Some Thoughts on Addressing the Loneliness of a Pastor

Pastoring can be lonely.

As a pastor, I’m supposed to find my strength in Christ, (and you have to know how helpful it is to be reminded as if those who are not pastors are not commanded to do likewise 🙂 ) and I do seek Christ as my ultimate strength. I teach the Bible regularly, however, the Bible says we are to “bear with one another“. God didn’t design us to do life alone. This goes for pastors also.

From my experience, those in ministry leadership are some of the loneliest people. I hear from them everyday.

I was talking with a young pastor recently. He said, “Who is going to invest in me?”

I understand the sentiment. He is struggling for answers he can’t seem to find — practical answers. People are looking to him for leadership and seminary didn’t teach him all he needs to know. I think every good leader asks that at same question — hopefully often.

Later in the week, I talked to an older pastor. He said, “I go home most days and haven’t heard a single positive word. Things are going great. We are growing faster than ever, but it seems I get far more of the negatives than I get to hear of the good we are doing.”

All I could do was agree. I’ve felt that way before many times.

When the weight of ministry responsibility appears to rest on your shoulder – when everyone looks to you for the answer – when some days you don’t know which direction to turn – when you are balancing the demands of ministry and family – when you are seen as a key in helping everyone with a problem hold their life together – yet you feel no one is concerned about your personal struggles – and you don’t know who to trust —

What do you do during those seasons of ministry?

You remember God’s words of encouragement.

Cast your cares upon the Lord because He cares for you.

Yes, this is the first answer.

Next, find a mentor. You find someone who is walking further down the road from you, but going in the direction you want to go. I’ve written extensively about this, but you can start HERE.

And then regularly:

Surround yourself with a few pastors at the same level you are organizationally. (If it’s a pastor, youth minister, etc.) It seems to work best if the churches are similar in size and structure. They’ll best understand.

Work to develop a close enough relationship with them, over time, where you can trust them. You may have to spend some of your free time and even travel to do this. Learn from each other, seek wisdom from more seasoned people together, and grow together in the ministry.

Consistently share burdens, concerns, and encouragements with each other. You can do this occasionally in person, but more frequently over the phone or online. Chances are they need this as much as you do, so be the one to take the initiative.

I hear what some pastors are thinking, because it has been said to me so many times. You often think those groups aren’t there for you. You’ve tried before and couldn’t find them.

To this I would say:

  • Keep trying. It’s worth it.
  • Treat this like any other friendship. It takes commitment and has to be a balance of give and take.
  • Be willing to be vulnerable.
  • Risk the rejection to extend an offer for friendship.
  • Use social media, denominational leadership, recommendations from others to find these pastors — whatever if necessary. (This has been one of the greatest benefits of social media for me, by the way.)

Some of these relationships I have had to develop outside my own city. I’ve found they are valuable enough to justify the time and financial investment required.

Please know I’m praying for you pastors. 

Pastor, help other pastors by commenting with how you handle the loneliness of leadership. 

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Ron Edmondson

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  • […] Lonely days in leadership will come. I wrote about them HERE. I also addressed this issue for pastors HERE. […]

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  • Keith Glover says:

    Ron, You have written this post and touched upon the passion of my life…as someone who has been in several different roles in ministry leadership, I understand. My life's mission is to be an encouragement to pastors/ministry leaders at http://www.pastor2pastors.com. I am forming a partnership with Energize Ministries to be able to help train an entire nation of Christians to do something today to encourage their own pastor(s). The loneliness you speak of is at epidemic proportions in the church, and we must help these servant leaders understand that it is NOT selfish to take care of yourself, so that you can better take care of those to whom God has called you. I
    One of my goals is to form Master Pastor groups for each segment of ministry…and simply do some group coaching over the phone encouraging those who take part in the calls to continue on with a group of peers for encouragement. I also have a goal in working with http://www.energizeministries.com to help train Inner Church Reps (ICR) to be the Chief Encouragement Officer of the church for the pastor and staff. They will constantly remind the congregation of the immense pressure and loneliness facing the Pastors/ministry staff and suggest small ways to provide ongoing, proactive support and encouragement for Pastors. Check out http://energizeministries.com/get-involved/refres… to find ways you can refresh and encourage your pastor today!
    Thanks for all you do to encourage the pastors God places in your path…I have passed along your blog to several of my clients!
    Blessings,
    Keith

  • Kevin says:

    I have been blessed to have been involved in a pastor's peer group for five years at my former ministry. This group was a covenant group of 10 to 14 pastors that were used by God to help keep me in ministry. The group was originally birthed by an emphasis from our national ministry partner and a Lily Leadership Grant. But it worked because all of the pastors truly committed to some of the same principles that you list in your blog: be vulnerable, use social media (that was email and texting for the most part), and keep trying and stay committed. The biggest factor was that we made a new covenant each year. As part of that covenant, we pledged to be at the meeting unless there was a death in the church or other significant emergency. It was a powerful group that is still functioning for the pastors in that area.
    Now, God has brought me a more individual mentor that is good for this season of my life and ministry. It much less formal, but very powerful.
    I wish every pastor could have these wonderful gifts!

  • ronedmondson says:

    Thanks Michael. You're right. Obviously my blog is geared towards ministry, but the principles are often universal since it all deals with people.
    Twitter: Ronedmondson

  • I feel this way to some extent as a Sunday School teacher. I'm blessed to have great men in my church who invest in me, but teaching is often a thankless position.
    I've gotten to the point now where I pray for encouragement. I'll just be honest with God that I need it. Sometimes people will say nice things to me. Sometimes God reminds me of those mountain-top experiences of the past. Other times he'll remind me that his grace is enough. But I've found freedom when I opened up the door to asking.

  • Rodney says:

    I'm bothered by the fact that pastors have to reach out to other pastors in order to have close friendships, accountability, and support because they are generally unable to find it in their congregations. I'm not bothered by the fact that you said that was the case, but by the fact that what you said is all too true. Don't you think this indicates that there is something wrong with the role pastors are being made to fill in the church today? I believe ministers are too often set apart from the rest of "the flock" as some kind of professional Christian, when we should all be working together and fulfilling the roles God has called us to. The pastor's role as a leader and / or speaker is no more or less "spiritual" than anyone else's. The idea that the pastor is "different" only serves to set him apart and isolate him. That doesn't help him or the people he ministers to.

    • ronedmondson says:

      I agree with you. It is sad. I'm glad to currently be in a very healthy church and some of my best friends are in the church. 🙂

      Twitter: Ronedmondson

  • cherylstevensfl says:

    Pastor Ron.. I know this addresses pastors and you made mention of the word "leaders" several times.. this is SOOO important for women who have leadership roles in the church as well. Just tossing that out there. Thanks for your ministry-

    • ronedmondson says:

      I agree with you and I actually started this post just to leaders. I keep remembering than in my most recent blog survey, over 60% of my readers are pastors. Many times I write to that audience knowing others will also agree. I'm trying to write a book and the "experts" keep telling me to focus my audience and I'll writer better posts, but that others will still benefit. Thank you.
      Twitter: Ronedmondson

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