Podcast: Caring for Ministry Workers Part 2

Lindsey and therapist/co-founder Christine Schlottman discuss the unique challenges and needs of ministry workers with an emphasis on international missionaries.


Host: Lindsey Steffen, LMHC
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Christine Schlottman, LMHC, Co-Founder
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Speaker 1: (00:00)
Welcome to wellspring on the air where professional Christian counselors share practical life and Bible insights. Why? Because hearts and minds matter. We're glad you joined our show today to hear from our host Tova Kreps, president of wellspring counseling in Miami. Tova is a licensed therapist with many years of experience as a Christian counselor. Tova Teacher's rights and consults and life. FM is pleased to have wellspring counseling, restoring hearts and minds in our community. Hello, I'm Lindsay stuffing, a licensed mental health counselor at wellspring and Co for today's ball spring on the air. Tova is out today, but I'm excited to talk with wellspring. Cofounder in therapist, Christine Schlottman who she was here with us last week.

Speaker 2: (00:41)
We started a series on caring for people in Ministry with an emphasis on international missions workers. So Hi Christine. Thank you for being here today. Thank you, Lindsay. It's a pleasure to be here. All right. Okay. Well, last week we talked a bit about challenges that people in ministry face, um, especially missionaries abroad. And we talked about their experiences and just some of the things from culture shock to loneliness, spiritual warfare, conflict and interpersonal relationships. Just a lot of the issues that can arise for these workers. And today we're going to focus on more practically what can we do here as Christians and believers supporting these people in ministry, these missionaries, how can we love care and really meet their needs? Well, and so I love that Christine informed us last week. So tune in or, or go back to your podcast app on your phone and listen to last week to hear what are some of the unique needs and challenges they face.

Speaker 2: (01:43)
And today we'll talk about how churches and individuals can care well for our missionaries in our Christian workers here domestically to, so let's say people at Church are supporting missionaries. Any practical tips for how the church can care well, for missionaries or People in Ministry? Hmm, great question, Lindsey. Well, I think, firstly I want to say I think churches often have good intentions and they do want to be involved in missions. Sometimes they're not quite sure how to do that. And I think we need to identify who are the people within the congregation that really have a passion for missions and for missionary workers or Christian workers, even in in their local church. Because those people often have the giftedness and the desire to work in this area. Okay. And I think to notice and be aware of who are these people and then encourage them to do research to research who are our missionaries.

Speaker 2: (02:43)
For example, my daughter is in another state and she is very interested in missionaries. So she got involved in the mission committee and the church. Okay. And then specifically wrote to each of the missionaries that were on the field and scent. I think she sent them a survey. Tell me about you. What are some of your needs? What are your children need and what do they need as children, single people, what do they need? And so she began to get to know them from a distance. And I think probably even had some Skype sessions with them. And when they came back for furlough, she met them. She set up times for them to meet people in their church, other families, and was just there as their kind of cultural help and guide us. They came back in even for short term or some coming back longterm.

Speaker 2: (03:34)
Okay. So it's really hands on care and connection. And I hear that she naturally just had that in her heart from God, a passion to talk specifically with people in these particular settings and circumstances. And so she sounds like she had an energy and a motivation to do that well and she had lived overseas herself for a couple of years, so saw firsthand some of the real needs of missionaries. So coming back in and living in the US, she was able to bridge that. Awesome. So she actually became a connector for the missionaries to the people in the church. So it became more personal assistant that these people are far away and we really, we send them support once a month, but they're real people with real needs and we want to know them. I like that cause I think a lot of times you do, you get the, maybe the mission letters are the updates and it's often focus so much on the work being done, which is beautiful.

