61 – Fresh Hope for Mental Health – Brad Hoefs

Brad Hoefs

Brad Hoefs, founder of Fresh Hope for Mental Health joins the guys to talk about how pastors can find help for their mental health needs. Brad speaks of his own battle with being bipolar and shares how his painful story has become a source of healing for many pastors. In this episode, pastors will find Fresh Hope for their struggles.

Brad is the author of  Fresh Hope: Living Well in Spite of a Mental Health Diagnosis (2013).

Show Notes:

To learn more about Brad Hoefs and Healing the Heart Wounds of Ministry visit Fresh Hope for Mental Health.

Fresh Hope for Mental Health: https://freshhope.us/

Contact Brad Hoefs: pastorbrad@freshhope.us

Brad Hoefs interview Transcript:

Brad Hoefs  00:00

Pastors have all kinds of wounds that are not seen wounds. But if you don’t have the skills or the toolset to clean those wounds out, it can do you in. I always say this pastors, please deal with your pain. Because if you don’t deal with your pain, your pain will deal with you.


Joe Chambers  00:23

Welcome to Hope Renewed helping you find new hope when ministry leaves you hopeless. The Hope Renewed podcast is brought to you by PIR Ministries. Here are your hosts, Tom Jameson and Sean Nemecek.


Tom Jameson  00:39

Well, our guest today on Hope Renewed is Brad Hoefs of Fresh Hope for Mental Health. Brad, welcome to Hope Renewed.


Brad Hoefs  00:48

Hi, thank you. Thank you. Great to be with you guys. And great to meet you.


Tom Jameson  00:53

We’re excited to make this connection and to hear a little bit about your journey. What inspired you to start fresh hope for mental health. And just tell us a little bit about your story.


Brad Hoefs  01:05

In 1995, I was pastoring, the 13th fastest growing church in North America. And I was going to town. I had never had a down day I never had a problem. But I was a pusher and a driver and I could go to the hotel and I could lock myself up and do more work in three days than you know most people could do in six months. And everybody just thought I was really creative. And the church had gone from about 800 in worship to about 3000. And we had relocated and all the stuff well through it all I was getting sicker, had a manic episode that landed me in trouble with the law. And it all became public. And so long story short, a church started out of that, um, process. A group of people from the former church said we want to love you in care for you; provided a safe place for me to get better along with my family; gave me an 18% pay raise in the process. And I got better. But I didn’t get super better. I didn’t get . . . I got like, coping better. I could cope but I wasn’t thriving. And I certainly didn’t have any passion about ministry anymore. I felt like I was broken merchandise. I was a cracked pot that was too cracked up, you know. And so, I ended up accidentally messing up my medicine and I relapsed seven years later ended up in the hospital. And I said I’ve got to figure out how to live with this In spite of this, I gotta figure out how to do life. I had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and I had no clue that I had it or anything. My dad had it, but I just didn’t know that it was possible to be, you know, genetically. And so, anyway, when I relapsed I then after getting out of the hospital, I started going to some groups, and I was very unhappy with the groups, I found myself support groups, because I found myself getting worse, it was unhealthy. And all I found was complaining and negativity. And they were ruminating constantly, every week, no movement, and you find that in a fair amount of mental health support groups. And so I knew intuitively something was wrong. I started complaining, I’m a German Lutheran and I started complaining to my doctor, (we do that very well). (Laughter). And so, I complained long enough that he said, why don’t you start the group that you want to attend, and that started Fresh Hope because I started that group sooner or later and he was willing to help me. And lo and behold, people were looking for hope-centered, hope-directed groups, mental health support groups, and we have tenets, wrote tenants that we combine both the loved ones as well as those with a diagnosis. And so, we help churches start those groups. And then the ministry has just grown into a number of different areas. And right now we’re in about 17 countries, people attend from 17 different countries. We’re definitely all in English, all in Spanish. And then also it’s been translated into Japanese, Chinese, French and three languages in India. And I never set out to do any of that. But I could tell you this and Never had any passion about ministry, until Fresh Hope. And, and within Fresh Hope I realized that I used to be so braggadocious about, you know, what I was doing in ministry, how fast the church was growing and all of that. And today, the sweet spot is me telling my awful story. That becomes a liquid gold for the kingdom of God, if you will. And yeah, I never would have guessed that. You know, and I used to think this was plan B, you know that I had screwed up God’s plan A for me. And the reality is that it’s all Plan A, it’s all part of it.


