Connecting is Key

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Connecting is Key

Written By Gil De La Rosa

Connecting is Key

Earlier this year I read an article from Carey Nieuwhof discussing six reasons pastors leave the ministry. Stress and isolation were the top two. Stress and isolation, if left unchecked, can lead to an unhealthy and unsustainable ministry. I have been in the ministry since 1982. I have had the privilege of serving as an Associate Pastor and a Lead Pastor for 35 years. I would be lying if I said stress and isolation were never an issue.

Back in the late ’90s, I scheduled a “Friend Day” event, and it bombed. After lunch, all I wanted to do was immediately escape church and go somewhere else to dwell on the failure of this event. I needed a safe place, and I needed someone to talk to. At that time, I was the chaplain for the Grover Beach Fire Department in San Luis Obispo County, so I headed to the station just to be around other people. Kevin Webster, a fire guy and an EMT, started talking with me and sensed something wasn’t right. I shared very little with Kevin, and Kevin just listened (as a friend should). Kevin asked me if he could take my vitals just for practice. Kevin was concerned about my health, and he made a phone call.

After a while, Fire Chief Jack Criswell showed up along with the rest of the fire personnel. Jack took the lead and shared with me that my blood pressure wasn’t good and an ambulance had been called. I ended up in the emergency room at Arroyo Grande Community Hospital. A doctor came in and spoke with me, and I lost it emotionally. Days later, friends from the California Southern Baptist Convention, Greg Sumii and Mike McGuffee, who were doing Pastoral Care, traveled down to help me.

Stress and isolation are real.

All three of the churches where I have served throughout my life had their fair share of both stress and isolation. On April 1st of 2020, I began serving as the Associational Missions Strategist (aka Director of Missions) for the Gold Coast Baptist Association after 14 years of pastoring at New Hope Community Church in El Monte, California.

Our pastors had not seen changes to the life of the local church, which included sanitizing everything down, social distancing, wearing gloves, deciding to wear a mask or not to wear a mask, closing the church down or leaving it open, or meeting outside, or choosing to do everything online (or perhaps do both). Wow! What a challenge that virus turned out to be.

Honestly, it is challenging enough to be a pastor. Now, an unknown virus was being thrown into the mix. It changed everything, including our churches’ attendance. According to one 2020 George Barna survey, approximately 30 percent of our church members never came back to church, and 40 percent became marginal in their attendance, leaving about 30 percent of our faithful ones remaining faithful. (We could talk about how all that affected the church budget, but that’s for another article).

When we consider stress and isolation in a post-pandemic era, there is one thing our pastors need more than ever: connection with other pastors. I’m not suggesting we create a program. What I am suggesting is encouraging our pastors to connect with other pastors and just talk; let the conversation flow naturally.

Coffee time is one of the most joyful times I have as an AMS or DOM (you pick) or having meals together and letting our pastors know it’s safe to talk and share what is on their hearts. It took time for me to figure this out, but pastors need other pastors to vent to, laugh with, listen to, ask hard questions, and hold them accountable. If you enjoy golfing, go golfing with other pastors. If that stresses you out, take up bowling with bumpers. Pastors need to know they are being heard, and when pastors find themselves in a safe place, the stress and isolation will begin to dissipate. We need healthy pastors to meet the challenges right here in Crazy California, which may just be one of the greatest mission fields here in America. We need to be available for one another because connecting pastors with other pastors is an important key to a healthy and sustainable ministry.

About the Author

Gil De La Rosa
DOM, Gold Coast Association

Gil serves as the Director of Missions for the Gold Coast Baptist Association. He is a Count the Cost Champion, as well as the Literacy Consultant on the CA WMU Compassion Ministries Team as a Faith-Based English Second Language certified trainer, and a Tutoring Children & Youth certified trainer. Gil made his profession of faith in 1972 at the age of 18, and is a graduate of San Jose Bible College and Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife Eva have been married for over 48 years. Together, they have 2 children, 5 grandchildren, and 5 great grandchildren.

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