Chris’ blog – June 2021

Pastoral Care Specialist for The Generalist

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by Chris Waddle, Director of Leadership and Spiritual Life


June 2021 – In one of his lectures, Family Systems therapist, Rabbi Edwin Friedman recites an overwhelmingly long list of all of the ways psychotherapists can specialize:

“It is possible today to become expert in thousands of emotional problems that range from: agoraphobia to xenophobia, living with preschoolers to living with aging parents, coping with single parenting to coping with stepchildren, personality disorder to schizophrenia, impotence to promiscuity, abuse of substances to child abuse, creativity to catatonia. . . “

His list keeps growing as he began to detail the various specializations and subspecialties of study. At one point the list becomes so nuanced and obscure that his audience begins laughing. His point was not to dismiss specialization, but to remind his audience of just how much there is to learn and know and how one person cannot possibly learn it all.

In a world that seems to be more and more specialized, clergy are largely expected to be generalists. Clergy are expected to be competent in public speaking, fundraising, teaching, management, public relations, theology, philosophy, history, politics, comparative religion, popular culture, entrepreneurship, layout and design, communications, computers, music, marriage, family dynamics, death and dying, social justice, public policy, sound systems, air conditioning, and plumbing!

If I ever need a reminder of how unrealistic the role of clergy can feel, I just go to my own denomination’s Book of Discipline and read “Responsibilities and Duties of Elders and Local Pastors.” I always chuckle as it is clear that no one pastor can do all of these things at exceptional levels at any one time. I often imagined some parishioner, miffed at something I said or failed to do, looking at the list and gleefully exclaiming “I’ve got him now!” I also knew, that but for grace, they would be correct. At any one time, yes, I could be doing more and doing it better.

One of the duties on nearly all clergy “job descriptions” is “pastoral care.” It can feel overwhelming for clergy. There is always someone in the congregation or the community who could use support. It is nearly weekly that someone will say, “You really should call on _________. They are having a tough time.” This is often followed by, “Please don’t tell them I told you.” Any clergy in any kind of congregation, Jewish, Muslim, Protestant, Catholic, Hindu. . . any clergy, could spend 100% of their time in some form of “pastoral care” alone and still not meet all the pastoral needs in the community.

On top of this, often clergy feel ill equipped for pastoral care. Despite what most people assume, most clergy do not get a great deal of formal training in pastoral care. This became clear to me when I was in college and thinking about my own major.

I knew that after graduation, I was going to seminary to study to become a United Methodist Minister. So, I began to ask different clergy, “what is it that you did not get in seminary that you wish you knew more about now?” Nearly every one of them said “pastoral care and counseling.”

With that knowledge, I changed my major from Biblical Studies to a basic degree in counseling called Social and Rehabilitation Services. It was an excellent decision for me. While it did not make me a therapist, it did give me the basic knowledge and skills that helped me have confidence in my pastoral conversations with others. It also helped me to know when and how to refer people to others, when their needs were greater than my time or skills could meet. Many times, my understanding of the therapeutic process helped me encourage others to take their first step to talking to a trained counselor.

The good new is that if you are congregational leader, lay or clergy, and you want to grow in your pastoral care skills, you do not need to get a counseling degree. I encourage you to explore Pastoral Care Specialist program at the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center. In this two-year, three-hour-a-month course, you will learn from clinicians, educators, and partners of the Center with special knowledge and experience on the subjects of:

  • Forgiveness
  • Whole-hearted Listening
  • Memory loss and cognitive decline
  • Suicide awareness and prevention in faith communities
  • Living with illness and chronic pain
  • The spirituality of children
  • Caring for the anxious: Being a non-anxious presence in an anxious world
  • Evil in every day life
  • Ministry with LGBTQ individuals
  • Mindful ministry
  • And more!

Class size is limited, and classes begin in September, so do not delay.

If you have questions, feel free to email me at

Your partner in hope and healing.


For more information about the Pastoral Care Specialist program see:

For more blog posts by Chris:

Chris’ blog – May 2021

Putting Down The Pushers

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by Chris Waddle, Director of Leadership and Spiritual Life

May 2021 –If anyone asks me what I love most about being a part of the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center, “the people” is always at the top of that list. When I consider the employees at The Center as well as the external partners with whom I work, I feel so fortunate.

One person, with whom it has been a great joy to work, is Rev. Bill Selby from the Center for Pastoral Effectiveness of the Rockies. Bill has been a mentor to me and it has been great to partner with him for a seminar and three small groups devoted to leadership as an emotional process.

Bill offers a simple way to begin building emotional connection in any small group, including committee meetings. Invite each person to:

  • Share your name.
  • Tell a story about how you got your name.
  • Tell a story about how you got here today.

He encourages leaders to take the time to do this kind of safe emotional sharing even though some may feel it is a “waste of time.” I can tell you from personal experience, it is not. It changes the nature of the group. It helps build empathy and trust. However it is also important to remember that if any new person is added to the group, this process must start over again. Why? Because adding anyone makes you a new group!

