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Tips for Preventing Suicide

Take action based on the level of risk

Unfortunately, there is no miraculous human intervention that resolves suicide risk. But there are specific actions you can take to prevent suicide, actions that become more extensive with increasing risk. Following are several ideas for pastoral care, which is different from mental health counseling, an important distinction that argues for referral to mental health services. Whenever there is suicidal risk, it’s best to consult with and refer to a mental health professional.

As you intervene, focus on first aid, not surgery. If you’re at a park and have a heart attack, you don’t want the people around you to perform heart surgery. You want them to perform CPR. Your job with suicidal people is to focus on safety, not on solving the problem that is causing the suicidal crisis. For example, if someone is in a suicidal crisis because she is processing childhood sexual abuse, your job is to keep her safe, not to heal the memories of abuse.

No risk. A person without any risk is a person who has no suicidal thinking and never has had suicidal thinking. The main intervention is to continue to provide this person with all the usual pastoral care.

Low risk. A person with low suicide risk is

• A person with persistent passive wishes to be dead but no intent and no history of suicidal thinking or behaviors.

• A person who experiences brief suicidal thoughts but has no intent or plan and no history of suicidal thinking or behaviors.

Some suggestions for low-risk individuals are consultation, referral to a mental health professional and creation of a safety plan.

Consultation. It is always best to consult with a mental health professional, hospital emergency department or crisis hot line to see if ...

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Thu, 22 January 2015 08:00:00 CST
Why Care about the Global Church?

If for no other reason, it provides perspective and balance

Hindus attack Christians in India. Chinese believers are imprisoned for taking a stand against their government’s position on house churches. Venezuelan Christians are reeling from a perpetually downturned economy. Many West African Christians were suffering from lack of infrastructure when Ebola hit, making a bad situation worse.

Overwhelming? Definitely. If you are in church leadership, you probably are up to your ears with the needs of your own body of believers and have little energy left to even think about the problems of the global church. It’s tempting to ignore these massive difficulties and go about your local ministry, especially because very few of us are going to be able to get directly involved in solving Christians’ problems in another country. But there are good reasons not to ignore the stories coming from the rest of the world. Here are a few.

We tend to be isolationists. Those of us born and raised here often disconnect from the rest of the world. If you doubt that, think about what is generally on the nightly news or what shows up on social media. Most of it is about us. And if there is no big news concerning America (no natural disasters, no downturn in the stock market, no political debates), it dissolves into a cesspool of interest in sensational murders or celebrity faux pas. To see how different our view of things is, go to a news source outside the U.S. and you will be astonished at how much world news is covered that our news sources barely mention.

Unfortunately, this attitude spills over into our churches. Most congregations support missionaries, but very few people in a congregation actually know those missionaries or are involved with them. How many times does conversation ...

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Mon, 19 January 2015 08:00:00 CST
Dont Be Okay with Quitting

How to get in touch with your inner Navy SEAL

My husband has been in the SEAL teams for sixteen years. Over the ten years Steve and I have been married, I’ve heard great stories about his job. My very favorite, though, is a story from his days as a BUD/S student.

During the infamous “Hell Week,” the guys are intentionally sleep deprived and then made to accomplish physical tasks, usually in some form of competition.

One evening, late into “Hell Week,” the instructors told the students to get their boats and head out into the ocean. They needed to paddle to a specific buoy, loop around it, and then paddle back to the shore. As the officer in his boat, Steve was given the task of calling out commands to the rest of the guys onboard.

They headed out into the surf, and after they had been underway for a bit, Steve calls to his crew, “Around the gate. Around the gate!”

“Sir,” one of his crew members points out, “there is no gate.”

“Around the gate!” Steve insists. “Around the gate!” “Sir,” the crew member maintains, “we’re in the middle of the ocean. There is no gate.”

Suddenly Steve realizes his sleep-deprived eyes are creating a mirage in the middle of the ocean. “Yes, yes,” he changes commands, “continue straight ahead.”

And they paddle on.

This story perfectly illustrates how easy it is for us to get so worn down that all we perceive are the impediments.

“The only easy day was yesterday,” the guys say to each other in training. In other words, don’t expect things to go smoothly.

Some of us are trying to do some pretty big things in life: raise kids, earn a degree, hone a craft, change ...

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Thu, 15 January 2015 08:00:00 CST
No Turning Back

Like Daniel, follow God regardless of whos following you

When aspiring to lead, when entrusted with a leadership role, when seen as a leader, each one of us faces a huge temptation. It’s the temptation to believe leading is the goal.

For generations, our church culture has elevated leaders, counting them higher than the “average” person, determining each leader’s level of eminence by the number of followers he or she has. We’ve inextricably linked this elevated status with the institutions or platforms, titles or positions that appear to undergird it.

Such a mindset shouts to us to get to that higher place and defend it at all costs. A well-known axiom warns: “If you think you’re leading and no one is following, you’re just taking a walk.”

Eager to be real leaders who have actual followers, we may go to great lengths to protect whatever has provided the followers we have. We may pursue with passion what promises to provide us more.

