Part 3 of the Loneliness Series

On top of the recent U.S. Surgeon General’s report on the loneliness epidemic, Barna has revealed that pastors feel lonelier than ever. Because of this, more pastors have considered quitting their jobs in 2022 compared to a year earlier, citing stress and loneliness.

Do you relate?

“While feelings of loneliness and isolation have increased over the better part of a decade, pastors’ feelings of support from those around them have decreased.” (Barna)

What’s causing this spike, and what can we do about it? We need to know for our own sake and for the sake of the Kingdom. Two factors seem to emerge as leading causes for concern in the study — lack of real friendships and lack of time/poor time management.

Time and Trust

Pastors are increasingly having a difficult time developing true friendships. Only 17% of pastors ranked themselves as excellent at it in 2022.

“When it comes to having true friends, the data show that 20% of pastors in 2022 ranked themselves as below average in that area compared to 10% who did so in 2015. Another 7% ranked themselves as poor when it comes to having friends in 2022 compared to just 2% in 2015.” (Blair)

For anyone in a leadership position, such as a pastor shepherding a church, finding a life-giving band of brothers who relate to the demands of their calling can be challenging. Instead, friendships tend to center more on relaxation and downtime or revolve around discipleship scenarios. We need to find those who understand our mission and the joys and difficulties that come with that.

Part of the relationship difficulties pastors experience involve their marriages. I don’t have to tell you what kind of toll caring for others takes on your most intimate earthly relationship. The demand zaps our time, attention, emotional, and mental energy, leaving us empty at home.

Invest in your marriage. You have a building and maintenance fund for your church. You know that if you don’t attend to it regularly and care for needs as they arise, they will only multiply and worsen. You budget for it, assigning designated time for evaluation and dollars to fix the issues. Do you do the same for your marriage?

Rest for Resilience

Do you sabbath on your Sabbath?

Sabbatical can be “preventative health care,” and pastors who wait report loneliness and isolation. You care for the needs of others so much, it’s easy to forget about your personal growth.

Barna is on a mission to provide podcasts, books, roundtables, and cohorts with peers to support and encourage pastors to be resilient.

Re·​sil·​ient – capable of withstanding shock without permanent deformation or rupture.

We’re seeing pastors who want to quit now more than ever. 38% indicate they have considered quitting full-time ministry within the past year. More than half (56%) said “the immense stress of the job” was a huge factor behind their thinking. “Our desire is for pastors to be whole, healthy and ready to lead in fruitful and sustainable ministry for the coming decade.” (Barna)

Do you have enough spiritual and emotional bandwidth to recover from the next ministry disappointment? Our churches need pastors who persevere.

Resolution

One thing is for sure. We have to be intentional about relationships and rest. It’s not just going to happen. Self-care has taken on a worldly connotation in many contexts, but is it? Investing in your spiritual growth and well-being comes down to stewardship. God created us finite beings.

Ben Mandrell, president and CEO of Lifeway Christian Resources, says when thinking about improving personal lives and self-care, pastors should focus on their own humanity and rely on God to accomplish the work of the ministry. “We are human beings, not human doings. By choosing to ‘be’ and let God ‘do’ pastors can display His strength in their weakness—and be an encouragement to the people they serve.” (EARLS)

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

Read part 1part 2, and part 4 of the Loneliness Series.

Resources:

7-Year Trends: Pastors Feel More Loneliness & Less Support | Barna Group

Well-being of pastors drops significantly: study | Church & Ministries News

38% of U.S. Pastors Have Thought About Quitting Full-Time Ministry in the Past Year | Barna Group

Resilient Pastor Initiative | Barna Group

The Resilient Pastor book by Barna Resources

Are You a Resilient Pastor? – Lifeway Research Earls, AARON

Pastors Report Struggling With Time Management, Over-Commitment – Lifeway Research – Blair, Leonard

How Rest & Sabbath Can Strengthen Pastoral Well-Being | Barna Group

4 Ways to Invest in Your Marriage as a Pastor | Lifeway Research

For Pastors Who Want to Quit, Self-Care & Soul-Care Slip | Barna Group

Mike Young
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