How does a Christian view of mental health compare and contrast with a secular perspective? Are we in a mental health crisis today? And how do we best love our family and friends who are suffering from mental illness. In this video and podcast, Sean and Scott talk with Rosemead Professor Chris Adams about these questions and more. Dr. Adams shares about the new Flourishing in Ministry resource that helps pastors and churches address mental health. See

Rev. Chris Adams, PhD, is a third-generation pastor's kid, ordained minister, clinical psychologist, and certified wellbeing and leadership coach. He has served in pastoral care and counseling roles in a large congregation and a large Christian university. He specializes in the wellbeing of ministerial students, clergy, and their families. Chris currently serves as Professor, Chaplain, and Executive Director of the Mental Health and the Church initiative at Rosemead Graduate School of Psychology, Biola University. Chris teaches pastoral care and counseling, Christian leadership formation, and psychology and Christianity integration courses for Rosemead and several seminaries. Chris is a consultant to numerous denominations and seminaries in the areas of clergy candidate formative evaluation, clergy health and flourishing, and pastoral leadership formation. He is the lead researcher for the Flourishing in Ministry project, and is currently participating as a consultant and researcher with the Duke Clergy Health Initiative. Chris is a frequent lecturer at seminaries, retreats, and conferences. He was awarded the Archibald D. Hart Counseling Pioneer Award for excellence in Research and Scholarship in Training and Educating the Next Generation of Leaders in Mental Health and Caring for Others in 2023.

Download a guide to the Flourishing in Ministry Wellbeing Model.

Episode Transcript

Sean: Are we in a mental health crisis? Is there a difference between a biblical and a secular approach to mental health? And how do we best care for our loved ones struggling with mental illness? Our guest today, Dr. Chris Adams, is a professor at Rosemead School of Psychology, Biola University, and the head of the Mental Health and Church Initiative, which we're gonna get into. I'm your host, Sean McDowell.

Scott: I'm your co-host, Scott Rae.

Seam: This is Think Biblically, brought to you from Talbot School of Theology, Biola University. Chris, good to finally have you on.

Chris: Oh, thank you.

SEan: This is a treat. I've been looking forward to this for a while for academic and personal reasons, really diving into this issue. But maybe it would be helpful if we could start with, what do we mean by mental health?

Chris: Sure.

Sean: And is there a difference between a biblical view of mental health and a secular view?

Chris: Sure, wow. What a great question.

Sean: 30 seconds or less.

Chris: Yeah, okay, okay, gotcha, got it, ready to go. One of the challenges, of course, is scripture was written in a pre-scientific era, so, before we thought about the medical model that's evolved that we have now. And so, we have to do some careful thinking about the cultural and social situation in which scripture was written to interpret it well, and think about what might be applicable from our current kind of context, and where does it differ. I think the picture though, in the Old and New Testament, as I understand it, is a holistic one of the human person. So, we kind of separate out different aspects of human experience in order to study and treat things, but we all operate as a whole, and so everything is interconnected, our physical health, our emotional health, our mental health, spirituality, it's all intermixed in complex ways. And so it's a holistic picture in scripture. And it's hard to know sometimes, is scripture talking about what we would now call a mental illness? Possibly, and sometimes we might infer that through biblical studies, but sometimes it's hard to know for sure.

Sean: So, what about, do you contrast that with, say, a secular view of mental health?

Chris: Right, yeah. So, from a secular view, psychology really needs scripture and theology. It needs a larger story in which to place itself that has purpose and meaning and a larger narrative, or else psychology can become kind of a religion in and of itself. People will use a particular psychological theory to make meaning out of all of life, and it becomes almost like a religion sometimes for people, and it can collapse into ultimately humanism or behaviorism or some other kind of ism that really doesn't assume the existence of God, that doesn't assume the sovereignty of Christ and what the death and resurrection of Jesus means for human beings, what's the purpose of human life, what does human flourishing look like? All the kinds of things we get from the biblical narrative fall quite short in any given psychological theory, and so we need to think carefully about it.

Scott: That's a really helpful perspective on both of those things. So Chris, how common is mental illness in the culture at large?

