By Caitlin Friesen
I was hired as the pastor of children and family ministries at North Fresno Church (NFC) in March of 2015. I was excited to connect with families, full of energy and equipped for long and unpredictable hours of service. My past work with students provided a breadth of experience and the ability to communicate well. The community agreed that I, a young woman with a love for children and a strong relationship with Jesus, was a great fit for this role.
A great fit except for one reason: I have an unhealthy heart.
During my time at NFC we have prayed and hoped my genetic heart defect would not hinder the work God has called me to. In the first two years of pastoral ministry I taught lessons, participated in activities and still had the gusto to attend students’ soccer games and take seminary classes. I believed God was healing my heart to make me a better leader.
Six months ago I began to lose some of my stamina and was feeling lethargic and fatigued. It was getting harder to make it to the office and fulfill my duties at work. I went to my doctor and got the news that I have congestive heart failure. My medication regime had to be modified along with my work schedule. I had to cancel out-of-town trips with my husband as well as meetings with my volunteers. My title as Energetic Leader turned to that of Struggling Pastor.
Your church, like mine, is most likely doing ministry with a Struggling Pastor. Whether that be someone navigating mental or physical health issues, an individual working a second job to make ends meet financially or a person trying to mediate family conflict on top of their demanding job, there are people on your leadership team who are having a tough time.
Here are three things you, a member of a church community, can do to assist your Struggling Pastor:
Be flexible. Your leaders are going to have “good days” and “bad days”— and they need you to understand that and work with them. Rescheduled meetings and missed events may come as an inconvenience, but they will allow your leader to get the rest or help they need in that time.
Have conversation. The pastors of your church need to carefully and discreetly communicate their personal life. They can more easily share through thoughtful and sincere dialogue as opposed to updates from the pulpit.
Know that God is still at work. The Spirit is not hindered by a person’s health or family circumstances. While God is not necessarily trying to teach a lesson through these struggles, God will be present through it all. Have faith that your pastor still has a calling to their flock and can continue to shepherd with the help of the Lord and their community.
I am thankful for the children and families in my church who are supporting me this season. May you do the same for your pastor.
Caitlin Friesen, a graduate of Fresno Pacific Univeristy, is married to Ben Friesen and serves as associate pastor of children and family ministires at North Fresno Church, Fresno, California.