Where Have All the Pastors Gone?

You have all heard the statistics about the shortage of pastors, the number of pastors leaving the pastorate behind and the number of churches closing their doors.  They are the very driving force behind the church revitalization ministry we do.  YET I find myself not only seeing the reasons for these things happening but experiencing them myself!

Last year I had the pleasure of being visited by a cardinal almost every day.  No matter where I was in the house I could hear it calling out to me as it perched on the bush outside my living room window and sang out its sweet song.  occasionally I would even be blessed with the presence of its mate as they would serenade me together.  I looked forward to those visits right through the long cold winter.  Their companionship was a ray of sunshine to my heart and their song spoke to me when I felt the isolation of my life’s calling.

This year my companions are nowhere to be seen.  The longest, coldest winter we have had in many years and despite my longing to hear their joyful songs they have moved on.  Where did they go and why did they move on?  Even more importantly why do I miss them so?

Like these beautiful, joyful, bright birds pastors are seen as the light to their congregations.  The people who have it all together, who’s needs are met and their life is a song to God.  If this were true I do believe we would have so many pastors we would not know what to do with them all!  Our towns and cities would be filled with active ministries and our world would not lack the knowledge of Christ or the love they long for.

The truth is ministry is one of the loneliest places.  Yup I said it.  Most pastors hate to say it and don’t want the world to know how hard things are.  They know that if they show discontentment the congregation will get scared or the board will start wondering if they should be looking for a new pastor.  It makes it even lonelier when you can’t tell anyone how you feel out of fear.

Our family moves in ministry repeatedly to go where the churches are who would like our help, our housing is donated and the churches we work in change often.  Loneliness comes with change and pastors often move also. But the reality is the loneliness experienced in ministry comes in the midst of great busyness and when surrounded by the family of God.  When in the midst of the crowd finding someone to confide in, share from the heart and trust not to judge you, not to talk about you, not to criticize you but to love you unconditionally, encourage and build you up is nearly impossible.  Pastors rarely find a deep, close friend and even rarer is to find one who understands your life, your burdens and your call.  After all how can you tell people you are supposed to be helping that you need a friend and someone to help you carry the burden without being judged.  When you express your humanity through fears, anger, disappointment and discouragement people translate it as failure and lose confidence in you. I get it.  Your job is to help. Period.  Forget being human or feeling those things.  Pastor means super human – with a direct line to God and that means all is well.

I can hear a few of you pastors out there chuckling right now as you relate to this truth.  If only we all had the confidence for a pastors support group.  Hi – I am pastor Maren – I get discouraged and lonely from time to time.  Hi pastor Maren!  🙂

The truth is you are not alone!  Many a pastor has left the church because of loneliness and discouragement.  Many have stayed to the point of ruining their marriages and their health.  I decided to write this because we need each other – people in ministry need people in ministry to be real with – to encourage, support and pray with each other.  We need to step through fear and tear down pride coming together in our callings to serve the body of Christ by helping each other to do it.

Pastors need pastors!  There I said it!  Pastors need friends and mentors.  We need to be pastored as much as our sheep need to be pastored.  Young pastors need older pastors, experienced pastors need more experienced pastors.  We need to make friends with people our own age who get what is going on in our world.  Small churches need the help of bigger churches.  Connection needs to happen.  Pastors – find ways to set yourself up for success, meet other pastors, connect, be real with each other and set time aside to be pastored.  Connect with bigger, healthy churches, share resources and materials, help lessen each others burdens.  Call and check on your friends from Bible College, take the time for coffee and prayer, use Skype if you have to.

If you have been there or are there then don’t become a statistic, a pastor who fades because of lack of support and don’t wait for it to come to you.  Find people to connect with, find your encouragers and build your support team.  If you are a pastor who has a great friend – thank God.

Congregation please pray for your pastors, love them, extend grace and don’t be afraid to be their friend and love them. Pastors – take the time to pastor other pastors!

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