Speaker 2: (04:31)
That is Kinda, that's the goal of them being there. But yeah, I hear that she got very personal and as you, as an individual, what do you need? Not just this overarching organization or ministry work and without, like you said, it makes it personal and maybe helps people as you are donating or sending supplies, you feel more of an investment, maybe more relationship with the work being done. Yeah, exactly. I hear that she just asked them what their needs were. Exactly. Yeah. And that's a simple thing. But yeah. Why, why would we assume we know what people somewhere else need when they're in a completely different country culture and might have needs we wouldn't even think of because it's not a need. We have here. Right. And I think that is one of the biggest things we can do for people in ministry, those of us that are not vocationally full time, is to really listen and to spend time, spend time with our pastors, our leaders, our children's workers in our local churches.

Speaker 2: (05:29)
How are you doing? Tell me what some of your challenges are. How can I be praying for you? Do you have financial needs? How can I help you? And it really is about loving people will basically. Sure. And any of us and all of us are called to do that. Yeah, I hear that. It kind of takes them from being missionaries to people. Exactly. Yeah. And maybe that's what's hard as sometimes they might feel like they are getting support or not know financially. I know that's often a, an area of stress and something they're thinking about, but just to be prayed for or listened to or asked about their needs. I just here, that's normal. All human beings need that. And I think it just, it makes them human. Again, not, oh, you're this person in this extreme setting that I can't relate to. Yeah.

Speaker 2: (06:17)
Just on that human level, connecting with a person is important. Right? I think one of the dangers that happens in the Christian community in general is the tendency at times to put people on a pedestal that are in leadership, right? Or missionaries possibly. And that is, that's dangerous because that begins to separate us in them as opposed to, we are in this together. We're a team, we're all children of God, we're all important. And the needs of leaders and ministry workers and missionaries are the exact same needs that everyone else has. Right? The need for love, the need for safety, the need to be heard, they need to be valued. So I hear it just a lot of the same struggles, but it's hard maybe when you feel like it's your vocation, but it's the Lord's work. And I think maybe there's sometimes, I don't know why this popped into my head, but just boundaries.

Speaker 2: (07:13)
That's probably an issue because it might be hard to think, oh, well, I'm doing the Lord's work. We should. It's, you know, just you give all and you pour out. But I think of our Christian workers who probably they have needs is what you're saying. They're human beings and they need to have boundaries and alone time and certain needs in their family, man, just vacation. That's not necessarily a luxury. That's something they need to rejuvenate and be able to continue to serve in pour out [inaudible]. Exactly. Okay. That's really important. I wonder what about even visiting, you know, cause I think we're talking very practically about connecting with people and from your experience would it have been welcome to have someone come and visit you? Yes. Yeah. I was very lonely. We were, again, as I mentioned in our last show in Ecuador, and this was many years ago, very lonely time, especially the first three years there.

Speaker 2: (08:08)
And we actually had a few visitors, some family members. And then one good friend of mine came twice during our eight years there, which was so fun because people have no idea what world you're living in right until you come and visit. So that was really great. And, and then we had a visitor from our mission. We didn't see any Americans for two years with our mission. And this man came down just for three days. And I said, wow, thank you so much for coming to see us. We are feeling pretty alone down here. And he said, well, how are you doing? And I said, I'm not doing well and I don't know what to think. Eric's my husband's talking about returning after our three years initial and I don't know that I can do that. So we're having kind of some conflict about this and trying to understand each other and what God is doing here and how he's speaking to us.

Speaker 2: (09:01)
And we weren't on the same page. Okay. So he helped us walk through that beautifully. But the main thing that he did was listened. Yeah. And wasn't judgmental and was very loving and caring. I love it. It was definitely, could've given us, that's what we needed, was to feel safe, to share and to be able to express the reality of where we were. It makes me think how isolated Christian workers or people in ministry can feel. And yeah, and kind of maybe, I don't know if you experienced this, but feeling like, well this is the Lord's work, so it might be confusing and your needs, and I don't know when depression comms are feeling so isolated and kind of that pull between what is God's will and what do I feel like I can really take on a more practical or emotional level. So I think of, of course us at wellspring work, Christian counselors, licensed mental health therapist, and I just think of the need for counseling.