Chris: Yeah, that's a great question too, and I think even your opening question is such a good one post COVID. Most social scientists are talking about the mental health epidemic coming really globally on the heels of the pandemic, that the world was sort of traumatized in a way by COVID, and that just exacerbated existing difficulties. Pre-COVID, I think the best estimate I've read is about one in five North Americans struggled with some sort of severe mental illness, including people in church or out of church, and it may be a little higher than that now post COVID, particularly among youth. There's a real concern for youth mental health, depression, anxiety, are just through the roof since COVID.

Scott: You mentioned depression and anxiety, are there other common types of mental illnesses that you see on the horizon?

Chris: Sure, anxiety has now eclipsed depression as the number one mental health issue in America. So, anxiety and depression are typically the two biggest ones. I think addictions are also a really significant issue and on the rise across North America for sure. Certainly we hear about opioid addiction as being one of the big ones right now, alcoholism, other forms of drug addiction. There are other forms of severe mental illness that I don't know if they're necessarily on the rise, but maybe we do a better job of recognizing them now and treating them—

Scott: Such as?

Chris: Such as, attentional difficulties, ADD, ADHD, neurodiversity kinds of things. And we're still figuring out what are the mechanisms that lead to those and create those and how to best treat those. And so, are we, are they more common? Are we diagnosing them more? Maybe some of both with things like ADHD, ADD, those kinds of things. I think media-related struggle—so the technology, all the screens were overstimulating the brain and overstimulating it too young while the brain is still developing, which is up till like age 25, can lead to the kinds of things we're seeing in kids and adolescents in our culture, the rise of depression, anxiety, and lots of other things because of social media and because of just the neurobiology involved in overstimulating the brain with technology.

Sean: Some diseases and sicknesses and illnesses would cross any religious differences. It doesn't matter your community. It doesn't matter your belief system. They're gonna affect people equally. Is that the case for mental illness or are there some in which Christians and non-Christians experience them differently? And if so, why might that be the case?

Chris: That's a great question as well. It seems to be the case that there are a lot of protective factors for people of faith. And we could look at religions, that's kind of the major world religions in general, but Christians in particular, because they're involved in a community and typically have a lot of social support. And this is one of the things I don't think pastors get enough credit for, by the way, just by leading a congregation and having it be a community together, pastors are doing an enormous amount of preventative mental health work.

Sean: Oh, wow.

Chris: It's hard to even quantify, just because it's such a buffer as people cope with stress and the inevitable challenges that come in life and losses that come in life and having that community of faith, you can't be overstated how helpful that is to people in their mental health. So the research would show that faith does actually make a difference in physical health and mental health overall and relational health, compared to people that aren't a person of faith and are not in a faith community, for sure.

Scott: But the church has not always been a safe place to talk about mental illness. So are there still misconceptions? Are there still stigmas attached to this in the church?

Chris: You bet.

Scott: How so?

Chris: And we hear this a lot, even in our doctoral students in the Rosemead program who come from all different parts of particularly evangelical traditions, and it depends on the church they grew up in and kind of what the attitudes were toward this kind of thing. Sometimes there can be the misconception that the presence of any kind of mental illness is only the result of sin or some kind of spiritual failure. And we like to nuance that a bit and say, okay, that there is certainly sin that is pervasive in terms of the impact of brokenness in all its forms. And sometimes people make simple choices that do contribute to or create mental health difficulties or perpetuate them. But there are a lot of other factors as well. There are genetic factors, environmental factors, developmental factors. It's a complex interaction of things, some of which may be outside a person's control. And thankfully we know now more than ever about how we can help and how we prevent these things and treat them and alleviate the suffering.

Scott: Well, just a quick follow-up on that. Would that also be true with addictions? 'Cause it seems like the addictions might be in a separate category as being less understood as disease and more understood as choices.

Chris: Sure, and certainly the way I would think about it is even if people have a vulnerability to addiction. So, it does seem to travel through generations and families, both psychologically and possibly there's genetic vulnerabilities for some people to addiction, but everybody still has a range of choice, of personal choice in this. So, it may be a narrower range depending on the factors involved. But certainly I think as people allow themselves and give themselves over to addictive behavior and then lose control of that, then there's been a lot of choice involved in that. But it's really, really hard work for many people to make different choices because there's such a momentum to that addictive behavior and the—what psychologists call the secondary gains to it. So, it's functioning in some way in a person's life to help self-medicate pain or alleviate pain in some way. And turning to God for those things, turning to Christian community for those things, instead of seeking those out of a substance or a particular behavioral kind of addiction is a long journey for some people.

