Grief: A unique reaction to death or loss
by Guest Author on November 11, 2017 in faith
By: Fay Green, MA, LPC, LMFT, FT
Grief is a unique, personal natural, normal, necessary reaction to death and loss. Death is a universal part of the human experience. Grieving is the internal reaction following a loss while mourning is an outward or public expression of thoughts and feelings regarding a loss. Bereavement means to be torn apart or robbed, to be deprived of something or someone.
Grief can be anticipatory, sudden or traumatic. Anticipatory grief is a normal response to an upcoming loss or death. With anticipatory loss, individuals have an opportunity to complete unfinished business.
Sudden death or loss happens...
How to care for trauma survivors Q&A
by Katie Swafford on November 10, 2017 in faith
Unfortunately, in our very broken world, we all too frequently hear about tragedies at home and abroad. These events can have significant impact on the mental and emotional health and well-being of those involved and, in fact, have an impact on you and me. To help us all better understand trauma, I reached out to one of our network counselors, Brady Robinson, LPC-S, who specializes in coping with trauma for a brief Q & A session.1. How do I know if I have experienced trauma?
Trauma in a traditional sense of the word implies that one has experienced a real or perceived threat to their life or physical integrity. This can also...
Pastors & Ministry Dads: 5 Things Your Kids Need From You
by Guest Author on June 26, 2017 in faith
By: Carrie Austin
As a pastor’s kid, I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly of church life. Like many PK’s, I struggled through rebellion and making my faith my own. I have felt the sting of “godly” people doing ungodly things and the heartache and confusion of my own family being their target. I understand, now, the financial toll of a sacrificial life of ministry. I can also say that I have seen the fulfillment and passion that that same life can bring.
My parents were not perfect by any means--they would be the first to admit their failures-- but as a product of their life of ministry, I can say there is so much that...
Protecting children in your church from sexual abuse
by Katie Swafford on April 18, 2017 in culture
Sexual abuse is not a topic that most any of us want to discuss, but it is a discussion we must have in our churches because:
1 in 4 girls will be sexually abused before the age of 18.
1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before the age of 18.
Of child abuse cases reported in Texas, 68% were sexual abuse cases.
Think about your church congregation and apply some easy math. If you have 200 people in your church, 100 females and 100 males, those statistics translate to 25 females and 16 males in your church that either have or will experience sexual abuse. Chances are more likely than not that you have someone in your...
How taking a retreat with your spouse can strengthen your marriage and ministry
by Guest Author on January 17, 2017 in faith
It’s been said that relationships are either growing or dying. In our churches, we are always striving to grow relationships. Yet, we often neglect the more important human relationship that we have – the one with our spouse.
I pray that your love for each other will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in your knowledge and understanding. Philippians 1:9
When Cory and I have participated in marriage classes, retreats, counseling and leadership trainings across the United States to grow our own marriage and help us in our efforts to minister to families more effectively, the number one comment we hear is...
The power of presence in the lives of teens
by Guest Author on January 5, 2017 in faith
It is astonishing when science tells us something we know but perhaps have forgotten. Research now tells parents of teens how important their presence is in the lives of teenagers. Teens report that their parents’ presence when they are doing their homework, hanging out with friends in their house, or just hanging out is very important.
The presence of parents for teens is important for their feelings of safety and security. In our culture we too often bestow upon teenagers all the rights and passages of adults. They, in fact, can do many things for themselves. But they are not adults; they still need the guidance and support of...
Addiction and the church
by Guest Author on November 29, 2016 in faith
Most people are somewhat familiar with the topic of addiction, whether it is through media, books, educational or prevention programs in the community; or perhaps at a more personal level, by struggling with addiction or knowing someone who is in that journey. The fact of the matter is that everyone has had an encounter with this issue whether personally or impersonally.
Addiction is a complex and compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance (e.g alcohol, cocaine, methamphetamine etc.) or a behavior such as gambling or pornography. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)...
