EP 132 – STAYING HEALTHY AS A REPLANT PASTOR
The Bootcamp boys continue the ATL Bootcamp series and are joined by none other than Pilot Mountain’s own, Walker Armstrong. Walker serves as the AMS Leader for the Pilot Mountain Association and is one of the leaders who helped create the Replant Practitioner Training. Listen in as they discuss what it takes to be healthy as a Pastor serving in a local church.
Staying Healthy is challenging when:
- Pastors/Leaders become isolated and alone
- When they persist in the hard work of ministry without any breaks
- When they don’t have a coach, mentor or friend
- When they ignore their own health (physical, spiritual, financial etc.)
What can be done to address pastor health?
- Develop a regular practice of “check-ups” and “Check-in’s”
- Join a pastors cohort group-where proactive care and focus are given to members
- Develop a list of conversational questions aimed at discussing the issues of life, ministry and spiritual growth
Great quote from the episode: “You are only as sick as your secrets.”
Guys, don’t Pastor alone, connect with other Pastors. your Associational Leader or check in with us here at the Bootcamp. Drop us a line, send an email reach out today.
Need help? Pastoral Care Line: 1-844-PASTOR1 is a free, confidential, dedicated help line for pastors. Trained, professional counselors are available every day from 8 a.m. – 10 p.m. (ET). Confidentiality is ensured by Focus on the Family.
Checkout Walker’s writing here: WalkerArmstrongwrites.com
JimBo Stewart: [00:00:00] Here we are back at it again. The bootcamp. I hope you’re ready for the next step. So we are, here from the Bob Bickford special suite at the Omni. I mean, nobody else gets to use this all year round is all.
Presidential suite here
Walker Armstrong: and all the state here one time.
Bob Bickford: Well, we got to tell people why we’re here. Jibo tell them we’re here for the replant practitioner lab 2022 version. This is where we train VOMS and associational missional strategist from across north America in the. Associational a replanting guide.
It’s a consultation process. So we’re here. This is our fifth year. It’s hard to believe you were, you were an alumnus of the very first year. Yeah.
JimBo Stewart: I went through the, went through the training the first year and then I’ve gotten to be a part of helping it a little ever since I think. Yeah,
Bob Bickford: I think so. It’s been, yeah, it’s been a lot of fun and we have with us a special guest who actually helped us create the training.
JimBo Stewart: Well, we are so glad to have a Walker. The [00:01:00] last time we recorded with Walker was in this exact same room that Bob Bickford presidential suite, and we had a good time hanging out with him. It’s always fun time hanging out with the velvet hammer himself, who has now added to his resume. Writing romance novels is what I said.
And, uh, he, he, he, he said that wasn’t the right classification, but it’s just more fun to say that Walker Armstrong writes romance novels. Tell us a little about the book. Your wife just talked you into
Walker Armstrong: writing. so, seven years ago, Ryan, every Thanksgiving I asked my wife what she wanted for Christmas.
And she said, write me a novel. And, uh, at first I thought she was kidding. And then when I realized she was, and I said, Gina, what in the world are you thinking? Ah, you know, I’ve never written fiction like this before. I mean, she said it doesn’t matter what you write in anything. I put together 13 chapters in about four weeks, the first version of it.
And she loved it, looked at getting it, published through some book agents. So went over 22, and then, so I left it alone and I would [00:02:00] revisit and tweak it and shape it and do some things. And then, I went through a course on purposing and, your life and doing a life mission, and this was on my bucket list.
So we self published it the end of last year. and then we launched a website in February, actually on February 14th. Wow. You know, on Valentine’s day, Walker, Armstrong writes.com. And so what’s the name of the book and the name of the book is running to catch a bus. I believe Jimbo
Bob Bickford: did that when he
Walker Armstrong: was a child.
Yeah. It’s not a school about you. It’s not a book about elementary school in getting late, you know, to the bus stop. but it’s, it’s really a book about forgiveness and the gospel was embedded in it. so it was a lot of fun to write. and. My wife has, you know, she’s very pleased with it, which makes me happy.
So, if I break even on this enterprise, I’ll be tickled to death. Awesome.
JimBo Stewart: All right. Well, so you got to check it out. Walker Armstrong writes.com and you can, you can enter into the romance [00:03:00] novel world, uh,
Walker Armstrong: Walker arms. I’m trying to help guys all over United States, you know, by the book, it’ll help you. We need it.
We need that. And I’m rereading it. And I wrote it.
