Pastoring Can Be Lonely—What Can Be Done?

From my experience, those in ministry leadership are some of the loneliest people

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 every day.

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 shoulders—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 of 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.

Ron Edmondson
Ron Edmondson is a pastor and church leader passionate about planting churches, helping established churches thrive, and assisting pastors and those in ministry think through leadership, strategy and life. Ron has over 20 years business experience, mostly as a self-employed business owner, and he's been helping church grow vocationally for over 10 years.