We may have all felt lonely at church, but overcoming isolation isn’t as impossible as it might feel. Keep reading for more information on the top causes of isolation in leaders and how to battle loneliness from a position of power.
Why Do We Feel Lonely in Leadership?
The Heaviness of Stress
The pressure of having the weight of other people’s well-being on your shoulders is incredibly stress-inducing. Leaders must make decisions, provide counsel, and show a good example to others, which feels incredibly heavy. This heaviness can become so crushing that it changes a person.
Conflict Within the Church
All jobs have ups and downs, and navigating through them is part of the challenge. But a study by Lifeway Research found that 80% of pastors expect to confront conflict at their church at some point in the future. Imagine the feeling of despair when people decide to leave the church, stating your leadership as the reason. All forms of conflict contribute to minister loneliness and isolation.
Distance for Discretion
As a pastor, you carry the weight of other people’s problems. A congregant might come to you with the terrible news of something that has happened in their personal lives, and it is your responsibility to hold that to yourself and respect their privacy, but as these build up and stack on top of one another, their weight builds.
Bible Study With an Agenda
Doing anything you love for a career can cause you to lose your passion for it. In the same way that a poet blessed with the art of beautiful writing skills might feel their spirit is crushed after accepting a corporate writing job, a pastor might miss reading the Bible purely for pleasure.
A Heroic Leadership Style
Many leaders feel like they need to be impenetrable. As church leaders have to show up and be strong every day, they end up feeling like they cannot show any weaknesses or they have failed. This is known as ‘heroic leadership,’ and it might be more damaging than useful. We are all human, even leaders.
How to Battle Loneliness as a Leader
Actively seeking a mentor is a surefire way of staying connected. Whether you choose a mentor who has no relationship to your church so you can keep those parts of your life separate or someone closer to home is up to you, but finding a like-minded mentor will give you someone else who is on your team. Read our blog for tips on finding the right mentor.
Don’t Be Afraid of Vulnerability
Despite what you might think, most people don’t want an impenetrable tough-as-nails seeming church leader. A person who can let their guard down and reveal a more vulnerable side of themselves but still lead with strength is a powerful leader. Don’t be afraid to share your life with your ministry – they are a part of your family.
Change Your Leadership Style
Consider the way that you are leading. Does it bring people together in a way that includes you, or are you inherently excluded from the community and connectivity that you play a part in building? Instead of seeing yourself as superior to or above your team, get involved in daily activities with them. Go on the team-building excursions and help out with the volunteers – get your hands dirty.
Follow the Model of Jesus
If you are lonely, give yourself some space in this tumultuous time to work on your bond with God. Pray more frequently, return to a state of reading the Bible for pleasure, and listen to His advice. Think about how Jesus led, surrounded by loving disciples with whom he shared his ideas and worries. As a leader in the church, you should follow the same principles.
Watch Out for Burnout
Some leaders don’t know when to switch off. They will endlessly accept more and more tasks, believing it is their duty. When the pressure keeps building but they don’t know when to stop, leaders can reach a place of burnout. This can leave you in a perpetual state of exhaustion, sucking your motivation to see friends or socialize, which adds to feelings of loneliness.
The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
A self-sacrificial mindset is present for many church leaders. Selflessness is a vital quality for people who are doing God’s work, but it only goes so far. Pastors can only give as much as they have, and an unhappy leader will not bring the same to the table as a satisfied person.
While some leaders isolate themselves from others, either intentionally or unintentionally, they run the risk of isolating themselves from God at the same time. If you are isolated in your ministry and are ready to make a change, why not start by reading some sermons on loneliness?
Bringing yourself closer to God in this moment of isolation will empower you to find a route out of the darkness. Your role as a pastor or leader is to build a community to look after your congregants, so why would you exclude yourself from it? You deserve to reap the benefits of your community just like everyone else.