The Rev. Steve Shoemaker, a high-profile Charlotte preacher who has led the 2,200-member church for 13 years, recently entered a 30-day treatment center in Maryland.
In a Dec. 28 letter to his flock, Shoemaker mentioned years of struggling with depression and anxiety as well as his recent self-medication with alcohol. Last year, he was divorced from his wife, Cherrie.
“I’m physically, psychologically and spiritually depleted,” he wrote in the letter, “and must get help.”
Though many of the details of his particular case remain private, Shoemaker’s decision to take a medical leave appears to shed a spotlight on clergy burnout, which is partly responsible for up to 1,500 pastors per month leaving their jobs.
Among the stresses: long hours, too little time with family, delayed or interrupted vacations, nonstop counseling of people in crisis, and pressure to have the perfect family.
“If you’re a good pastor, you’re never ‘off,’?” said the Rev. Jody Seymour, pastor of Davidson United Methodist Church and author of “A Time for Healing: Overcoming the Perils of Ministry.” “If you’re on vacation and somebody dies, you have to come back.”
This next quote is something I’ve noticed:
Not all congregations support ministers who check out to get well, said Maria Hanlin, executive director of Mecklenburg Ministries: “When clergy make human mistakes, too often they are not given the grace they give to other people.”