Pastors who are newly ordained and installed want to make a good impression on the congregation. They want to avoid the pitfalls and obstacles in ministry. They may be tempted to try to walk on water. Many pastors who have been in ministry for some time, find themselves discouraged and are plagued by self-doubt. They need support but seem unable or unwilling to ask for it.
An early book that addressed these needs was Edward B. Bratsher’s book, The Walk-On-Water Syndrome: Dealing with Professional Hazards in the Ministry (Word Publications, 1984). It was a landmark book at the time. Thirty-five years later the issues in ministry have not changed very much for most pastors. While Bruce Hartung’s excellent book, Holding Up the Prophet’s Hand: Supporting Church Workers (Concordia Publishing, 2011), is a more recent attempt at presenting congregational support for clergy, Bratcher’s book is well written and presents other aspects of clergy burnout and discouragement with many suggestions at how to avoid ministerial hazards.
Bratcher was himself an experienced minister and consultant. One reviewer of this book wrote, “he provides very helpful insight on the range of issues contributing to pastoral discouragement.” He addresses spiritual maturity, the call to ministry, stress in the minister’s family, destructive conflict in the congregation, ministerial incompetence, the types of support the pastor needs (from peers, professionals, congregation, and denomination), and where to get help.
At times Bratcher has a harsh word to say to both clergy and laity as he sees both under-performing in their duties and responsibilities. He discusses institutional rigidity and the impact on ministry. He has a very clear eye on ministerial life with its struggles and challenges, particularly poignant is his self-revelation of his own mistakes and blunders (like Hurting) as he navigated the hazards in his own ministry.
I am sure some of you face problems that leave you discouraged and defeated with great emotional and spiritual pain. This book provides wisdom and hope for ministry and ministers under stress. Ministry is sometimes very tough, especially for clergy wives.
In a survey of ex-pastor’s wives, 52% of them admitted they would not go back to the parish.
This book is worth dusting off and reading if you have never read it before. Perhaps you would like to get a copy for a new pastor, so he can avoid some of these hazards in ministry. For those seasoned in ministry, you may be helpful to fellow brothers as you seek to encourage them in their discouragement. One or more of them may be suffering silently and keeping their pain hidden. They need your love, understanding and support. Look on eBay or Amazon for copies of the Walk-on-Water Syndrome. It is only a few bucks. It will be worth it to someone in the ministry. As the Scriptures say, “Bear one another’s burdens.”
One Minute for your Body, Mind and Soul offered by
Rev. Ron Rehrer, District Counselor, 949-433-5182 firstname.lastname@example.org