Posted on September 19, 2023 by Rev. Dave Gunderson, LMFT Intern
Lutheran Family Service News
Meet Rev. Dave Gunderson, tLMFT, a marriage and family therapist serving clients throughout the state of South Dakota via telehealth. As a retired parish pastor and military chaplain, Dave specializes in working with church professionals and has a passion for overall worker wellness.
I’m a marriage and family therapist, have helped lead marriage retreats, do some presentations and write articles [for the blog].
I’ve been a parish pastor since 1981 and a National Guard Army chaplain for 20 plus years. I retired (from the parish) in 2018 and from the National Guard in 2016.
Shortly after I got into the parish, I had people coming for help and I kind of felt limited to what I could do. Back in 1981, we’re talking 40 years ago, counseling was still pretty new. We had a local psychologist that lived about 30 miles away and I leaned on him a little bit. I had some unique cases and I just kept thinking “Boy, I would love to get more experience in counseling.” It just was an area of ministry that I always felt I would like to have better knowledge and better skills in.
I was deployed for one year to Afghanistan, and I had education benefits and nobody else wanted to use them in the family, so I got a degree in counseling (after retiring from the parish and National Guard). I really wanted to be able to help church workers and veterans.
Things that can lead to burnout—constant stress, thinking “I’m always so busy,” not finding joy in ministry. The misuse of substances or other drugs are problems. And apathy—the pastor not caring enough for the congregation, or the congregation not caring enough for the pastor. Conflict in the marriage or home can lead to or be the result of being burnt out or stressed.
If you’re [consistently] looking at 80 to 90 hours a week, that’s a warning sign—it’s a warning sign for anybody if you’re working that much.
It’s just interwoven in everything I do. The clients I tend to see are already coming from a church background. [I remind them] “You’re a child of God through the waters of baptism. You were saved by grace not by how well you do your job or how hard you work. You are saved by the grace of God.” I use Scripture, a lot of times the Psalms.
I had notified President Sailer in the South Dakota District that I was going to be retiring, and I had already started my counseling degree. [Initially] I was contacted by Mick [Wolfram] about being on the congregational services team, going to churches in South Dakota and preaching. My response, “If I’m going to work for Lutheran Family Service, I would rather be a counselor.”
Then, they had a workshop in 2021 and I was asked to do the Bible study. Toni (Larson) came to [speak] on different topics. I listened to one of Toni’s presentations and she came up to me afterwards and said when you’re done with your [counseling] studies contact us, so that’s how I got here.
I’d really like to see church workers all take advantage of wellness plans that are out there. They could see a counselor for free up to six times a year, or their spouse. Even just doing one session, like you go get a physical; grow those opportunities for wellness. Marriage and church worker retreats can be very helpful.
Pizza. Pretty much the extravaganza, the whole works. If I had my choice, I would have a Chicago-style deep dish—Giordano’s.
I started drinking it when I was four. Back then it was about ¾ milk, and now it’s more ¾ coffee and a little bit of cream.
Dave sees clients via telehealth throughout South Dakota. Reach out today.
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