JimBo Stewart: So the other thing that I thought it’d be fun for us to talk about is the idea of, focusing on the actual re planter or revitalizer. we started this conversation before recording because I got to spend some time with, Terry Long from North Carolina Babs convention. And he was showing me a little bit of the y’all state conventions, church revitalization.
Model. And one of the things that you guys put towards the top is revitalize the man. And we just finished a series on the character of the leader, with several factors to it, humility, Goodwill, empathy, integrity, respect, and how all of those really work together. So much of what, not just us on the bootcamp, but so many resources are focused on strategizing the [00:04:00] leadership, the organization of the church, focusing on the mission and we want to focus on those things as well, there is.
I think Ben no harder season in modern ministry, at least then right now. And a lot of guys, I think I was listening to one of our other favorite podcasts, the Trent top trench talk with, with Brian Croft and they were talking about how, because things have started to somewhat return to a normal pattern.
Now it’s almost like guys can. Back from battle. And I haven’t had a chance to, while in the middle of battle to grieve or the losses. So now, as they’re reentering into society, the grief starts to hit them. And I think for a lot of guys leading right now, it’s, as we’re reentering, there is the grief is catching up and there’s no better time.
I think for us to focus on. How do we make sure that pastors are healthy? So what is it that you’re seeing as [00:05:00] you’re working with pastors in the need in this area?
Walker Armstrong: I think one of the biggest challenges in administering to ministers, particularly within our ecclesiology of the congregational form of church governance, is that a lot of guys, went deep into their own rabbit holes, during COVID, one level, they really worked hard at taking care of their flocks.
I think many people did a phenomenal job in our association and doing that regardless of the size of the churches. but other guys, you know, became more remote, more distant, more self-enclosed and it really concerned me for, for their welfare. Long-term. you know, what, if you build a habit pattern over this, even after COVID subsides, if you relationally locked off, you know, has that impact your family?
How does it impact you longterm? so, you know, that’s probably more than the great resignation or whatever eventually happens. From that, if anything, in a large [00:06:00] scale, probably it’s it reminds me of what you read about the long-term symptoms from COVID. You know, some people have neurological, challenges, some people have cardio challenges.
and so, you really don’t know the full impact of COVID maybe until five years out, researchers say. to see, you know, how people are doing long-term. I think the same is true emotionally, spiritually, relationally for pastors. we really don’t know at this point, the impact of COVID, you know, on these folks.
and so we’ve been trying to figure out how to help in that.
Bob Bickford: I was with, some leaders in the Minnesota Baptist convention, just, previous to coming here to Atlanta. And one of the speakers was a, a counselor, like a CPD PA, clinical, uh, chaplain guy. And he, he had just mentioned that he initially thought that, 12 to 18 months from the point of COVID when it first hit in March of 2020, that they might see.
Really be into tanking. And what you realized was he was wrong. It’s [00:07:00] taken a little longer for guys to really hit the wall, but he said, guys are really starting to hit it right now. And even tonight when we were gathered, gathering with some of our leaders, or just heard some stories about pastors and churches that were really experiencing difficult times.
And so it’s a real tough season right now. And so some of our bootcampers, you know, we they’ve been working hard and all of a sudden they feel like, man, I should be over with it’s like, no, the mass mandates are going away. And people can gather, but people aren’t coming back and it’s really getting hard for him right now.
JimBo Stewart: Yup. I think as we look into this, it’s important for guys wanting to hear that and know, Hey, it’s normal, right? This is it. If I’m listening to this and I’m thinking, man, I’ve really been struggling well know that you’re not the only one. and you don’t need to walk that alone. You need to have somebody walk that with you.
So I know, I know your association Walker does, like a lot of associations and offers, interventive care and counseling for guys like that. So, They could reach out to their state convention, their [00:08:00]local association, and chances are one of those would probably, have some benefit to that speak real quick to why I got would want to take us why he should make that call to find some counseling help.
Walker Armstrong: well, you know, a lot of people that are a lot wiser than me over the years have commented that, you need a coach or a counselor as a pastor, a minister, outside your church. You know, outside of, maybe your, per se, your associational contacts, and you need to have someone where you can just kind of unwind with, let it all hang out, and share, you know, about problems because.
When you don’t have that, then what you’re doing is by default waiting on a crisis to happen. And it’s kind of like your, your health. Why, why do you want to wait till you have a heart attack or stroke to start exercising, or watching your diet? So I think that, um, You know, as ministers were [00:09:00]used to just kind of push and through difficulties, helping people deal with, you know, really traumatic situations, whether it’s they’re through a divorce or other situations, and we take it on the chin with them, we feel it with them.