Bill also teaches that one of the most important things leaders can do is create “emotional space” when interacting with others. Anxiety has a constricting effect. Even in small amounts, such as when we are trying to keep to a schedule, or when we are not sure where a conversation is going, or when we are not sure we are being taken seriously, anxiety works against emotional connection. We become less playful, less creative, less flexible, less curious, and more emotionally reactive.

Bill suggests we create this emotional space, not by paying more attention to other’s emotional state, but to our own. In order to open up emotional space. Pay attention to “the pushers”.

We all have them and most come in one of these four emotionally-suffocating varieties.

Hurry up!

Be perfect!

Please others!

Be strong!

After we notice the “pusher” that is compressing the emotional space we can begin to give ourselves and others grace or “permission” to put down the pusher. Here is what this might look like:

Hurry up!. . .   No, there is time for us to talk and we do not have to do everything in this one conversation. It is ok to ask curious, and clarifying questions. It is ok to just enjoy being together.

Be perfect!. . .  No, I do not have to be perfect. I can be unsure, I can change my mind. If I am not sure what I believe or feel I can say so or even say “my best guess is.”  So can others. I don’t have to say it “the right way.” It is even ok to have an awkward conversation.

Please others!. . .   No, It is ok to say what I need or even what I just prefer. It is ok if others do not agree with me. It is ok for me to say “no” or “I do not want to talk about that.” It is ok for others to do the same.

Be strong!. . . No, no one is ever always strong. it is ok to be vulnerable. It is ok to show emotion. This is actually how strong emotional bonds are formed. Others do not have to play pretend roles of ‘always strong’ for me either, even those whom I admire for their strength. It is ok and human not to always be strong.

Which one of these, or perhaps another, has a tendency to compress your emotional space? What is your “primary pusher?”

Think of some conversations or contexts when you feel the pusher the most. Perhaps a particular group or a person comes to mind.

How might you create more emotional space in yourself and “put down the pushers?”

If you would like to learn more about leadership as an emotional process or if you have resources you wish to share with others, please let me know. You may email me at

Your partner in hope and healing,



For more blog posts by Chris:

Chris’ blog – April 2021

What is faith?

by Chris Waddle, Director of Leadership and Spiritual Life

April 2021 — What is faith? I have heard faith described as “believing things you don’t really believe.” I’ve also heard faith defined as “believing things you cannot ultimately prove.” I like the latter better than the former. Still, it misses a bit of the point of faith to me. It seems to me faith is not primarily about believing beliefs. Beliefs matter. By this I mean core beliefs. Beliefs that relate to ultimate meeting and our relationships with God, creation, each other, and our selves. Still, faith is more than belief — it is about actions. It is about investing ourselves, being vulnerable, and taking risks. Faith is not a passive act of believing beliefs but a courageous act of risking ourselves based on those beliefs.

One day, when I was a pastor, I was visiting someone in his office. He was a collector of antiques and he invited me to sit down on this flimsy looking antique chair. I was honestly not sure whether or not it would support my weight. I considered just hovering over it and not putting my full weight on the chair. However, that was impossible since the chair had no arms, and I did not want to spend the whole meeting looking like I was sitting on the toilet. So I took a leap of faith and sat down. Thankfully, the chair did support me. This story is both an example of simple faith and a metaphor for all acts of faith.

Sitting on ancient chairs is easy compared with other leaps of faith in my life. One of the biggest leaps of faith that I ever made felt more to me like an abandonment of faith at the time. It came right on time. I was in my first year of college when another campus ministry invited our campus ministry to participate in a discussion about creation and evolution. We agreed to a discussion. However, what they had planned was more of a lecture.

I can sum up the whole presentation in three sentences:

  • The Genesis creation story is scientifically accurate and historically true.
  • If you believe in evolutionary theory you cannot be a Christian.
  • We have biblically accurate dinosaur coloring books for sale at the table in the back.

I remember thinking to myself, “This is not science! This is The Flintstones! If this is where taking the Bible seriously is going to lead me, then I cannot be a Christian! Wait a minute! Why should I believe ANYTHING anyone taught me in church?”

I began questioning everything I had ever believed about God, Jesus, and my United Methodist Christian tradition. I also questioned every religious experience I’d ever had. I believed it was entirely possible, and most likely probable, that my religious experiences were just a combination of wishful thinking and emotion.

It was a gut wrenching experience. However, I was determined that I was not going to trust the full weight of my life on anything that could not stand up to my most rigorous questions. Just like that antique chair, I figured my Christian tradition, rooted in an unscientific world-view would crumble beneath the weight of my reason and I did not know where that would leave me. My whole world view and my most significant relationships were rooted in my church culture. However, I wanted to know the truth, even if it meant discarding my whole belief system.

Since this leap of faith, I have let go of some beliefs. Other beliefs I hold more loosely. Still, most of my core beliefs remain and I can tell you why I hold them and why I believe them to be rational and compelling. However, the truth that I found was not quite the truth I was seeking.