How sexual abuse prevention training can help your church
by Katie Swafford on November 9, 2016 in faith
Sexual abuse is an uncomfortable topic to discuss. It seems to be even more uncomfortable when we think of the discussion within a church setting. For many of us, myself included, it is difficult to fathom how such painful and destructive experiences can occur in a church, but they can and do. And I assure you it is much more comfortable to discuss prevention of sexual abuse than to suffer the physical, emotional, and spiritual consequences of abuse that can occur by doing nothing.
Do you know what “grooming” means? Maybe I’m different than most, but I had not really paid attention to this term and certainly did not understand it...
Questions to keep conversation flowing in your marriage
by Guest Author on October 19, 2016 in faith
Ever run out of things to talk about? Maybe it’s because we work and serve together, but more often than not, Cory and I find ourselves gravitating toward conversations that center around ’church stuff,’ i.e. upcoming events or meetings, things going on in this family or in that family, even venting our ministry frustrations and heartaches. It’s so reassuring to be on the same page in our ministries, but our communication can easily become focused on external things, and we may miss out on growing in relational intimacy in the process.
If you’ve ever felt that way, or if you just need some ideas to get to know each other on a...
Minister’s family advocates for suicide prevention awareness after loss of son
by Kalie Lowrie on August 2, 2016 in faith
So many people are quiet about it, but so many people are suffering. This statement could be true about a myriad of struggles people face every day, but for Gene and Pam Talbot the struggle is the impact of suicide after their son, Michael, took his own life in 2010.
Gene serves as associate pastor at First Baptist Church in Crosby, a position he has held for the past 17 years. During his experience in ministry, he has walked with families through many difficult times but following the loss of his own son, his empathy and understanding has grown exponentially.
Michael was the oldest of the Talbots two children, raised in the...
Is there a sign on my forehead?
by Guest Author on June 15, 2016 in faith
Sometimes a client will ask me if there is a sign on his/her forehead that says something to the effect of, “Abuse me, I’m a target.” Of course there is no sign, but at times negative reoccurrences in a life leads one to wonder if indeed there is a sign.
The truth is, to God’s people, and especially God’s ministers and their families, there is a target on each one. In our church, there is an elderly saint who prays especially for my husband and me. He tells us that we have big red targets on us. No, he is not hallucinating. He knows God’s Word tells us this is true.
There is an adversary, the devil, who prowls around like a...
Where to turn when ministry is hard
by Guest Author on May 24, 2016 in faith
Ministry can be wonderfully fulfilling. It can also be incredibly taxing. Statistics concerning ministers are staggering! According to Life Recovered, 75 percent of ministry leaders report they’ve had a significant stress-related crisis at least once in their ministry. Thirty-three percent confess “inappropriate” behavior. The clergy has the second highest divorce rate among all professions. Forty-five percent of ministers’ wives say the greatest danger to them and their family is physical, emotional, mental and spiritual burnout.
Ministry leaders are expected to have perfect marriages, well-behaved children and no personal...
Golf Classic raises $15,000 to help promote positive mental health through counseling
by Leah Reynolds on May 6, 2016 in news
Stepping out on the green with golf clubs in hand and friends beside is not only beneficial to physical health but also promotes positive mental health, according to Texas Baptists Director of Counseling Services Katie Swafford, M.A., L.P.C.-S.
During the third annual Texas Baptists Golf Classic, held on April 25 at the Dallas Athletic Club in Dallas, 261 individuals from around the state competed to promote their own physical and mental health and to also raise support for Texas Baptists Counseling Services.
The tournament raised an estimated $15,000 by way of donors, event fees and sponsors, with BCFS serving as the title...
Want to Minister to People Who Live with Mental Illness? Here’s Where to Start
by Guest Author on May 4, 2016 in faith
You are a soldier, a veteran of war. The experiences that have made you stronger have also left your body marked by scars. The battles you have survived have helped you discover previously unknown parts of yourself that both make you proud and terrify you. Your training shows in the way you walk, the way you talk and the lines on your face.
You appreciate when people recognize you as a veteran and thank you for your service. But what you really need is to be with people who understand, who have been where you have been and who don’t require you to explain your stories or hide your struggles.
So you look online and...