And then we don’t have any body, to debrief. About that and using your wife for that, it’s not a good idea, in my opinion, you don’t want to lock her out of everything, but, you know, she doesn’t want to be your go-to person where you’re, you’re laying those burdens on her. she needs to be at co-labor with you.
you know, if you have children and it’s still in the home, she needs to be helping you with kind of helping make sure the kids have somewhat of a normative life, you know, but, but I think that, you know, Say this enough that, you know, ministers need ministers. They need counselors that understand them, understand their situation and can offer them care.
Bob Bickford: So when thinking through some general categories of [00:10:00] health and in a pastor’s life or re planters life, when you guys think about that at the association level, I mean your physical health you’ve mentioned mental, spiritual, like, just give us the, what are, what are the areas that you guys are seeking to provide encouragement to for these pastors?
Walker Armstrong: So, we were talking before we won’t air. We started this new thing called leader care. And what it’s designed to do is it’s probably the audience is familiar with wellness wheels, that look at different things like, uh, mental, emotional, spiritual, physical, social, environmental, vocational. and so you’re looking at these components of life, the way we, and a colleague of mine designed that we put a kind of, uh, the spiritual dimension around.
You know, because by identity we’re children of God, you know, so that’s, that’s the hub of our wheels, our walk with God, our relationship to him. But you know, very few pastors think about financial planning. Very few pastors think about, vocational planning, right. [00:11:00] And so, you know, to keep them sharp, to keep them in the game, to keep them thinking holistically about their lives.
We came up with this thing to, to provide, assessment training and coaching in a one hour session with a, Clinical psychologist is a Christian, a minister. and so he’s reduced the rate greatly for us so we could afford it. And we’ve got 14 people. we have some women in our group test group that are heading up ministries in their local church or other places.
And so we’re, we’re doing both men and women and we’re, we’re given kind of first round beta test to see, you know, how effective. Well, I would call proactive coaching, and so we’re, you know, I’ll let y’all know how it goes. Um, you know, I was joking on the Dr. Emmett brown from back in the future of replant, you know, I’ll try anything once, you know, and you might not hear about it, but I’d try see if I can help folks.
but yeah, that’s, kind of the tact we’re taking down Jimbo and, I mean, we feel very positive about it. Cause we’re, you [00:12:00] know, we think that it’s just like anything. If, if you, if you regularly go to the doctor once a year, you can get on top of things quicker, And, that’s what we’re trying to do.
JimBo Stewart: Are you guys seeing any. at this point from those sessions, what do you like? What are some patterns that you’re seeing or insights that can be helpful for our listeners?
Walker Armstrong: So w we’ve just got to start in the beta group. So, w we just started actually, coming up two weeks ago, so, you know, You know, because of my relationship with you guys and everything, you’re going to be some of the first folks I talked to about, you know, our first insights displayed a group was also evaluating is they get coached to give us, you know, real-time feedback about how, how well went.
And, I just don’t know of anything quite like this in other associations that might be out there and I just might be ignorant of it. But this proactive model of holistically looking at your. I mean, I wish I had it, you know, 1998 when the wheels came off for me. because I think that would have been a real grace [00:13:00] gift to me to think about my life, you know?
but yeah, hopefully within the next six weeks, you know, we’ll start getting some meaty feedback.
Bob Bickford: Sorry. I lost my train of thought
JimBo Stewart: for the, for the thousands of bootcamp listeners out there that aren’t blessed to be in that beta test. What would be insight you could share with them on steps they could take now? While they get on the waiting list. Yeah. To be a part of something like
Walker Armstrong: that. I think, you know, sit down with your wife and say, Hey, let’s, let’s look at our lives together.
You know, what, what are some goals that we have for every area of our lives and what allies, you know, can we tap into, help us with our financial planning to help us, you know, think about our health. and those kinds of things. and it’s amazing. I mean, I, you know, God is, multi abundant towards us.
He’s not a stingy God. And I, I just believe if you start looking at people, you know, uh, [00:14:00]Within your network and relationships, you can start finding people who are content experts in each of these areas to help you think through it, you know, and probably, you know, at a very low cost in some ways, you know, because people want to help.
Most people want to help ministers, you know, and if they think that, Hey, I’m helping this pastor, or I’m helping this ministry leader really get a hold of their lives. a lot of people will jump in.
