Where Can Broken Leaders Go for Help?

Being a leader is often brutal. The demands are relentless. Much of the time you are trying to navigate without a map. Yet your organization—your people—are counting on you to figure it out and get safely through to the other side.

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It’s no wonder that leaders often experience anxiety, discouragement, despondency, and downright burnout. If you are experiencing these emotions, you are not alone. They are very common. But they can also take a toll on your relationship with God, your marriage, and your work.

Several years ago, when I was in business for myself, a very important client fired me. I didn’t see it coming. In fact, I thought I had been doing a great job. He was my primary focus, and I had given myself fully to helping him succeed.

The one day, out of the blue, I got a fax. (That tells you how long ago this was.) Not a personal visit. Not a phone call. Just a fax. In it, he unceremoniously fired me. I was stunned.

Initially, I was angry. How can he do this to me, I thought, especially after all I have done for him? Then I was deeply hurt and wounded. I wanted to retaliate. But finally, after a few days, I settled into despondency. I remember weeping intermittently for days over the loss.

I finally told my business partner that I needed to take a few weeks off. During this time, I thought seriously about quitting altogether. Instead, I settled into a deep funk that lasted for months. I was weary and broken. It affected my relationship with God and my work. I had no where to turn for help. I just wanted to quit. I was “a dead man walking.”

I wished I had known then about Restoring the Soul Ministries in Golden, Colorado. They provide “life changing soul care for Christian leaders.” That is exactly what I needed: soul care. I am confident they could have helped me get through this faster and with less wear and tear on my life and work.

Specifically, Restoring the Soul provides one- and two-week “Soul Care Intensives,” a powerful blend of counsel, spiritual direction and focused teaching. They seek to connect the reality of the Gospel with the reality of your brokenness.

Restoring the Soul was founded by Michael John Cusick. He is an ordained minister, spiritual director, and Licensed Professional Counselor who has experienced first-hand the restoring touch of God in a deeply broken life and marriage. He is also an adjunct professor Denver Seminary.

As someone whose passion is focused on both leadership and personal growth, I understand that sometimes personal brokenness gets in the way of accomplishing our mission and realizing our vision. When relational pain, ministry weariness, or even sexual brokenness become areas of struggle, everything else is effected and can come to a screeching halt.

But you don’t need to let your brokenness become a barrier to the life you were meant to live. Instead, you can let your brokenness become a bridge to that life. Restoring the Soul is an organization that cares for Christian leaders and helps people cross that bridge. Perhaps you—or someone you know—could profit from a program like the one they offer. Maybe it’s time to take a step a positive step toward a new reality.

Question: Have you ever benefited from Restoring the Soul or a program like it?
Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored post.” The organization who sponsored it compensated me via a cash payment, gift, or something else of value to write it. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Building Champions has been coaching me since 2002. They have taught me to be more proactive and intentional in both my business and personal life. Visit their Web site to learn more and see their special offer for my blog readers.

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Posted on 19 January 2010

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47 Comments so far

  1. Laurinda says:

    I've never been to Restoring the Soul, but I have done Christian counseling (not the free stuff). It's well worth the price I paid and I still go in for check-ups every few months. I think we feel like our faith is weak if we can't just pray it away. But having someone get into your mind and guide you through the mental & emotional blocks is necessary. I highly recommend doing intensive soul check-ups – however you choose to get it done.

    • I agree. I was in counseling for more than a year, and it was hugely helpful. I liked having someone to talk with who “didn’t have a dog in the hunt,” as we say in Tennessee. I was only committed to seeing me grow. It was awesome.

  2. Geoff Webb says:

    Thanks for your transparency, Mike; I think just talking about this is important. As leaders we tend to think we've got to have it all together – and when we don't, we feel so alone. When I'm in that funk, an outside perspective from a mature believer can mean the difference between spiraling further down or pressing on toward what God is calling me toward.