Sean: You kind of hinted at this before, but I'm wondering if you could expand on it a little bit. Like what are the known causes for mental illness? Can they be physical sometimes? Can they be emotional? Obviously one difference with the secular is that we believe there can be, not always a spiritual or a moral component. Like what's the level of factors that trigger and cause this in terms of what we know? And do we try to find one core one and then treat it? How do we approach this?

Chris: Yeah, great question. And it depends on which kind of diagnosis we're talking about probably in many ways. But a lot of the time, I think it's probably multiple factors. There might be one or two factors that are weighted most heavily in the cause of something in someone's life. So it could be that, again, just the genetics they were born with, they have vulnerabilities to certain kinds of things. There are a lot of mental illnesses that talk about a genetic vulnerability that gets activated if enough stress happens in the right kind of way in a person's environment. So it's a combination of—

Sean: What would be an example of that one that has a physical base but triggered by stress?

Chris: Sure, so for example, some of the more severe mental illness types of things like bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, that can show up sometimes for the first time in adolescence or young adulthood. I worked on college campuses for a long time and we would see this in college students who leave home for the first time and just are managing the stress of college life and that would activate something that was sort of latent that maybe was there if you talk to the family and the family history and those kinds of things that was more severe that needed psychiatric help and pastoral care and therapy and just the whole range of support. We talked a lot about when I teach pastors about this kind of stuff, about forming a web of care around any given person that includes them certainly as a pastor but may include other kinds of specialists in helping professions. And also just people in the congregation that can journey with people and draw them into the church family life even though they've got more severe kinds of things they might be struggling with.

Sean: So it's one of the dangers just having a reductionist view to what causes this? Like I think, tell me if this is insensitive, when I was working on my teaching degree in my 20s and I remember this girl did a presentation that she had bulimia and she showed a picture of the brain and said like, this is the cause, it's in my brain. I remember thinking, I don't know that that settles it. I mean, if you had a certain perspective of yourself engaged in certain behavior, that could change your brain or could start the brain and affect your thinking. Like it's just too simplistic to say it's one. Is that one of the mistakes that we make looking at mental illness?

Chris: So, a purely scientific approach can engage in what some call “nothing buttery” that we're nothing but our neurons or our synapses or our neurobiology. And so every psychological phenomenon is simultaneously biological in the brain. There's always something going on in the brain. I also assume there's always spirituality involved in some way, both because God's always present, God's always at work, God is always with us and ready to embrace and heal and suffer with and sustain people in suffering. And we, scripture is clear, we fight not against flesh and blood, but powers and principalities. So, there is spiritual evil in the world that seeks to exploit vulnerabilities and that's often in the mix somewhere. And so it is really complicated, I think. And so if we reduce it to, this is our brain, part of what I hear in that is what can follow in the heels of something like this, then I'm not responsible for my choices in this.

Sean: Exactly, that's right.

Chris: And that's actually not good psychotherapy either, ultimately, I mean, whoever was treating her would probably want to get her to lean into more, okay, what are my choices in this?

Sean: That makes sense.

Chris: Yeah, it's kind of the serenity prayer that you hear in 12-step recovery groups. God helped me to change the things I can and trust you with the things I can't change and give me the wisdom to know the difference. And that's often the journey for most people.

Scott: Chris, I think another thing that's been stigmatized in a lot of our churches has been the place of medication.

Chris: Yeah.

Scott: What role does medication have for treating mental illness?

Scott: Yeah, also a great question. Part of the pushback, if you will, maybe from churches is in a sense rightly placed because our culture likes quick fixes. And so, if I can just take a pill and not deal with whatever it is I'm dealing with, then I'm gonna try to tend to do that instead of actually working through the deeper issues or working through grief and loss, for example, or bereavement, or if I can avoid the pain in some way, then our culture tends to press us to take the quick way out. And so medication is not always needed. When it is, I think of it like a vitamin, essentially. It just regulates your brain chemistry to put your neurotransmitters at a level where they should be. And then over time, people's brain takes over, manufacturing those neurotransmitters, like in depression and anxiety, for example, at a level where they should be. And then you titrate off of the medication over time. With depression and anxiety, which again are the most common mental health issues in America, exercise is actually as effective for some forms of depression and anxiety as medication. So, some of its lifestyle choices, living a healthy life and—

Sean: As the exercise is creating those endorphins, and that's what's—

Chris: Correct. Yeah, it's replenishing a lot of that brain chemistry that's involved, yeah, absolutely, and releasing and burning off the stress.

