healthy leadership

Coping with Loneliness in Ministry

As I checked into the conference, a shadow of loneliness overcame me. It wasn't because I was by myself or far from home. My loneliness stemmed from the recent loss of leaving my parish. Leaving a ministry job can lead to unexpected losses. Departing on difficult terms left me feeling disconnected from a community I had loved and known for over a decade. People I trusted and thought I knew seemed to vanish. Moreover, there were those I pushed away, fearing I might hurt them or not know how to say goodbye. The profound loneliness had been building for a while. Ministry often makes it challenging to form deep relationships due to several reasons.

You Form Too Many Relationships

Regardless of the parish's size, ministry professionals interact with numerous people over the years. These relationships vary in depth, ranging from merely transactional to much deeper connections. The challenge lies in the sheer number of people we are connected to, limiting our capacity to form profound relationships with everyone. While being connected to many is not a bad thing, it can lead to losing the support and accountability found in a core group of friends and family, crucial in combating isolation and loneliness. Investing in specific individuals outside of the professional realm can be rewarding.

Your Position Precedes Your Personality

God does not expect perfection; He desires our true selves, scars, and all. Despite knowing this truth, we often feel compelled to maintain a facade of perfection for our parishioners and peers in ministry. This fear of showing our messy lives creates barriers and promotes isolation. While we don't have to share everything, embracing vulnerability is essential. Understanding that we are all works in progress and that others can learn from our stories can be freeing. No longer hiding allows us to realize we are not alone in our struggles.

Personal and Professional Faith Merge and Muddle

When our identity is tightly tied to our ministry position, we forget that we are disciples in need of spiritual growth. Relying solely on the retreats we lead, the Bible studies we organize, and the reflections we write for our spiritual formation is insufficient. Finding fulfillment outside of work is crucial. Joining Bible studies, small groups, or retreats not associated with our parish is okay. Seeking a spiritual director for guidance in our prayer life is encouraged. Letting others accompany us on our spiritual journey can deepen our relationship with the Lord and help combat loneliness.

Ministry professionals need not go through their journey alone. Seeking support from a spiritual director or therapist can be helpful for those struggling with loneliness. Additionally, networking with like-minded professionals at conferences and workshops can create meaningful connections.

At Marathon Youth Ministry, we offer cohorts for ministry leaders to grow together, rediscovering joy in their work. The focus is on helping leaders find their purpose and fulfillment in ministry. To learn more, visit our cohorts page HERE.

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