Our pastors as supporters

Ministry leaders are often the most affected by the needs and demands of people with mental health issues in the church. They tend to be kind-hearted with great willingness to help those who are suffering. For them setting boundaries in the spiritual care of these people is especially important.

Someone I knew once found herself in a situation where she wished clearer boundaries had been given. Her pastor had been supportive in her walk with God, something she very much needed as a person with mental health problems. He inspired her and helped her find direction for her life. But unknowingly she put too many demands on him and at one point everything broke apart. There was great pain on both sides.

What happened, Lord? What happened to this relationship?

Could it have been because – as so many pastors do – this pastor felt he was doing the work God had given him and he did not think limits would be important? Maybe it simply felt good to be needed. When my friend had asked her pastor if the amount of contact with him was too much, he encouraged her, saying “You’re always welcome to come.” He did not set boundaries.

Lord, like this friend, I too looked up to my pastor. He seemed like a godly person, a person through whom love always shone. I was attracted to that. I loved you God, and I needed you. My pastor reminded me of you. In fact, as wrong as that would be, I might even have thought of him as God himself.

My pastor seemed like he was higher up than me. Superior. And I, in comparison, felt very small. Inferior, especially because I was a person having mental health problems. He was a learned man. And I was hungry to learn. So, I took whatever opportunities I had, and I did learn.

But what if a person like me were not given boundaries? Clear boundaries where there would be no mistaking the limits? Is there anything a “small” person like me can do?

We’ll look at that next.