Tom Jameson  05:46

Yeah, what a what a powerful picture of how God redeems our brokenness for his glory and the pouring out of grace comes out of that. And how too often we go into ministry, because of our plan A and we were missing God’s perfect plan. I’m not even going to call a Plan A. it’s just The Plan. Which, counter intuitively, is found in our humbling ourselves or, if by God’s grace, we are being humbled so that his grace can be made known in our lives,


Brad Hoefs  06:32

I would have never guessed that me telling my most vulnerable broken horrible point. The point that which, in my humaneness, I would want to keep quiet and never tell, again — never think on it, again — becomes this all empowering story for other people. Like, story after story, especially with some pastors who have been through hell and back. And they needed somebody who got through it, to say to them, you can keep going, God can redeem this. There’s no unredeemable situations, never ever.


Tom Jameson  07:21

Yeah, wow. And I think we want to delve into a little bit of the whole perspective of mental health and church and ministry because of course, (sarcasm) every pastor wants to tell their deepest, darkest secret and be broken in front of the world. (Laughter, Brad says “NO”) But, I’m captured by this idea, you know, kind of at the start of Fresh Hope for Mental Health of looking for something different than what was being offered. Why is it important to follow this hope-centered, hope-directed, or Christ-centered approach to mental health, recovery and wellness, do you think?


Brad Hoefs  08:00

Yeah, several years ago, the leaders of HHS, that administration in Washington, DC, and SAMSA invited nine of us that do faith combined mental health stuff. And they know that things are not good within what’s happening from a mental health perspective in our country. They know there’s an element that we have that that needs to be part of mental health recovery. But therapists don’t trust pastors, pastors don’t trust therapists, usually. And it becomes problematic. Well, anyway, through it, I just spoke on hope. And I explained to them that there’s these 25 years of clinical research on hope, and it is incredible research, but just very simple things like hope can be borrowed, hope can be shared, and they know it to be true. But if you take wishful thinking, hope, you know, hope that encourages people, but it’s still not sure and certain. But if you infuse faith into hope—a man’s hope—if you take Christ’s hope, and you put that in there, you now have sure and certain hope. And the ability to speak that into somebody’s life who is suicidal plays a different role than wishful thinking. And Matt Stanford has said this for years Dr. Matt, Stanford, you guys may know him, but he has said for years that the church needs to understand that the greatest territory, if you will, for evangelism is doing something about mental health within the church. And see, when I was trained at the seminary in St. Louis, I was trained that pastors did pastoral counseling, therapists do therapeutic counseling, don’t mix them. You’re not a therapist. Okay, got that. But that’s one side of the coin. And if, if the, that’s the clinical side, and yeah, the church should let the clinicians do that. But if somebody such as myself, who has bipolar only does the clinical side, we end up having learned helplessness, because we have to depend on the doctors and the medicine. Well, how do I recover, in spite of it? And that’s the flip side, and that’s where the church belongs. That’s where the church has this army of hope that can come in and come alongside people and help them, you know, and offer hope. And helping people process their pain, helping them be able to move from hopelessness to hope we have a thing we call hope coaching, which churches are beginning to implement within their ministries. And the hope coaching is just we took all that research and infused it with hope, or infused it with faith, and boom, you can have short conversations with people who are hopeless, don’t have to have a mental health issue, and begin to see a way forward.


Sean Nemecek  11:37

It’s interesting to me that you described this church that formed and gave you space to heal. And you’re talking now about the importance of healing within a community of faith. How does this idea of hope and being in community connect,


Brad Hoefs  12:01

First Corinthians 13, ends with and now these three remain faith, hope, and love. We understand faith and love are shared and community, right? Hope is the same way. Hope really functions the same way that love and faith functions. And I think we human beings don’t understand that. And so the way that hope is discovered. . . Hopelessness, very simply put, is when people don’t see a way forward, and hope is when you see a way forward. So, what happens is when the Lord says, Bear one another’s burdens, and that which we have walked through, you know, I’m paraphrasing scripture, but that which we’ve walked through, then we can help others through. And that’s why it’s needed in the community. If you try to be hopeful, if you’re hopeless, whether you have a clinical depression or not, you know, you could be hopeless, just from anxiety and be worn out and frustrated. None of. . . I used to think that just Lutherans had those problems in ministry. (Laughter) But I found out that even charismatics have those issues in ministry. You know, well, anyway, even if you’re hopeless in that, if you try to be hopeful yourself, it many times is not enough. It’s just not enough. And someone else’s story of how God got them through becomes your survival guide. And your, something you can hold on to, to show you the next step forward.