The truth I was seeking was a knock down drag out argument for the existence of God, the divinity of Jesus, and the loving, forgiving nature of God. What I discovered was that faith, by its very definition, can never have the kind of lock-down drag-out kind of proof I wanted. However, most of what makes life good and meaningful is a matter of faith and not ultimately testable and provable. I began to see that there is no life without faith even If I did let go of my belief in God. I also learned that the core beliefs of my United Methodist Christian tradition actually did take seriously the integration of science, reason, and experience. In taking the leap of faith to challenge my tradition I discovered an intellectual rigor to my tradition that I did not know was there. It welcomed and was even able to engage my most challenging questions. This allowed me to be more open to the possibility that my spiritual experiences were more than just wishful thinking and emotion. Of course, they could be. But that is the nature of faith and I am ok with that now.

I hesitate to say this because it seems that when I feel at peace with my beliefs is also when I have an experience that challenges me to grow once more. Still, there is a difference in me now. I just don’t get as worked up about it as I once did. I now have more perspective and, I dare say even faith, in the midst of my doubt. I’m not sure I even understand what I mean when I say this. However, let me share how I have experienced it.

I remember one morning, while in seminary, thinking to myself. “I’m not sure I really believe in God today.” Then I chuckled when I sensed God saying to me. “That’s OK Chris, I still believe in you.” and I went on with my day as usual. My freshman college “me” would not have found this compelling at all. . . but it is so very compelling to me now.

Back to my original point. Core beliefs matter but they are not the same as faith. Faith happens when I invest in and risk are when I am vulnerable based on my core beliefs. Faith is not a noun, it is a verb. Faith is not something we have. Faith is something we do, exercise, and practice. It always involves risk and it always involves vulnerability.

Dr. Brené Brown is an expert on courage and vulnerability. She is very quick to correct people when they say “I understand what you are saying, if I am vulnerable and live courageously, I might fail.”

“No,” she says, “I am saying if you are committed to a life of courage it will require you to be vulnerable and if you consistently live this way, you WILL fail many times.” While I know I am paraphrasing a bit, this is the spirit of her words and she is talking about the life of faith.

Since I was a young child I have sought to live prayerfully. As I have grown I have tried not to make decisions based on fear and have tried to listen and respond to what I believe the spirit of God is guiding me to be and do. However, things do not always work out. I have lost a job, I have lost money, I have lost friends, I have made mistakes, and, I have been an ass at times when I thought I was being faithful or prophetic. Faith has not always protected me from pain and loss, even when I have been prayerful and courageous. Still, living prayerfully and courageously has often helped me sense and avoid danger, endure pain and difficulty, and drawn me into life-giving relationships and experiences. I believe that most of what is best about me has come from big and small acts of faith.

If you have taken enough time to read this far then my guess is that you are somewhere on an intentional journey of faith. My question is “Who is on this journey with you?” Churches synagogues, mosques, temples, and other communities of faith can often be these kinds of communities. However, I find that we also need communities within and outside of these communities. We need a smaller circle of people with whom we can develop deep trust.

If you are looking for this kind of community, one option is the PrairieFire community at the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center. It has been a place where many people have discovered and rediscovered genuine courageous faith. If you’ve read this far, perhaps you might want to learn more about our next two-year community that begins this fall? Make no mistake, it will cost you something. You will not come out of the experience the same as you entered. However, I believe you will find that change a welcome one. If you would like to know more about this community of courageous faith please go to

Your partner in hope and healing.


On the Brink: A Group for Religious Professionals Transitioning into Retirement



Retiring from active religious and spiritual leadership evokes many emotions–dread, joy, fear, anxiety, excitement…Questions arise: “How will I find meaning and purpose?” “What is my call now?”  “How do I adapt to all of the changes that aging brings?”  “How do I share my spiritual gifts while maintaining healthy boundaries?”

Utilizing Parker Palmer’s book, “On the Brink of Everything:  Grace, Gravity and Getting Old”, clergy approaching retirement, or recently retired, will gather four times to support one another by exploring the existential challenges retirement brings.

AUDIENCE  Religious professionals including rabbis, pastors, priests, imams and others who are considering their next stage of life
DATE / TIME  Tuesdays from 1-3:30PM

  • Sept. 7, 2021
  • Oct. 5, 2021
  • Nov. 2, 2021
  • Nov. 30, 2021
COST $200 for the full series of four sessions
LOCATION  All sessions will be held virtually by Zoom

For more information please contact Mark Minear at

Click here for a printable flier!


Diane McClanahan, M.Div., B.S.N.

Diane McClanahan, recently retired as Director of Leadership and Spiritual Life at the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center. Her work at the Center included program development and facilitation of services for clergy and congregations including education, spiritual direction, clergy coaching, church consultation and conflict mediation.  She holds a bachelor of science degree in nursing from Duke University and a master of divinity degree from Yale Divinity School. An ordained elder in the United Methodist Church, she has served congregations in Connecticut and Iowa. Diane is enjoying retirement in Maine where she continues to offer spiritual direction to a limited number of people.

Mark Minear, Ph.D.

Mark MinearMark Minear is a licensed psychologist. He is also a recorded minister with the Religious Society of Friends (Quaker). His education includes an M.A. in church history from the Earlham School of Religion and a Ph.D. in counseling psychology from Ball State University. Now in his 10th year at the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center, he has a therapeutic niche of working with a wide range of clergy from various faith traditions across these years. His theoretical approach includes an integration of logotherapy (meaning-making), cognitive-behavioral, family systems, and mindfulness orientations. Now in the midst of his own journey into retirement, he is currently working part-time at the Center.