    So I'll keep Restoring the Soul in mind – for myself and for those I lead and mentor.
    My recent post Leading like Martin Luther King Jr

  3. Gary Walter says:

    Interesting. I know there are organizations like this out there, and I've investigated some of them in the past. After five years of church planting, I came to a point of mental exhaustion – and needed a break. Unfortunately, with the demands of family and finances, it is difficult to take advantage of some of these programs. My employer "the Church" wouldn't give me the time off, many of these programs will take couples – but not small children (and we don't farm our kids out – for many reasons), and though many have scholarship programs, there were still other financial considerations that makes this cost prohibitive.

    Interestingly, right about the time we needed this break, we were transfered. I won't bore you with the story, but some churches can be more work than church planting – at least less healthy. We now find ourselves unemployed.

    Pastors, like independent contractors, are often in this no-man's land of employment. Without the protection afforded employees, and often exempt from common civil protections (due to church-state issues), while living a life of sacrifice and service, it is easy to dig oneself into a hole of social, emotional, spiritual, and financial bankruptcy.

    Like you, I've been going through several of those emotions. Stunned, angry, retaliatory, and despondent. How could the very people I gave my heart and soul for, now kick me under the bus? Don't they understand how hard I've been working for them!?

    Many organizations know how much they have invested in their people. More than just human commodities, they don't swap out their employees when things get tough. They have proactive programs in place to prevent burnout, conflict, and dis-empowerment. Unfortunately, many non-profits, especially churches, have not learned how to balance their financial pressures with the ideal of taking care of their leaders.

    Until these non-profit ministry employers take a stand for their front line leaders, organizations like Restoring the Soul may not be reaching the people who could best be served in this arena. I applaud them for the work they're doing – and I greatly appreciate all the organizations that have stepped up to support ministry leaders who have crashed. Yet, at the same time I say, isn't it time for churches and para-church ministries to step up to the plate in this arena?
    My recent post I’m Tired of Being Right

    • I couldn’t agree with you more. As someone once said, “the church is one of the few organizations on earth that shoots its wounded.” I have my share of horror stories, too. Thankfully, there are a few organizations like Restoring the Soul to stand in the gap.

  4. Call me crazy, but I thought brokenness was the goal. I thought we were supposed to be like the alabaster jar which Mary Magdalene broke to pour out the fragrance on Jesus. Only when we break the jar is our fragrance released and at that time we realize that our personal happiness and success is totally in the the hands of the God we have given our life to when we died to self and rose up as a new man or woman. Ultimately God has to be the lifter of our head not human wisdom or philosophy or other interaction.

    • I don't think brokenness is the goal per se. I think Christlikeness is the goal. However, brokenness is usually the means God uses to get us there. It has certainly been true in my life. The value of an organization like Restoring the Soul is that they can take a bad experience like I described above and assist you in seeing God’s redemptive purpose behind it.

      God is ultimately the “lifter of our head,” but in my experience, He usually works through people to make that happen.

      • Right on response, Michael. We just need to make sure those people are catalysts and not the main ingredient. We sometimes subsitute people – even our spouses – and when those people are taken from our lives, we fall back into the same rut. True Christian counseling will always point to intimacy with the Father and Jesus and the Holy Spirit as the solution. If this organization does that, then they are someone who should be recommended.

  5. I think we've all experience something like this, maybe not to the same objective degree, but from our perspective at the time, it's felt the same. Echoing the other comments, thank you for your authenticity in sharing.

    I've not personally benefited from any program like Restoring the Soul. Instead, I've tried to cultivate a group of friends who can mentor me in this area. I think the challenge for me is being open about everything and admitting that I need help. And with admitting comes the humility to take advice and receive correction (if that's what's required). That's always difficult when one is in such a state, but I believe it's the only way to improve quickly. Otherwise, like you said, the funk can last months and as a result ruin many opportunities.

    -Marshall Jones Jr.
    My recent post NOW: The “get rich quick” trick for getting things done

    • I agree. Organizations like Restoring the Soul, the church, or a close circle of friends can help us get back on the path faster, so we don’t wallow in pity or other unproductive behavior.

  6. David Moore says:

    As I read the post I felt my sense to post my own comment with my story. And then I got to the comments of Gary Walter and felt a sense of gratitude of where I’m at in life. Although hurting myself, seeing the pain and frustration in others lives takes my focus off myself.

