PCC Guest Blogs

This blog contains a collection of writings from various authors on subjects related to Pastoral Care and Counseling.

Blog Posts

An invitation to new, creative holiday ideas and practices

Who knew we could do Halloween without trick or treating from house to house? Families are now sharing that Halloween was more fun this year than ever because they found new, creative ways to celebrate! Here are more ideas for the upcoming holidays!

Christmas won't be the same!

While grocery shopping the week before Christmas, I saw a woman in the baking aisle frantically searching the flavored extract bottles. She began moving the bottles around and talking out loud. “It just won’t be the same! I’ve got to find it!”

Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story

It’s challenging to feel grateful when you are grieving. Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story...

Google searches during pandemic may hint at more suicides to come

Research in the U.S. and internationally have linked Google search behavior with suicidal behavior, so in the new study, the researchers looked at online searches about suicide and suicide risk factors during the early part of the pandemic and potential long-term impact on suicide.   The researchers used an algorithm to analyze Google trends data from March 3, 2019, to April 18, 2020, and identify proportional changes over time in searches for 18 terms related to suicide and known suicide risk factors. The findings show dramatic relative increases (in the thousands of percentages, in some cases) in Googling search terms related to financial distress, such as “I lost my job,” “unemployment,” and “furlough,” and for the national Disaster Distress Helpline.   The number of searches related to depression was slightly higher than the pre-pandemic period and moderately higher for panic attack.

Hunkering down: 4 Brain-wise ways to cope during Covid-19

Andrea Schneider talks about how to keep calm and attend to your mental health needs during the COVID outbreak and staying at home. She offers a wealth of ideas on what you can do to cope during your time at home.

Rebuilding life after loss with your personal Venn diagram

If someone you love very much has died, you may think your life is over. The psychological impact of loss is overwhelming, especially if the timing or surrounding circumstances were unexpected or traumatic. The mind reacts in astonishing ways while grieving. At some point, however, the realization comes: how can I go on?

What is Health?

In simple terms, health describes your condition… or how well you are expressing life. If all of your parts are functioning at 100 percent, all the time, then we would say you are 100 percent healthy. Since we can only have the number of parts we have (we cannot add an arm at will), and “all the time” is a constant, then our health condition comes down to how well we are functioning. The better we function, the better our health.

New mandated reporter requirements

As of January 1, 2020, there are new State of Illinois requirements for anyone who cares for children in either a paid or volunteer role in schools, medical facilities, and in churches. The Illinois Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act has been expanded to identify more roles (i.e.: volunteer childcare workers in a church) as Mandated Reporters with new training requirements.

Stress management tips from the Mayo Clinic

Managing stress is a combination of activity and inactivity. Finding a balance that fits you, combined with plenty of sleep and a healthy, balanced diet can help you on your way.


I love my son and he’s gay. I don’t love him because he’s gay and I don’t love him despite his being gay. I love him because he’s my son. Being gay is not all that he is, and he didn’t choose to be gay. Being gay is an integral part of who he is however, and I love all that he is, so I love his gayness as much as I love his irritating sense of humor that he got from me.

Serenity in the midst of uncertainty

As we approach the February General Conference, I’m not only thinking about the UM decision and consequences. This upcoming event has also triggered my brain to release all my other memories and emotions regarding the unknown. (Usually, we don’t realize our brain has been triggered.) My brain has memories of the unknown for as far back as I can remember—times when I spent days, weeks or months trying to figure out how the unknown would resolve, and I remember the worry and anxiety that accompanied those unproductive thought processes. When I spin, I don’t win.

One Perspective on the Experience of Retirement

I am asked often, “How are you enjoying retirement?” It’s not been an easy question to answer, even after five months of ‘it.’…

It's When, Not If a Communication Becomes a Miscommunication

No matter what kind of relationship, a good tip for improving your communication skills, is to use miscommunications or conflict as a learning opportunity. Talk about where things broke down in the communication process. Bottom line--remember to apologize and to forgive. Those who never apologize and never forgive are slowing and deliberately damaging their relationships.