Speaker 2: (09:59)
It sounds like this guy was sort of did some lay counseling for you and listened. And I think of our pastors, our worship leaders, the staff of the church who are the backbone behind the scenes, how much they need counseling to really have their emotional needs met, to have someone listen to figure out these hard decisions. Because I think it sounds like there's a pressure, maybe a unique pressure to have it all together and no, well you're about the Lord's work. How can you not just know what's going on in your life be going smoothly? But I think we talked in last week show that that's actually probably a spiritual warfare issue coming up that maybe confusion or anxiety, depression, those are things that Satan will use to really try and derail this Christian worker and his or her family and stop the work that's going on.

Speaker 2: (10:50)
Exactly. I've had people tell me that they were a normal part of the mission or the church community and then they became a leader and people that were there, friends were no longer their friends. They actually separated from them because now they were a leader. So you mentioned and touched on how isolating it can be as a leader and I think that cannot be underestimated and that we need to care for our leaders and check in with our leaders and our, and how are you, tell me what's happening, right? How can I help you? Is there anything you need? And give them a safe space to even air the dirty laundry because we all have it as humans. We have these sin issues or things that we get stuck in and we need to be able to safely work through it. Yeah, and I think that has to be probably a big challenge when you feel like your vocation is almost to be an example and you are the hands and feet and Jesus, but we need to remember that's all of us as Christians and there's not a special pressure on these to be perfect.

Speaker 2: (11:55)
Yeah, I always think of the various we are, but dust, that's humbling. Is it all in perspective? I think for all the same on the same level. At the foot of the cross. Well we're going to get ready to take a short break, but before, um, I wonder if we could touch on maybe one more way we can support those in Christian ministry. Well, anything else that comes to mind, Christine? Well, I think one of the areas as I travel, particularly in the region of Latin America and the Caribbean is the area of finances of, I could probably list 50 missionaries. I know right now that have financial needs and in different countries, different situations. But it's so overwhelming because of the work I do and what I'm aware of. Right. I think, oh my goodness, God, you've got to take this. Yeah. And provide.

Speaker 2: (12:47)
So I just want to encourage our listeners to be generous financially to our missionaries, to our Christian workers and our churches and our communities. Because oftentimes behind the scenes, things are tight. Yeah. And there are times when our missionaries don't get paid or get paid a short check because if it doesn't come in, it's not there. Yeah. To give. And the stressors that that creates for a family are multiple. Right. While you're thinking this is already a high intensity, stressful job, very emotional, spiritual warfare, and then when you're just feeling even that practical can't be met. Yeah, that's extremely stressful in all realms then. And maybe sometimes even is too much. And that's where I wonder if burnout comes into play, which we'll talk about it after the break. So, okay. Well I'm Lindsay Stephan with wellspring on the air. We're going to take a break and be right back.

Speaker 1: (13:44)
Wellspring now offers professional Christian counseling at six locations in Dade County. Therapists are now taking clients at two new locations, one at Crossbridge, Miami Springs, and key Biscayne for more information. (786) 573-7010 or wellspring miami.org for more information.

Speaker 2: (14:04)
Welcome back. I'm Lindsay Stephen, your host today for wellspring on the air. I'm here with Christine Slot men and we're talking about caring well for people in ministry. So this is a two part series. You go to our podcast APP, you can listen to last week's where we talked about the challenges and experiences of people in Ministry and specifically international missionaries. And today's show is on how to support missionaries, people in ministry here domestically. How can we care? Well for them? How can we meet their needs as churches, as individuals. Before the break, we talked a bit about how churches can simply ask missionaries and you know, the people working in the churches and Administry, what are your needs? Um, having people focus on praying for them, visiting them, helping with finances, providing counseling if needed. And now Christine, what do you think for individuals who want to help, maybe they're not necessarily in a church group or you know, but just individually they want to do something to help these people?

