KANSAS CITY, Kan. — It has been a trying year. And for people struggling, many in the faith community lean on their pastor or faith leader for support.
But who can the ministry leaders lean on?
Chuck Allen, an urban ministry leader, has seen firsthand how suppressing feelings for years can take a mental toll.
"Going into ministry in an urban community where there's so many people that are under-resourced and facing these difficult situations, that you now have to be the strong person and again suppress your feelings because you have to be strong for everybody else," Allen said. "So it's hard for men, especially African American men in particular, who continually face these, these, these struggles to have anybody that they can really talk to because we don't want to look weak or pure weak."
Allen said it can affect leaders in ways they may not understand.
It's one of the reasons why he says it's critical to seek help for mental health.
"Because I tell you in ministry I was, I got to a point where I said I will never be in ministry again because it was so difficult. I had never had a chance to really take a break and that was my fault, primarily, but finally when I get a chance to talk to a counselor," Allen said. "And he started helping me see things that were just not right. And to have a free, open space to express myself and say, 'I never thought about what you're pointing out and how that actually was trauma.' So the things that I experienced were just, they were common, but it's not common for us to talk about the things that are hurting us. And sometimes we don't even know what's hurting us."
Allen founded "I Am My Brother's Keeper," where urban ministry leaders can get the help and rest they may need as they balance their life and the lives of others.
"Trying to help people who are in desperate need is very difficult when you have so many that you're trying to care for," Allen said. "So, if I'm leading a church, then I have to figure out the internet thing. As soon as I do the sermons, and I have people who are calling me for food, for rent assistance, for utility assistance. And they've, they've gone through the other resources that are out there, but they still need help."
Handling COVID-19 deaths for family members is also apart of a church leader's duties, which can weigh heavy on some leaders.
"The pastor is normally the person that's called first to ask for help. The pastor ends up leaving his family, going to this family," Allen said. "You help to organize the funeral. You have to then, oftentimes, raise, and find money to help them pay for a funeral. Then you have to go to the funeral. Prepare a message, give the message, do all this, all these things. And that's just one person of 50 in an urban community that you have to juggle. In addition to your family. So as a result, you are not taking proper breaks, you have this additional stress."
It's the reason I Am My Brother's Keeper stresses the importance of three topics for ministry leaders:
- Coaching: Coaching them through matters related to ministry.
- Counseling: Connecting them to professional counselors for their mental health.
- Resting: Helping develop a rhythm of rest and restoration.
If you'd like to help church leaders, it's recommended to see what their favorite restaurant is to buy them a gift card, ask them how they're doing and how you can help, and what their family may need.
Allen says they're working on "Escape Rooms" where urban ministry leaders can go and "escape" to rest - whether it's through a massage or meditation.
If you'd like to help with forming an "Escape Room" for these leaders or would like to learn more information about My Brother's Keeper, click visit the group's website.
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