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4 Ways Depression Manifests in Ministry

Depression in ministry image

A common mental health stigma is that strong Christians cannot experience depression and/or anxiety. But this is most definitely an unfair falsehood.

Below, I share my own story of how depression manifested in my life — even as I was serving in ministry.

Depression and Ministry
I think there are many ways that depression manifests itself in ministry, but what I would like to do is mention how in a few different areas I think it has manifested for me on occasion.

The tricky thing with depression and burnout is that we can experience symptoms along the spectrum without being considered clinically depressed. Here is how I experienced it at varying levels:

Physically
Being so exhausted that I didn't have the energy for one more event or meeting. In fact, sometimes when I was doing the yearly calendar, my relief would come from looking at the date about 9 months out when I could rest. Now that is depressing.

Emotionally
Not being able to enter into, or handle anymore conversations, meetings, encounters with people in ministry. My fuse was short and I was unable to pay attention at a certain level. It's an emotional exhaustion. Often this most manifests itself at home with the people we love. We give all we have at work, but have little energy for home. I would be available and patient with my college students and colleagues, only to come home and be short-tempered and lacking in grace with my wife.

Depression effects a variety of human dimensions, such as one's physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual dimensions.

Mentally
I would not have the mental capacity or energy to read any books that were helpful to my theological growth, or the crafting of my weekly sermons. I would find myself disinterested in learning something new at times.

"I think this is very common in ministry, where pastors spend hours upon hours in sermon preparation and consider that to be part of their devotion and meditation."

Spiritually
Not being able to pray or read Scripture. In fact, most of that was masked by ministry prayer (in meetings, services, etc.), but little of my own prayer life. Also, most of my scripture reading was for sermon preparation, but very little of my own prayer devotion and meditation."

From Our eBook
Depression and anxiety is experienced by the unchurched and churched — including the pastoral staff, too. We've created the RelateStrong | Leadership Series eBook to support church leaders with the research and practical applications necessary to address depression, anxiety and other issues, with the goal of building stronger, healthier communities.

Get your free copy today.