A ministry leader says even pastors are not immune to pandemic anxiety.

Sam Doerksen and his wife Pauline are the Directors at the Kerith Retreat Centre, a ministry of Focus on the Family Canada. Their focus is pouring back into ministry leaders who need rest and may be burned out from the work they do.

As Doerksen speaks to many different pastors and elders, he has seen a shift in the mental and spiritual health of this group. 

"There's a little more anxiety that has come along with this because this is something that we haven't had to deal with before, nor were we taught about this in the colleges and seminaries we went to," he says.

While there isn't training that could have prepared ministers for a pandemic, reaching out if some are feeling overwhelmed is still important, according to Doerksen. 

"I read an article recently about a minister who's been in ministry for four decades and he said he thought he had seen everything until this year."

While everything that pastors and missionaries knew went out the window with the restrictions and social distancing, there were other skills that became necessary.

"Anxiety is just one of those things that have come along with this because pastors have now had to become good with tech stuff, speaking into a camera rather than seeing all the people there, it's just been different."

Doerksen asks for people to pray over their Christian leaders during this time. 

"Pray for the stresses that come along with this. That the pastors and leaders, that we would be honest with ourselves and recognize when we too need to be able to have someone to talk to to be able to make it through this time."

In a normal year, the couple put on 10-11 retreats a year and each one is a week-long retreat at Kerith Pines in Manitoba. 

"For these ministry leaders who do all the work and serve others, when they come to this retreat centre then we switch roles as we want to look after them well."

As with many businesses, since the pandemic hit last March, the directors have done much of their checking in digitally or through phone calls. 

"We've been touching base with pastors and ministry leaders. We've been doing some studying up on materials and our teachings and just trying to keep the pulse of what's going on in the world with ministry leaders. It's a different time."

It's been some time since they've been able to host a week-long retreat but Doerksen is hopeful they'll be able to have one in person sooner rather than later. 

Doerksen says that Focus on the Family also offers a clergy care line for leaders who want to speak with a counsellor, either online or by phoning 1-888-525-3749.

"They too have seen an increase in traffic during this time, from society in general and from the clergy."