Chris’ blog – March 2021

Anxiety Amped Up to “Eleven”

by Chris Waddle, Director of Leadership and Spiritual Life

(March 2021) I thought he was about to hit me! His face was red. His voice was loud. He was invading my personal space. The veins in his neck were even popping out! He said it was because I did not use the pronoun “He” when I talked about God in worship. When I suggested, perhaps I could use both “He” and “She” I thought his head would explode! I decided to refrain from sharing my strong belief that God did not have genitalia.

Still, under mental, emotional, physical, relational, or existential stress, I can feel attacked, insecure, or frightened by other’s anxiety. Today, not so much. Partly because the more I know, the more I am aware of what I do not know. But more importantly, I have learned that people rarely hear me when I come at them emotionally. I know that this is true, because it is also true for me. When people come at me, my natural response is to go into self-defense mode. Fight, flight, or freeze! I was definitely in fight mode in the encounter I just mentioned.

This was not a private encounter. It happened in front of others in the church. I wanted to show folks I could take this guy on, that I could “beat him” and “win” the argument. I did stay calm, and that was good. Still, knowing what I know today, I would have approached him differently. I would not have argued. I would have not explained. I would not have tried to defend myself. I would have done my best to keep calm, stand straight, and let him say everything he wanted to say. I would have clarified that I understood what he was saying as well as the emotion behind it. I would have thanked him for trusting me with his perspective and his feelings. My goal would not have been winning the argument or changing him in any way. My goal would have been modeling to him and to those who are watching a healthy way of engaging with him.
I do not like it when someone gets upset over some little thing and loses all sense of perspective. But do you know what bothers me even more? . . . I know there are times in my life (even this year) that this has been me. I do not like to admit it, but it is true.

I believe I have grown. I believe I am getting better at catching myself and being aware when I feel cornered, attacked, threatened, overwhelmed, or just tired. Still, under mental, emotional, physical, relational, or existential stress, I can, feel attacked, insecure, or frightened by other’s anxiety. I stop listening and feel the need to “defend myself.” My emotional energy goes from being “with” others to trying to “push” others. I might want to push them away or I might want to push then toward something I want them to do or believe. Of course, they usually say “Oh, thank you for pointing out how wrong I am. I just needed you to get angry for me to see your point. I will change now.” . . . no, of course they don’t.

There is a scene in the mocumentary “This is Spinal Tap” where guitarist, Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest) is showing director Marty DiBergi (Rob Reiner) his custom stage amplifiers that “go to eleven.”

MARTY: Does that mean it’s…louder? Is it any louder?

NIGEL: Well, it’s one louder, isn’t it? It’s not ten. You see, most…most blokes, you know, will be playing at ten. You’re on ten here…all the way up…all the way up….

MARTY: Yeah….

NIGEL: …all the way up. You’re on ten on your guitar…where can you go from there? Where?

MARTY: I don’t know….

NIGEL: Nowhere. Exactly. What we do is if we need that extra.. push over the cliff…you know what we do?

MARTY: Put it up to eleven.

NIGEL: Eleven. Exactly. One louder.

MARTY: Why don’t you just make ten louder and make ten be the top… number… and make that a little louder?


NIGEL: These go to eleven.

If you need a laugh, here is a link to the clip:

There is a part of me that thinks if I just invest a little more emotional energy, if I just turn it up to “eleven,” I can push you, change you, or even negate you. That’s just silly.

Still, “eleven” is that setting right now in many congregations and a great deal of that anxiety is being focused on clergy. Sometimes it is expressed as anxiety over specific issues or policies. Sometimes it is less direct and expressed as scapegoating of the clergy. Clergy even feel it coming from those who they believe should “have their backs” such as congregational or denominational leaders and even their own family members.

If you are clergy or a congregational leader and you are feeling like you are caught in the crossfire right now, you are not alone.

I also have some good news for you. There are things you can learn and techniques you can practice that will help. None of them require you to change anyone but yourself and none of them require you to crank your amp up to “eleven.”

If you would like to learn more, I invite you to join me for a live webinar: “Leadership in 2021: Ministry Under the Shadow of a Pandemic” with Rev. Bill Selby 9:30 -11:30 a.m. Central time. Cost is only $25 and anyone in the USA may register and attend. For more information or to register please visit:

Your partner in hope and healing.


Chris’ Blog: Whatever the Question, The Answer is Grace

Whatever the Question, The Answer is Grace

by Chris Waddle, Director of Leadership and Spiritual Life, Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center

February 2021 — “Whatever the question, the answer is grace.” I was about 19 when my pastor said this to me. I was a mess. I was worried about being accepted by God. I was worried about being alone for the rest of my life. I was worried about not being good enough in about fifty different ways. I was “freaking out!”

“Whatever the question, the answer is grace.”

Does that sound too fluffy and simplistic to you? Sometimes it does to me. But not that day. It was exactly what I needed to hear. It cut to the core of everything that was driving my fear and anxiety, perfectionism!