Don’t lose the spark in your marriage
by Guest Author on April 20, 2016 in faith
This article is part four of the Marriage in a Fishbowl series, focused on encouragement and helpful marriage tips for ministers. It is written by Cory and Amy Brand, a ministry couple serving in Corsicana. Click here to read part one, part two, and part three.
“So, what do you do in your free time?” (We’ll give you a minute to stop laughing…) We have found that, even when we do have a free minute, we don’t really even know what we enjoy doing anymore. So much of our time is scripted for us that we can’t even imagine having a choice of activities!
I read an article recently by Pastor Chris Hodges called “How to Make Your...
Why the church must be involved in caring for those with mental health issues
by Guest Author on April 5, 2016 in faith
According to statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health, in 2014, 18.1% of U. S. adults aged 18 or older had experienced some form of mental illness within the past year. This statistic translated into an estimated 43.6 million adults, or 1 out of every 5 adults, and did not even include the millions of children with mental disorders! Given these numbers, it is important for churches to develop plans to engage and serve people who struggle with mental health issues. There are at least four reasons that the church must do so.
Firstly, the church must care for people with mental health issues because of our...
Cultivating meaningful communication with your spouse
by Guest Author on March 30, 2016 in faith
This article is part three of the Marriage in a Fishbowl series, focused on encouragement and helpful marriage tips for ministers. It is written by Cory and Amy Brand, a ministry couple serving in Corsicana. Click here to read part one and part two.
“Never close your lips to those whom you have already opened your heart.” - Charles Dickens
A church member dies. Someone feels forgotten. A family falls apart. Another financial need arises. A cancer diagnosis. The phone rings…again. Is anybody else exhausted?
As ministers, we are constantly battered by the pain in this world, by the fallout from sinful choices, and from the...
A Holy Week reflection on suffering
by Guest Author on March 21, 2016 in faith
For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Christ and Him crucified.1 Corinthians 2:2
The cross of Jesus Christ is central to our faith, and its presence could not be more evident during this time of year. In this season, we remember the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. We have prepared our hearts through Lenten devotion. We have set our minds on Good Friday in order to discern the grace of God in the most difficult of situations. Even now, we wait with bated breath for hope to rise again with resurrection power on Sunday morning.
We can't wait for Sunday morning. Sunday morning is when the darkness of night...
Do you see me?
by Katie Swafford on March 14, 2016 in faith
People struggle with mental illness all around us. Though we may be shocked to hear the statistic that 1 in 5 will experience a mental illness in a given year or that 10 million adults in the U.S. live with some type of serious mental illness, we struggle to recognize how our personal world is touched by mental illness.
On more than one occasion driving to work, I have observed mental illness. You may think the next line will read something about episodes of road rage or technology addictions (because yes, those are evident in the morning/evening commute). But what about the others who we may drive by, but don't really see. Like the...
Putting marriage priorities back in order
by Guest Author on March 9, 2016 in faith
This article is part two of the Marriage in a Fishbowl series, focused on encouragement and helpful marriage tips for ministers. It is written by Cory and Amy Brand, a ministry couple serving in Corsicana. Click here to read part one.
'And they lived happily ever after!'
Are you kidding me? I'd venture to say that any of us who have been married for any length of time have figured out that creating a good marriage takes work! But here's my question: who are you married to? I mean, let's just get really honest. Who consumes your thoughts, your time and your energy? Whose companionship do you seek? Who has your heart? Who are you...
Why does mental health matter to me?
by Katie Swafford on March 1, 2016 in faith
Have you heard that 1 out of 5 adults in the US will experience some type of mental health issue this year? Recently I spoke to a church on the subject of mental illness and used this statistic. One gentleman raised his hand and somewhat jokingly said "I'm looking around and there are about 40 people in this room….so you mean that about 8 of us are going to have a problem?"
Statistically, yes, that is what I mean.
Some people are taken aback by this realization because their thoughts immediately go to news stories or movies that depict more severe levels of mental illness. They can't imagine they would be at risk for such...
Marriage in a Fishbowl
by Guest Author on February 24, 2016 in faith
Have you ever had any of these thoughts?
- I hope no one realizes that I have no idea what I'm doing.
- I want to quit most Mondays.