Who Are You?

Forty years ago, when I was a teen, The Who, an English rock band asked that question in one of their most popular songs. “Who are you? Who, who? Who, who?” This perpetual question of my youth is almost more driving and important for me today. Don’t get me wrong, I know I’m a child of God, a person deeply in love with Christ called to his service as a pastor. The difficulty ensues when I lose focus of the values, gifts, direction and goals of the service to which I have been called

My first Facebook light bulb moment

On my best days, I use FB to stay connected to people, reach out to those in need, see pictures of my grandchildren, and use it as a ministry tool. On my worst days, I feel pleased when I see how many “likes” or comments I got on one of my posts. Dare I say sometimes those “likes” and other emoji reactions give me a rush, or the absence makes me feel disappointed, wondering why no one liked what I said. But I never realized how much I reacted to it all until I went on my month-long fast.

Am I retired yet?

Excitement and drudgery. Seems to be a pretty good description of life. Mountain top experiences eventually yield to the floor of the valley and life resumes until the next big event. In that meantime our imaginations can run wild. We build up expectations, some quite unrealistic, about the next big thing. We wonder what it is going to be like when we get there. Will it be as wonderful as we expect?

Witnessing people growing in their faith (as a joy of the job)

I watched as a little girl who had every reason to be upset and afraid, found confidence, assurance and peace—enough so to help someone else. Since that night at the Miller Park Zoo, I’ve had so many instances in ministry where I have witnessed children and youth, especially, growing in their faith, in big and small ways. Sometimes it’s in experiencing God for the very first time, sometimes it’s in learning something new about their faith, sometimes it’s in being challenged in their faith, and sometimes it’s in finding strength and peace in God and using it to help someone else, just like Jenny.

Marriage Care Retreat

Reminder! There are only a couple rooms left for this meaningful workshop retreat conducted by Bob and Christi Phillips. Once the space is gone, its gone! This two-night retreat will be in Elsah March 1-3 (Thursday – Saturday) with Bob and Christy Phillips. It will start with dinner on Thursday evening and conclude with lunch on Saturday. Because space is limited, payment is due (by check to the Conference Center or by credit card) before registration ends Feb. 8.


Richard Rohr said, “We’re already in the presence of God. What’s absent is awareness.” So noticing is something that helps strengthen my faith. That’s why, as I see signs of the seasons changing, I feel the need to gather up those I love and ask, how are my relationships? Do they need tending? How do I really feel? What can I do to prioritize my mental and physical health? How is my spirit? What can I do to reconnect with my creator? What can I start planting now that will bloom later?

14 best apps for dealing with stress, depression and anxiety

We’re living in times where it is difficult to take out time to relax and destress. We are all in a hurry to finish one or the other task. This makes life rather tedious, resulting in depression and anxiety. In fact, depression is one of the biggest evils of modern society. There is a new wave of apps available which are capable of helping people with depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. In this article, we explore the best stress- and anxiety-busting apps for your iOS and Android devices.

What to Expect in Counseling

Today, models are used that start with the real work in the first session with an expectation that positive change in the lives can begin quickly. It is no longer assumed that it took years to get to where we are and it can take years to change. We may have had a life time to get to where we are, but we do not need another lifetime to change.

10 Tips for saving energy

As summer temperatures rise and fossil fuel supplies fall, the burden of climate change and scarcity will land primarily on the poor, and eventually will come home to all of us. We must practice love and justice in the way we relate to our shared air, waters, lands, and all living things. We must be willing to make changes for a sustainable world. Being smart about energy use is one way we can help.

Following our own advice

We in the ministry are a unique group with a unique set of stressors, pressures, problems and expectations that are a natural part of our calling. From the days of Moses to our modern times, we are plagued with a sense of isolation, loneliness, and unclear expectations. Combine that with the fact that most clergy have a natural bent towards being people pleasers and wanting to be liked and we have a prescription for a lot of stress in our lives. We are good at helping others identify these things and trying to help them cope with them. But are we good at doing this for ourselves?