Sean Nemecek  13:47

That’s so important. And sometimes churches struggle in facing mental health crisis in their communities. What are some of the obstacles that you see for churches there?


Brad Hoefs  13:58

Yes, one really big one—liability. They all are afraid of, they would rather have a bunch of drunks come in and have a meeting, and druggies have a meeting, than to have crazy people come into their church and have a meeting. When in fact, it’s no different than the liability is there. Yeah, there’s always liabilities and doing ministry. But, for instance, Fresh Hope offers fresh hope mental health groups, it’s peer to peer and we train the facilitators. We do all the work, we provide all the materials, if there’s issues we’re available, Blah blah blah blah blah. We’ve been doing this for 15 years and haven’t had any horrific stories. I’ve had a few interesting stories, but needless to say, it’s no more than any other kind of than having AA in your church. And so there’s this fear, and it’s very, the Christian church is very risk adverse. But you know, so much of it as is with pastors, when there’s a pastoral problem, it becomes a legal thing. And the legalities are guiding us, as opposed to the heart for people, you know. And so I find the biggest obstacle is helping pastors and church leaders understand that it’s no more, there’s no more liability than letting any other group in, you know. And yeah, it’s, it’s interesting, can something bad happened? Well, something bad can happen it when you’re having a prayer group, you know. So that’s the number one issue. And then secondly, this division that they see that where there’s this solid rock wall that cannot be penetrated between the clinical and the ministry side of things, when in fact, that wall needs to be taken down. We see, like, for instance, one of my colleagues on our staff, she just trained 24, pastors in India, on how to help people with mental health issues, you know, and we don’t see that kind of receptiveness in the United States. We see it in other countries, because they don’t have that, that legal, and that wall.


Sean Nemecek  16:39

So, it’s kind of like we’re trying to protect the institution rather than healing the hurting and we’ve kind of gotten off course a little bit there.


Brad Hoefs  16:47

Exactly. Exactly. And there is a, there is a way to help the hurting, and minimize and not, you know what I’m saying? Yeah, we, in fact, we started fresh hope. And we said, every Fresh Hope group has to be sponsored by a church. Recently, we redid that, and we revisited with professionals and with attorneys as well as with, and we now say, Fresh Hope, can be started by anyone who, you know, fits our requirements for facilitators is trained by us, we will be over that group so to speak, they the leaders can be responsible to us, and it can be hosted by a church or it can host it in a public place.


Sean Nemecek  17:43

So those are some of the challenges that churches face. What challenges do pastors and ministry leaders personally face as it relates to mental health and wellness?


