapeze artists and other performers. It was a “dream come true” for Tommy. Last were the clowns. This was Tommy’s favorite and he could hardly believe his own eyes.
As the last clown passed, Tommy did a strange thing. He stepped out from his place on the side of the street, walked straight to the clown, handed him the money his parents had given him for admission to the circus and then turned and rode his bike home.
Tommy went to town to see the circus and settled for the parade!
Too often, the story of Tommy and the circus is played out in life situations. It is easy to settle for much less than life has to offer.
Are you getting the most from life as you make choices? Or do you choose the path of least resistance?
This summer, our nation celebrated its 238th birthday. Our history is filled with stories of brave people for whom the freedoms we enjoy as a nation were dearer than life itself. The founding fathers never considered settling for the parade and missing the circus.
Think about Tommy’s story the next time you are tempted to settle for less than the best.
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
It is with great shock and sadness that I inform you of the tragic death of Dr. D. Ross Campbell, long-time MTM trustee. As you will note from the Chattanoogan.Com newspaper link below, Ross fell to his death while hiking at Stone Door Trail Near Beersheba Springs, Tennessee, (near Monteagle, about an hour from Chattanooga) on Friday afternoon. His body was recovered a little after midnight Friday night.
A funeral service celebrating his life will be held at 12:00 noon on Wednesday, November 7, at the Signal Mountain Baptist Church, 939 Ridgeway Ave., Signal Mountain, Tennessee, 37377, with the burial following at 1:30 p.m. at the National Cemetery in Chattanooga. Dr. David A. Myers, a fellow MTM Trustee, will officiate at the funeral service.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in his memory to the MTM Foundation, 501 Branchway Road, North Chesterfield, VA 23236, or on-line at www.mtmfoundation.org/support-us.
You can read more about the accident at http://www.chattanoogan.com/2012/11/3/237805/Dr.-Ross-Campbell-Killed-In-Fall-At.aspx#.UJadmyfRu2I.email.
Learn more about Ross by reading the tribute read as he was presented the Henry V. Langford Lifetime Service Award by MTM on March 25, 2011 –
http://www.mtmfoundation.org/about-us/awards/dr-donald-ross-campbell-psychiatrist/. Ross gave more than 70 weeks of his time and expertise in assisting with Healthy Transitions Wellness Retreats for Ministers and Spouses sponsored by the Ministering to Ministers Foundation.
Please lift Ross’ children and their families in prayer as they deal with this sudden and traumatic loss in their lives.
From The Servant, Volume 4, Issue 4, October 1999
MTM’s Assistance Prevents Pastor’s Forced Termination
Prevention is a word heard more and more in MTM circles these days. Retired pastor, James Wood, visited the September Trustee meeting and gave a first hand account of his experience while walking through a forced retirement effort with MTM’s help.
Pastor Wood and his wife, Ann, had been at Red Lane Baptist Church for about 10 years. According to all the “measurements” that churches use for indicators, the church was moving along at an acceptable level. He was dumbfounded when some of his deacons asked for a meeting with him and insisted upon his requesting an early retirement. “It was a done deal — all I’d have to do is read my letter of resignation and they would take care of everything so that I’d not be embarrassed in any way,” he said.
After that nightmare of a meeting, he was devastated and didn’t know what to do. He decided to call Dr. Charles Chandler, the MTM Executive Director. He was immediately invited to attend the next Healthy Transitions Wellness Retreat scheduled to begin in a few days.
James and Ann attended the retreat. During that experience, they gained new insights and a rekindled determination not to take the easy way out. Feeling that his opposition was a very small but vocal minority, they decided to deal with it head on rather than sneak away.
Back home, Pastor Wood told the deacon group that had approached him, “No” to the resignation proposal. The deacons were insistent on bringing the issue before the church so the meeting date was set. In the meantime, the secret of the “real” reason for the meeting got out. The church’s women’s network responded by getting word out to everyone in the membership. When the motion was brought to a vote at the meeting, it lost by a strong majority.