Speaker 2: (15:09)
Well, I think becoming informed as of course the first thing, and by doing that we have to be good listeners and it's very interesting because they tell us as missionaries when we returned from furloughs and you're meeting with groups or churches or individuals that have been on your financial support team in prayer support team that often they won't really ask you much about what you've done or what it was like there or how you're doing. They might ask one question like how did it go, for example? And then they start talking about their own lives and if you're a good listener, which often you are because you're a minister of the Gospel and you're doing counseling and teaching and your experience in your work that you end up being the listener to them, but they often may be aren't listening to you. Wow. So that was very helpful for me as I was in the training before I went to be a missionary.

Speaker 2: (16:06)
So the expectation was that people aren't going to be that interested. So I just want to encourage people to be interested. Yeah. Be Curious, be curious about their experience, what they've gone through, how it fell. Exactly. Yeah. And that's not everyone, but it's in general than I'm speaking, talking about that. I hear it. Maybe there's not a comfort level. People don't quite know is it okay to ask, but I hear you really as a missionary yourself from an international setting and even now domestically that those questions, you want them to be asked and you want to talk about this work you're doing that obviously you're passionate about. If you're in it, just like any of us who love our job or a hobby we want to talk about if we want to be asked about it. Exactly. And I think that the reality is we have to sometimes take the initiative to give people the opportunity to understand us more because maybe they don't know what to ask.

Speaker 2: (17:02)
So part of it is on the side of the Christian worker too. Right. But I just was thinking about some of the questions you might ask and it's very interesting. I was just speaking recently with a missionary couple. They'd been on the field in Latin American and Europe for probably 20 plus years. And the husband said to me, I wished people would ask me more. I wish they would have been more interested in hearing. And this was a couple with so much experience, so much to offer, so much to glean from. And as I met with them, I just wanted to be a learner from them as, as their experience was so, so phenomenal on so many levels. And when he said that to me, I felt his pain that he was, he just felt, wow, people aren't really there. They don't really know or maybe aren't interested.

Speaker 2: (17:58)
So, but some of the questions I thought about that are helpful are asking just open ended questions like tell me some of your most exciting or rewarding experiences as you were on this mission field. Or if you're in a local church, talk to your pastor, interview him, get to know him and his wife, or if your worship people or your children's ministry, just take a little time and say, tell me what's the most exciting thing that you've seen happen as you're working with kids or as you're working with your youth or as you've been a pastor or leader for 40 years. What's, what have you learned? Cause I probably have a ton of those of course is to Shirley. Yeah. But maybe it's just never asked. Exactly. And it's something too that I hear, it really encourages us, encourages the church and other people to know this is something God's doing and you might have not even known this is going on or this one individual who was touched or how to life change.

Speaker 2: (18:59)
That's amazing. Okay. Or tell them how much you appreciate their sacrifice. Yeah. Thank you for what you've done. Because most of what we do in Christian ministry is invisible, right? Most of it is not even known. People aren't even aware. It's behind the scenes sacrificial work and suffering often to suffering for others that are suffering in our groups and our missions and our churches and in silence. Yeah. So it's, it's great encouragement to be thanked. Yeah. And appreciated. Yes. And again, this is an general, we all need this not just for our leaders, but for those that are leading us. Yeah. Thank them for what they're doing. Just some recognition and not that we do it for the recognition, but it does, it feels good to be acknowledged and validated that I see that you sacrificed to do this and I'm just grateful for that.

Speaker 2: (19:57)
Yeah, exactly. That's great advice. And I think to ask, what are some of the challenges you face? Tell me some of the hard things because that's also what often people don't want to know about the hard stuff. They just want to know that the great stories and all these people are coming to Christ or people have been healed. But what about, tell me some of the harder things that have happened for you and then of course, and I want to just emphasize we need to be confidential. If people share these things with us, this is confidential, right? And I think we need to say to the person, I'm, this is just between us. I just want to ask you these things and I want to keep it confidential and respect your privacy. So just important. And again, as counselors we are always thinking of confidentiality, but I think in general we need to think that way.