Brad Hoefs  17:53

Well, first of all, I think pastors, many times have gotten into ministry and believe that they probably have their lives together more than they do. It’s a lie we tell ourselves, you know. A lot of us use other things to cover up the pains and the difficulties. I suspect most seminaries are not teaching resiliency, they’re not teaching and equipping pastors to learn how to process their pain. And there’s plenty of emotional pain that comes from ministry. I think of pastors like this, they’re first responders, period. Where, you know, I can’t tell you the times I’ve been there either when somebody died, or there was a tragedy or something, and I had to take the news to them. I had to work through it, or the time I had to baptize a baby who was blue coded. And then the minute I baptize the baby, everybody left, and there I was with the baby and the baby was dying. And I, I got so upset with myself later that I didn’t hold the baby, I should have held the baby. So there’s those traumatic things that happen. Plus we have a lot of compound/complex, second-hand trauma that comes on us, and then all the crappy things people do to you and ministry, and issues and all of that. And then there’s our own family stuff, marriages suffer. And so with fresh hope we started a thing called and we’ve just done a few of them. But it’s an intensive like to day, um, two and a half day intensive retreat, in which both the spouse and the pastor is there or church leaders where they can process their pain and we give them the tools. It’s not teaching In them, the tools, we actually empower them by using the tools there. And they learn from that perspective. And it’s called Healing the Heart Wounds of Ministry. And I can tell you this, we took, we took all of, not all of my staff, but many of my staff, in fresh hope for mental health, are trained in trauma healing, out of the trauma healing Institute, out of the American Bible Society. And years ago, missionaries were trying to evangelize people in Africa, and it was not going well. And nothing was happening. And finally, they realized that the people had so much trauma, they weren’t really able to even take the gospel in, there was so much pain. And you know, it’s like this, if, if you have a physical wound, and you don’t tend to it, it can be life threatening. And pastors have all kinds of wounds that are not seen wounds. But if you don’t have the skills or the toolset to clean those wounds out, it can do you in. And I always say this, Pastor, Please deal with your pain. Because if you don’t deal with your pain, your pain will deal with you. And that’s what happened to me. I wasn’t dealing with my pain. I wanted God to take care of it. But I wanted to do it in a vacuum because I felt like if I tell somebody, all this crazy stuff I’m doing, they’re gonna think I’m crazy.


Tom Jameson  21:44

So there’s a shame component to that..


Brad Hoefs  21:49

Yes. Yeah, if you’ve never heard of the soul of shame, the book, Soul of Shame.


Sean Nemecek  21:53

Yeah. Curt Thompson. Yeah.


Tom Jameson  21:54

Yeah. And it seems like there that’s all around the issue of mental health, this atmosphere of shame.  And then that, I guess, within the church particularly, creates a stigma in regard to mental health. You know, crassly saying, you know, well, good Christians don’t have mental health issues. Right? You can’t be a good Christian, and have mental health issues.


Brad Hoefs  22:21

And if that’s the case, why are the statistics for mental health, the same of the church, just as all other statistics, I would say that one of the things so we base this, this healing the heart wounds, on the same way that trauma is approached through the healing groups, trauma healing groups. And, wow, we’ve done a few of these and the response has been incredible. Because the spouse is going through it at the same time the pastor is, and then there’s a point at which we bring them together. And they, they go home with skills and abilities that are not any rocket science kind of things. But saying to people, if you want to last, the difficulties if you want to stay in ministry, and be happy. . . because the statistics right now Barna has come out with some statistics that are frightening, really, and I’ve heard others where almost 48% (I don’t know what I don’t have all of the percentages memorized). But of pastor’s want to quit or trying to figure out how to get out of ministry, or what can I do instead of ministry. And I know I got so that at towards the end before I went full time into Fresh Hope, I got so I was having problems preaching. And I’d never had that problem before in my life where I just wanted to go and clobber everybody over the head, in the message, with the law. You go into hell, if you don’t straighten up, you know, I just didn’t want to give the good news.


Sean Nemecek  24:08

So seminaries don’t teach us how to process our pain. You know, there’s lots of pastors out there who are experiencing grief or shame or anxiety, and they just don’t have the tools to process it. What are some of the trends that you’re seeing among pastors with regards to mental health?


Brad Hoefs  24:27

Well, I think we have a higher rate in the clergy of depression and anxiety and addictive behaviors than in the average. And it’s seen as one of the most complex professions. And what I’m seeing are a lot of pastors hurting and trying to do it alone. They’re almost like dogs that have wounds and then they go off into the corner. And, you know, they don’t reach out for help. And I was exactly that way, today I’m not. But yeah, so but the trends that I’m seeing are that the younger guys are much more willing to get together and talk and process. And if you want to, if you want to heal from the heart, the heart wounds of ministry, you have to be able to talk in safe spaces and just process it. Processing it simply means talking it out. That’s why we go to talk therapy with a therapist, or why we go to support groups. God made us that way. It’s communal, it’s it, we need each other.


Tom Jameson  25:46

I think that’s such a huge key that too easily is forgotten for pastors and church leaders, ministry leaders, that for whatever reason, we believe that either we should have our act together, right? So we don’t have that need to talk it out. Or, you know, who in the world does a pastor talk to? So, yeah, how can church leaders navigate the pressures and expectations, especially what they find just within their congregations?


