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Get Into Relationship and Community

Several years ago we did a series of blogs based on the Notre Dame “Flourishing in Ministry” research and writing. It spoke of having:

  • A coach or mentor for the “I’ve Never Been Here Before” moments.
  • A champion in the church body or network that knows you and demonstrates appreciation for your leadership and sacrifice. And says: “Thank you.” “What you’re doing is important.”
  • Relationships inside the congregation and outside the congregation that support you and encourage you whether you’re considered by yourself or others as “successful.”

Funny thing, I process those things very personally!

I spent too many early years not seeking a coach or mentor because I didn’t want to embarrass myself that I didn’t have all of the answers! How smart is that?

I remember when Gail and I were in some of the most difficult of “change challenges” when the resistance was the greatest, wondering if anybody, anywhere even cared about us or what we were doing in our “Can Anything Good Come Out of Nazareth” western suburb of Chicago.

Relationships… Ah, my saving grace. I was blessed with a couple of folks in the congregation and a couple pastors outside the congregation who relentlessly demonstrated that they cared about us whether people were supportive and enthusiastic (which happened a lot in 25 years) or a vocal set was clearly displeased that I voted for the mission of God over serving their interests.

So, this week’s installment from the Barna research is sobering! Or, as CEO David Kinnamon declared, “Grim.”

Before Covid in 2015, 42% of pastors said they sometimes or frequently felt lonely and isolated!

In 2022… after Covid… 65% similarly identified as lonely and isolated!

A 23% jump! A full 18% identifying as frequently feeling lonely and isolated!

And, in 2015 68% of pastors said they frequently felt well supported by people close to them.

Post Covid, in 2022, the number of pastors frequently identifying as well supported by people close to them dropped to 49%!

Again, nearly a 20% drop.

Keep in mind, very few people in a congregation have any grasp of the demands that a pastor or pastoral household is juggling!

Isolation! Loneliness! Not feeling well-supported! 

…does not signal well for a pastor that can gather a congregation around fulfilling the Mission of God in their community!

Undoubtedly, those are among the reasons why pastors and spouses almost always flourish and mature as gifted leaders in PLI Learning Communities around the world and in the United States!

I asked a regional judicatory leader about his own pastor’s experience with his wife in starting PLI. He was told, “Phenomenal!”

So, several thoughts:

  1. Pastors! Part of your own leadership of self is to get yourself (and your spouse if you’re married) into relationship and community—to not be isolated! Funny thing, when you’re in that spot it seems like a more monumental task than it would at other times.

    I went through a prolonged season somewhere in my early years when I just felt depressed. Depressed in some ways because I measured my worth by my performance. Sermon went well! I’m ok. Disappointed with the sermon—especially when I preached 3 or 4 times on a weekend— I’m not so good and depressed.

    In that elongated season, I remember being depressed. Probably feeling sorry for myself. And it was an overwhelming task to simply take the trash can to the street on Monday evening to be picked up!

    So, pastor, lead thyself. Fix thyself is not always so easy!

  1. For church leaders who are not staff or pastor: How are we doing with caring for our pastor? If you missed it, read my friend Tim Fangemeier’s interview and gain a few insights.
  1. I met with a young pastor couple last spring, asking how things were going. I knew it was a difficult congregation. They were relatively new and excited to have the opportunity to be in PLI (a person unbeknownst to them had gifted a scholarship for their tuition and several others). My heart was warmed when they named a leader-couple in the congregation nearing retirement that takes them out to dinner once every month or two, pays for a babysitter and simply says, “Thank you. How are you doing? We appreciate you.”

How good is that? 

So, no matter your position in reading this there’s an actionable item for you to take. What is God prompting and what could/should you do? 

One Response

  1. Katie says:

    I’d be curious to know if there are surveys like this if pastor’s spouses. Have similar views or feelings changed dramatically on spouse’s side, too?

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