Scott: So, what do you make of the criticism that mental health is being over-medicalized today?

Chris: Yeah, wow. Give me just a second with that one, 'cause that's a really great question.

Sean: You stunned our guest. [all laugh]

Chris: You did, you did.

Sean: For the first time, he's asked for more time. Good question, man.

Chris: I think there may be, to a point, merit to some of that. So, for example, one of the things that you hear a lot with, just the medical system in general, my wife's a nurse, so I have a little bit of a view to the inside of how hospitals work and those kinds of things, is it can ultimately be dehumanizing, which is kind of ironic, 'cause we're trying to help people, but it becomes such a large enterprise and so complex that it ends up kind of treating people like they're just a number in a system instead of like a person. And what I love about Rosemead is that the general approach that we use to train future counselors and clinicians is that the relationship is the healing factor in counseling. And there are other techniques that you use for certain kinds of things, and that's why you go to graduate school and get the training, but fundamentally, it's the relationship that is the means through which God's grace is extended to someone when therapy is good. And so it's hard work in managed care and all that means to retain that kind of personalized approach, that every person is unique, they're a beautiful creation of God, and how do we lean into their unique story in a way that's honoring and also helps alleviate suffering in some way. Increasingly, people in private practice as Christian therapists are finding it difficult just because it's expensive for people to go to therapy. And, if you're gonna try to do that outside of insurance, then that really limits who can come. And so, there are creative models of how churches help subsidize some of that cost and provide that, because it's very difficult to navigate within the healthcare delivery system. It's also difficult to navigate outside of it and try to meet the people that need the help the most.

Sean: We're gonna get to this initiative that you're a part of to help churches in many ways. But not a mental illness, but gosh, six to eight weeks ago I went through a pretty intense physical pain for about eight to 10 weeks myself. I'm through it now. But one of the things that I just didn't realize is how much when somebody's in pain, it affects those around them.

Chris: Absolutely.

Sean: It affects my kids. I didn't have patience many times with my kids. Couldn't help with the homework, couldn't help around the house, couldn’t help my wife. So, if one in five Americans has a mental illness, how does this affect people around them? And how do you best navigate being in a relationship with somebody who's experienced or suffering from a mental illness?

Chris: Yeah, great question. And some of this relates to the questions you've asked about stigma and what can happen in church context is we can over-spiritualize things sometimes as a way of really not dealing with the core issue. It can be sort of a defense mechanism in a way when Jesus really wants to deal with the core issues in a loving way, a gentle way, a redemptive way. And so, it often can be a difficult journey to have a family member, a spouse, a parent, a child who's suffering with some sort of significant mental illness. I think support is a huge piece of that. So one of the things that churches can do is create support groups for those kinds of families, for spouses, for kids, as well as for the people themselves who are struggling with whatever kind of mental illness. And that's often not done in church. There are support groups done through psychiatric hospitals and things like that, but could be a lot more of that kind of thing than in a church context where people are understanding how do we come alongside this person and journey with them through what may be sort of chronic long suffering and also help their family know what do healthy boundaries look like? How do I care for this person, but also not over-function in that and do things for them that they really can and should be doing for themselves in order to get better, but also have fair expectations of them given whatever impairment comes with their issue that they're struggling with. And, of course. bathe it in prayer and have people involved in a community of faith where they're being discipled, putting that mental illness and mental suffering in the larger context of their discipleship and their relationship with God, I think makes a huge difference.

That's a great way to do it. And maybe in light of that, avoid simplistic slogans like, “let go and let God.” We have these things that, to me, avoid—

Scott: Where does that come from? [all laugh]

Chris: Yeah, no, you're absolutely right.