    Thank you, Mike, for the post. Thank you, Gary, for sharing your story.

    Personally, I am a leader of a small business in a very though industry right now and also have been a leader of mens ministries in my church and community. Over the past several years, a very difficult marriage finally collapsed. The sense of failure in keeping the marriage together overwhelms me.

    I will look into the options Restoring the Soul has to offer.

    • Awesome, David. May God bless your transparency and lead you through this to the other side!

    • Gary Walter says:

      I'm glad I could help David, um, I think. :p

      No seriously, this is why I'm such a fan of social media, if my/our story can help others along the journey we call life, well then, all the better! As my brother often says,"I'm sure glad the canon of scripture is closed – so my story won't be included." But, on the other hand, the story isn't over. If, by sharing our stories – with each other – we can all grow – then that's what real community is about.

      But please, do not think your story is less painful than anyone else's. Marriage is hard work – and we men don't like to fail at anything – especially when that "thing" involves someone we (once?) cherished.

      I just said a prayer for you David.

  7. I’m not in a leadership capacity, but I was fired from my position in November. I’d never been fired before, and it opened up a huge struggle for me. Fortunately, I’m a contractor and my parent company kept me around and gives me work to do until they can find another spot for me, so at least I didn’t have to struggle with not being employed.

    I’m glad there are programs out there to help broken leaders. It would be nice to see more local programs for the rest of us who can’t afford the time off, travel, and accomodations for a program like that. As believers, we really need to learn to give each other realistic, practical help.

  8. Mike, thank you for sharing this information in a manner that not only makes help available, but makes it safe to admit when one needs it.

    Lord, please direct to this site today, and to Restoring the Soul, those leaders You know are desperately in need of these words. Please give them the means, time, and desire to be blessed by You through what Mike Hyatt and Michael Cusick are offering, and bless these two men and those with them for ministering.
    My recent post Husband

  9. Insightful post, Michael. I have found in my life that I need the support of a few good friends that will hold me accountable, be there for me in times of trouble, and that I can learn from. These can take the form of home based small groups, discipleship groups, or accountability groups.

    While a larger group can be helpful, a small group of one or two peers can really help in situations like you describe. When problems or situations exceed their capabilities, a professional counseling organization like Restoring The Soul is the best solution.
    My recent post Take It Up A Notch

  10. I think a broader issue is almost confessional. When professional losses affect us this way, I have to wonder from my own experience if I have somehow made an idol out of my professional situation. I'm young with a lot of energy, and already I have had to respond to many varied reactions from others. It's hard because there seems to be truth to the statement that professionally we are all replaceable. So I think soul care has both preventive and crisis-management orientated practices. May God continue to help you care for your soul!

    • I was certainly guilty of this in the situation I described. Over the years, God has taught me to hold everything with an open hand and regard it as a gift rather than an entitlement. I wish I could say that I learned the lesson after it happened the first time. Unfortunately, I am a slow learner. It took many similar experiences over many years. But today, I have much more peace, knowing that I am a steward not an owner.

    • Gary Walter says:

      Hmm… something certainly to consider.

  11. Forrest Long says:

    When I went through a personal crisis about nine years ago I had no idea of any group like that. I did go to a Christian counsellor for almost a year and that helped immensely, but an organization like Restoring the Soul Ministries is so very important today when so many pastors and families are going through crises. Thanks for this post.
    My recent post LOOK INWARD- HOW IS YOUR HEART?

  12. Perry says:

    Thank you for your transparency and willingness to speak about yourself so plainly. Your words resonate deeply.