Bob Bickford: I love the idea of you guys, at the association doing this. And I think Jimbo raises a good question.
So some of our guys are not in an association that maybe has a focus on this. So if there were a couple of pastors, you know, two or three pastors in a particular area that wanted to try to do this themselves with one another, just to encourage one another, what are some things you might encourage them?
I can suggest to them.
Walker Armstrong: so we do think on impact groups in their regionally based pastor groups, you know, it’s, it’s really hard to get Babs pastors to let down their guard, and open up or even know that they need one. Let’s just go even more primary [00:15:00] and more fundamentally is we look at it to understand that you need your other brothers in Christ.
To do kingdom ministry. just that one recognition, you know that, well, I don’t have time for that. Well, you don’t have time for it because you don’t value it and you don’t value it, you know, without being too prophetic and too mean about it. You don’t value it because you don’t understand how much you need it and your church needs it.
And so, you know, converting pastors, if you will. To that need is a challenge. I know every AMS out there and every state convention employee is probably going to amen this, listening to this. so I think they’re all for sure. Less than I. Yeah. Yeah. Well, I hope so. Every single one of them. So, but you know, I think Bob that, if you can get the guys together and they can say, okay, what’s the number one pressing needs.
We can say all is on our lives right now. Okay. Let’s, let’s find a book on the topic and just talk about it with one another in a confidential, you know, framework and see how we can encourage each [00:16:00] other and what this occasion is. Pitt pick a topic that connects with us, you know, about it’s developmental, you know, it’s not just reactive.
and I think that when you’re doing that, then people start letting their guard down and talking about, you know, really, you know, my oldest son is, you know, he is, he is in a bad place. You know, those conversations happen after trust has been initiated. And trust is initiated when everybody feels like they’re on the same playing field.
Um, so I think some at a really simple, simple level, something like that helps.
Bob Bickford: I love that, that that guys that are, that just know each other in a community or a region, a county in a town of suburban areas. They can, they can start something like this themselves. I think that’s one of the things that, that for us as pastors starting, another thing feels a little heavy sometimes, or, but being in relationship with guys that you can be honest with and talk about what’s going on in your life with it gets incredibly [00:17:00] helpful.
And I also would say this it’s life giving of course. Right? So on the front end, I mean, w all of us, we’ve probably been to the, you know, we’ve been. On the big, on the starting side of man, I’ve got to go to this thing and I don’t know if it’s going to be good and man, I don’t know. And then you go there and you’re like, Aw, man, I, I absolutely loved being there and I’ve benefited from being there.
So, so I think we just, just challenged the guys a little bit to think about. If you don’t have somebody in your area, that’s coordinating this. Why don’t you get it with a couple of your pastor friends and consider starting something? Yeah,
Walker Armstrong: because you know, again, because of our ecclesiology, a lot of times, and I’ve been there, you know, Hey, I’m the only guy struggling with this.
or I’m, I’m the only guy facing this particular challenge. And then when you start believing that you isolate more and more, instead of saying, you know, I wonder if other guys really struggle with it, Uh, it was a friend of mine. Andy Bauer Sox. He leads a ministry called energized ministries, that ministers pastors.
And he was with this, uh, pastor of a big independent Baptist [00:18:00] church. And the guy had been there like 700, eight years or something. And, and so they were going to the, uh, lodge the energize had, and this guy was. This, you know, a blowhard, he used to talking about all his accomplishments, accomplishments and how great he was.
And Andy was thinking it was a big mistake to invite this guy. This is just going to be a brag session. I’m just trying to encourage him to stop, to get a sandwich, to take up to the lodge. And he said, as soon as I said the prayer over the sandwiches, this got busted out, crying on the pan and he was. well understand.
I don’t know what to do. And you’ve got some sandwiches that have made me want to cry and I know Jimbo has, but you know, liver mush is just, you know, but, but he, he just waited, let the guy finish, you know, venting. And he said, Hey, my deacon St me, my wife has nothing to do with me. None of my kids are close to God.
I mean, just went down this laundry list of broken. And he said, well, what happened? I mean, that was not the same guy that was riding [00:19:00] up the mountain with me, you know? And so I think that in, in that situation, if you know that there’s a safe zone, you can let your guard down. But I mean, we would be surprised at so-called successful ministers unquote, that, you know, struggle just as much as a pastor that has, you know, 35 on Sunday.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah. I talked to a lot of guys that feel isolated and. Like they don’t have those types of deep relationships and they crave that and they’ll, they’ll have all these reasons as to why, like, I don’t have time or I don’t know who I can trust. I mean, it’s, it’s a scary deal and it can lead to some pretty dark places.