After the first vote, one of the ladies made a motion, “that the subject of tenure for the pastor could never be considered by this church again as long as James Wood served as the pastor.” That vote carried by an even larger majority.
James and Ann Wood have given a new meaning to the word, “Prevention”. Thinking of what might have happened to a pastor concluding his ministry on a sour note is frightening. So is the thought of a church being left without pastoral leadership at a critical point of its life with the disruption and splintering which would more than likely have occurred.
But — HERE’S WHAT DID HAPPEN!!
By affirming the pastor’s leadership role, the church began to move together rather than focusing its energy inward. It lost a few members but during the last three years, it has had more than 100 additions with more than half being by baptism. Many young families are visiting. Church worship attendance has doubled.
James Wood retired as pastor of the Red Lane Baptist Church on June 30, 1999. He served for 13 1/2 years and the church is very healthy after a history of 153 years. The congregation expressed its love to James and Ann through a celebration reception and showered them with gifts, including a love offering.
James expressed his appreciation to the MTM Trustees for the Wellness Retreat, the legal advice offered by MTM board member and attorney Arch Wallace and the encouragement received from the retreat participants and leaders. MTM receives many reports from those who thought they were doing the right thing by walking away from a confrontation, only to discover that doing so was disastrous for them and for the church.
MTM’s board member and Kentucky attorney Norvie Lay adds one final dimension of prevention that MTM highly recommends. He explains that much of the heartache experienced by ministers and congregations can be avoided by taking action at the front end of a relationship. “We don’t view ministry as a business, and, therefore, the idea of a written contract is often foreign to ministers. Churches still fall under the mandates of federal labor laws and a well written contract that outlines expectations as well as the procedures to be followed if the relationship needs to be terminated should be standard practice.” MTM does have a sample document for use in the front-end discussions (see http://www.mtmfoundation.org/prevention/).
From The Servant, Volume 4, Issue 3, July 1999
By Charles Chandler, Executive Director
They had traveled several hundred miles to participate in a five-day Healthy Transitions Wellness Retreat. Upon arrival, the couple quietly discussed the possibility of turning around and returning home. The thought of “opening up” before a group of people was very threatening!
Almost 100 percent of the ministers and spouses attending one of our retreats arrive in a warped condition. Forced termination does this to God’s chosen messengers. They come with zero trust level, low self-esteem, shattered self-confidence, feelings of failure, guilt about their spirituality and an enormous amount of anger.
The anger is often suppressed because they have been “conditioned” that Christians do not get angry. In addition, they feel isolated and lonesome because most of their church members have withdrawn for various reasons and their colleagues in the ministry are reluctant to associate with a “loser.” These ministers and spouses do not like to be reminded of their vulnerability and many do not know how to relate to it. Our retreats are designed to address all these life issues.
Actually, each retreat develops its own personality. There’s room for flexibility. There’s time for everyone to work on a personal problem and also be an encourager to a fellow group member. The problem solving techniques of small group dynamics are embraced. Usually, eight to twelve people attend a retreat.
Retreats conducted June 28-July 2 at Samford University in Birmingham, AL; July 5-9 in Dallas, TX, and July 12-16 at Carson-Newman College in Jefferson City, TN were classic examples of diversity. The participants came from Alabama, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. Some were still in their ministry positions and left the retreat with new perspectives and a new determination to face their conflict in a healthier way.
Most of them had already been fired or had resigned under pressure. Their concern was to find a new job — either in another church or in a secular job to provide food for their families. Others were experiencing an additional loss. Forced termination produces a pressure too great for many marriages to survive.
In case you’re wondering — the couple in my first paragraph who were discussing going home ran head-long into a winsome smile and hearty welcome from one of the retreat leaders who happened to arrive in the parking lot at the same time. Well, they decided to stay for the first day and then decide if they would stay for the second. They repeated this process but on the last day, reluctantly bid “farewell” to the other participants and the leaders. As they headed home, their spirits were renewed, their countenance was lighter and the long pilgrimage called healing had begun.
