We’re approaching the end of Clergy Appreciation Month, a time when we at Focus on the Family Canada highlight the essential role pastors and ministry workers play in the body of Christ.

When members of a congregation are hurting, pastors are there to support them. When youth and young adults are navigating uncertainties and need a sounding board, pastors are there to listen. When we experience deep hurts from life’s circumstances, pastors are there to pray with us.

But what about when the concerns, questions and hurts require answers beyond a pastor’s ability to listen, pray and offer encouragement?

Before I go on, I want to be clear: This is in no way an effort to diminish or negate the ways the Holy Spirit works through pastors and ministry leaders. They are an essential part of the body of Christ, and I can’t count the times I’ve been encouraged and blessed by my own pastor.

I recently read an article in Christianity Today in which several youth pastors were interviewed. Recognizing the painful and confusing circumstances facing members of their congregation exceeded their ability to offer the support needed, they’ve been turning to mental health support services for those under their care.

I fully recognize this is a hard balance to achieve. Pastors may ask themselves, “How do I tell someone who is hurting that they need to talk to a counsellor? Will they think I don’t care about them?”

Our in-house counselling team is here to support pastors and youth pastors in this challenging area of their work. If you are a ministry leader or if you know a ministry leader who could benefit from learning how to approach these conversations, I’d be overjoyed if you told them about Focus on the Family Canada’s free one-time counselling consultation. Our highly skilled counsellors are here to help pastors build a toolbox for navigating these conversations with the children, youth and adults in their flock and identifying when a counselling referral would be most appropriate. If that recommendation from a pastor is met with resistance or resentment, our counsellors can help prepare pastors for that as well, and to communicate in truth and love.

There are many ways to support and celebrate the pastors in your life. Perhaps this year, one of the best ways is by helping them offer the most appropriate form of support they can to their flock.