With over 250 pastors quitting ministry each month across America, we know that the emotional, spiritual and relational health of pastors and church leaders affects the life of a congregation and spiritual vibrancy of a city more than any other factor. Healthy leaders lead healthy churches, and healthy churches change the fabric of their region.
Even though pastors and church staff members are surrounded by people, ministry can be a lonely journey. The perceived external pressures to perform and achieve, coupled with the internal struggles of the heart, can sap a leader’s passion, strength and ultimately mute their call. It is crucial that our Church leaders guard their hearts and minds, and that is simply impossible to do alone.
While nearly every pastor and church leader has a denominational affiliation with varying levels of care and support, true vulnerability about life and its struggles are often not worth the risk of sharing. The Church has a tendency to shoot its wounded, and that is a reality that almost every church staff member knows too well.
We believe that as leaders find health and wholeness, their capacity to lead and care for those within their congregation exponentially grows and has cascading effects. What we need more than ever in South Florida is a beachhead of pastoral care – a place where pastors can bond as brothers and sisters, find friendship, and move from a mindset of competition to collaborative co-laboring.
Front Stage vs. Backstage
There are a literally thousands of resources dedicated to sharpening a church leader’s front stage gifting: books, organizations, articles, consultants — if you can dream it, there’s likely a guru to help you. Yet in a culture that celebrates and all too often judges a pastors affectedness by the gifting and presentation of their front stage, their backstage often gets overlooked. The stronger their front stage, the less we tend to overlook and quickly right off backstage red flags. However in South Florida, I believe these realities are slowly changing.
If we’ve learned one thing in the story of Church United so far, it’s that unity and collaboration are rooted in repentance — in humility — and friendship. You can’t have true church unity without continually repenting of ego, logo, pride and offense. Trust me, I’ve learned this first hand on more than one occasion. When we humble ourselves as pastors and church leaders, we create the space for God to move. For the last five years we have taken an intentional focus on investing in the health and wholeness of pastors — believing that as we invest in a leaders backstage and foster an atmosphere of repentant friendship, humility and care, collaborative gospel work together becomes an almost inevitable by-product.
Rev. Brian Brookins, who serves as the lead pastor of Riverside Church in North Lauderdale and spearheads much of Church United’s soul care work, recently shared his perspective on the need for this emphasis. “Under the banner of the Church United Soul Care initiative, church leaders from across South Florida are reaching out wanting a safe space where they can confidentially process, confess, receive care and explore some backstage work together with other pastors. Sometimes these efforts are as simple as collective problem solving a challenge or conflict with a fellow staff or board member – other times its marriage counseling and deep conflict resolution. What a privilege it is for us to co-labor together in friendship and care as we trust God to move powerfully in our region. From my vantage point, God is clearly blessing the efforts of Church United and its emphasis on investing in leaders’ souls – their health and wholeness. Together we are stronger; and I pray that God continues to multiply our number and strengthen our community for the sake of the Gospel.”
There is a gospel movement in South Florida and it’s gaining momentum. The gas of this movement has been humility, continual repentance and an ever-growing circle of friendship. Moving from a mindset of competition to co-laboring takes work as it requires intentional focus on a leader’s backstage more than their front stage. Church United has seen God give grace for this journey as patrons, subject matter experts and leaders continue to lean in and together create a movement that values the voice, gifting and soul health of one another. Fast forward 5, 10, 15 years from now and imagine what could happen as the leaders of the Church in South Florida find increasing health and wholeness for the purpose of collaborative gospel movement. The narrative of the Church will change — the narrative of the Church IS changing.
Edwin Copeland serves as the Director of Church United with the National Christian Foundation of South Florida where he works to unify the Church through collaboration and celebration to see faith, hope, and love spread throughout South Florida. To learn more about Church United, visit churchunited.city.
Read more articles by Edwin Copeland at: goodnewsfl.org/author/edwincopeland/