Where Do Pastors
Go for Help?
Grace Place Wellness was founded in 1999 by John D. Eckrich, M.D., an Internist and Gastroenterologist, who has provided integrated health care to many pastors, teachers, seminarians and their families for more than 35 years.
In his medical practice in St. Louis, Dr. Eckrich was astounded at the number of stress-related illnesses among Lutheran church workers.
In response to the burnout he was treating in church professionals, he envisioned a program of teaching preventive self-care disciplines to keep workers healthy. He understood that if workers were not joyful, vigorous and balanced in their own body, mind and spirit, they could not effectively and abundantly serve the people placed in their care.
Dr. Eckrich and his pastoral care colleagues have now served thousands of Lutheran church workers, leaders and their families in hundreds of retreats throughout America and in Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Following in Dr. Eckrich’s footsteps, our retreat leaders have taken Grace Place Wellness programming to every region of the country and worldwide through overseas missionary family retreats.
A Message for All Workers in Ministry
Offered initially for pastors and their wives, Grace Place Wellness Retreats are now open to all workers in the church.
Specialized retreats have been offered for singles, DCE’s, musicians, parish nurses and deaconesses. The LCMS Council of Presidents and Concordia University faculties have also participated in Grace Place Wellness retreats and programs.
In 2012, Rev. Dr. Darrell Zimmerman was called to serve as the first full time Program Director. A participant at the first retreat in 2000 with his wife, Carol, Darrell brings over 30 years of parish pastoral experience to the Grace Place Wellness team.
Healthy Leaders, Healthy Congregations
At Grace Place Wellness Ministries, we believe that healthy leaders lead healthy congregations and that healthy congregations encourage and support healthy leaders.
When Pastor and people are together experiencing life in the body of Christ the way the Lord has intended it (see Ephesians 4) God is glorified and congregations fulfill their calling to share the saving love of Jesus.
Just as church workers are care-givers, congregations are also called to include their pastors and other servants of the Word in their ongoing work of mutual love and care. As St. Paul wrote to the church in Rome:
“I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong – that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.” (Romans 1:11-12, NIV)
A Vision for the Church
Our vision is that congregations would be places of mutual encouragement and care between the called workers and the members of the church so that together they might reach out in love and service to their communities.
Grace Place Wellness is a preventive wellness ministry that seeks to positively impact the ministry of Christian congregations by encouraging workers in the church to lead the rich and full lives that Jesus intends for all of His children.
We are proud to be a Recognized Service Organization of and partially funded by The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. Our staff have become popular presenters at Professional Church Worker Conferences on a wide range of topics related to church worker wellness.
Darrell Zimmerman, DMin
Executive Director and CEO
Darrell leads all of our programs, oversees all resource creation, and is the author of Reclaiming the Joy of Ministry. Darrell spent thirty years as a parish pastor and attended the first Grace Place retreat in 2000 with his wife Carol. It changed his life. Darrell found he’s a better preacher after a round of golf.More About Darrell
Dr. John Eckrich, MD
Founder and Executive Vice Chair for our Board of Directors
Dr. John is a speaker, author, and former internist and gastroenterologist. As a doctor, many of his patients were pastors and ministry workers suffering from the effects of stress. That led him to found Grace Place Wellness Ministries in 1999. Dr. John feels happiest when he’s spending time with his grandchildren and writing.More About Dr. John Eckrich
Director of Operations
Board of Directors
CEO, Thriving through Transitions
Attorney at Law, Spencer Fane LLC
Executive Vice President of Marketing and Sales at Pawz Dog Boots, LLC
Chairman, Outreach Board
Manager of Synod Relations, Lutheran Church Extension Fund