- I'm really kind of 'over' people. I'm not even sure I like them anymore.
- I'm afraid that my kids will end up resenting me, despising the church and rejecting Jesus, all because of their experience as a pastor's kid.
- My marriage is so strained I'm not sure we will make it.
Cory and I have been in ministry full time for most of our adult lives. We have served together, raised our kids under the watchful eyes (and often vocal opinions) of our congregations, led out in Bible studies and taught classes together, fed...
Brokenness is close at hand, but we are together
by Katie Swafford on February 24, 2016 in clc
We've all heard the phrase "it's a small world" and may have even said it ourselves at some point when we realized we knew someone or knew of someone through another person. In fact, for years the idea has been that there are six degrees of separation between people – so much so that years ago it was made into a game – the six degrees of Kevin Bacon. More recently, Facebook has said there are only 3.5 degrees of separation between users.
Why am I talking about degrees of separation? It's estimated that one in five people will experience a mental health issue this year. I'm no mathematician, but I'm pretty sure the number five falls...
Walking in the fire, continued
by Guest Author on January 19, 2016 in faith
Part One closed with this scripture: Philippians 4:8 "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."
You may not realize it but this is a major part of dealing with stress and burnout.
I gave you a list of symptoms to look for. Could you see yourself in that list? Perhaps over the holidays you have been more aware of the pressures put on you by others. Many people experience chronic depression during the...
Walking in the fire
by Guest Author on December 16, 2015 in faith
When you have given of yourself until there is nothing left to give, there is a way to recover.
I sat in my office at the church and cried, "God, I don't want to do this anymore." It wasn't the first time God and I had this conversation, but this time was different. Times before I was frustrated, or I just didn't like some of the current issues the church was going through. This time I was depressed, my heart was aching and I literally felt like every part of my insides had been poured out. There was nothing left but the physical part of me trapped being a pastor.
For 10 years, I had been involved in itinerant ministry. My wife and I...
Freedom through surrender
by Kalie Lowrie on November 4, 2015 in faith
Serving as a co-pastor at Community Life Church (C-Life) in Forney, Randy Wade wears multiple hats day-in and day-out. From pastor, counselor, mentor and friend to husband, father and son, Randy serves many people in a variety of ways.
One day last fall, as he began listing out his roles in life and how he thought he ranked in each one, it became very apparent something was not right. While many ministers and leaders in the church complimented Randy on his giftings, it was hard for him to honestly rank himself above a two on a 10-point scale in any area.
He made a second list of what others had told him about his giftings...
How to find life from death
by Katie Swafford on July 8, 2015 in faith
This is the third article in a three-part series from our Director of Counseling Services on loss, which addresses how to deal with the emotional impacts of loss through grief, compassion fatigue, and finding life in death.
Amid all the awareness of death and loss in the last few weeks, God has proven faithful to show He makes all things new.
On the very day I had heard news of the devastating loss of a family member, a co-worker pulled me aside to chat about a loved one's spiritual growth and awakening. This was the story of a young adult, searching for meaning and belonging, love and acceptance in life. Several weeks...
Compassion fatigue and guarding your heart
by Katie Swafford on July 1, 2015 in faith
This is the second article in a three-part series from our Director of Counseling Services on loss which addresses how to deal with the emotional impacts of loss through grief, compassion fatigue, and finding life in death.
Within a short period of about four weeks, I've been impacted in some way by about 10 deaths. Each life lost has a story. Each life has family members, loved ones and friends who are grieving and dealing with the reality death brings.
God gifted me with a great capacity for empathy. Rarely does a situation come across my path that I do not try to imagine myself in another person's shoes. Though God can use...
Grief is a journey – just be present
by Katie Swafford on June 25, 2015 in faith
This is the first article in a three-part series from our Director of Counseling Services on loss which will address how to deal with the emotional impacts of loss through grief, compassion fatigue and finding life in death.
I've always heard losses come in "threes." Well, the past few weeks have gone way beyond that number in my world. I know there are many families and friends grieving – some I know personally and some I only know by name as brothers and sisters in Christ. Most of these losses have come in very tragic situations and circumstances. Others have come after long illness and suffering.