Sean: Let my people go. Maybe it was in Exodus, something like that. But these simplistic slogans that don't realize, maybe somebody's a mental illness, this is gonna be a lifelong struggle and part of discipleship. How do we lean into that struggle and that messiness rather than simplistic slogan—is really where the rubber meets the road, isn't it?

Chris: It is. And some of that, there's a larger cultural narrative, I think in America where we don't lament well, we don't tolerate suffering very well. And it's really interesting to me in clinical psychology, there's kind of a movement now to help people accept ongoing suffering more or change their relationship to the suffering as opposed to trying to totally get rid of it, if that's not gonna be possible. And I think there's something we can speak into, there, from a Christian perspective that God is a suffering presence who suffers with us and for us.

Sean: Absolutely.

Chris: And sometimes it is gonna be a lifelong journey and yet God is with that person who's in that lifelong journey and their family members. And so, how do we help be a part of that sustaining grace in somebody's life who's gonna have that ongoing struggle and not—sometimes when you hear those comments from people and I've been on pastoral staff where I've heard people say well-intended things. But really I think those things distance that person and because I'm uncomfortable dealing with your unresolved whatever, then I'm just gonna come up with some little tripe quip or something instead of sitting with you in the complexity and the mess and the sorrow and that's much harder to do.

Scott: It seems to me we have an incomplete view of sin, in some of this too, because we tend to focus on people's individual sin that they've committed that generates mental illness. But I think most mental illness is caused by people being sinned against and the implications of that.

Chris: No question.

Scott: So, let's think about how to be a little bit proactive because we tend to not do much of that. We tend to treat mental illness when it emerges. But what are some ways in which we can be proactive and be preventive in terms of mental illness?

Chris: Yeah, absolutely. So: what's so amazing to me is in the last 30 years or so there's been a revolution in the social sciences known as positive psychology. So, it occurred to somebody 30, 40 years ago, we've been studying what goes wrong in people's lives for a long time. Which is helpful to study because then we know how to diagnose and treat. But most people do pretty well in life, even if they go through trauma, loss, difficulty, people bounce back, they're resilient, they go on to do amazing things. So, why don't we study what's right with people and study strengths, which gave rise to this really global now movement of positive psychology where psychologists all over the world are studying human flourishing. And what does that mean to flourish and how do we build the factors and conditions and practices in everybody's life that helped them to flourish? And lo and behold, what science is quote unquote “discovering” is that a lot of those practices are ancient Christian spiritual practices.

Sean: Big surprise.

Chris: So, things, like, there's a huge literature on gratitude, for example, if you practice gratitude intentionally on a regular basis, you become more grateful in your disposition as a person, it improves your physical health, your emotional health, your relational health, that's not really a new idea for Christians, that's deeply biblical, I think. And whatsoever things are pure, right? Think on these things. And there are many, many places we could go in scripture, silence, solitude, contemplative prayer, all kinds of things that have been a part of the Christian faith for centuries, lo and behold are things that help us to flourish. And so, a lot of the preventative mental health is engaging in the practices we have in our own faith tradition and in an intentional way. And the good news is–I grew up in a Wesleyan holiness evangelical tradition and heard the stories of how John Wesley would get up at three in the morning and pray for three hours or whatever it was, and I can't sustain that, I'll just be honest, I wish I could. But what the research is telling us is that small practices done consistently over time really do make a big difference to a person's overall flourishing. And so, even things like five minutes of silent prayer a day, for example, done every day in the middle of the day, probably, or even the beginning of the day, over time after weeks and months of doing that, actually do make a difference in a preventative mental health kind of way. So, it really is practicing all the things we have within our own faith tradition that prevent a lot of things. You can't prevent everything, of course, but a lot of the sort of garden variety, depression, anxiety struggles, for example, I think we can do a lot to help ourselves. Sleep and exercise are also huge in that. Our culture isn't big on sleep either. And those are huge and there’s more and more research coming out all the time about how important good sleep is, seven to nine hours a night of good sleep on average, and regular exercise are just huge as well as preventative mental health. The biggest one of all though is community. It really is, and that's what comes up again and again and again, it's the social support. In fact, there was, I'll just quote this one study and then I'll finish answering this question. There was a huge study done at Harvard over decades; it's one of the largest, longest studies ever done where they tracked people through their entire lifespan. And so, things happen to people. Some people got divorced and remarried. Some people got cancer and died young. Other people lived to a very old age. I mean, all kinds of different things happen to people. And they were trying to figure out what determines the good life kind of a thing. And the big conclusion from this massive study was it's not so much what happens to people, it's who you are going through life with when those things happen that make all the difference. And so, it's the community, which of course is built into the Christian faith, right? And so, we can lean into a Christian community, which I know is challenging and difficult and messy at times, but it really does make an enormous difference to our preventative mental health to be in a genuine community.

