In August 2018, Andrew Stoecklein died by suicide. His death made news around the world and rocked not only his congregation, but the wider church leadership community.
His widow, Kayla Stoecklein, joins Carey today to talk about the unique pressures of ministry, what it’s like to be a pastor’s wife of a growing church, Andrew’s mental illness and death, and how to help leaders who are struggling.
Welcome to Episode 385 of the podcast. Listen and access the show notes below or search for the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts and listen for free.
Plus, in this episode’s What I’m Thinking About segment, Carey shares some tips to help your digital preaching.
Note: if you are struggling in any way with suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-8255 immediately or go to your nearest ER. Your life is valuable and has purpose.
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INSIGHTS FROM KAYLA
1. The traditional “lead pastor” role comes with intense pressures
Kayla calls the traditional role of lead pastor ‘an impossible job.’
In one position, you are:
- The CEO of a major organization that has to put out all of the big fires
- Head communicator that has to write and deliver a fresh sermon 30-50 times a year
- Chief visionary charged with inspiring passion into your people
That workload is a pressure cooker at the best of times. And at the worst of times, it will burn you out or lead you down a road similar to Andrew. If you have the opportunity to offload some of that responsibility onto another leader, do it.
2. If someone tells you that they are considering taking their own life, take it VERY seriously
Not very many people actually know what steps they should take if someone tells them that they are having suicidal thoughts. Kayla says that even if you think they aren’t being completely serious, you should take them 100% seriously, and take definitive action. Ask them deeper questions, call the authorities if you are worried it might happen then, and make sure that person is getting help.
You should also follow up with that person for the next few weeks, and ask them questions like, “Hey, how are those suicidal thoughts? Are you still thinking about killing yourself? Are you still struggling with suicidal thoughts? How are you feeling today? How are you feeling this week?”
Be intentional about getting other people who care about that person (friends, family or therapists) involved and informed, as well.
3. Suicide isn’t a selfish decision, and describing it that way isn’t helpful
During the summer before Andrew died from suicide, he told Kayla about how he was having suicidal thoughts. She let her emotions get the best of her, got angry and told him that suicide would be extremely selfish, and that he would never do that. And after that night, she never asked about it again.
Since his death, she’s learned that suicide isn’t a selfish action done with selfish motives like she thought before. She referenced how Ann Voskamp describes it as, “It feels like being trapped in a burning building, and the only way to escape the flames is to jump.” If someone is considering suicide, it may be the only logical way forward they can see.
Quotes from Episode 385
Looking for a key quote? More of a reader?
Read or download a free PDF transcript of this episode here.
Want To Get Ahead In 2021? 5 Skills You’ll Need.
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Next Episode: Jeff and Terra Mattson
Why do so many leaders collapse under the weight of leadership? Jeff and Terra Mattson have counselled and coached hundreds of leaders and share how gaps in integrity develop. In this interview, we list the signs you may be headed for a moral failure or collapse, how to spot a narcissistic leader, and the challenge young leaders face in shaping a perfect and growing platform.
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