As I reflect on these losses...
Found Ministry in Free Counseling
by Olivia Williams on June 22, 2015 in faith
Benjamin Skye's dream was to return to America from his home in Malaysia, get a college degree and live here permanently. Texas Baptists not only helped bring him overseas but also guided him along in his journey to counsel families and serve the Lord.
Born in Pennsylvania, Skye then spent the next 17 years of his life in Malaysia. Despite living in a religiously diverse country in which Islam is the most prominent, he was raised in a Christian household with dreams of furthering his education in the United States, like his father.
"My mother credits our English proficiency to her requiring us to begin reading the Bible twice a day...
Predicting the positive impact of ones faith
by Counselors on March 2, 2015 in faith
I hope you're well. I've spent the better part of two decades learning about God's nature and intelligent design of His creation through scientific research. Researchers, such as Kenneth Pargament, have shown that religiosity and spirituality can inhibit resilience as much as help it; consequently, it depends on how you experience your faith in determining its aid when you are facing life's difficulties. In my research, I've found two variables predict the positive impact of one's faith on resilience: sense of coherence and psychological acceptance.
Sense of coherence (SOC) is one's cognitive appraisal of a...
Connecting the dots
by Katie Swafford on February 16, 2015 in faith
When I was small, I would sometimes sit right up next to the TV screen and look at all the red, green, and blue dots. It was weird, and cool at the same time, how all those tiny little dots came together to make a recognizable picture once you stepped back to see the connections. I can easily get caught up in looking at the dots - focused in on my little world. But God's been reminding me that He as a big picture – one that I don't necessarily see in its entirety. If I get focused on my own dots, I can neglect to make connections with others and in doing so, miss out on great relationships and other awesome things God is...
Pastors are Human
by Counselors on February 2, 2015 in faith
Dr. Mark Weston is the Counselor in Residence at the Counseling Center at Northwood Church and an Adjunct Professor of Psychology and Counseling at Criswell College.
Pastors are human. As such, many have concerns, which interfere with their marriage, parenting or life. Often these concerns are only the surface manifestation of much deeper but unidentified hurts. If total healing is to occur, the pastor must recognize that giving attention to only surface manifestations and not the greater spiritual and emotional needs they have is to neglect what is truly in need of a healing touch.Jesus' Teachings Convey Total...
by Katie Swafford on January 13, 2015 in counseling services
Depression is something we are becoming more aware of and less fearful of in our Christian circles. I'm thankful the information is available and glad we are becoming more comfortable with these discussions. But I think there is a piece that we sometimes miss. Depression has many ripple effects and spouses or loved ones are often struggling in the wake.
So here are some thoughts to consider if you find yourself bobbing like a buoy in the wake of a loved one's struggle with depression. These aren't how-to fixers, but might be lifesavers to help you in weathering the strong and sometimes lengthy storms.
1. Cling to God as...
Rays of hope result from counseling
by Katie Swafford on November 12, 2014 in
A senior pastor struggling with his marriage. A worship pastor battling a pornography addiction. A youth pastor wrestling with depression. A children's pastor trying to cope with anxiety. A minister's spouse dealing with depression after a forced termination. A ministry couple struggling with a child embracing an alternative lifestyle. Grief, burnout, substance use, eating disorders, stress, transition, trauma, pre-marital counseling, personal growth and a host of other issues have been the subject of conversation for Texas Baptist Counseling Services this past year. Regardless of the struggle Texas Baptists find themselves walking...
Lay down your burdens
by Katie Swafford on September 8, 2014 in counseling services
This story is 3 of a 3-part series addressing the effects of sexual abuse and the power of healing through Jesus Christ.
Sexual abuse - An uncomfortable phrase for most of us and a horrific experience and reality for far too many. In Christian circles, these words are not talked about very much. Whether it is the fear of the unknown, shame, disgust, naiveté or something else, there seems to be a common theme of silence.
Yet when we see others struggle, we have a tendency to talk about that. Many who have been sexually abused find themselves dealing with issues involving drugs, alcohol, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, panic...
Where the healing begins
by Kalie Lowrie on August 26, 2014 in counseling services
This story is 2 of a 3-part series addressing the effects of sexual abuse and the power of healing through Jesus Christ.