It did not help that I belonged to a denomination that constantly talked about how God was always moving us toward “perfection!” The goal was “perfection in love,” to become the kind of person that responded out of love no matter what the situation. Now my pastor seemed to be completely removing the goal line, “Whatever the question, the answer is grace?”

More and more I am discovering the deep truth of Jim’s words that day. Grace in my faith tradition is the unconditional love and power of God at work for good in our lives and in creation. Grace comes first, not sin, not belief in God, not repentance. . . grace for ALL creation. The Word that called all that is into being and sustains that being in every moment is Grace.

My worth. . . your worth. . . is not ever earned, diminished, or up for grabs. It is a given and a constant. It does not change with my performance or my situation. Trusting in this sacred worth God grants to ALL also helps me with that “perfection in love” part of my tradition.

“Perfection in love” does not mean I do not make mistakes. It means that my initial response in any circumstance is to do what is most loving. That is a very large and compelling vision, and, I really do want to be that kind of person. . . but I am not. But here is the catch. . . I can’t do it, at least, not as a force of will. Such love must be a transformation of my very being.

I am not saying that it does not involve my actions or that it does not involve my choices. What I am saying is, I do not do it. God’s grace is always acting on me and I can choose to work with or work against that movement of love in my life. I choose and act, but God is always the one urging, directing, empowering, and transforming.

Sometimes I experience Grace as providence. Sometimes I experience Grace as warning. Sometimes I experience Grace as forgiveness. Sometimes I experience Grace as a kick in the butt to take a risk get tough and/or be more vulnerable.

Grace is the Love that holds me and adores me. This is something that the mystics, people of deep prayerful connection with God and creation, from many different religious traditions have in common. When they stop, allow themselves to be open to the mystery of life and being they speak of experiencing a deep connection to a Love that delights in all of us and all of creation.

Grace is NOT God “getting over” or “looking past” our sin, or imperfections, to “Love us anyway.” I cringe now when I realize how many times I must have used this “God loves us anyway” phrase as a pastor. When I realized how pathetic it was I vowed never to do it again. I am convinced God does not need to “get over” anything to love us. . . God adores us period.

Why am I so convinced? Because, as I said, it is a consistent experience of deeply prayerful people across religious traditions. It is what I find most compelling in the most loving people I know. It is the way I have experienced love from those who have loved me most deeply, and it is the way I love my own child.


If this is true of my experience of love, then how much more must it be true of God! Please give up the the image of God “getting over stuff” to love you “anyway”. . . that image of love is a thousand times too small to fit The Ground and Source of All Being. Frankly, It does not even fit my love for my dog, who I certainly do adore.

Speaking of my dog, Harvey does have some growing edges. So do I. Harvey steals shoes and chews them up. I do not steal shoes but I do have some self-destructive tendencies, unhealthy attachments, prejudices, and bad habits.

This is part of what Christians call “sin.” As a teenager someone told me “God cannot use you if there is sin in your life.” That is part of what was troubling me when I was 19. How could I ever know that there was no sin in my life? There was so much to work on and in some cases I was not even sure what was and what was not a sin! I even thought not thinking correctly about God might be a sin! No wonder I was freaking out!

Of course, now, I realize that even a casual reading of the Bible, history book, or newspaper, will demonstrate God using people ‘with sin in their lives” doing incredibly brave, faithful, and loving things.

Still, I do not like to admit my faults, sins, or even bad habits. However, this is where grace helps me. This is why saying “Whatever the question, the answer is grace” is not a “pass” on growth or accountability but an empowering proverb.

If I feel I have to work on everything at once. The weight of it all is simply too overwhelming and I can easily become demoralized and stuck in guilt and shame. This makes it hard to be vulnerable, to feel loved, to give love freely, or to take a leap of faith, which is precisely how we become our true selves. Grace takes much of the pressure off. Grace says “Your worth as a person is not at risk. You do not have to work on everything at once. Let the same Love that called you into being sustain you as it also transforms you.”

I am guessing that you, like me have growing edges, unhealthy attachments, bad habits, fears, resentments, and other garbage. You may or may not use the same “sin” or “God” language that I do. However, I believe this experience is universally human.

Might it be true that you cannot work on everything at once? Might that be ok? Might accepting this actually be empowering to actually make a meaningful change? If so, what would be most healing or helpful to you at this time in your life?

Perhaps it is time to take a leap of faith? Or, perhaps you need to take a small step first? From a place of grace, knowing you do not have to do it all at once, what next step does your spirit long to take? Who might support you as you take this next step?

Likewise, where do you sense your spirit inviting you to be ok with not being perfect? What is a waste of energy? What is an unrealistic expectation? What might need attention, but not right now?

“Whatever the question, the answer is Grace.”

Your partner in hope and healing,

Chris . . . and Harvey!


Leadership in 2021: Ministry Under the Shadow of a Pandemic

Take a break in the action/reaction of 2021!

No preparation!  No home work!

You are not alone in what you are facing and feeling today!

The emotional process of leadership through transitions, trauma, anxiety, conflict, and challenging conversations.

