By Scott Musselman
Pastors live in the midst of many people. But the secret is they are often lonely and depressed. Pastors suffer from a lack of friends.
Be honest, if you are a pastor, are you lonely? If you go to church, do you think your pastor may be lonely?
Not only is this an issue for the individual pastor, this is an issue for the congregation. Pastors carry a great deal of sensitive and private information within their souls. They can’t share that with a person from the church.
I was a part of a boundaries workshop recently. We chatted about the issue of whether pastors can have friends in the congregation. I am going to make a distinction. The people and the pastor must absolutely be friendly in many ways. We share life and faith together. We weep and we rejoice together. But I am convinced that pastors cannot have confidants in the church.
A confidant is a person with whom we share the depths of our souls. This is a person who will hear the totality of our frustration and pain, holding them confidential and with love. This, if you will, is a Friend (with a capital “F”).
I am fortunate. I have two pastor Friends from other churches and tribes. I have prayed with them every other Thursday for something like 15 years. We know each other’s heart. There is unconditional love and support. Our trust level could not be higher.
In fact, I am doubly blessed. I also have a person who has been my coach for a number of years. That is somewhat different. While a coach holds one accountable to your personal goals and passion, the confidant relationship is still there with total confidentiality, love, and positive encouragement. I cannot stress enough that every pastor should have a coach. Need one? Contact me.
Pastors must have a place to vent and be completely open. If they don’t have that, they are a time bomb. All that pent up energy is going to come out in a way that hurts them and others. When a pastor makes a mistake, it negatively impacts the congregation and even the community in which the church exists.
So I am making a case for six things a pastor needs to be healthy:
- Insist on spiritual time for reading the Bible and prayer.
- Exercise – not only for the weight on your scale, but for the weight on your shoulders.
- Regularly visit a doctor whom you trust.
- Find at least two confidants (Friends) outside the congregation.
- If life is stressful, take some time away – Jesus did.
- Get a coach who can help you traverse the muddy waters of church leadership (! cannot stress enough that every pastor should have a coach).
Pastors often have a need to be needed. They say they can’t take time off. They don’t have time to hang out with unchurched people. There are just too many folks wanting spiritual care and meetings. They say they can’t do something because someone may get upset and leave the church.
Remember, we follow Jesus. He kept his focus on the salvation of humanity with occasional tangents to heal people. He even let thousands of people walk away. Be the person God calls you to be.
You don’t have to be lonely and depressed. God doesn’t want that for you. God wants all His people, especially pastors, to experience His joy, love, and grace.
Scott Musselman is a consultant with the Effective Church Group.