New Life Counseling: The Solitary Shepherd

“How can someone who is surrounded by people all the time be so lonely?” That was the question asked by someone in the audience after I gave a presentation on how to care for your pastor. The answer is less complex than one might think. Loneliness has nothing to do with the number of people around a person. It has to do with the depth of the relationship one has with others.

Pastors and church ministry staff generally find joy in the work of shepherding the local flock. Their sense of calling energizes and directs their ministry from day to day. But this calling carries with it a great burden. I find it interesting how the Apostle Paul expressed himself as he penned his second letter to the church at Corinth. He listed a number personal experiences which included threats of death, beatings and floggings, shipwrecks, being adrift in the open sea and sleep deprivation, just to name a few. He finally adds, “Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches” (2 Cor. 11:28).

Local church ministers are people too. Like the rest of us, their energy is spent on raising a family and cultivating a deeper relationship with their spouse. They spend time balancing the family budget, helping their kids with homework and learning how to do their own home repairs. Some of them care for aging parents and ponder quietly what their own advanced years will bring. In addition to all of this, they face daily the concern for the spiritual well-being of the people in the church and community they are called to serve.

It’s not for the faint of heart, and one needs to be called to this work. Unfortunately, the pastor or church staff member does not always believe it’s safe to share their stresses or struggles with those to whom they minister, and a sense of loneliness can set in. This circumstance can lead to feeling much like what David felt when he exclaimed, “Look to the right and see, there is no one who regards me, there is no escape for me, no one cares for my soul” (Psalm 142:4).

Leader Care is a service of New Life Counseling, a ministry of Arizona Baptist Children’s Services. Its mission is to provide hope and care to church staff members and their families through Christ-centered support. Six Leader Care Facilitators, located in each region of the state, are busy providing personal and confidential support and friendship to church staff members. Each facilitator has many years’ experience in local church ministry and understands what it’s like to serve there. Their person-to-person ministry has literally helped hundreds of church staff members stem the tide of loneliness. Ask your pastor if he has had contact with one of our facilitators – chances are, he has. If not, encourage him to visit our site for helpful resources and more information.