When we fall in with this mindset, however, it takes us far from the place we started, the day we said with deep conviction, “I have decided to follow Jesus…no turning back, no turning back.”

Believing leading is the goal, we pursue something other than Jesus. Believing leading gives us significance, we choke on the words “Though none go with me, I still will follow.”

“If none go with me,” we think, “I won’t matter. Who will I be?” “If none go with me,” we wail, “I’m just taking a walk!”

Born in Judah, Daniel had everything going for him. He was handsome, intelligent, and of royal blood. Then Babylon conquered Judah and Daniel was forcibly removed from his homeland, never to return. Probably ...

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Mon, 12 January 2015 08:00:00 CST
3 Ways to Fight Back with Joy as You Lead

Its a potent weapon for lifes battles

What begins as a gift soon becomes a grind.

Endless demands. Pressing deadlines. Unexpected interruptions.

The pressure to perform and produce can leave us feeling weary in the marrow of our being. The joy designed to grow into sweet plumpness soon shrivels. Smiles become forced. Sparkling eyes grow dim.

Those closest to us see the shift long before we recognize it in ourselves. Perhaps this is one reason Paul asked, “Where is that joyful and grateful spirit you felt then?” (Galatians 4:15)

All leaders—no matter the role or responsibility—are susceptible to losing their sense of happy certainty in God. This becomes all the more acute when your workplace or those you loved or you yourself are faced with sudden loss, pain, suffering, or death.

In my Fight Back With Joy book and Bible study, I share what began as a journey of joy and soon became a terrifying expedition when I was diagnosed with cancer. Tortured alive through brutal experiments, joy felt so out of reach. But somewhere along the way, I discovered that more than whimsy, joy is a weapon we use to fight life’s battles.

Whatever battlefield you find yourself on in life—as a person whose joy-o-meter has bumped down a notch or burned out completely, or if you’re in the fight of your life—here are three ways you can begin to fight back with joy as a leader and encourage others to do the same.

1. Sidle up to the Lighthearted. With all the responsibilities of work, it’s easy to become task-oriented and give into a get-‘er-done, check-it-off-the-list mindset. Everything and everyone can soon become projects. Any sense of levity soon disappears. That’s why it’s so important as leaders ...

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Thu, 8 January 2015 08:00:00 CST
Top 10 in 2014

A list of our most popular reads last year

Happy New Year!

Let me be among the first to welcome you to 2015! None of us can know what this year holds in store, but we can all know that God has gone before us and has good plans for all of us. Today I pray that you are walking forward in the confidence and hope that comes from knowing the one who holds the future.

In keeping with our custom at this time of year, once again I pause to tell you which of our blog posts and downloads were most popular in 2014. If it’s been a while since you read these resources, or if you haven’t seen them yet, follow the links to check them out. You and your fellow leaders have voted with your clicks, so click again to see what rose to the top.

Top 10 Blog Posts

1. Ideas for Women's Ministry

By Amy Simpson

2. Does the Bible Really Say I Can’t Teach Men?

By Jill Briscoe

3. Mental Illness and the Church

By Gillian Marchenko

4. 3 Temptations of Leadership: Abuse of Power

By Marlena Graves

5. Who’s Holding up Your Arms?

By Halee Gray Scott

6. The Strong Power in Every Woman

By Suzanne Burden

7. How Should the Church Handle Adultery?

By Domeniek L. Harris

8. When Your Calling Feels too Small

By Alison Dellenbaugh

9. Don’t Be a Victim of Your Intellect

By Carmille L. Akande

10. Why I Don’t Do Women’s Ministry

By Amy Simpson

Top 10 Downloads

1. Christ-Centered Women’s Ministry

2. Help Others Use their Spiritual Gifts

3. Overcome Discouragement

4. Assess the Effectiveness of Your Women’s Ministry

5. Leading a Women’s Ministry Team

6. How to Draw Millennials to Your Women’s Ministry

7. Ministry to Domestic Violence Victims

8. Help Others Find Freedom through Spiritual ...

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Mon, 5 January 2015 08:00:00 CST
When Pastors Pray, Part 2

God called me to minister to desperate ministers

Pastors now wear so many hats, they have only small “windows” of time to pray, give attention to the ministry of the word, and tend to the sheep.

When pastors are spread paper-thin, the place we think they would go for help is to their knees. But sometimes they feel this response is insufficient. Therefore, they spend enormous amounts of time trying to resolve problems. According to an Ellis Research survey, 16 percent of pastors are very satisfied with their personal prayer time, 47 percent are somewhat satisfied, 30 percent are somewhat dissatisfied, and 7 percent are very dissatisfied. The top concerns most pastors pray about are individual congregation members’ needs, congregation spiritual health, wisdom in leading the church, spiritual growth of the church, and finally personal spiritual growth.

What is alarming is how pastors’ own personal devotion is at the bottom of the list of prayer needs and concerns. This appears to portray the great spirituality of the pastor, but in actuality it shows the reasons for the dissatisfaction with their prayer life and the breeding ground for pastoral burnout. When personal devotion time with God is compromised, pastors are more likely to burnout quickly. When pastors feel burnout, it can lead to discouragement, despondency, depression, and suicide.