Importance of self-care

How much attention we need to give to the various parts of our lives depends on us. We are all different. I have owned several different cars in my life and each one would have different levels of care to run properly. Some of us may need to spend more time focusing on physical health issues than others, some more on mental health issues than others and some more on spiritual health issues than others. At any given time, the balance of our focus can change. Knowing ourselves if vital in our well-being. Be willing to seek help if it is a difficult task. Our clergy assistance program has people who can help us do that. Yet we need to take responsibility for caring for ourselves and seeing that the aspects of our lives are in proper balance.

Mirror, mirror, on the wall

People may have their own talking mirrors inside. When we look into the mirror, maybe we are looking towards the depths of the unconscious. When you see your mirror each morning, what kind of reflection do you see? When you think of your flaws and blemishes in your life, what kind of voice do you hear?

What causes Holiday Blues?

Many factors can cause the “holiday blues”: stress, fatigue, unrealistic expectations, over-commercialization, financial constraints, and the inability to be with one’s family and friends. The demands of shopping, parties, family reunions, and house guests also contribute to feelings of tension. People who do not become depressed may develop other stress responses, such as: headaches, excessive drinking, over-eating, and difficulty sleeping. Even more people experience post-holiday let down after Jan. 1. This can result from disappointments during the preceding months compounded with the excess fatigue and stress.

Emotions: their causes and purposes

Understanding our emotions, what causes them, what purpose they have, how they function and how to use them can benefit our relationships and help us navigate through them more successfully with fewer problems.

Ways to best work with your S/PPRC

The Pastor /Staff Relations committee is a critical ministry for us to be a vibrant connectional church of Jesus Christ transforming the world. The committee members are the lifeline linking the pastor, church staff, the congregation, and the Conference through the District Superintendent. As pastor, your discernment of who serves on this committee and providing training and information for them is crucial to your ministry.

You and your S/PPRC in the first six months

This committee can be of such great assistance to a new pastor! I suggest that the committee meet at least four times in the first six months. Meeting regularly will allow members to get to know each other and to build trust – two vital elements when working and serving together. One of these meetings could be an informal picnic or ice cream social where family members get to meet and form closer connections.

Creativity: it's good theology

Repeatedly the response I hear when I encourage people to consider creativity as part of spirituality is: “I have no talent or gifts to be creative.”  Much of this belief arises from the times we’ve been told to “stay in the lines,” or “you can't do it that way” or the old “it's never been done that way before.”  Well, think about this; God created 350,000 species of beetles and God created the platypus. Evidently God likes variety and uniqueness!   I invite you to embrace your God given creative spirit. Today. Now. You can pick up a colored pen, pencil or crayon when you’re finished reading and draw a prayer, or write out your prayer in different colors, or copy a favorite scripture and illustrate it. Start small, let go of any judging of what unfolds and trust in the spiritual power of human creativity.

Thoughts are not facts...don't believe everything you think

Did you know that the average person has 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts a day? The difficulty isn’t that we have negative thoughts but rather we often believe that our thoughts are true.

Do you need some time to renew?

Do you ever feel like you need a break?  How would you like to take two or three days just to relax, refresh or do what you really want to do? You can. We had a chance to do just that recently, thanks to a new ministry available to all of our IGRC clergy and spouses.

How do we best support each other?

Pastoral Care and Counseling would like to initiate a conversation about how can we can best support ministry spouses and how clergy and their spouses can best help each other. Research reliably demonstrates that talking with others who face similar challenges can make us feel less alone, more supported, and understood without judgment. Only when we feel “safe” will we share our deepest hurts and scariest challenge.

My experience with yoga and vision for Christian yoga ministry

Christian Yoga class at Wesley UMC provides a safe atmosphere to do yoga in Christian faith. This class is intended to help people practice yoga that is centered onto Christ. It encourages people to be calm, focused, and renewed in the presence of God. Through conscious breathing, movement, and meditation, people can appreciate that their body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. This ministry may reach more people and diverse people that we could not reach without it. I pray this ministry may help people to set aside the time for self-care, to be away from daily busyness, to be calm, to be relaxed, and to feel God’s presence and His Spirit.