* * *
During the past 19 years, 1,162 persons have participated in 116 Wellness Retreats. These alumni are among the first in their area to reach out to ministers experiencing conflict in their church position. Having “been there and done that,” these people have a unique ability to minister. Thus, our ministry cycle continues.
From The Servant, Volume 4, Issue 3, July 1999
Forced Termination opens lives for God’s healing power
By Nancy E. Waldo
During the forced termination procedures, negative results appear almost immediately. Ministers, their families and many church members experience great suffering as they sort through the details and personal involvement.
Ministers are wounded in the deepest sense of what God called them to do, and this opens them to depression, suicide and self-destructive behavior. Marriages are damaged and often broken. Children, church members and witnesses outside the church circles experience profound alienation from “the body of Christ.”
Can anything “good” come from such ugly circumstances? Indeed, it can and almost always does!
Beyond forced termination, participants as well as by-standers have been known to feel a peace that brings healing, increased faith, a renewed strength and a firmer reliance on the power of God as the primary force in their being. They learn to say, with Joseph, “Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good…(Genesis 50:20).
Forced termination confronts Christians with our own human needs. Our response can teach us to respect our limits, set healthy boundaries and to see our local church through more realistic lenses by stripping away our unhealthy illusions and moving us toward “healthy” consensus.
Out of the tempering fires of forced termination, many leaders discover the foot of the Cross–where they can receive strength to follow Jesus in new ways. The “call to preach” is becoming deeper and wider. God’s vision for ministry replaces the comfort zones of traditional ministry with new models to serve His children of today.
Corporate implications of forced termination include the practice, rooted in the secret determination of a few, to manipulate the church for their own interests. Also, churches acquiring a reputation as “repeat offenders” may confront dwindling membership and difficulties in staffing their leadership positions.
Networks of the Corporate Church are learning from forced terminations to train leaders in conflict management, encourage them to seek outside support networks and mobilize community resources for those leaders under attack.
God seems to be preparing leaders to bring churches through a transforming healing process. Leaders having the courage and support to hold a church accountable for fair treatment and adequate compensation give that church greater impact in its community.
These positive/negative results accruing from forced termination point to God’s power. He uncovers what is hidden. He challenges the church to justice. He brings good from evil. The larger lesson is that Christians examine what it means to be and do church amid the societal challenges around and within churches.
Out of the chaos and suffering of forced terminations, hope looms for individuals, churches and the Church to grow greater and healthier in the service of God.
Nancy E. Waldo worked at MTM when this was originally published. Now she is Minister of Spiritual Direction at Ginter Park Baptist Church.
From The Servant, Volume 4, Issue 2, April 1999
Every concern expressed in 1999 remains the same today…
Facing Our Limitations
by Charles Chandler, Executive Director
A friend recently asked me some questions about the Ministering to Ministers Foundation, Inc. He first wanted to know the organization’s purpose. I quickly quoted the mission statement to him: we “seek to be advocates for clergy and their families in all faith groups who are experiencing personal or professional crisis due to deteriorating employment or congregation-clergy relationships.”
His next question was, “What are your greatest limitations in carrying out this ministry?” Two words popped into my mind: denial and resources.
Denial runs rampant in our society. It pertains to something unpleasant and may be associated with failure. Churches are often in denial about conflict in their congregations. They appear to assume that if they deny its existence, it will go away.
Church leaders are prone to deny their part in church conflicts and convince themselves that with a change in ministerial leadership, all problems will vanish. Those offering an inadequate severance package deny the fact that churches treating the minister fairly, lose less membership and income.
Some ministers have strong denial mechanisms, too! Though it enables them to tackle problems that otherwise might overwhelm them; it can also cause them to deny their need for help in working through a painful experience.
Grief is a recovery process. It is best traveled with others. That’s why various types of recovery support groups are so popular. To recognize and deal with the disillusionment and anger can strengthen what God would like to do through His anointed servants.
Remember, God often works through others, especially skilled professionals. MTM has a solid team of these people. (See Pat Turner’s article in this issue.)
It’s heartwarming to see a minister and spouse who are suffering from forced termination come to one of our Healthy Transitions Wellness Retreats. They put fear behind them and walk away to a healthier future.
