I'm Lonely

I'm finding that ministry is generally pursued in isolation. I have to admit that I do at times feel like I'm in competition with other area churches and their pastors. I compare myself and my congregation to others. But why?

Does ministry have to be so lonely? Do I really have to labor with no one else to encourage and support me? Can't we as pastors find ways to support each other?

Does anyone else struggle with loneliness?

Comments for I'm Lonely

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Lonely
by: Anonymous

I hear you! What I am about to write may not have anything to do with you, but it was my experience.

For a long time in ministry I thought I had to be close to perfect. Problem was, I'm not anywhere near perfect, so this effort was a dance with deception from the beginning, and ended up isolating me more and more. I had to keep people at a distance.

Getting together with pastors? For me it ended up always being a complaining session. No real help there either.

What finally helped me get past my loneliness and immense stress was going back to my first love: the Lord. He is the Vine; we are the branches. He is the perfect One; I am a follower. He is the Savior. I am not. And .... He loves me just the way I am! I don't need to be perfect, and even attempting to be perfect ignores the reality of my sin and His love for me.

It's much easier to just be me! A stinking (but loved!) sinner, saved by grace, embraced by the Father, filled with the Spirit, and pointing people to Jesus. Praise God!

My attempted perfection pushed people away. Being transparent draws people closer. People are attracted to other, real people!

And my loneliness now? Almost non-existent because:
1) I am closer to the Lord than ever before. By getting up early in the morning and admitting my need for him (and ONLY Him) the Lord fills my heart with the love, joy and peace only he can give;
2) I have the joy of being in 4 bible study groups during the week ... and I prepare nothing for the studies! We simply move through different books of the bible. Some weeks we may cover 4 verses, other weeks 14 verses and more. Mostly it is a bunch of regular folks talking about how good God is and what He is teaching all of us (including the pastor!). Who made the rule that we as pastors can't be close to the people in the congregation?? If we are all disciples of Jesus, though with different roles, what makes me "holier" than anybody else? It was a distinction I created and maintained, not the lay people.
3) I have never been closer with my family.

Authenticity with God, with others, and with your family. For me, I had to drop what I thought people expected me to be, so that I could rest and be at peace with the person God created me to be. Only the Lord can give us the courage to take off the masks and just be ourselves.

A really cool result is that this gives permission for others to relax and be themselves as well. I hope the Lord can use my journey to help you in yours. He loves you just the way you are. Thank you, Lord!!

Dear Lonely
by: Anonymous

Dear Lonely,

I pastored for 25 years, retired, am 53 and still lonely. Pastoring is the loneliest profession I have ever known with little to no support. I suggest you talk to your family. I think the loneliness comes from believing you have to have the answers for everyone else's life, state them succinctly, with SCriptural references, while the questions to your own life, remain non-existent, un challenged, and unanswered. You "parrot" answers to others, because that is what you have been taught/learned and this feels unsatisfying because you know life is not that neat and cannot fit into little Scripture verses. Many of life's questions, big and small remain unanswered. you are afraid to admit that. You feel like a phony/hypocrite giving everyone else 'the answers" complete with bible commentary while inside the isolation grows larger. That is because you are not attending to your own soul.You probably have no close friends or mentors. My advice? stop answering questions and start using the Socratic Method: answer a question with a question. for instance: when someone asks you, "why does a loving God permit so much suffering?" you can say, "why does a loving God permit so much suffering Ashley,?" "What do you think Ashley?" In this way, the question goes back to the one asking it. Or to the group. Then, you don't have to be the Bible Answer Man or Woman. You don't have to have all the answers. you don't have to ask all the questions. This might take some of the feelings of isolation away. Often, when you become the Bible Answer Man the feeling of being isolated increases as you once more step up on that soapbox above everyone else with all the answers. Get off the soapbox, climb down off the pedestal. Be like Jesus. He was one with the crowd. Sit in a circle all together as equals. Equality in Christianity means: I am just one in this circle. One equal voice. The loneliness comes from being on the pedestal. Being up above others with this "phony" persona you are forced to establish as "the leader." I have found much more wisdom in youth groups or groups of children than I ever found in seminary. These kids are more profound than adults. Stop being the Bible Answer Man and just enjoy these kids. Elizabeth+

The one man ministry
by: Steve

I am a pastor that works with youth at risk teen. I Sheppard over three facilities, doing chapel services, bible studies, personal care, etc. I have had volunteers occasionally but they never stick around too long.
I have around 85 youth to minister to and theirs one of me! I relate to the lonely part of ministry! Any suggestions to this one man ministry?

Try Barnabas Ministires
by: Cathy Gates (Renewingtheflame.com)

Isolation is a common problem for pastors. In fact about 70% of pastors don't have anyone that they can confide in. Barnabas Ministries based in New England helps pastors come together in small group communities as friends in order to decrease the isolation. They have groups in New England states, Florida and western Michigan that I am aware of. They may have more. Check out their web site at http://www.barnabasministriesinc.org/
Isolation is one of the risk factors for burnout so you are on the right track in trying to find a supportive community.

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