Sean: Now, for the record, I bet you Wesley, if he got up at three in the morning, went to bed a lot earlier when the sun went down and didn't have the technology that we have. Not to take credit away from him, but different culture, different time. Now, it's interesting you say a lot of these preventative kinds of practices are found within the Christian faith. Are there any that are better rooted in different faiths or a surprise to the Christian faith that you've come across? Or do they all just kind of line up with Christian teachings about human nature in our lives?

Chirs: A lot of them do, although the one that comes to mind and this comes to mind, I think, 'cause it's so sort of a buzzword or popular right now is mindfulness. And so you hear a lot of research about mindfulness. And mindfulness, simply put, is the capacity to be completely present in the present moment and be really aware of what's happening in your body and your emotions and your thoughts and kind of just check in with yourself and be fully present in the moment. And there's a lot that comes out of sort of Eastern religions, Buddhist meditation, some of those kinds of things. However, there's a lot of, I think, Christian mindfulness embedded within the spiritual practice that has been handed down to us. And even in scripture, I think we can see that in certain ways. So, I think it's possible to Christianize that. We have to think carefully about it to do that, but that would be one example of something that's come from more of an Eastern religion kind of place. But then when we think about it, I go, that really is sort of intrinsic to a lot of Christian spiritual disciplines.

Sean: And the idea of mindfulness within your body assumes body and soul, which is more at home in a Christian worldview than frankly it is in an Eastern religion.

Chris: Yes.

Sean: So those could be unpacked, but that's really interesting, that's helpful.

Scott: Yeah, I mean, that's a really helpful part to go along with the biblical emphasis on meditation, for example. I think that's that same kind of mindfulness where you're reflecting on your mind. I don't generally stop and take stock of my emotions on a given day, but I think that's a really helpful practice that I think sometimes—

Chris: What are you feeling right now as you say that? No, I'm just kidding.

[all laugh]

Scott: High anxiety.

Sean: I'm wondering how long we get until that—

Scott: High anxiety and give me a pill.

Chris: That's right, there you go.

SCott: Tell us a little bit about the initiative that you are a part of, the Flourishing in Ministry Initiative at Rosemead.

Chris: So R,osemead got a large grant from a private family foundation who prefers to remain anonymous, but they just have a heart for mental health issues and the church and love Jesus dearly and love the church. And so, I had given Rosemead this grant and Rosemead was looking for someone to lead that in God's direction in my life. I knew Dr. Todd Hall, who may be somebody that you know, he’s been at Rosemead for a long time and I got into some conversations with him and then our Dean and really caught the vision of helping local churches, especially churches that are under-resourced, under-researched. So, churches like, well, let me just say churches that are large churches often have a lot of resources at their disposal.

Sean: Yeah, that makes sense.

Chris: But so many of the pastors were connected to, particularly in an area like LA or major cities, urban areas are pastors of color, perhaps, in a part of the city that just doesn't have a lot of resources and has a lot of trauma exposure. So, for example, we've got pastors we're connected to and I'm sure they come to Talbot too for training who are like a bi-vocational pastor in Compton or somewhere where there's a lot of violence and trauma. And how do we help that church? How do we help that pastor? So, part of what we're trying to do is translate the state of the art of the science as best we can into practical resources that local churches can use to educate people, to provide support and pastoral care. There are just things that a church family can do for a person that nobody else can do, that not even the best therapist among us can give that sense of belonging, can give that sense of community and purpose and all those kinds of wonderful things that churches do. And so how do we help educate and reduce the stigma, hopefully, which allows people to seek help more easily and not feel enormous shame about that and those kinds of things. So, a lot of psychoeducation, we would call it, and a lot of focusing on congregational health and clergy wellbeing. The mental health of clergy themselves, actually, it's always been a difficult job, but it's tougher right now, I think, than at least I've ever seen it in my lifetime to be a local church pastor in America.

