Who Feeds the Shepherd?

The Director of our Clergy Care Ministry is James M. Norris, M.Div., LMFT.   Jim presents workshops to clergy and leads “Healthy Leader, Healthy Congregations” clergy groups.   These groups gather to consider the implication that the systems theory of Murray Bowen has on the local congregation.   He helps clergy to understand their personal interactions within the congregation to promote the emotional health of all involved.   He understands that healthy clergy creates healthier possibilities in congregations.   He also understands the pressures of ordained ministry, with 22 years of pastoral experience, he knows that ministry can become life-draining rather than life-giving the way God intends.   He knows that churches can become entangled and limited by conflict.   He feels a sense of calling to care for the shepherds, to promote well-being for those who are serving congregations, to give clergy the support they need so that their ministries can thrive.    He is using his gifts to bring greater wholeness in the Body of Christ, the Church.    Contact Jim Norris to learn about the next workshops.

Being clergy or family of clergy carries a unique opportunity and unique stress. The demands can cause things to get out of balance easily. A good balance is necessary to foster well-being. The purpose of the Clergy Care Ministry of The Vine is to provide opportunity for fellowship, support, emotional healing and spiritual growth so that ministers maintain health and wholeness as they lead God’s people, thereby enhancing the vitality and effectiveness of their ministries.


Healthy Leaders, Healthy Congregations (current study/growth groups)


Clergy Care Ministry: Our Vision

By Jim Norris, M.Div., LMFT
From the beginning of The Vine, the vision of a ministry to clergy and their families has been a vital part of The Vine’s mission. Having invested 20 years as a parish pastor, I am keenly aware of both the stresses of parish ministry and the need for spiritual and emotional support. A personal friend and clergy colleague recently shared with me regarding this need and summarized it with the question “Who feeds the shepherd?” Finding spiritual and emotional support is crucial for pastors and their families.

Through my years as a parish minister I was able to find support through a small group of colleagues who gathered to share joys and struggles in an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect. I was also blessed to have a wise therapist with whom I could deal with personal issues that might have been a barrier to effective ministry had I not dealt with them. Through periodic consultation, I was able to make my way through the sometimes rough seas of parish life. By attending retreats, conferences and other opportunities for personal and professional development, I was able to renew my energy and enthusiasm for parish ministry. The Vine is committed to providing counseling, consultation, retreats, workshops and other opportunities that will provide care and support to those who give so much of themselves to their congregations and community.


What are the major challenges facing pastoral ministry today?

By Jim Norris, M.Div., LMFT and Amanda W. Ragland, D.Min., LMFT

The major challenge facing pastoral ministry today is that the incredible demands from every area, family, self care and congregation, place the pastor in a crucible of pressure. This threatens to leave the pastor disconnected, not centered spiritually and out-of-balance relationally leading to qualities of “the ministry in distress” versus the “good and faithful ministry” where all thrive.

Marks of a good and faithful ministry Marks of a ministry in distress

Marks of a good and faithful ministry Marks of a ministry in distress
The pastor is
connected disconnected
balanced not balanced
centered not centered
The ministry is…..
grounded/relevant lost/irrelevant
flowing/inspired stagnate/uninspired
perpetuating wholeness perpetuating fragmentation
one of fulfillment one of restlessness
work as mostly joy work as mostly chore
intentionally planned reactional / crisis oriented
living water dead water becoming toxic
life-giving life-draining
emotionally available emotionally unavailable
spiritually awakened spiritually unavailable
one of call one of demands
flexible rigid
one of integrity disjointed
living burned out
The congregation is
the incarnational presence of Christ on its own agenda
thriving on love and grace thriving on power and gossip
invested in mission invested in self and church politics


Habits and Practices that Sustain Good Ministry Over Time:
A Checklist for Ministers


____ 1) Regular engagement in spiritual disciplines which yield a very alive and active spiritual life.
____ 2) Periodic time apart from the congregation to step away from the daily demands.
____ 3) Intellectual stimulation with colleagues through participating in biblical Study and theological discussion.
____ 4) Activities that support emotional health so that the pastor is personally and relationally unencumbered.
____ 5) Sustainable friendships with colleagues that include sharing both personal and pastoral concerns.
____ 6) Healthy, life-producing relationships within the clergy family.
____ 7) Ongoing relationships of fellowship between clergy families.
____ 8 ) Regular efforts to increase and to hone the professional skills of ministry.
____ 9) Receiving recognition of their ministry and participating in the celebration of their ministry.
____ 10) Having a clear covenant of expectation between the pastor and the congregation and within the pastor’s family in order to help dissolve conflict, neglect and abuse.
____ 11) The ability to foster strong leadership within the congregation.
____ 12) Feeling that the pastor’s ministry is valuable in the broader society


If you are a pastor, we would welcome hearing from you about the usefulness of this checklist. If you are a lay person, please show your support by encouraging your pastor to reflect on this list and encouraging them to take care of themselves.