Tending to Your Mental Health

Kayla Stoecklein

One of the most powerful and humbling moments of our twenty year existence has been hearing Kayla Stoecklein share her story with us at Catalyst West 2019. In August of 2018, Kayla’s husband, Andrew, died by suicide. 

Andrew served as Senior Pastor for about three years and battled depression and burnout before passing away, leaving behind Kayla and their three young boys. 

In our last Insider video, Miles Adcox shared how to best help the hurting people around us. He said helping others begins with taking care of ourselves. This week’s clip features Kayla Stoecklein helping us do just that. 

In honor of May being Mental Health Awareness Month, we wanted to share with you a real story with real practices to help you tend to your mind, body, and soul. Leadership takes a toil, and we must be proactive in protecting our holistic selves. 

If you have been in a season of loneliness, burnout, anxiety, depression, or any other type of pain- please know you are loved by a community that invites you into hope and healing. Asking for help is not reserved for those on the verge of a dire breakdown. No matter where you’re coming from, healing is possible here and now. Watch the video below to hear how Kayla encourages us as leaders to step into the help we all deserve. Tomorrow needs you, leader. Let’s keep moving forward together. 

Also, you can check out the resources Kayla mentioned in her interview here:

Blog post by Kayla- Uncharted Territory

Book mentioned- Leading on Empty

Retreat + Counseling- Onsite

Suicide Hotline- 1-800-273-8255

Prefer to read rather than watch? Here’s the transcript to Kayla’s interview:


As you look out on this room of ministry leaders and all of those leaders watching online, how would you encourage us, personally, to be proactive about our own mental health? Miles had some brilliant things to say, but Kayla, you have some brilliant things to say about this as well.


Sure. It's a really great question. I would say a lot of us as leaders aren't very good at this. We often encourage others to seek counseling or exercise or rest or eat better, and we don't actually do it ourselves. So, I would just remind us today that Pastors are people too.

We aren't superhuman, we're human. We aren't invincible, we're just broken vessels giving it our best shot in a really ... to be a light in a really dark and desperate world. The key to being a bright light is being intentional about our mental health. We must do a better job at caring for ourself, so we can continue to care for others. If we don't, it's just a matter of time before, like Andrew, we hit the wall and we burn out. We must give ourselves permission and margin to heal and rest.

There's a book that Andrew couldn't put down. I actually brought it up here with me. It's called Leading on Empty, by Wayne Cordeiro. He probably read through this book five times. This is his copy. It has his notes on it. This book is so special to me. He highlighted and underlined and circled. And I know that if he was standing up here today, he would want to share this with you. So, I wanted to bring this and share this with you.

This is a great resource to help you if you feel like you're leading on empty, like a lot of us are. This is a really great tool. I stole a couple things from this book. Just a few pieces of advice about caring for our mental health as leaders. The first is to take a Sabbath, ministry can be all-consuming. It was really difficult for Andrew to take a day off. He was so driven and so hard working that he hardly ever took a day off.

He eventually built Fridays in. So, he cleared only Fridays and would spend Fridays doing things that he enjoyed. And that's what a Sabbath is. It's isn't a day to catch up on emails. It isn't a day to do things you don't like. It's a day to do things that fill you up. Maybe it's surfing or golfing. For me, it's paddle boarding. I love being out on the water. I feel connected to God. I feel connected to Heaven. I feel connected to Andrew. It's just good for my heart. I would say also, celebrate often.

Make life fun. Ministry can be so intense and so draining and so all-consuming. And we forget to have fun. So, have fun. Make room for fun. Also, a personal retreat day. It's different than a Sabbath day. Personal retreat day is a day where you get away and you just sit with God. You catch God's vision for your life. You catch God's vision for your ministry. You look at your calendar. You schedule out more personal retreat days. And it's not a day to catch up on emails either, it's a day really just to sit and be with God.

I would also say counseling. Counseling is the best thing you can do to care for your mental health. Places like Onsite, where you can go for a week and just sit with professionals. And maybe you don't even think you need to go. But you go and you're going to learn so much about yourself. And I have been in counseling, you know, the last year and it's been incredible. And for me, it's something that I look forward too. There's things that'll happen during the week and I'll think, "Okay, I'll save that for counseling." And I'll take that with me and I just love having that space to be 100% real. You're nobody's Pastor at counseling. You're not their Pastor.

And so, I would encourage you to do that. And if you go to one and you don't like them, go find a different one. Date around. You can date around counselors. Date around until you find one that you jive with, that you like. And it can be so helpful for you, especially as a Pastor, as a leader, you carry so much. And you're trying to be everything for everyone. And you forget that you're human too. And that you got problems too.

And that you aren't perfect, you know? So, I would encourage you to seek counseling. I also want to encourage you to pray for your lead Pastor. The best thing you can do as a staff is to pray for your lead Pastor.

From my experience as a lead Pastor's wife, I know how lonely it can be at the top, how hard it can be at the top. I see the emails that come in at the top. And the criticism that comes in. Lead Pastors these days are under so much pressure to perform. They need to be Instagram quotable and look a certain way and act a certain way and have a certain number of followers. And it's a lot of pressure. And I'm just going to be really honest, because I feel like I can.

It usually isn't the church at large that causes the Pastor the most pain. It's usually the staff, in my experience. So, if you can keep the unity on the staff and if you can pray for your lead Pastor and if you can respect and honor the position. The mantle that that person is carrying. I would encourage you to do that. And I would encourage you to encourage your lead Pastors to rest. If you notice they're speaking every weekend, every month of the year, encourage them to take a break and rest.

The last thing I want to say is if you're struggling. Maybe you're struggling with suicidal thoughts. Maybe you're struggling with depression. Maybe you're having panic attacks and nobody knows. Maybe you're struggling with anxiety. I want to encourage you to tell somebody. Tell them everything. Tell them everything. Find one to two safe people. Maybe it's the counselor, maybe it's not. You can't even tell. Maybe you don't have people that you can trust. But maybe it's the counselor. And tell them everything.

The enemy wants you to feel isolated. The enemy wants you to feel like you're unloved and worthless. But I'm here to tell you, you are loved and you are valued more than you could ever imagine.

And God has a plan for your life no matter who you are, no matter your past, no matter your mistakes, no matter your mental health. God's got you. God's got this. And God can do impossible things.

To purchase Kayla's full talk along with the Catalyst West 2019 talks, click here

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