And our association just, just changed names, announced a new thread and a new thread or slogan is don’t pastor alone. And we had a legacy pastor kind of share about the [00:20:00] state of pastors and isolation. And he said, he said something that really struck me. He said, you’re only as sick as your secrets.
Walker Armstrong: Oh yeah.
I’m in trouble, man. You’re only as sick
JimBo Stewart: as your sister. That’s the truth. And, man, there’s something about. Sin and shame and pression. And when you leave those things in the dark, they grow. And, and so that, that, that slogan I don’t pastor alone has resonated with so many of our pastors. I initially.
When it was first pitched to our team, I wasn’t in favor of it. Cause I didn’t like it. It was a negative phrasing. And, we just said, let’s sit on it for a little bit and think about it. And, my association leader, Bob Bumgarner, and I were having lunch with a pastor that week and he was sharing some struggles and frustrations.
And so I thought I’m just going to see what he said, how he reacts to this phrase. And I said, Hey man, I just want you to know that it’s our desire. We don’t want you to have to pass through. And he just started weeping. Wow. [00:21:00] I mean, just right there at like at Panera and I was not, I mean, we, we, weren’t leading up to that.
I’ve been there. Wasn’t this wasn’t a slow buildup with this. just happened. And I was like, okay, all right, there it is. There it is. Right. And in already. Just by announcing that phrase, we’ve had disconnected pastors reach out to our association and say, I’ve been pastoring alone and I need some help.
and so just in a, in another couple of minutes, just talk to us about the importance of, and the difference between solitude and isolation. Right? So in our spiritual growth, we need solitude, but then. We hide behind that sometimes and call it isolation. And there’s a talks about the difference between those two things.
Walker Armstrong: So, I mean, I think solitude is. much often ignored spiritual discipline. and, uh, I think if you do it right, you’re spending time alone with God. You’re not preparing a sermon. You’re not even doing planning for ministry. [00:22:00] You’re just spending time alone with God, to allow him to work deeply in your heart.
and that’s, I think should be a regular rhythm, in all of our lives. and I think that is a factor that’s going to give you really sustained resilience over time, and that you won’t be a nut job at the end of 50 years of ministry. and you meet some of these guys who go like, ah, you know, I’m not really, you know, excited about, you know, listening to you, because you’re a nut job.
And so, You know, but, but I salacious can is where we don’t get spiritual material. We get wiggy. I mean, we start believing our own press on one level, you know, which leads to pride, which leads to spiritual insensitivity on another level, you know, we really do some, some. Tearing down, you know, a self-talk of ourselves about, you know, where we’re falling short and how bummed out we feel about that.
But if you can be with other brothers, you know, talk about that and [00:23:00] hear the other people absolutely struggle. The same thing it takes. It takes that that takes part of that burden away. So, I mean, I, you know, I, I know, uh, pastors that don’t ever spend time in solitude, they said they’re too busy for that.
and I think they’re heading down a bad. and the same as with guys who get isolated, that they think, Hey, I’m doing well. I really don’t need help. You know, you’re, you’re one conversation away with your wife or your kids or a friend from being blown away.
Bob Bickford: Yeah. I mean, a couple of practical things I think we should wrap up with here, but the guys is one, the practical shepherding.
That Brian crop does, it runs on a semester basis, fall in spring. And so we’re there in the middle of the spring semester. They just had a retreat may get and get signed up for that and get involved in that it’s it goes from one year to two years to three years. And then those, those are relationships that last.
So sign up for that. Also want to say this. What we’re talking about is true for pastors wives, re planters wives. We’ve got a [00:24:00] re planter’s wife’s Facebook page, which we’ll link on the show notes, and then some guys can be listening and they’re they’re past the point of pain and they’re to the point of crap.
And so we have a helpline at Nam that we’ll put on the show notes that you can reach out to. That’s confidential, free you just, if you just need to download with somebody and just talk to them about what’s going on, check that out and then as well, just recommend, Hey, Jimbo and I here at the bootcamp.
We’d love to hear from you. and we’d love to talk with you if you need help and you feel like you have a relationship with us because you listen to us every week. then we want to, we want to reach out, just reach out. We want to help you and we’ll get you connected with the right resources.