While it is popularly believed that pastors are people persons, that isn’t always the truth. It is possible to make pastoral ministry, outside of Sunday morning, a solitary endeavor. It is possible for a pastor to become solitary by filling a week’s calendar with solitary events like study, reading, writing, and retreat. The truth is that the solitary pastor, and the church they lead, probably isn’t as effective as they could be at fulfilling the stated mission of the church. Ministry at its core is about people and so relationships are integral to its success; yet the relationships in the lives of many church planters and pastors only extend as far as the people they lead. These pastors are missing out on three vital things that closer personal relationships provide for any leader.
Men and women were created for relationship, this includes pastors. Pastors need the fellowship and camaraderie that comes through relationships with others. Every pastor can fill this need with a few close relationships. These relationships can be with clergy colleagues, other mature believers, or friends. When a pastor is isolated from the camaraderie and fellowship of others it can be a dangerous thing. The recent charismatic move toward clergy exaltation has exacerbated the isolation of pastors, as they are increasingly viewed as part of another “class” of Christian. This is tragic and detrimental to both pastoral leaders, the ministries they lead, and the cause of Christ.
There is nothing like sitting across the table from another person, whether in a restaurant or coffee shop, and engaging in dialogue about current events, life, or the Scriptures. When pastors isolate themselves from others for the sake of reading, writing, studying or any host of “worthy” endeavors they miss out on stimulation. Ministry is a public task that is performed in the context of the culture being served. In order for pastors to do this effectively, they need to engage in dialogue with others about what is happening around them. Without this stimulation pastors can believe that their particular opinion or interpretation of events is the only right path.
Everyone needs the accountability that comes in healthy relationships with other people. Pastors are not exempt from this fact. When pastors engage themselves in meaningful, nurturing relationships with other people a level of accountability can naturally develop. This, of the three benefits in this list, is often the scariest for clergy to attempt to engage. There are several reasons for this. Among the reasons that clergy may be apprehensive to accountability relationships are: cultural perception that clergy are above reproach, clergy fear of exposing frailties, and fear of losing control/authority.
Personally, I know that pressing to establish and maintain relationships with colleagues, key parishioners, and people in the community has benefitted me as a pastor and person. I have experienced the camaraderie, stimulation, and accountability that comes from the relationships that I have developed with each of these persons. While the relationships vary in depth and length, they all have value in my development and in keeping me focused as a leader.
Question: Do you feel isolated as a pastor? What are some other benefits you see or have received by pursuing relationships outside of Sunday morning? You can leave a comment by clicking here.