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:

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: 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.


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