Hosted by: Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center

Facilitator: Rev. Bill Selby, President, Center for Pastoral Effectiveness (scroll down for bio)

Program details:

  • Program: In this webinar, Rev. Bill Selby, the founder of the Center for Pastoral Effectiveness will help us understand congregations as emotional systems, the impact of anxiety on us and our faith communities, and some implications to consider as you, the leader, respond to parishioners, colleagues, and the anxiety in which we live. (see below for more webinar details)
  • Date: April 13, 2021 Zoom meeting
  • Time: 9:30 -11:30 a.m. Central time
  • Format: Zoom
  • Cost: $25 per person
  • CEUs: We will offer .2 units (point two) of CEU credit for each event (webinar, group 1, group 2, group 3) for a total of .8 (point eight) CEU credits.
  • For more information, please contact Chris Waddle, Director of Leadership and Spiritual Life at the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center,

  • Follow-up intensive option: For those who would like to go deeper and integrate this process, you can join a small coaching group, of no more than eight people, in three 2-hour sessions. Total cost for the three sessions is $174. (Payments can be negotiated) .6 CEUs. Details about registration for the intensive will be shared at the webinar on April 13.

More about the webinar:

Leadership Webinar:  Leadership in 2021: Ministry Under the Shadow of a Pandemic

Times of anxiety and uncertainty also hold rich possibilities and opportunities for ministry. You as pastors, leaders, and Conference leaders play a significant role in helping congregations find their way forward constructively.

The intention of this webinar is to offer a way of understanding your congregation during these anxious times, and help you identify a process to cultivate the opportunities and possibilities in your congregation. What are some best practices for helping people be at their best as Christians and human beings? What are your needs as leaders/pastors to lead in such times?

By best practices we are not suggesting a leadership technique of a management style.  Best practices in ministry is an art form, an emotional process.

In this webinar, Rev. Bill Selby, the founder of the Center for Pastoral Effectiveness will help us understand congregations as emotional systems, the impact of anxiety on us and our faith communities, and some implications to consider as you, the leader, respond to parishioners, colleagues, and the anxiety in which we live.

Moreover, as we find our way into our new hopes and possibilities for ministry, challenge and conflict, transitions and trauma, is part of the landscape. Bill will offer some insights and best practices for addressing anxiety and conflict in constructive, generative ways that invite people’s (our own and others) best self—the Christ within us.

Hope and possibilities are on the horizon, and you play a part (a midwife if you will) in helping the hope become lived out in our congregations and larger community.

Horizons too abstract exhaust;

concrete, tangible, close to the heart,

the horizon gives life

from the vast edge beyond itself.

Our gaze keeps drifting toward the horizon. . .

inviting us to take the next step.

(excerpt from a poem by W. Craig Gilliam, Horizons)

We invite and hope you can join us for this journey and opportunity to reflect, learn and grow together.

Facilitator bio

Bill Selby is an Ordained United Methodist Minister since 1974 who has led both small and large churches in Indiana, Wyoming, and Colorado, including a new church development in Highlands Ranch, Colorado. Prior to ministry he was in research and development designing small arms for the military during Vietnam and later taught in the Mechanical Engineering arena at the Eau Claire Technical Institute, the University of Wisconsin – Stout, and finally at Indiana State University.

In 1995, from his experiences especially in the church, Bill created a new ministry resource for churches and leadership, Growth with Integrity Resources, in which resources were created to empower the local church and its’ leadership. One of the resources developed, The Center for Pastoral Effectiveness of the Rockies, became so important that it became a separate ministry. The Center based on Family Systems Theory now has Centers in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, Iowa, Nebraska, and Kansas helping to maintain ministers in ministry with over 1000 clergy alumni. He is sought out by leaders of churches, non-profit organizations and corporate companies for his work in empowering leadership to be less reactive to the natural reactivity of their organizations as they seek to become more self-differentiated non-anxious leaders.

He grew up in a very small town in Illinois and married his childhood sweetheart from across the street, Sherilee, with whom they celebrated their 55th anniversary and count as their greatest gifts, their son Christopher and three chosen daughters, Carla, Nancy, and Kim, and their grandchildren. They make their home in Highlands Ranch, Colorado.

Chris’ Blog – January 2021

Self-Care, Sanctuaries, and Playgrounds

by Chris Waddle, Director of Leadership and Spiritual Life

January 2021

I like to fish. Fishing combines so many things I love. I love to search for things. I love to use well designed equipment. I love being outdoors. I love a surprises, and I love fish. They fascinate me. I love them so much I find it hard to keep them. I almost always catch and release. Some of my most cherished memories of my family and friends involve fishing.

When I find myself saying “I have to get away for a while.” My preferred “get away” is almost always fishing. Fishing is where I go to just be in the moment and have a good time. Fishing is were I lose all track of time. Fishing is my playground.

We all need “playgrounds.” I have heard that some people don’t like fishing and prefer other playgrounds like baseball, or playing guitar, or scrapbooking, or reading, or even running. Yes, some people run just for fun. Nothing is chasing them. No one is making them. They just get up at 5 AM and start running. Amazing!

