On Monday when I published this blog post on why some pastors are literally killing themselves I got a tremendous amount of feedback. I got so many private e-mails about this,it was overwhelming. I try to answer all of my mail in 24 hours time and this time I got behind and it took me a few days.
One person who wrote to me privately was a Presbyterian pastor. I never met this pastor before but someone had forwarded him the link to the post. I am not going to share his name, keeping in mind that when people write me a private e-mail about a post versus leaving a public comment there is a reason for it. He thanked me for bringing attention to this issue and said this:
"Deanna, one of my church members forwarded your column on clergy depression. It is very true. Thanks for your work in this area. Your call for members to be invested is a critical one. I really appreciate your naming of high expectations with low investment as well as differing expectations. Another thing I have come across and experienced is a phenomenon described by a blogger named Steve Vensel as "mobbing." When I read it, I thought Steve had been living in my study. I think some of the things you speak about can lead to mobbing. It is devastating and many people leave ministry after experiencing it."
He forwarded an article to me on the subject of mobbing by Steve Vensel and I looked it up on line and found his blog and the article here. His blog is aptly named, "Pooped Pastors." In retrospect I thought someone might start a blog called, "Pooped on pastors"...LOL. That is what it really amounts to when it comes to mobbing.
What IS mobbing? I know, I know, you're waiting to find out, so without further delay here is Steve Vensel's definition:
"Mobbing is related to workplace bullying, organizational power factions, forced resignations, and forced terminations. Mobbing is defined as the prolonged malicious harassment of a coworker by a group of other members of an organization to secure the removal from the organization of the one who is targeted. Mobbing involves a small group of people and results in the humiliation, devaluation, discrediting, degradation, loss of reputation and the removal of the target through termination, extended medical leave or quitting. It is a traumatizing experience that often results in significant financial, career, health, emotional and social loss. Mobbing is unjust, unfair and undeserved...pastors are often told not to talk to anyone or they will split the church and that would not honor Christ. Spiritual, emotional, relational and financial ploys are all available to the mob as weapons, tactics, and strategies employed in the removal of the target." ~ Steve Vensel
I knew immediately recognized this scenario, as Larry and I were the victims of mobbing when we first began lead pastoring at an abusive church. And amazingly that exact verbiage was used by the powers that be, after the situation blew up! We were told: "don't share openly what has taken place or it will split the church and that would not honor Christ." We honored that request and can I just say we're sorry we did? We were a lot younger when it happened to us, and not as experienced. Quite honestly we were scared out of our minds.
It is very hard to make a comeback after you've been mobbed. Take it from one who has been there it's one of the hardest things in the world. Larry and I needed to pursue healing after our experience and I would say it took me personally about two years afterward for me to be whole again. It's possible and if you are a pastor or pastor's wife reading this I encourage you -- don't be silent. There's so much I have to say on this subject but in a nutshell I offer these things that were key for me:
- The mob DOES NOT define you!
- You don't have to stay where the mob left you!
- Make a choice to connect. DON'T SHUT YOURSELF OFF! This is the worst thing you can do!
- Pursue healing. Don't be afraid to go to counseling. Best. Decision. Ever.
- Remember you are not alone.
If your pastor is being mobbed, for heaven's sake -- literally for heaven's sake, will you please do something about it?
"All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing." ~ Edmund Burke