Satan comes to steal, kill, and destroy, but Jesus came to give us life and life more abundant. Therefore, every Wednesday morning at 6:00 am, in Memphis pastors are found praying for pastors across the globe. We pray for their marriages, children, ministries, and mental health.

We understand that this is not only a spiritual battle but a social battle as well. We must educate the body of Christ on ...

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Thu, 1 January 2015 08:00:00 CST
When Pastors Pray, Part 1

God called me to minister to desperate ministers

During the fall of 2013, the church witnessed a devastating travesty. A Georgia pastor, Teddy Parker, was one of 12 pastors to die by suicide. In a sermon that aired during the investigation around his death, Parker made the following statement: “I try to pray, but God is not hearing me.” I personally identified with his statement and was quite disturbed. After listening to more of that sermon and wrapping my mind around his suicide, an irreversible mark was imprinted on my heart and mind.

Within two weeks, another pastor near my home, Robert Hymon III, died by suicide and I was “gloriously ruined.” I felt great pain, hurt, and an incredible responsibility that I could not explain. I felt like I had to do something. I remember saying to God, “If pastors are committing suicide, then the people are going to feel it is okay.” For the next several weeks, I became restless and I felt God nudging me like Nehemiah with another “burden of the Lord.”

When the burden would not subside, I began to confide and counsel with my husband about how I was feeling. He told me to “pray it out and let God guide you.” I did just that. After much prayer, the Lord impressed upon my heart and spirit these words: “Protect the Pastors.”

All I could think was, “Who, me?” and wonder how in the world I was going to do this given my family, life, and the ministry I had already been called to. I found this assignment overwhelming because I already minister to pastors’ wives through By His Side Ministries. The issues that ministry wives deal with are intense, heartbreaking, and overwhelming. My husband and I also minister to pastors through social media and ...

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Mon, 29 December 2014 08:00:00 CST
Seeing God with Us

It helps to know how to look.

In Cheryl Strayed’s bestselling book Wild, she recounts her 1,100-mile trek across the grueling and beautiful Pacific Crest Trail, a trek she undertook mostly because she was beaten down by hardship and heartbreak and was headed down a dangerous path in life. Knowing she needed change—something to jar her out of her figuratively dangerous path—Strayed chose a literal one. A path she hoped would help her “find herself,” heal her wounds and set her straight. So, although she’d never hiked anywhere before, and though she had no clue what she was in for, Strayed headed out, alone, on a journey through the wilderness.

It’s a wonderful story, a book good enough for Oprah to consider relaunching her book club, in fact. Strayed is a master writer; her prose dazzles and delights even when describing the harrowing. In fact, while reading this, I often marveled at how much Strayed’s writing reminded me of David’s psalms—the beauty of the language, the rugged and desperateness of the environment, and the stunning displays of God’s creation and his intervention.

Of course, there’s one (or probably a few) big difference: David recognizes God’s hand as he wanders through the wilderness. Yet, straight through to the end, Strayed never does. For the Jesus-y set, this means that even as the book ends on a high note (speaking fi guratively only; it ends with a literal descent) with Strayed’s “healing,” with her being found, we can’t shake a sadness for all Strayed missed on her journey. Because we see God there with her, in the beauty, in her stamina, in the warning rattle of a snake’s tail, in the goodness of the people she met, ...

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Mon, 22 December 2014 08:00:00 CST
Savor Advent, Feast on Christmas

My familys new traditions made the season richer

It may be easier to roll a boulder up hill than to change holiday traditions. Several years ago, when I declared to my family that we would start new practices in the month of December, their response was not thundering applause.

“Ugh,” grunted my firstborn. (Insert tween attitude, eye rolls, and drama here.) “Why do we have to be so different from every other family? Everyone else starts doing Christmas stuff right after Thanksgiving! Why not us?”

The Light Shines in the Darkness

In medieval times, Christmastide, or the Christmas season, began not the day after Thanksgiving (or even earlier, as modern retailers’ displays suggest), but on Christmas Eve. Outward expressions of merrymaking in the forms of feasting, jousting, caroling, football, and other games celebrated the birth of the Messiah.

Gifts were exchanged, but they weren’t the highlight. The foundation of Christmas joy was light—God’s light, overcoming darkness. As the prologue to the Gospel of John confirms, Jesus is this light.

The Ultimate History Project explains the significance of light overcoming darkness for medieval Christians. In a world whose evenings were lit by fire and candlelight, winter months were long and dark, especially in northern Europe. For medieval Europeans, Christmas had a strong appeal, as it came just a few days after the winter solstice, the longest night of the year. The celebration of the Messiah’s birth was about both his mission and their much-needed pick-me-up in the middle of what was often a long and dark winter.

The arrival of the Christ child signified warmth and light, a literal salvation from the bleakness of everyday winter life. I wanted my family—and ...

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Thu, 18 December 2014 08:00:00 CST
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