You can’t afford not to.
“Pastor Chris, there’s no way we can afford professional counseling.”
This was the response I received from my friend when I suggested he see a counselor. He and his wife knew I loved them. And it was because I did that I persisted with my recommendation. “Just let me be your pastor and your friend,” I said. “Set up an appointment with the counselor I’ve suggested to you. You need safe ears—someone with years of experience who doesn’t know you as well as I know you.”
After he voiced his strong objection, I was silence for a moment. Then I said, “Honestly, you can’t afford not to.”
I was close enough to the couple to be that direct, that honest. His wife started crying. He eventually stood, walked to her. He looked up and nodded. They didn’t leave the office until we had called and set up appointment number one of what would be two years of professional Christian counseling.
I felt peace when they departed. But in that moment, something surprised me. An unexpected feeling, thought, voice. I sensed questions coming my way, “What about you? When will you stop making excuses and see a counselor yourself? Your statement is true for you also: You can’t afford not to.”
I had many excuses not to see a counselor.
I already had what most pastors don’t have—accountability partners. They knew me well. We met often. They asked me the hard questions. Honesty was the essence of our agenda. I thought about my church leadership team: we weren’t just serving together in titles and positions; we were truly there for each other.
I thought about my health: I was already seeing doctors and taking medication for a then recent diagnosis of epilepsy. I thought about my sabbatical: Wasn’t that the type of rest and healing and recovery I needed from years of pastoring? I thought about my journaling: Wasn’t that my personal method of releasing inner hurts and being healed?
But the statement persisted. I couldn’t afford not to. And saying yes was one of the best decisions I made in my 20 years of serving as a senior pastor. I remember making the call. The counselor assumed I was making a referral. He was surprised that I was scheduling myself. That first appointment was so healing, so fresh, so needed. I left feeling like a child who had just told Mama everything I had done wrong and was hugged anyway…
If you are in ministry or thinking about ministry (full time, bi-vocational, or volunteer), please don’t ignore your own needs. Please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to set up an appointment with a coach or counselor.