Brad Hoefs  26:26

Well, I think personally, first, if a pastor wants to help the hurting in his church, he needs to help himself first. It’s like being on a plane with, you know, they say, if you have traveling with a child, put your own oxygen mask on first. Pastors have to talk about it from the pulpit means getting help, it means being open with someone, if it’s a therapist, great. One of the things pastors have to understand is that theologically, you can have talked to the Lord, spiritually, you’ve talked to him, you know what the answer is, you know that with your head, but your heart is hurting. And it’s okay, you can have both those things. At the same time, you can know that it’s resolved, God has this. But I’m worried where you have to process the worry, you have to process the hurt, whether it’s with a therapist, or find a safe group of pastors, or come to something like we have with Healing the Heart Wounds of Ministry, but whatever you do, don’t try to do it alone. That is where the enemy wins. If he can isolate you, he will tell you sooner or later, you will start believing you’re the only one. And then you’ll start feeling like there’s something really wrong with me but I’m afraid to tell. I’ve got this monster I’m living with and pretty soon you feel like you are the monster, that’s Satan. And so don’t do it alone. And then I think when you become emotionally, more healthy, we never get to a point of perfect mental health. But when you get to a point of being open and transparent, you’re going to help your people, you’re probably going to be more compassionate, you’re going to speak about it more easily. It’s going to open up the church as a safe space for people to really, you know, in the meantime, we’d love to come and help anybody start fresh hope groups where you know, 50% of your people in a church are dealing with mental health, they either have a diagnosis, or there’s people who are trying to stay sane, while they love those of us with a diagnosis.


Tom Jameson  28:46

Yeah, it just it seems that it takes a lot of courage. It takes maturity, a great deal of humility, to be able to be transparent. I want to dip back into your story a little bit if we can. So you know, how, how was that willingness to be transparent with others, a help for your healing.


Brad Hoefs  29:14

The reality is that all these things you guys have just listed that you need to have in order to be vulnerable and, and get the help. I had none of them. I was extremely gifted. I’m gifted really strongly in certain areas. You would not want me as your church administrator, though. I can’t, you know, I’m like passed gas in the air when it comes to that. It’s just a mess. The reality is that I had none of those things. And yet I was pleading with God to help me but I wasn’t going for help. And I should have gone for help. If I would have gone for help, I don’t think what happened would have happened. And I think it would have, it would be so different. But I didn’t. And I didn’t have the character to hold my gifts. I did not have the resiliency in ministry. So I, the Lord knew I had to crash and burn. And it was in such a public way where it was on the news in the news in the newspaper, that I had to deal with it. And I would encourage pastors don’t wait that long. You know, don’t wait until it’s so bad that, that you’re just a train wreck waiting to happen. But even if a train wreck happens, I’m living proof. My story is living proof that there is hope. And, you know, pastures that are hurting, they need to know you’re not alone. You’re really not alone. And we need each other. I think we just need to be able to talk, when I am able to talk with people about what’s going on in my life. You know what, I can manage it. Because I’ve let the steam out. But you know, I’ve been heard.


Tom Jameson  31:24

Tell us a little bit more about this initiative, Fresh Hope for Pastors, that your ministry is taking.


Brad Hoefs  31:29

Yes, if people are interested in it, our goal is through Healing the Heart Wounds of Ministry that sooner or later safe groups are formed out of that. Where there becomes cohort, you know, cohort groups or affinity groups where pastors, even if it’s three or four people, that just can get together on a regular basis and talk and, and process ministry. And so, it’s what we do at Fresh Hope we really do peer to peer support. And so, we’re just doing it with pastors and not because they have a mental health issue. It’s, well they do mental health challenges, yes, but not a diagnosis. It’s more emotional and spiritual health and taking care of yourself, and providing that for spouses also. So, we have the healing the heart wounds, process that people can go through. And then also, after that groups, that that are safe places and spaces where you can actually deal with your pain.


Sean Nemecek  32:39

That’s great. Can you just kind of break down some practical steps that leaders can take, whether they’re facing anxiety, or depression or other mental health issues? How can they focus on their personal well being, and lead their congregations?