Playgrounds are great. Play is important for people of all ages. Sometimes, all I need is a day on the lake and some hungry fish. However, sometimes I need a different kind of “get away.” Sometimes what I really need is not a playground but a “sanctuary.”

I often think I need a playground. I think to myself “I have got to get away.” I head to the lake, but part of me is not really there. I am fishing, I am catching fish, it is beautiful, but I am not enjoying it. Today, when this happens, I understand what is going on. But the first time it happened, it confused and even frightened me.

I had taken the day off. I knew I needed to take care of myself and get away. I was ready to have some fun, but I was not having fun and I could not figure out why. Fortunately, fishing is not like eating pizza, which I also love. If I had been eating pizza, I might have thought, “Well I must need to eat more pizza and then I will be happy!” But I could not fish any harder and the fish were biting and they were good sized. So, I did the unthinkable. On a beautiful day, with fish biting, I stopped fishing. I found a quiet and secluded place on the bank and I paid attention to what I was feeling. Only then did I realize that I was sad. I was not even sure why, but I cried for a while and soon I began to understand.

At the time, I was a local church pastor. Pastors and other care givers listen to many painful stories. We walk with people through some exceptionally sad experiences. Even today, I do this willingly and I feel good that I am able to be a part of God’s work of healing in the world. I have learned, in such moments, to be emotionally present and not become overwhelmed by other’s pain. However, this does not mean I am unaffected.

My pain in caring for a grieving parent, is no way near as intense as her or his grief, but neither is it insignificant. I hurt too, and that sadness stays with me. So, I need to get away, not to avoid that pain, but to acknowledge it, to respect it, and to feel it. When I am hurting in this way, no playground will ever be helpful to me. In these times, I do not need a playground, I need a sanctuary.   need a safe place and sometimes even a safe person with whom I can feel all of the feelings that need to be felt and say all of the things that need to be said. Yes, big boys and girls do cry and yes, sometimes crying does make things better. Often, after a good cry I am ready to go fishing again.

Sanctuaries are safe places to cry. They are also safe places to doubt, dream, wonder, sing, be honest, and be vulnerable in any way in which our true selves are longing to be acknowledge, welcomed, and loved. Playgrounds are safe places to relax, play, and enjoy life, others, and ourselves just for the sake of being. Sometimes these different movements of the spirit happen in the same physical space, with the same trusted people, or even in the same activity. Sometimes the feelings may even be similar, but they are also unique experiences.

So, how are you today?  hat do you need so that you can take care of yourself?  top. Think. Feel.  Do you need a sanctuary? Does something hurt? Do you need to wrestle with some big questions?  Are you seeking a vision? Or, perhaps, you just need to be still and notice yourself and the world around you?

Perhaps you need a playground? Are you tired of pondering, performing, and producing? Have you been too long in seriousness and wrestling for the answers? Is it time to trust that right now you do not need an answer to that nagging questions and the world and the people you care about will be ok without you for a while. Perhaps it is time to just have fun, to fish, or paint, or play video games, or play guitar, or read, or sing karaoke in your pajamas using an ice cream cone as a microphone?. . . Yes, that is a thing.

Your partner in hope and healing.


Leadership and Spiritual Life home page

Virtual Clergy Pods: Clergy Leading and Learning Together! 

Virtual Clergy Pods: Clergy Leading and Learning Together! 

January 16, 2021 – This is a challenging time to be a religious leader.  Clergy and congregations have been pressed to adapt and create new ways of caring and staying connected. At the same time, the level of anxiety of nearly everyone around them has been amped up to eleven! 

Yes, this is a difficult time. However, there is no need to keep pushing ahead alone.

The concept of the “pod” has emerged as a way of safely connecting with others during the pandemic.  The Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center would like to take this concept into the virtual realm and invite clergy from all faiths and denominations to support each other and share what they are learning about leading and living during this challenging time.

Is a Virtual Clergy Pod for me?

  • Does your personal leadership style integrate your core values and personality?
  • Are you open to learning new skills and perspectives guided by a skilled counselor in a group setting based on what you are actually experiencing in your present context?
  • Would it be helpful to hear the experiences of clergy in other denominations and religious traditions?
  • Are you willing to trust and share your own experiences in a group with other clergy committed to supporting each other as they share the challenges of being a faith leader at this difficult time?

Virtual Pods will be adaptable:

  • Discussions and content will be guided by the needs of each virtual pod.
  • Pods will meet for 6 weeks for 1 1/2 hours each meeting. Initially, pods will meet weekly.  However, in time, the group may decide to meet every other week or even extend their time together.

Virtual Pods will be contextual:

  • Pod members will support each other practically and spiritual from their own traditions and life experiences.
  • Pods will be led by Center staff who will bring skills and resources that are uniquely helpful to members in each group.

Virtual Pods will be safe:

  • Pods will be virtual
  • Pods will be confidential and supportive
  • Pods members will not change
  • Pods will be limited to 6-8 participants in order to foster unhurried discussion.

If you are a faith leader and would like more information about being a part of a Virtual Clergy Pod with other clergy, please email Chris Waddle at

Leadership and Spiritual Life home page

The Scandal of Particularity    

I can still remember the first lecture of the first class I ever took at Duke Divinity School.  Dr. Geoffrey Wainwright, In a very proper and professorial British accent lectured on “the scandal of particularity.”

