Survive or Thrive

Survive or Thrive: 6 Relationships Every Pastor Needs

Book review of a helpful resource for pastors.

Reviewed by Esther R. Knott, associate ministerial director, North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists, and director of the InMinistry Center, Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan, United States.

"I need to experience outrage that more than half of those who are called to pastoral ministry leave within the first five years.” This dark and disturbing commentary from Jimmy Dodd’s introduction seeks to bring light and hope to this untenable situation. Denominations and seminaries invest millions of dollars, time, and emotional energy to prepare men and women for pastoral ministry. When pastors leave ministry after fewer than five years of service, this takes a financial and emotional toll on the church, the pastor, family members, and the congregation. Dodd challenges us to take the necessary steps to stop the bleeding.

Throughout the book, Dodd uses the powerful analogy of the front and back stages of our lives. The front stage becomes what we allow to be visible to the general public. The back stage is what we hide from public view. An “emotionally thick curtain” exists that separates the two and drives a wedge between our private and public lives, leading to “secrets and pretending.” Dodd maintains, “The majority of pastors are not truly known—by anyone. They subconsciously isolate themselves from both staff and congregations so their insecurities, doubts, and failures [back stage] aren’t exposed” (back cover).

To understand the strength of the analogy, note the following: often, listeners will praise a speaker not just for the message but with words like, “He’s incredible!” To this Dodd asks the following questions: “Have you ever met the speaker? Do you know anything about his marriage, his parenting, his temperament, his walk with the Lord, or his personal habits? Do you know how he treats his staff? Do you know how he handles money? Is his life characterized by humility? Is he a man of prayer? Far too often we link giftedness, talent, and skill with maturity and character. And this mistake contributes to multitudes of pastors shrinking into a life of hiding, deception, fear, and fraud” (38). The author then continues: “I should know. This is my story. . . . Sin flourishes in isolation” (38, 92).

Dodd divides the book into three sections. First, he addresses the heart problem: how pastors end up in a situation where they are barely surviving. His stories pull back the curtain on the life of any honest reader. Dodd then highlights six relationships every pastor needs in order to thrive in ministry. He concludes with how an understanding of the gospel can help us take the next steps.

The target audience is primarily men; however, female pastors or ministry leaders will find much that will also confront, challenge, and comfort them. The six relationships every pastor needs are equally applicable to men and women. These six relationships reflect those who walk beside us in both our professional lives and our personal lives—professional relation- ships (front stage): boss, trainer, and coach; personal relationships (back stage): counselor, mentor, and friend. One person can fill more than one role, and some of these relationships fluctuate with the seasons of our lives but should always be accessible to us.

The book addresses the gap between what pastors learn in school and what they actually need to know in order to meet occupational challenges. The gap can lead to burnout and problems in numerous relationships, hence the need for an intentional plan for continuing education in order to meet the core competencies of a pastor.

Another important aspect of the book is that we are able to read about our “sin” without the shame that leads to despair. Dodd presents the gospel in such a powerful way that when you complete the book, you feel that you have been at worship.

I believe the reader will get the best value by reading this book in community. Each section contains questions that will help you build trust and begin to thin out the curtain. Whether you are a pastor, a pastor’s spouse, a ministry leader, or one who oversees the work of pastors, reading this book and implementing its principles will greatly help in the work of nurturing and protecting the hearts of our pastors, which will lead to healthier churches and thriving pastors and members.

—Reviewed by Esther R. Knott, associate ministerial director, North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists, and director of the InMinistry Center, Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan, United States.


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Reviewed by Esther R. Knott, associate ministerial director, North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists, and director of the InMinistry Center, Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan, United States.

November 2016

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