Brad Hoefs  32:57

What I would say is, the first thing is, is go to somebody that you can talk to, whether that’s a therapist, or you have a you have somebody that you really trust and belief can help you. Or who’s been there, maybe it’s a retired pastor or a close friend or whatever. But find someone go to a coach, there are people that are out there as pastoral coaches, you know, I did some life coaching with someone a friend, and boy, I’ll tell you what, it helped me get more focused on who I am and what I’m supposed to be doing. You know, instead of playing games on my phone. And so, that you’re getting a place or find a group. But whatever you do, do not wait. And if you are depressed, take the medicine, it’s no big deal. For heaven’s sake, what pastors need to understand is, the brain is just like every other organ in our body and when it doesn’t function, right, we’re not going to be, you know. So, if you had liver problems, or if you had kidney issues, or you had diabetes or whatever, and you had a broken leg, you go to the doctor. The medicine will just, hopefully, help your brain get back to its right chemical levels, so you can be in your right mind. Don’t be ashamed of it, Pastor. It is no big deal. You know, the majority of us are, well, I can tell you this, everybody’s broken. And if you don’t think you’re broken, let me come live with you for 24 hours. I have the spiritual gift of triggering people. (Laughter) We’ll figure out what your issues are.


Sean Nemecek  35:05

Oh, that’s so funny. Brad, I think one of the things that I’m hearing is a theme in your story and in the pastors that I coach through burnout, is that when a pastor takes the time to find real healing for their heart, they end up being a better leader and a better pastor on the other side. Absolutely. They’re, they’re more connected with the love of God, and more open to speak about God’s love. So, what can we as a church or as the Christian church do to better support our pastors and ministry leaders in this area?


Brad Hoefs  35:50

I think if, first of all, if, let’s say you’re a leader, a lay leader in the church, give your pastor a sabbatical. Give him time away with his family, give him time away by himself. Encourage him, allow him to go to places that are gonna really help him deal with the things that need to be dealt with. Encourage him to process it, and it no matter who you are, whether you’re a leader or not, just keep saying to him, Pastor, I love you, I want you around for a long time. Please take good care of yourself, please, please, please take good care of yourself. I think simple things like that, you know, can make a world of difference for for pastors. And if you’re on a board of directors, or your elders, or whatever the governmental structures in the church, see to it that you require the pastor, to take sabbatical to do certain things. It doesn’t need to be a conference on how to take care of yourself. Go to one in which they’re going to help you take care of yourself, they’re going to lead you and guide you to ways of doing that.


Tom Jameson  37:17

So more of the experiential, practical, and I love your encouragement for churches to recognize the need for rhythm in the life of a pastor and ministry leader. Of course, in life about every follower of Christ, we should be incorporating that. But so important for us for pastors and ministry leaders to model that and to live into that. How else, you you’ve mentioned sabbaticals, and this idea of rhythm; being well connected with others with whom you can speak openly and vulnerably; anything else to just kind of nurture good mental health for pastors and ministry leaders,


Brad Hoefs  38:02

I think it’s imperative for the pastor to stay very connected with his spouse, and to be able to find healthy ways to really nurture that relationship. And because many times the spouse is picking up on things long before the pastor does. Pastors, that pastor is many times trying to preach his way out of it, when in fact, the spouse is feeling lonely, and, you know, feels like the church is the woman in the mirror, whatever. So, I think it’s just important for you to nurture that relationship with your spouse. Because there’s probably one of the safest places that you should have or might have to really talk. But you know, I hate to have broken my life got. I would not wish it on anyone. I and I, oh, say I don’t want to walk through any of that again and anything other than that I probably will have to walk through I don’t know. But my life has never been better. And I don’t mean that in a professional sense at all. I mean, that I don’t, ministry was my idol. And I don’t bow down to that idol of. . . if everything went away today, I’m happy with who I am and I love my wife, and we love our grandchildren, and we love life. And we enjoy it. And so it could all go away tomorrow and that’s not my identity. You know.


Sean Nemecek  39:51

How do financial issues play into the mental health of a pastor?


