As a former pastor who still talks with, serves, and coaches pastors on a daily basis, I can tell you, I am seriously concerned for the emotional state of our churches pastors. It is not an exaggeration to say that I don’t know of a single pastor who has not considered quitting over the past 6 months. Ministry can be extremely rewarding. But it is also incredibly draining and painful, at times.
As I talk with pastors, I hear the same five hurtful realities over and over again. It is not surprising. I personally battled all five of these pains, and that was pre-Covid!
I admit, my experience is a relatively small sample size (about 15-20 pastors), but I think you would be hard-pressed to find a pastor who hasn’t dealt with all of these feelings at some point in their ministry. In fact, the chances are your pastor is battling one or more of these right now.
Research shows that 70% of pastors experience loneliness and have no close friends they can trust with personal matters. Notice, it’s not that they have experienced loneliness at some point in ministry, but that they are currently experiencing it. This was pre-Covid, folks! Whatever loneliness your pastor was feeling prior to the Corona chaos has only been magnified.
There isn’t a pastor I know of who prefers preaching to a camera to preaching to people in person. I don’t know any pastor who would rather have a Zoom meeting than meet at the local coffee shop. Most pastors got into ministry because they love people. You take the people away and… and…
It’s intensely lonely.
Almost every pastor thinks their ministry will be bigger than it is. That’s not necessarily an ego problem. No pastor gets into ministry thinking, “I hope I reach absolutely no one.” Most pastors just feel like God has called them to reach as many people as possible with the Good News and they have the audacity to believe that God will actually empower them to do it.
Then He doesn’t.
Or, at least not how, when, and where they had hoped.
Meanwhile, the church across town, the speakers on the conference stage, and the authors of the books are all thriving with much “more significant” ministries. Many of them are doing the exact same things your church and pastor are doing but with much more spectacular results.
It’s enough to make your pastor question his leadership, gifts, and calling.
Betrayal sounds like such a strong word, doesn’t it? That’s what Judas did to Jesus. Or what a cheating spouse does to their marriage partner. But good Christian folk don’t do that to pastors, do they?
Betrayal is the breaking or violation of trust or confidence that produces moral and psychological conflict within a relationship.
Whether true or perceived, pastors feel betrayed when:
- A leader they have depended upon decides to leave the church.
- A person or family they have ministered to for years accuses them of not doing enough for them.
- A church member attacks their character.
These are just a few minor examples that all pastors deal with from time to time.
The result is a feeling of being betrayed — like you’ve poured your life into someone and they’ve poured it all out on the floor while asking for more.
It hurts. Bad.
If the people who leave are particularly close to the pastor and/or have been with the pastor for a long time, this can lead to feelings of abandonment — like you’re all alone holding up the weight of ministry.
People you trusted have left.
Leaders who shared the burden of ministry are gone.
Families whose children were your kids friends aren’t any more.
Right now, I don’t know a single pastor who hasn’t had a valued member leave the church during this pandemic. Either the pastor is too strict or not strict enough with wearing masks and social distancing. So they’re gone.
Honestly, it doesn’t matter if it’s just one person out of 100. It still stings. It leaves you feeling all alone, questioning if what you’re doing even really matters.
The majority of pastors are extremely stressed, overworked, underpaid, and completely worn out. When you take this into consideration, it should come as no surprise that 70% of pastors constantly battle depression. You can spiritualize it all you want, but I don’t care who you are. If you felt lonely, insignificant, betrayed, and abandoned, then you would likely be depressed, too!
Encourage your pastor
October is “Pastor Appreciation Month,” but you don’t need a calendar to encourage your pastor. In fact, if you only appreciate your pastor one Sunday a year, he or she is likely to not feel very appreciated at all!
- Send them periodic notes, texts, or emails letting them know how much you appreciate all that the pastor’s family does for the church and community.
- Watch your pastor’s kids or hire a babysitter so your pastor and spouse can go out on a date.
- Give your pastor and unexpected Sunday off where they don’t have to do anything or even be there at all!
Don’t worry. Your pastor is not going to get a big head if you throw some encouragement his or her way. In fact, it’s going to take an awful lot of encouragement to overcome the feelings of insignificance your pastor likely has. So don’t hold back! Let the encouragement flow freely.
Need some good ideas? Check out https://blessyourpastor.org/ for more reasons and ideas for blessing your pastor.
A word to pastors
Pastor, you were not meant to do this alone. Other pastors are struggling with many of the same burdens you are. Reach out to another pastor today. Be the encourager. Don’t super-spiritualize it. Be transparent. Vulnerable. Real.
If you struggle with any of the above issues ongoing then you should also see a good Christian counselor. I can personally vouch for how soothing Christian therapy has been for my soul. At the very least, it will give you a place where you can share all of your burdens uninhibited by the fear of repercussions.
Lastly, I’m not a counselor and I don’t have the gift of encouragement, but I am a pastor who has walked this road for a long time. Feel free to schedule a Zoom call with me if you would like to chat about this or anything else. I’d love to be of service to you.
“So encourage each other and build each other up…” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)