Clergy Candy: Azor to Zoloft

It’s been widely known for some time that many clergy types are under stress. For whatever reason, many of us wind up in that well publicized state called burnout.

I heard recently that two of the most Azorprominent drugs used by clergy folks in the United States are Azor and Zoloft. I’m not totally sure of the accuracy of this statement, but I don’t doubt its veracity. I’ve watched many of my colleagues fight high blood pressure and depression (maladies for which Azor and Zoloft are often prescribed).

I, myself, tend to be so laid back that my tendencies toward such things seem to be minimized. Thus far I’ve been on the lower end of that spectrum. After thirty-five years of ministry, I suppose I’m somewhat safe (although, high blood pressure tends to run in my family.)

I’ve been a tentmaker for the past twenty years. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with that term, it’s a reference to the Apostle Paul who made and repaired tents for a living. It has come to mean anyone who works another job to support his or her ministry.

“…the leeway of saying no.”

Serving from that perspective allows me the leeway of saying no. If something doesn’t fit into my schedule and is not important enough, I pass. Some of my full-time clergy brethren don’t have that luxury (or at least don’t feel like they do).

I once heard John Maxwell relay the following story concerning a time when he served in a denominational setting. As is usually the case, there was an annual pastor’s report. One of the lines on his report asked how many visitations he had done throughout the year.

He began to wonder if anyone ever read these reports. One year he answered by saying he had done 15,000 visitations. No one said anything, so the next year he filled in the blank saying he had done one. Still, no one said anything.

“That little story changed my life.”

That little story changed my life. Up to that point, I was a big numbers guy. No more. I began to look at what was important and what could be jettisoned. I ended up jettisoning a lot.

More importantly, in thirty-five years of pastoral ministry I’ve observed something of extreme importance. Every time one of the congregations I served had a spurt of growth, it was laity inspired, laity led, and laity fed (although I’m sure the Holy Spirit had a little something to do with these windfalls).

I learned, sometimes the hard way, to step back from time to time. I’ve seen that congregations will gladly allow the pastor to do everything if he/she is willing. ZoloftI’ve also seen that they will fill the void when the “hired help” isn’t doing what they think should be done.

Ultimately, that’s our big problem. We clergy types see ourselves as hired help. We look at ourselves as professional Christians who need to earn our keep. The result? “Pass the Zoloft please.”

4 thoughts on “Clergy Candy: Azor to Zoloft”

  1. Having served for decades on church ministry staffs, I must say that idea that people will let you work yourself to death is true across the board, even including laity. How often I have seen churches over rely on one person until that person is no longer present. Stepping back is a big maturity step for all of us. Share the load–and ‘dones’ really want the load shared both inside and outside the church.

    1. True, Elaine. I have seen laity placed in the “load-em-up” position as well. The old saying is true. If you need something done, find the busiest person and give the job to them. They’ll get it done. Eventually, they’ll leave. Pastors can be just as guilty of loading up on “the one” or “the few” as well as anyone else.

  2. While I appreciate your humor and lightheaded view of things, I think that you are minimizing the very very real problem of mental illness among “clergy folk” as you label us. As someone who was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder over twenty years ago I know far too many pastors who quickly turn to Zoloft and other SSRI’s handed out by family doctors and primary care physicians who have no expertise in psychiatry or psychopharmacology. They quietly fill these prescriptions and think that they are a cure all when any mental health professional will tell you that medication without counseling is a recipe for disaster. Furthermore these same clergy would most likely be the last person to advise a parishioner to do the same thing. We have to remove the stigma of mental illness in this profession or we will continue to see the rates of Clergy suicide rise as they have been for years. I think that you will agree with me that this is no laughing matter.

    1. Hi Christine–I wrote this piece over a year ago when I was shocked to hear of the high incidence of clergy depression, etc. I wrote it to draw attention to the problem which many do not even know exists. I do agree with you that this is no laughing matter. My apologies that it would come across as less than I attended. I would not attempt to minimize this situation whatsoever. Thank you for pointing it out. Blessings–Dave

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