  13. Todd says:

    Thanks for the transparency Michael! It is truly inspirational to be reminded that even the most successful people experience burnout.
    My recent post Free audio resources that quiet and nourish my spirit

  14. I have not attended Restoring the Soul or anything like it. It is important that church leaders receive support. However, my focus and heart is for the broken people in the pews, especially the women. For many, church is not a safe place to share the heart.
    Seriously, evangelical women in general — I'm sure there are exceptions — cannot share their stories of abortion, depression, substance abuse, infidelity, loneliness, sexual abuse, domestice violence, even ongoing grief, without fear of condemnation from, yes, fellow Christians.
    God willing, I and others like me continue to give soul care to women in pain.
    Blessings, Lucy
    My recent post Book Review: Pure Pleasure by Gary Thomas

  15. This type of experience is innevitable for anyone who is out in the front of the pack, taking risks and leading. Ironically, it is also a critical element of personal and spiritual growth. I can't imagine developing maturity without having gone through gut-wrenching crises that tested my very soul. It helps us live in more than two dimensions. Here at my company we have a saying – we want those with leadership potential to get "bloodied up a bit" before we promote them in order to see what their character is made of. So we intentionally put them in difficult situations. You find out pretty quick who can handle it, who has the stomach to grow, and those who can't, or won't.

    I personally have both gone through counseling/therapy as well as currently enaged with a personal leadership coach for the past two years. Plus I have a very, very smart wife who has supported me through it all. Well, I support her, too!

    Thanks for the honesty. It is so important for leaders to reveal their vulnerability.

  16. Kyle Reed says:

    thankfully my dad is counselor and has helped me through these difficult times.
    I was fired much in the same way and was very confused.
    When I was on my internship I was met with a very difficult time and was really shocked at some of the criticism. It was all very overwhelming and made me want to go and hide. Glad to have friends and my family around the support me. I feel like I have needed a program to help me and I am only 23.

    But going to counseling is a great tool and has helped work through a lot of the issues.

  17. Another tremendous resource in Colorado is Dr. Harvey Powers at redimere(dot)com. He teaches courses on leadership at several seminaries and often does intensive workshops with broken leaders.

  18. During a time of "burnout" in my life, my wife and I went to a Leadercare Retreat that was put on by the Southern Baptists. It was an incredible week of healing and restoration for us. Unfortunately, they do not offer this retreat any more …

  19. As a counselor, I would also highly recommend the book "Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership" by McIntosh and Rima. The very personality traits that cause someone to rise to the top have a flip side that can threaten to dismantle leaders. Every leader should be aware of the destructive side of their psyche. Ted Haggard and Tiger Woods are just a couple examples but we all have this potential.

    • I’m putting that on my reading list. It sounds great!

    • Gary Walter says:

      Lucille, I too have added this to my reading list – and I'm sure it applies to me. Aurgh.

      I've met McIntosh, and had lunch with him when he presented at a conference where I also presented. Great guy – very insightful! His book, "One Size Does Not Fit All," was very helpful as I tried to make sense of the mistakes I was making in my most recent assignment. It's one of the few books I've taken the time to read more than once in the last 10 years.

      Thanks for the recommendation!

  20. GordonG says:

    Encouraging post – Michael. I have had need of such a service over recent years, but have found none locally (in Australia). Is this something that could be written up and published in some way or other?


  21. emily says:

    my husband and i went to see michael at restoring the soul about a year ago and i can honestly say that God used it to change our life. we are both serving as leaders of an international college ministry and dealing with five years of infertility. when we showed up in his office we were broken and sad. our view of God and of ourselves was full of shame and fear. for about six months we saw michael regularly and and little by little God began to work. other than giving us some great tools about how to deal with loss and conflict and intimacy he helped us see for the first time how much God loved us and desired to know us on a deep level. michael really became a spiritual director to us and spoke truth and love into our lives. it was a huge time of growth for us. it was hard and we cried allot…allot but not all out of sadness. lots and lots of healing tears. he introduced me to centering prayer and my relationship with God began to be what i had always hoped. personal. deeply personal. anyway, i highly recommend seeking out help and spiritual direction and if you live anywhere near colorado visit michael cusick. he has a gift and calling from the Lord that is special. my husband & i are so thankful for him and the ministry God has blessed him with.
    My recent post the bus needs an update too…while we were in oklahoma…

  22. Thanh says:

    Michael, as nice and important as seminaries and counselors are, isn't it important that you went down that path of "dead man walking"? Sometimes don't people have to suffer to find strength on their own? Ministers, leaders, and mentors can talk until they are blue in the face, but we must experience and uncover our own lessons.
    My recent post Do You Have the Balls to Walk Away from 1.3 Billion Potential Customers?