Brad Hoefs  39:57

That’s really a good question. It’s insightful. Well, yeah, if the love of money is based, you know, Scripture says the love of money is the root of all evil? Well, I could tell you the lack of money is at the root of a lot of emotional issues for people. And it’s hard to go about doing ministry when you’re trying to figure out how to navigate financially. So, I think ministries, churches need to be extremely generous with their pastors financially—as financially generous as they can be—within reason. I mean, that provides. . . it’s like with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, you can’t take care of some of the more intellectual, spiritual and all of that, if very fundamental needs of how you’re going to feed your family or pay the rent. And yes, it plays a role in it. And as significant, I would say, that’s core to, you know, if you’re worrying about house and food, and things like that, how in the world can you be handling the trauma and the drama and the stuff of ministry? And do it effectively? I think we’re fooling ourselves if we think that’s all. You know, I think Jesus would be the only one who could handle all that.


Tom Jameson  41:37

He did a fair job of it didn’t.


Brad Hoefs  41:40

Yeah, but I’m not him. And I’m not trying to be. And I can’t be.


Tom Jameson  41:47

Well, and not to make light of that either. Is the sense that Jesus understood where his source of well-being was found, and was continually connected to that.


Brad Hoefs  42:02

Yes, yeah. And, you know, one of the things that I would say that Jesus did is he got away from the crowds. And I think he probably did that on a regular basis. And I teach people in fresh hope, almost everything is mindfulness, we need to pay attention to what’s going on inside of ourselves, we need to pay attention to when our brain accidentally is on its own, what are we thinking about. And we need to learn how to take captive our thinking. Our brains have a default setting. And it’s not a good default setting. And we need to change that default setting. And we need to really focus our brains, we need to train our brains to think on these things. And you can actually change your brain chemistry, neuroscience proves that, by decluttering or disconnecting all the ruminating at all that. And there are simple ways of doing that. And when I started doing those things, I was shocked at how my thinking changed.


Sean Nemecek  43:23

Yeah, I’ve had the same experience with mindfulness. It’s been an incredibly powerful tool for me. But I would like to return back to just something you mentioned earlier, we talked about different types of trauma that pastors experienced post-traumatic stress, I think we’re all familiar, is connected to a single traumatic event. But you also mentioned complex, traumatic stress. Can you describe what that is,


Brad Hoefs  43:51

Trauma is when the brain kind of shuts down and can’t process what’s happened. And then it gets stored in a place of the brain where there, it’s in the flight and fight area. And it there’s usually no words for it. So, when I think about all the stuff I had, that I experienced, along with families, because I had empathy I felt with them. So that’s all getting stored up, right. It’s suddenly I think of compound and complex as being it’s layers of it could be just small things, but it’s layers of it. And the times where your brain just can’t, you know, and when there’s enough of that and you haven’t worked through it, it becomes huge. Then the other part that I did not mention and we really need to say something about his grief. Pastors need to grieve. When somebody rejects you or leaves the church and just ghost you. You’ve gotta grieve that. And you can’t just say, Oh, well. There’s very few people who cannot care about that. There. And then I would be worried about them and their empathy, and ministry, you know. And, and so, but there’s also the grief work that we need to do when good things happen. You know, when our second child was born, I had a little grief afterwards because life was easier and then you have a baby, and it’s not as easy. And so you adjust, and then it’s okay. But there’s grief involved, even in good things. And I didn’t know that prior to crashing and burning. I had I had a lot of compound and complex grief, from moving a church taking it from a traditional setting to going into a manufacturing plant, you know, and I had to process some of that.


Tom Jameson  46:04

So sometimes we talk about death by a thousand paper cuts, you know. You mentioned that layering, and just how much of a reality that is, and how easy it is for a pastor to say, well, it’s not that big of a deal. But the hope of what I hear in you saying is that if, if we’re disciplined, if we’re faithful, if we’re wise enough to just be talking about these things, be processing them out, just making sure that that we. . . I’m just, I’m reflecting on my own story, and how some layers of grief just got unattended, and really drove some very poor decisions on my part. Sure.


Brad Hoefs  46:52

Because if you don’t, if you don’t deal with your pain, your pain deals with you. Yeah. And what it will require is, if you’re not going to process it, it will tell you, you’ve got to cover up. If the pain is so great, you find ways or ways make it go away, even if it’s momentarily. And the other thing that happens in a ministry is I could attend to what I was doing right when I was doing it, but the minute there was free time or there was downtime, I had to turn to a world that was my own, because I didn’t want to deal with what was going on within me. So, it required a lot of driving it required a lot of and it’s like, that’s not the kind of self-care that will help us process.