Limited financial resources usually accompany a new organization. MTM can minister to as many hurting ministers and their families as financial resources will permit. The retreats need to expand in number and in geographical areas.
Though the income continues to grow, so do the needs. Every dollar invested in MTM is an investment in the lives and ministries of God’s chosen but wounded messengers. Healthy pastors can help develop healthy churches. This produces a trickle down effect in an entire community.
To accomplish our goals in 1999, receipts need to increase approximately $80,000.00 over last year, in addition to the regular in-kind gifts. Through your contribution, you can partner with MTM in making a difference.
Churches, denominations, businesses and charitable trusts can partner with us, too! I’m convinced churches investing in MTM will be less likely to become engrossed in conflict that results in forced termination.
Pray that God will provide the wisdom and resources to effectively carry out our MTM mission and ministry!
From The Servant, Volume 4, Issue 1, January 1999
A Pastor’s Personal Story: How My Ministers Support Group Helped Me Remain in My Pulpit
‘I think you know what to do.’ Almost eight years ago, Bob challenged me to make changes I needed to make.
Bob is one of the eight members in my support group. His comment came at the end of two hours of sharing during our annual overnight retreat. I had shared with them my weakness as a person and as a pastor. The group members had surrounded me, placed their hands on my shoulders and prayed for me. I went home that day to . . .
. . . Let me tell you about the group before finishing the story. Our group includes pastors and denominational executives. We meet four times a year for an all-day sharing time and have one mid-winter overnight 24-hour retreat. In addition, we meet when one of us needs a special time of support.
Whatever needs to be discussed, we share it confidentially and in Christian love. We have dealt with forced termination, church conflicts and staff unrest. We grieved together over the death of one of our member’s wife and we celebrated when he remarried. Once in a while, one of us shares something he is writing or working on professionally for peer review.
I cannot imagine living without the support of the members of this support group. They are like brothers to me. Honest, loving, caring and supportive, they hold me accountable for spiritual and emotional health.
Well, how does the story end? After hearing Bob sum up the counsel of the group that cold winter day, I did, indeed, know what to do. I went home that day and told my wife I was going to make changes in the way I related to my work and to my family.
As a result, some of the stress in my relationships shifted from me to the places when it belonged. A difficult situation in my church improved. I found it easier to be flexible. I responded to my challenges because I knew the support group would listen and support me in my effort to grow.
Today, I know my support group is God’s agent to promote emotional and spiritual growth in my life.
Dr. Ted Fuson was Pastor of the Culpeper Baptist Church, Culpeper, Virginia at the time of this writing. He is currently on the MTM board and serving as an intentional interim pastor.
From The Servant, Volume 4, Issue 1, January 1999
The Power Structure within a Church Can Steamroll the Minister
Robert L. Perry
A few years ago, I wrote a book entitled, Pass the Power, Please. The book describes the ways power persons and groups in a congregation impact decisions and, ultimately, the health or dysfunction of a church.
My research into church life paid particular attention to issues of power, influence and control. It became clear that every congregation has two levels of power at work: formal and informal. The formal power structure includes all of the structures documented by the church’s construction and bylaws. These are the ‘official’ power elements of the church.
Formal power in the church makes its decisions and takes its actions in scheduled or called meetings. Orderly processes and public discussion characterize the work of the formal power groups and individuals. Their decisions tend to be deliberate, predictable and reasonable.
The informal power in a church is mysterious and covert. Informal power is centered in individuals and has its ‘meetings’ over the phone, on the parking lot after church or at the coffee shop downtown. These individuals are not elected to their positions of power. They may be matriarchs or patriarchs, wealthy benefactors or simply church members with strong natural leadership gifts.
Graphically, two intersecting circles can represent the formal and the informal power structures. Problems occur when the two circles do not intersect enough. That is, if there is a great difference between the opinions and values of the two groups, the stage is set for conflict. In this circumstance, the formal power will make decisions that the informal power will express preferences that the formal group will resist or refuse the implement.