Strategies for boundaries

In ministry, it seems that there are a myriad of people to make happy. Not only does one have an entire congregation, but then there are the supervising administrators. And it is important to have a good relationship with members of your community. We also need to have family and friends who are pleased with us and our decisions. It seems there are a so many people to keep happy. How do you please all these people and still attend to your own needs? Balance.

How to deal with difficult people

I learned that with some people, I can take a difficult situation and help facilitate a different outcome. I first became defensive, but when I had time to quiet my emotions, I was able to better see what had happened and communicate in an empathetic, fair manner. How we react to these situations influences if not determines the outcome of the situation. We will all deal with difficult people, or people in difficult situations. It is important to improve our abilities so we can handle these effectively.

Seven types of Difficult People commonly seen in the church

It is inevitable that we will encounter difficult people; even in our Christian walk. However, it is empowering to know that in many situations, we have the ability to influence what happens next. Our perceptions of the encounter, our response or non-response, as well as the way in which we doggedly hold to healthy patterns of behavior and model Christian love, can change how the encounter moves forward. We should enter into prayer, asking God to help us see more clearly and work toward healthy outcomes. We should also remember that we are not alone. Help is available.

Covenant Group Reflection and Sample Agreement

We all have problems as pastors, from sickness and death in our families, to divorce, tragedies, etc. It is good for us not to go alone during these events. The problems we face as pastors occurs in addition to caring for the churches we serve. Having Jesus go with us through other disciples sure makes the journey easier.

Covenant Groups

I will admit that I was quite cynical when the leadership of the conference began emphasizing the importance of clergy covenant groups. I thought that this was just another attempt at forced collegiality. I feared that we would be randomly assigned to a covenant group and required to meet with each other.

A Few Reasons Why Ministry is the Best Job in the World

Even with all the challenges, I feel like ministry is the greatest job in the world. I really do. As I talk with my friends and parishioners about the struggles they face at work, I haven’t found one yet that I would really trade places with.

Factors We Overlook When Dealing with Stress

We generally accept that physical stress can affect emotional stress and emotional stress can affect physical stress. We also know that it is virtually impossible to live without some degree of stress. Paul uses the illustration of a runner removing as much as possible that could slow him down in a race as a concept in leading our Christian life. We can use that same concept in dealing with stress. After you have worked on having adequate stress relievers, reduce the stress you can and possibly set up some new methods of dealing with stress, how about looking at some lifestyle issues such as what we eat.

Procrastinator's dilemma

Procrastinators are not alone. We are not helpless. We can benefit from caring support and encouragement (different from nagging). It is possible to learn and follow a new pattern for meeting deadlines.

Handling Stress: Part 2

Finding lists of natural stress reducers is not very hard. We can do a search for them on the internet. (I am not talking about dietary supplements or anything we would eat or drink.) Much of this has to do with brain chemicals and producing good ones while reducing negative ones. And as you seek out what are natural stress relievers, you must think about what you would actually be willing to do and keep doing.

Learning to Balance

These strategies were what helped me find balance between life and pastoral ministry. Some of them may work for you and some of them may not. Either way it’s important to find those practices that help you and to make those things a part of your life. When you are able to find balance, it makes a world of difference. Life is more enjoyable and a lot less stressful!

Stretching Your Healthcare Dollar

With all the changes in the health insurance environment, this is a good time to remember other resources that are available to us. For example, our Conference Pastoral Care and Counseling (and Preacher’s Aid) have made a Clergy Assistance Program available to our active and retired clergy families. This could be a helpful resource during this time of transition. The Clergy Assistance Program includes some important benefits for clergy, spouses and dependents.

Handling Stress with What Has Worked in the Past

A reality of life is that very few people have become adults and gone through college without having developed some ways naturally to deal with stress. Most often we have developed some behaviors that helped us deal with problems of life that helped us. As we grow we have a tendency to move away from what helped us in the past because our live situations change and our life patterns change. Then when stress builds we may be at a loss on what to do to deal with it.