Sexual abuse is a sensitive subject and many times hearing about the pain and struggles loved ones have experienced through this type of abuse can be extremely difficult. Many people can be prone to want to gloss over the hard details and look for the silver lining or try and tie a little bow on the story and move on. However, for those suffering from sexual abuse, this is far from what they actually need.
There is power in the spoken word. For sexual abuse survivors like Tricia Martin*, sharing with her...
Because of where you have been
by Kalie Lowrie on August 11, 2014 in counseling services
This story is 1 of a 3-part series addressing the effects of sexual abuse and the power of healing through Jesus Christ.
Tricia Martin* was a fun-loving preacher's kid in the 1970s who played outside constantly and never met a stranger. Though she was small for her age, she never felt inferior or out of place, that was just the way God made her. She grew up in a loving, Christ-centered home and knew she was accepted and valued.
When she was eight years old, Tricia was sexually abused by one of the men in her church, a man whom she knew and trusted. She did not understand the things she was asked to do, but it did not seem right...
A beautiful mosaic
by Guest Author on July 4, 2013 in faith
Diverse...We all would love to use this word to describe our worship experience. But is that the true depiction of what we see on Sunday morning?
Texas Baptists is no doubt an ultra diverse association of Baptist churches, but what about each church individually? If we ALL were to assemble in one place, we would resemble a beautiful and grand mosaic art piece. But, this is not what I see in my neck of the woods.
In my city and in most of Texas, Sunday morning worship still is the most segregated hour. We publicly endorse social progression, but then we allow our services to travel back in time to the 1950s. Just being part of Texas...
Depression in a world of faith
Across this state, ministers are smiling on the outside while withering inside. Many don't know what to call what they're experiencing. They struggle even to put it into words.
Counseling professionals know precisely what to call it: depression. Research indicates as much as 68 percent of ministers are dealing with symptoms related to depression.
Ministers and depression has been the topic of increased discussion in recent months following the suicide of the son of Rick Warren, possibly the nation's most prominent evangelical leader. Warren...
Symptoms of depression
Wondering if your suffering from depression? If you're feeling several of these symptoms, you may be fighting depression, according to the Mayo Clinic.
- Feelings of sadness or unhappiness
- Irritability or frustration, even over small matters
- Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities
- Reduced sex drive
- Insomnia or excessive sleeping
- Changes in appetite -- depression often causes decreased appetite and weight loss, but in some people it causes increased cravings for food and weight gain
- Agitation or restlessness -- for
Minister burnout and depression: Proactive steps
Burnout or depression can happen to any minister under certain circumstances. Katie Swafford, director of Texas Baptists Counseling Services, suggest ministers and churches look at the following proactive steps to ensure ministry - and ministers - remain strong.
- Set boundaries. Ministers believe they must be accessible at all times, but it simply isn't realistic. Rotate who is on call between staff members. In smaller churches where the pastor is the only staff member, encourage deacons to pick up evening calls several days a week. Rotation patterns enable
Leaving the familiar
by Guest Author on June 26, 2013 in faith
I remember as a little girl when my father was contemplating assuming the role of music leader in a neighboring community church. I was too young to know all of the discussions that took place, but one I do remember was when my parents talked to me about this possibility which would mean we had to attend another church. I probably didn't respond the way they had hoped. I remember having a pouty expression and saying "No, I don't want to go. All my friends are here."
Though attending another Baptist church was probably not a huge deal in the larger scheme of life, it seemed like a really big deal to me at the time. Why would I want...
Seasons of surrender
by Kaitlin Warrington on June 25, 2013 in faith
I fought long and hard not to make this move. I liked the way my life was. I finally felt settled - I knew the flow of my job after more than three years in my position. I had finally made good friends, and I felt at home when I was with my life group at church. I had found my place in ministry, discipling girls through the Baptist Student Ministry where my husband worked part time and teaching GAs at our church. I even knew the traffic patterns so well that I could maneuver the streets of this big metro area like the best of them!
But last fall, something changed. Deep down inside I heard whispers saying this season was fading and...