The Lonely Pastor and 6 Ways to Dig Out

Loneliness is a deep ache in our soul and it doesn’t necessarily imply that we are physically alone. Some of the loneliest people in the world are surrounded by people. Even so, their deep ache of loneliness persists. If you’re a lonely pastor (or anyone for that matter) take heart from these thoughts.

Loneliness can make us feel…

  • isolated
  • sad
  • exhausted
  • unmotivated
  • unloved
  • even useless.

Pastors are no exception. Although our “job” is people and we’re around them all the time, we can be some of the loneliest people in the church. I once read that the man with the fewest male friends in the church is often the senior pastor.

So what can we do when loneliness overwhelms our soul? I don’t offer a neat prescription, but I’ve learned a few things that have helped me.

  1. Admit it. When you feel lonely, tell somebody. First, tell yourself. Then tell the Lord. And when appropriate, tell somebody else. Neuroscientists have discovered that admitting our negative emotions (labeling them) can actually lessen the strength of those emotions.
  2. Guard against ruminating over it. It’s natural to feel lonely sometimes. But if we mull over it for long periods of time the Enemy can turn it into depression, self-loathing, and self-pity. Rumination over negative experiences more deeply activates the emotional centers of our brains exacerbating the emotion and causing us to lose objectivity.
  3. However, the Lord may want to teach you something. Ask Him what lesson He wants you to learn through your loneliness.
  4. Read uplifting Scriptures and listen to uplifting music.
  5. Go and do something productive. Serve someone that won’t benefit your ministry. Smile at everyone you meet. Compliment the cashier at the grocery store. Take your son or daughter on a date. Invite someone in the church to lunch with you. When we do something productive the neurotransmitter dopamine increases in our brain and dopamine increases motivation and improves mood.
  6. Don’t do anything dumb. If you are married be careful about close relationships with someone of the opposite sex. Sharing your pain with someone of the opposite sex can lessen your inhibitions and unintentionally draw you into sexual activity that you will regret.

What has helped you move through loneliness?

POSTED ON September 18, 2017
  • Jim Munoz

    Very good advice. I pastored for nearly five years and I think one of the best ways to deal with loneliness is to have close relationships with the other male ministers in your church. Have a day a week or every other week where you guys get together for breakfast or a round of golf or a bible study. I believe we have structured our churches in such a way that we have set-up pastors for failure. The New Testament church should be structured in a way that gives the entire five-fold ministry equal footing in the church and those ministries should work together to build up the faith of the people of God. So much of what the modern day pastor deals with can be alleviated if he was willing to share equally the responsibility of managing the church. Unfortunately, pastoring in many cases in just another career choice. We need to get back to the bible. God bless you.

    Jim Munoz
    outoftheboxchristianity.com

Dr. Charles Stone is Lead Pastor at West Park Church in London, Ontario, Canada, and the founder of StoneWell Ministries, a pastor coaching and church consulting ministry. He is the author of four books including, People Pleasing Pastors: Avoiding the Pitfalls of Approval Motivated Leadership (IVP 2014) an Outreach.com recommended leadership resource, and his most recent book, Brain-Savvy Leaders: The Science of Significant Ministry”(Abingdon, May 2015). He blogs at www.charlesstone.com.