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Wounded Heroes merges with LifeWay’s LeaderCare

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Wounded Heroes, a ministry to hurting and depressed ministers begun by Southern Baptist evangelist Freddie Gage in 1997, will merge effective May 1 with LeaderCare, LifeWay Christian Resources’ ministry to ministers and their families.
Gage, 66, said the merger “will take the stress off of me and set me free to continue raising awareness for ministry burnout and related emotional problems.”
Gage will hand off day-to-day administration duties to LeaderCare, but will continue to speak at Wounded Heroes retreats and in other settings, including the April 19-23 retreat at Ridgecrest (N.C.) Conference Center.
A portion of the program for the Wounded Heroes/LeaderCare luncheon, June 14 prior to the Southern Baptist Convention in Atlanta, will include a public transfer of the ministry to LifeWay.
LeaderCare provides a network of personal development help for pastors and staff as well as resources and a network for help in personal crisis prevention, intervention and restoration. All services, including responses to crisis calls, are provided confidentially.
Resources and services are provided in partnership with state conventions, associations and other minister support groups, taking advantage of established, quality sources for help, rather than duplicating efforts.
Gage said Wounded Heroes is the result of “a dream God gave me in 1978 when I completed treatment for depression in a psychiatric hospital in Houston.” Admitting he “had preached against psychiatrists and psychologists out of ignorance,” Gage said he learned “preachers are human. They cry, too. Many times they are walking wounded. The Christian army often not only shoots them, but we leave them to bleed to death in the field.
“As a result of LifeWay’s involvement,” he continued, “the vision and the dream I have will become a reality. Where we could reach 100 persons, LifeWay can reach 10,000.”
“The merger of Wounded Heroes and LeaderCare is the fulfillment of a dream we’ve had to minister to every aspect of the minister,” said James T. Draper Jr., president of LifeWay, based in Nashville, Tenn. “We’re excited to assume responsibility for the ministry of Wounded Heroes and to pursue Freddie’s dream to make this happen. What greater legacy could a man have than to care for those who are hurting?
“LifeWay has dedicated to LeaderCare a staff whose backgrounds include a wide range of experience and educational skills,” he continued, “and we hope to strengthen that staff for the future.”
In the 15 months since Wounded Heroes began in Dallas, Gage said the ministry has served more than 7,000 people through tapes, individual sessions, retreats and the national luncheon preceding the SBC annual meeting.
LeaderCare has developed conferences and materials for prevention and identification of potential life crises and life transitions concerns. Guidance and support for the minister’s spouse and family are available through marriage, parenting and family enrichment materials and events.
Crisis intervention includes an emergency telephone number, 1-888-789-1911, which may be accessed 24 hours a day and is answered in person from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Central Time, Mondays through Fridays. Last year more than 3,000 callers used the crisis service, and, of those, 300 people were referred to counselors and other clergy-care organizations. The toll-free number will also provide information on Wounded Heroes retreats.
Mediation services, assistance toward renewal in ministry and help in restoration to ministry or career transition are offered. LeaderCare coordinates and conducts about 40 mediations each year, and more than 400 people have been trained to conduct mediations.
In addition to the people who call the crisis hotline, 40 people each year are involved in a weeklong, individually tailored personal and career development program through LeaderCare. “Agenda for Healing” weekend events for ministers and spouses who have experienced a forced termination reach 200 people each year. Another 215 career assessments are conducted annually with ministers and their spouses. Wellness strategies are under way. “Strength Under Stress” conferences for ministers needing encouragement and support reached 520 ministers last year. Marriage enrichment for ministers and their spouses was provided for 350 couples.
The circulation of LeaderCare’s quarterly magazine, “The Minister’s Family,” topped 17,000 copies.
“LeaderCare provides pastors the opportunity to develop a personal enrichment and development plan, a listening ministry and encouraging advice,” said Neil Knierim, manager of LeaderCare. “Its objectives are for pastors and staff leaders to discern and follow the call of God, grow in Christlike character, discern and use their God-given competencies and to lead lives that are balanced physically, spiritually, socially and emotionally.
“The wide range of services LeaderCare offers makes it a comprehensive ministry to ministers and their families,” Knierim said. “The blending of Wounded Heroes and LeaderCare gives us an opportunity to add that ministry’s strength to our resources.”
Among the staff are academic backgrounds in ministry, preaching, a variety of Christian education specialties, personal counseling and health and wellness. Expertise, academic writing and extensive counseling experience in burnout, stress, forced termination, career assessment and organizational and leadership skills are among abilities shared among the LeaderCare staff. Consultation and direction for people using these services is provided by people who have gained personal experience in church staff careers before assuming national consultative positions.
Those interested in career assessment, personal development resources, wellness information or other non-emergency LeaderCare services may call (615) 251-2265.

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  • Charles Willis