  23. I don’t think it has to be either/or. I think it's both/and. Your mileage may vary. ;)

  24. Jill Savage says:

    Michael, I'm so glad you posted this. My husband and I have been in ministry over 20 years. Last year we were faced with the reality of accumulated hurt of 20 years of ministry. It had taken a toll on us individually and in our marriage. With the blessing of our church, we decided to spend a week at the Blessing Ranch (http://www.blessingranch.org) near Ft. Collins, CO where John and Deanna Walker ministered to our wounded hearts.

    It was the absolutely best thing we've done for ourselves, for our marriage, and for our ministries. I would highly recommend the Blessing Ranch to anyone in ministry who needs to tend to their wounded heart.
    My recent post A Tribute to my Grandma Chambers

  25. Michael Hidalgo says:

    I am a pastor in Denver, CO at Denver Community Church. I have spent a great deal of time with Michael Cusick … since starting in ministry 10 years ago I have made spending time with a counselor / spiritual director part of my discipline. Michael has a compassionate heart, transparent spirit, wonderful sense of humor, and an unbelievable gift of wisdom. He has helped me look inward to see my brokenness, my strengths, and been a great source of encouragement for me and many other pastors I know in the Denver area. To say I "recommend" Michael seems so understated. He is a fellow journeyman – and I count him a great friend.

  26. Brian Gray says:

    I'm a pastor in Denver, CO, and have referred 4 or 5 leaders to Michael Cusick at Restoring the Soul with the claim, "If I ever find myself in need of counseling, mentoring, or soul care, this is the guy I would go to. Absolute no brainer." That time came for me during the last year while dealing with intense pressure and significant discontentment in both my leadership and life. From personal experience – Michael is a jedi. It's rare to find mentors in the Christian faith who are so competent, so deep, and so approachable at the same time. I've been unable to untie some deeply tangled knots in my inner world, and there is no way that would have happened with Michael. Best investment I've made in myself, my marriage, and my career in a long while. Hyatt's spot on regarding Restoring the Soul.

  27. Anthony Grimes says:

    I've been going to Mike for spiritual direction for the last year pretty regularly. I am just beginning to scratch the surface of true healing. I have not arrived by any means, but even a small taste of real relationship with God, my wife, myself, and others has been more gratifying than years of living on the surface. As a young, aspiring ministry leader, I truly believe my time with Mike has rescued my soul and given me hope that God has great plans for me–the biggest of which is to be loved by Him and to love Him.

  28. Recovering says:

    I've been in ministry for 28 years, the last 11 as a church planter and senior pastor of an international church in SE Asia. In that context and about four years ago, I got to know Michael Cusick who serves as soul care director for The Missional International Church Network. On a trip back to the US last year, I reserved a week of Michael's time for an "intensive". In our daily sessions, I found the courage to confess some deeply painful/shameful things, and I experienced grace and comfort to face the future and the consequences of a wider confession (to my wife and church).

    At the end of the week, Michael gave me some clear direction and encouragement, and he suggested some resources for continued work on my issues, in my region of the world. I have followed through, and I'm glad to say that, thank God, my marriage is now better/healthier than ever – particularly now that I'm taking a break from pastoral ministry. (After some time off, God has provided a new job teaching and training at a local college; we have not had to move.) Recovery from brokenness is a lengthy journey. I'm grateful to Michael for helping me get started.

    Thanks, Michael Hyatt, for sharing your story and highlighting the need for soul care. And thanks, Michael Cusick, friend, for your ministry to me and my wife.

  29. Hadasseh says:

    Of all the characters have ever read about, Jesus was the most broken in every way. Read Isaiah 53 as ell as the gospels. Yet he turned to his father God. When we turn to God, he knows the people to use to reach us, the ministries and counsellors who will be of accurate help to us as individuals. God is our source surely. I know its hard, in fact sometimes impossible but there is reprieve for us in Christ. Please brethren, look to him.

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