When he was 11, Denny Howard loved spending time with his church’s youth pastor even though he wasn’t old enough to attend the youth group. That young pastor also attended seminary, and when he returned to school, he ended his life. Denny remembers processing that sad event with his parents. That day, his mother gave him advice that he has never forgotten. “Denny, there’s always a story that you don’t know.” That experience 50 years ago impacted him. Even then, he wanted to help ministry people. Over the years, as a licensed professional counselor, Denny has worked with thousands of pastors and their families, so in 2015 when the leadership of Brotherhood Mutual asked him, “Would you like to help tens of thousands?” together they created Full Strength Network.
Brotherhood Mutual Insurance, a national company based in Fort Wayne, Indiana, serves 55,000 clients, primarily churches and related institutions like schools, camps, and missions. They realize that pastors and their families need support since they are vulnerable to burnout. When they are surveyed, 50% of pastors report burnout as their number one issue. Anxiety holds second place. Brotherhood and Denny realize that when you support one pastor, you promote healthy churches, too. Full Strength Network exists to help pastors monitor their well-being and connect to strengthening resources. They invite pastors to evaluate 6 areas of self-care: Spiritual, emotional, relational, physical, intellectual, and financial. They summarize their vision: “Healthy pastors lead healthy churches. Healthy churches change the world.” Denny will address FEC pastors at the annual conference this year about Full Strength Network.
The most unique and vital part of Full Strength Network stems from Denny Howard’s experience working with ministry people: Coaching and counseling resources. Through the website, ministry leaders can request help. One of those who requested help is “Mark.” Mark was a recovering addict during college who chose to enter the ministry. After 14 years of effective ministry at a church, the stress that he felt became overwhelming, and he chose to return to alcohol. After he was issued a DUI and taken to jail, his wife reached out to Full Strength Network and requested help for Mark. Through intervention, he was able to remain at his church while he works with a counselor.