You might ask, “What is ‘the scandal of particularity?’”. . . go on. . . ask. . . please. . .


(sigh). . . no one ever asks.

Well, Dr. Wainwright and I would like you to know anyway. “The scandal of particularity” is all of the messy challenges that come about when followers of Jesus say that the God of all creation, “The Ground and Source of all Being,” was also somehow mysteriously embodied in a vulnerable baby who pooped his diapers.

Ok, it is a bit more complicated than this, but this is one of the most “scandalous” parts and this is the time of the year when followers of Jesus begin to tell this first story in the first chapter of The Scandal of Particularity.

There are some other good parts too. There are lots of parts where Jesus pisses off good church people by saying the people they thought were doomed to Hell were going to be first in heaven.  There are parts where people who think they don’t matter and have very little power become center stage and examples of great love.  There is a very sad part where Jesus, after pissing off too many politically powerful people, because of all of that stuff I just talked about, is executed as a violent revolutionary.  Then, his inner circle of followers loses all hope and run for their lives.  Until, in the midst of their fear he returns to them in a new kind of body in some new and mysterious way giving them the courage to risk their lives as the “scandal of particularity” somehow, mysteriously lives and continues in them.

Why am I telling you this?  Because I am a part of this “scandal of particularity.” I am a follower of Jesus. I was baptized and raised in a United Methodist Church in South Mississippi. I have been loved and shaped by people from this tradition and those experiences have shaped me in profoundly positive and meaningful ways. None of these experiences or relationships are general.  They are all particular.  This is who I am, and I cannot talk about “faith” “meaning” “love” or “spirituality” without this particularity being a part of that conversation. Even if I do not explicitly say it, this particularity is there.

I believe that at the heart of all of the mysterious, yet very real, experience of spirituality is deep relationship.  I also believe everyone is spiritual, whether or not they choose to use that language or not.  To grow spiritually is to grow in relationship.

Growing in relationship is inherently a practice of vulnerability.  I only have one honest self to offer you and, if it is an honest self, it is also a “particular” self. If you reject it I do not have another authentic self to offer you.

I also know that my particular tradition of faith is not perfect.  Christians, including me, do not and have not always acted like Jesus.  Worse yet, sometimes we have not even recognized and repented of it. Sadly, I and others in my faith tradition, have sometimes turned “the scandal of particularity” into “the scandal of exclusion”.

However, “The scandal of particularity,” is really about God’s inclusion of all people. It begins with a story of angels proclaiming Good News to “all people” and a story of Persian astrologers welcomed into the home of the holy family as some of their first guests.  There is no indication that they ever changed their religion before or after returning home.

I deeply value my particular experience in the United Methodist Church. I believe God was and is at work in if for good in me and in the world.  However, Jesus did not invite people to become “United Methodists” or even “Christians” he invited people to become beautifully human.  The first followers of Jesus were simply called followers of “The Way.”

You and I each have our own “scandal of particularity”. We all come from and speak from a particular experience of faith. Maybe yours has a formal name, worldview, and rituals.  Maybe it does not. Maybe you are still trying to figure out your own relationship with your religious tradition. Maybe you have no desire to be a part of a formal religious tradition.  Maybe you do not believe in God.

Still you, like me, live by faith. You, like me, live as if some things are more true and more real than others. You, like me, are more than just the sum of your biological parts, and you, like me, cannot ultimately test or prove the kind of things that give life its ultimate meaning. We are all a part of the same mystery of being. However, we all live in this mystery in “particular” ways.  While we may be able to talk about spirituality “in general,” we all live into our spirituality “in particular.”

I get very bored with conversations about spirituality in general.  Of course, if I have to choose between religious strife and religious tolerance, I will choose tolerance every time. However, I believe most of us long for something much more meaningful.

In my own experience, the kinds of conversations that have most transformed me in life giving ways, are those in which someone has trusted me with their own “scandal of particularity” while also allowing me to share my own. These are always sacred conversations and I often leave such conversations with a deeper since of connection and care for that person.

As Director of Leadership and Spiritual Life, I want to foster such conversations. I also want to model this in my own conversations with others. This blog is one such conversation. Often I will be speaking from my own particular religious tradition. As I mentioned earlier, even if I do not specifically allude to it, I am sure it will be there.  It is a fundamental part of what makes me who I am.          I find this tradition rational, inspiring, and compelling. It is the best way I know to become the person I was created to be.

At the same time, I expect that anyone who has thoughtfully chosen another worldview or religious tradition, has also done so for similar reasons. So, we all have our own “scandal of particularity.”  Because of this we often try to avoid the topic of religion. We may fear that the conversation will end in argument and division and, sometimes, it does.  However, I have found that when there is trust and respect and the goal is understanding and not to “convert,” some of the most sacred conversations that I have ever had have happened when someone has trusted me with their own “scandal of particularity” and also given me the gift of understanding mine.

Your partner in hope and healing,


To read more of Chris Waddle’s blogs, click HERE.