This is dangerous territory for the Senior Pastor! Many forced terminations result from the pressure created by the two competing power structures. The pastor is necessarily associated with the formal power and may believe the best hope for effectiveness in leadership rests with the ability to work within that power. But, the fact is, most often the informal power is the stronger of the two.
Some of the errors made by ministers involved in a church power struggle are:
Failure to learn the leaders and understand the culture of the informal power.
Under-estimating the power of the informal power group.
Assuming that if one takes care of the needs and expectations of the formal power group, one is secure as a leader.
Failure to “keep in touch with” and get endorsement of the informal power while working decisions through the formal power structure.
Unwillingness to back off when a decision made by the formal power is vetoed or frustrated by the informal.
Patience and slow, cautious progress are often necessary. One should not sprint through a minefield.
The work of Ministering to Ministers is an effort to help pick up the pieces of broken lives and wounded churches after a power struggle has played out. Sometimes ministers and their families have been caught in the squeeze between cometing church forces that existed long before they arrived and that will continue to joust long after they are gone. The tragedy is the human wreckage and pain that often results.
Dr. Robert Perry was Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Ministering to Ministers Foundation in 1999.
From The Servant, Volume 3, Issue 1, July, 1998
By Charles H. Chandler, Executive Director
Support groups are a common part of many communities in our culture. Many newspapers list meeting dates, times, and places for community groups. In these listings, you will find a diversity of self-help groups which have a common cause or issue as the glue that holds the group together. That homogeneity provides undergirding love and friendship to those facing a common pilgrimage. From such societal precedents come Ministers’ Support Groups. Incidentally, the term ‘support’ has nothing to do with finances.
While writing a book on Minister’s Support Groups several years ago, I determined eight things that such groups can do. A Minister’s Support Group . . .
Helps develop a deep fellowship. I’m referring to the New Testament concept of koinonia. Fellowship cannot be contrived, nor can it be developed without sharing time and experience.
Helps produce a sense of “belonging.” This was one of the major reasons for developing most of the support groups in which I have participated during the past 27 years. Moving is always bitter-sweet. You put your roots down one at a time but when you move, you pull them up all at once. Everyone needs a group in which he or she feels a sense of belonging.
Helps participants gain a different perspective. This is particularly important when a minister is in the midst of conflict with his or her congregation or with the church’s leadership. A group with which to “brainstorm” or from which to gain feedback can be priceless. It often enables ministers to work through issues which otherwise might overwhelm them.
Enhances leadership confidence. This is especially helpful to younger or inexperienced ministers. Many times I have used my support group to “try out” some ideas and let the group help me find the weaknesses as well as the shape of the concept.
Helps participants get in touch with their feelings. Ministers often lead toward denial. Though this quality can enable the minister to face major challenges in leadership, it can also encourage one to begin to insulate oneself from his or her feelings.
Provides affirmation and confrontation in a healthy way. There are times when you do not need advice. You simply need to know that someone cares. An overload of affirmation is not healthy nor is an overload of confrontation. But a balance of the two can help enhance your self-esteem and help you to face your own responsibility.
Helps reduce the competition between ministers. Trust builds as you risk your vulnerability with one another. As koinonia develops, mistrust and fears fade and so does the competition.
Encourages longer tenures. With a sense of belonging, a group with which you can be open and hones, knowing they will both affirm and confront you, a new freedom emerges. With such an asset, ministers are more prone to work through issues in their parish settings than to “up and run” every time a problem surfaces or conflicts develop.
Many ministers have stated that their support group enabled them to face opposition and work through it. Others have stated that their support group was the difference between sanity and insanity as they experienced forced termination. Healthy ministers and healthy churches work through issues rather than adopt more destructive alternatives. Health breeds health just as churches which force the minister out are prone to repeat the process. A Minister’s Support Group could mean the difference.
The amazing thing is that a support group is available to anyone – a priceless asset at your fingertips. And it’s free! The only cost is time. That’s a small price to pay for better emotional – and sometimes physical-health.
If you have not had a support group experience, I hope you will consider it . . . for your health and the health of the church.