Tom Jameson  47:48

Right. So self-care is good, but it’s hard. I mean, it’s work that needs to. . .


Brad Hoefs  47:54

Yeah, but you know what, it’s a lot easier to do then the other stuff I was doing?


Tom Jameson  48:04

Well, as, as we talk about all these things, I am very mindful that there may be someone who’s listening who is deeply pained in their life and considering things that might be harmful to themselves to others. And we want to acknowledge that. If you are listening, and if you are struggling, there is hope, there is help. Brad, how would you direct someone who might be in some very, very dark places at this moment.


Brad Hoefs  48:37

If you’re in a very, very dark place, and you are even feeling suicidal, you need to reach out to somebody. And if nothing else, you need to call 988. You know, and talk to someone immediately. It if you are in a place of addictions or darkness or covering up your pain, by behaviors that you know could do you in, so to speak. We also become kind of professionally suicidal that way, and taking risks that are going to hurt you and hurt the people you love. You need to reach out to ministries that deal with those kinds of things. I’m sure you guys talk about that on a regular basis. And now if you’re not in a deep and dark place, but you know that you’ve. . . most people are not. . . they don’t go into ministry, having all the ability to deal with all they’re going to have to handle. We just don’t come that way, but you can get equipped you can learn. And if you don’t want to get to those deep, dark places, attend things like Healing the Heart Wounds of Ministry or other things such as that resiliency groups and cohorts and things like that, to keep yourself out of those dark places. But Pastor I’m telling you, if you’re in that dark place, and and what you are fearful of the most is the crash and burn, then for God and your family get help. If it had not been for the people who came around us and loved us. You know, the longer you wait to get help, the more the pain is going to drive you. And I, you know, call, email me.


Tom Jameson  50:44

Yeah. How can people get in touch with your ministry, Brad?


Brad Hoefs  50:50

Yeah, PastorBrad@freshhope.us They can go to freshhope.us. It’s kind of a big, complicated website. So don’t give up on us. But talk to Jason, Jason@freshhope.us. And But Pastor, I want you to know you are not alone. You need to know there is great hope, and that the Lord loves you. And he saw fit, call you into ministry. And he’d love to see fit to keep you in ministry. But don’t stand in his way. Because he loves you enough to let you crash and burn.


Sean Nemecek  51:30

So, Brad, do you have any final words of hope that you want to give to pastors and ministry leaders who are in need of encouragement today?


Brad Hoefs  51:37

Yeah, I think the bottom line is I was very good at giving hope to other people before my situation. And I was very loving and kind to them, but I was not to myself. And I think the fact that if you have troubles really receiving your own, I don’t think we forgive ourselves. I think we have to learn how to live in the forgiveness of Christ. If you’re not able to experience that live in that, that’s a key that has profoundly changed my life.


Sean Nemecek  52:17

Well, Brad Hoefs, we just want to thank you so much for your openness and your willingness to share your story and your generosity to help hurting pastors. Thank you for being renewed.


Brad Hoefs  52:28

Well, thank you for having me. Thank you.


Tom Jameson  52:31

It’s been great to have you on and we thank our listeners we’d love to hear your thoughts on our conversation, you can go to our new web page, hoperenewedpodcast.com Leave your comments and thoughts there. It is our prayer that the God of hope will fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him.


Joe Chambers  52:53

Thank you for joining us on Hope Renewed. Please, help us reach more pastors by sharing this episode with your friends. If you enjoy this podcast, rate and review us on Apple podcasts, Google or Spotify or your favorite platform for receiving podcasts. Thank you, this means the world to us. The Hope Renewed podcast is brought to you by PIR Ministries. At PIR, we partner with God and the church in the work of pastoral renewal and restoration. Pastors, our goal is to help you cultivate new hope for healthy life and ministry. We do this by building relationships. We train both pastors and churches to promote a culture of ministry health. If you’ve experienced a forced exit from ministry, we provide a process of restoration for you and your family. We also have proven resources and tools to assist you in the challenges of ministry life to contact us, or to learn more about PIR visit PIRministries.org

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The Hope Renewed Podcast is presented by PIR Ministries. Visit us at pirministries.org

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