Speaker 2: (20:52)
Also, I just hear it in our language. We say it's like creating a safe space, but all people need that. You need to know that you can share openly and kind of be yourself 100% transparent and not fear that, I don't know. The information could be used against you or whatever the case, so. Right. Okay. And then another question you might ask is, tell me about any current concerns you have. Are there are, do you feel afraid of anything? Are you anxious about something? And if so, how can I pray for you? Or Can I help you? Can I take care of a need that would ease your anxiety or help you feel not alone right now? I love that question because it even, it just lets them know, I know you have concerns because you're a human and so they don't have to maybe pretend or act like, oh, we have it all together.

Speaker 2: (21:46)
We're visiting in this states, visiting our donors. We need to give like this image of everything's perfect and your money's being used well with those things can be true and you can be suffering. And I think that takes away the idea that they need to have it all together and they're allowed to have concerns and you actually, you're interested in you care. You want to know what are those concerns and can I ease that burden like you said. And I think too, I, I love it when missions or churches will financially support those leaders in to get counseling. Absolutely. To really go to someone that's outside of the group. Yeah. And an objective person. A professional person to give them a place to be able to offload. Yeah. What they've experienced. How they've been. Yup. What's happening, what are their fears? So I love it when churches or and mission groups say, we're gonna, we're gonna provide counseling Bruno 10 sessions for you because we value you and what you do.

Speaker 2: (22:47)
Yeah. And, and I, and I often am the one that people come to for the missionary people that are coming into Miami. We've done some intensive times with counseling with our missionaries from our group and other groups also. And also leaders in churches. Absolutely. Yeah. And they need to know that it's okay for them to get counseling. And, and I do, I encourage you, if you're a ministry worker working in Church or nonprofit and you're listening to this or you're listening and you know of someone who maybe could benefit from counseling, that's something that wellspring has a passion for. And so counselors like Christine or myself, I've done some of that work and intensives, you know, just look us up. Wellspring, miami.org and wellspring is passionate about offering those services because we want, like Christine was saying earlier, we want there to be a safe space and a place outside of the organization where you can just speak freely and speak your heart.

Speaker 2: (23:43)
And cause I think a lot of times there are, of course there's the interpersonal conflicts and hurts and things that need to be worked through healing, forgiveness. And sometimes we have to step outside of our setting or the organization or church to work through our own stuff so we can come back in and deal with it in a healthy way. So. Alright. Well Christine, any last thoughts? We're going to wrap up? I think just to remind our leaders, we mind our missionaries and Christian workers that God loves them, that he is sovereign, that he's with them in their trials and in their joys. Yeah. And they're not alone. That we care and we can come alongside and walk the journey with them. Yeah, really important. I love that. And I think too, again, I hear as you're talking, some of what you wish you would have received comes out.

Speaker 2: (24:37)
But I think that makes you such an advocate for this population in someone who can really relate and come alongside. And so like you said earlier, people who if you do have that passion or you feel God stir in your heart to really care for people in ministry are missionaries, don't ignore that. Pray about it and see practically what is God calling you to do. Maybe he is calling you to do more than send a check. Maybe you are going to go visit or be involved in a more practical or personal way. So we encourage our listeners to be sensitive to that voice of the Holy Spirit. However he's calling you to care for really our family. This is our Christian family and we're called to care well for them. So. All right, well thank you so much for joining us for the second part of our two part series. Can go on the podcast APP and listen to caring for people in ministry from last week. We talked about the challenges and the experiences of people in Ministry and Missionaries today, we talked about how can we as churches and individuals care well for them. So we'll wrap up for today. I'm Lindsay Stephen in with wellspring on the air because hearts and minds matter,