Scott: That was my question: what exactly does it look like for a pastor to be flourishing in ministry?

Chris: Yeah, great question. Well, we like to be careful to say, flourishing does not mean the absence of difficulty or absence of suffering. So we're not suggesting some sort of, once you follow Jesus and become a ministry leader, then everything's sunshine and rainbows. And that's not life, that's not realistic. And then your experience? No, it's not promised to us in scripture either, right? I mean, it's not the way it goes. And yet, it does seem possible, we've been studying sort of what are flourishing pastors doing? That even in the midst of the complexity and stress and sacrifice that is there, they seem to be, generally speaking, full of vitality, emotionally healthy, find joy and meaning and purpose in their work, not burned out more of the time than not. And what are the practices and conditions and factors that foster that? And there are some key things, I think the big one, back to community, is pastors often don't have close personal relationships. And it's really a paradoxical kind of thing because there are people everywhere, that's all they do is people. But it's often a one way kind of intimacy. People are coming in and sharing their struggles and doubts about God and whatever else. And pastors aren't, and nor should they be necessarily sharing all their personal stuff with parishioners, but then they can get into a position of not having anywhere that they're doing that. And that gets really isolating because people are relating more to their role than they are to who they actually are as a person. And so, having key kinds of relationships we're finding make a huge difference to helping pastors flourish. Paying attention to sleep, exercise, and nutrition are huge, the kinds of physical health issues that are prevalent among clergy are stress related kinds of things, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, those kinds of things. And that we can be proactive about exercise and diet and sleep, but the demands of the role, what we call role immersion, being immersed in a role 24/7 make it really difficult to figure out how do I take care of myself in the midst of all this. As I'm called to give myself away and serve other people and what's the stewardship of the greatest tool God's given any of us, which is you. How do you steward that well so you can be as effective for as long as possible.

Sean: So how do pastors access this? Where is the site up? Are books coming out? Conferences, counseling, give us some specifics of what they can do.

Chris: Oh, sure. Well, thank you for asking that. Sure, so we do have a website up. It's

Sean: Flourishinginministry.

Chris: Flourishinginministry.

Sean:, okay.

Chris: And we have a couple of things available there. So, there are lots of free downloadable resources there, but we also have Flourishing and Ministry Coaches available. So, we've had a national network now of people that have been through our training. We're accredited by the International Coaching Federation, which is kind of the gold standard in the coaching world. And the coaching focus is more on wellbeing and spiritual formation than it does sort of pastoral skill. There's a lot of great coaching out there already, and it's needed and it's wonderful for that kind of thing. We're more focused on helping pastors set some goals around their own well being and flourishing in these key areas we've identified in the research. And we know the practices now that will help, if they practice them, will help boost their wellbeing in those areas. And it can be really helpful just to have a coach, a thought partner to support you. And reaching those goals help you figure out what's getting in the way and how do you overcome obstacles to getting healthier in various ways. And we also have a coaching certification. So, starting in January, we'll have another cohort of people who go through our Flourishing and Ministry Coach training and will be certified and then go on to be certified by ICF as well.

Sean: So, what a wonderful resource for pastors. It's amazing to have the coaching that's there and some other resources are being developed. So, thank you to those funders. We don't know who they are if they're out there. Thank you for making this happen.

Chris: Absolutely indeed.

Sean: And it's a joy to have you here at Rosemead School of Theology. I'm so glad we're able to, this is the first time we've covered this topic on the podcast–

Scott: It is.

Sean: We should have done it all along.

Scott: And it will not be the last.

Sean: Yeah, for sure. But I'm thrilled about the resources and—

Chris: Thank you for what you all do. I'm a fan and thanks for the honor of being here.

Scott: Well, we appreciate super insightful stuff. So, thank you very much.

Chris: Thank you. - So again, our guest is Chris Adams from Rosemead School of Psychology and check out for resources. This is brought to you by the ThinkBiblically podcast, Talbot School of Theology. If you have questions or suggestions about guests or comments, send them to If you enjoyed this, please consider sharing it with a friend and remember, think biblically about everything.