Engaging views and analysis from outside contributors on the issues affecting society and faith today.

CP VOICES do not necessarily reflect the views of The Christian Post. Opinions expressed are solely those of the author(s).

Pastors, are you facing loneliness in ministry?

Unsplash/ Fahad Bin Kamal Anik
Unsplash/ Fahad Bin Kamal Anik

A pastor’s unwavering commitment to ministry and high leadership position can sometimes lead to unique challenges, including loneliness in ministry. The Lilly Ministerial Wellness Survey reveals that 65% of pastors sometimes feel isolated, without enough close friends they can rely on.* 

Pastors, do any of these statements resonate with you? If so, you’re not alone.

  • I’m not sure who I can trust and confide in. 
  • I’m often seen as a pastor rather than a person.
  • I don’t have time to develop deep friendships. 

During May’s Mental Health Awareness Month, we’re bringing light to the challenge of loneliness to offer hope and help mitigate the repercussions that can sometimes follow, such as depression and anxiety. 

Get Our Latest News for FREE

Subscribe to get daily/weekly email with the top stories (plus special offers!) from The Christian Post. Be the first to know.

“Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17, CSB).

Everyone — including pastors — needs close relationships for intentional discipleship, development and encouragement. 

Facing obstacles — with hope 

Three obstacles can contribute to isolation, interfere with deep friendships and lead to loneliness in ministry. We’re not intended to be alone; there are ways to overcome these challenges. 

1. A lack of trust 

Do you feel like you need to censor your words and feelings around others? It can be challenging to know if someone genuinely wants to be your friend or if they want your time because you’re their pastor. Pastors confirm this trust battle, with 38% reporting that finding true friendships is a struggle.

Connect with local pastors in your area. Because they share the same role, pastors are likely to understand the pressures and sensitive nature of the profession. They may be able to relate to the same things you’re experiencing and offer a compassionate, listening ear. 

Consider Christian counseling. This provides a space to express your struggles and receive professional, faith-based support. When selecting a health plan, find out if its network includes access to Christian mental health professionals. Sometimes, a Christian counselor of your choice may not accept insurance. In this case, you may still have the option to see that counselor and use funds from a Health Savings Account (HSA) to help pay for the visits. 

Lean on the Lord for friendship. He’s always available, always trustworthy and always ready to listen. He’s a relatable friend who sympathizes with our weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15). 

“You are my friends if you do what I command you” (John 15:14 CSB).

2. A void of friendships

Since pastors are known for faithfully helping people navigate life’s problems, others can fail to recognize that pastors have their own personal struggles. People can also set such high expectations for a pastor that perfection becomes the standard. Is it possible to be seen and known as a “real” person? 

Seek friendships outside your church. Join a group not tied to your ministry, such as a basketball club, pickleball group or book club. This can help create authentic connections based on interests outside your profession. 

Seek friendships inside your church. Do you avoid friendships inside your church because of a concern for perceived favoritism? Don’t confuse friendship with favoritism — a call to ministry is not a sentence to solitary confinement. You can and should have friends inside and outside of your church.

Be the participant. In social settings, such as church small groups, allow yourself to enjoy interacting as a participant instead of the leader. 

Let go of others’ expectations for perfection. Rest in your identity in Christ rather than outside pressure for perfection. 

3. A shortage of time

Being “on call” for urgent needs, in addition to a full week of other responsibilities, can leave little time for personal friendships that edify and refresh you. While time management is critical to protecting your health, family and friendships, 83% of pastors say they sometimes sacrifice their own well-being when doing ministry work.

Set boundaries and stick to them. Push back on unrealistic expectations and unhealthy schedules. This will allow time to develop deeper friendships, and you’ll model healthy priorities for your church. 

Let someone else take the lead. Church staff and volunteers are uniquely gifted to serve and build up the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-12). Delegate responsibilities according to these skills. You can’t — and shouldn’t — take on leadership alone.  

Keep the Sabbath. Our bodies, minds and souls are not designed to work seven days a week. Obey the command to rest and enjoy the Lord’s gift of rest and balance through time with him, family and friends. 

There is hope for the lonely pastor

There are resources for your well-being in all seasons of life, including times of loneliness in ministry. If you’re struggling with a mental health issue, there is help and hope. 

*2024 Lilly Ministerial Wellness Survey conducted by Grey Matter Research & Consulting.

Dr. Hance Dilbeck is the president and CEO of GuideStone. 

Was this article helpful?

Help keep The Christian Post free for everyone.

By making a recurring donation or a one-time donation of any amount, you're helping to keep CP's articles free and accessible for everyone.

We’re sorry to hear that.

Hope you’ll give us another try and check out some other articles. Return to homepage.

Most Popular

More In Opinion