This may come as a shock to people who go to church– but being a church leader is a very lonely job. Sure, if you work in a church with a large staff it probably isn’t that lonely since you have co-workers who can become friends. But by-and-large, friends are hard to come by for ministers.
Loneliness is a major issue for church staff.
- It’s hard to be friends with parishioners. Kristen and I have been fortunate in this regard, but by-and-large it is really hard to truly be friends with people in your church. You can be acquaintances, but you’ll never get to the point where you can go out for a laugh (or a beer) and lament about work sucking. (or just share “real life.” You have to be guarded.)
- It’s hard to find people wired like you. Even in large cities, there aren’t many people wired quite like a pastor.
- It’s hard to be friends since work hours are weird. I’ve not met a person who worked in a church who kept 9-5 type hours. It’s always that plus a bunch of nights out… randomly scattered. Makes it tough to be friends.
- It’s hard to have a life outside of the four walls of a church. The reason so much is said and written about balance and rest for church workers is that they suck at balance and resting! The job is just too demanding.
- Understand that this isn’t optional. For your long-term health as a minister in the community, you require friendships. (Not church acquaintances) You require true friendship outside of the church, in your local community.
- Seek permission from your supervisors. This sounds like a silly step, but you may need to hear “get a life” from your boss or board to make this a reality. If they’ve been a leader in the church for a while they will know that if you have good friendships locally you are more likely to stay in the community a lot longer. But if you are lonely, you will be a poor leader and in your boredom you’ll start looking for a job elsewhere.
- You aren’t in ____, so get over it. I know you are probably from somewhere you liked better. And you have friends who are in those places. That’s not helping you. Get over it and get to know some people in your community. God planted you where you are, He is smarter than you are, you need to suck it up and make friends.
- Do something outside the church. How did I make friends when I was in full-time church ministry? I volunteered to coach the golf team, I joined a golf league, a started participating in local politics. I wasn’t looking for 1,000 friends, just a few people who didn’t go to my church that I could be “just Adam” with and not “Pastor Adam.”
- Meet up with your long-time best friends once per year. Meet up at a conference, go away hunting, go on vacation together, go visit them for the Holidays… just do something where for a few days you can be with your long-time friends.