We each have our private struggles and discouragements, but we sometimes expect our leaders to be immune to the challenges that come with careers, relationships, and families. Sadly, the people meant to encourage and equip believers sometimes do so out of their own lonely and dark spaces. Our pastors and ministry leaders struggle, sometimes quietly, with loneliness, doubt, and making sure their lives reflect the words they preach.
We recently asked local pastors to talk about the biggest challenges they face in their personal lives, considering things like friendship, family, health, and emotional life. Their responses present a stark contrast to the image we often have of charismatic leaders in our local congregations.
Apart from some minor edits to ensure confidentiality, we’re sharing a few of their responses below. If you’re part of a local church, pray for your pastor and leadership team, and look for ways to address these challenges. After all, churches likely won’t thrive without healthy, thriving pastors. If you’re a pastor or ministry leader, join us at our upcoming summit where we’ll dive in to many of these topics.
1. We often face perennial discouragement and loneliness which can lead to hiddenness and increased vulnerability to temptation.
2. It’s hard finding community and encouragement by peers or mentors outside of the church – someone who can pour into pastors and care for our souls.
3. This isn't really different than any non-pastor parent would face, but I think pastors feel greater expectations and responsibilities to be the perfect parents; after "parenting" a congregation for 40 hours a week, we often lack the energy to give at home.
4. It feels like we can’t clock out: calls, texts, emails, and burdens bleed over into personal life.
5. I often struggle with making my journey of faith personal. I'll sense a nudge from the spirit and automatically break it down into three application points for my next sermon. I'll read scripture and apply it to others lives, but not my own. It's no wonder I don't spend a lot of time in Scripture these days.
6. There’s a disconnect between living out personally and privately what we preach and espouse publicly.
7. Isolation is the root cause of a great many challenges that pastors face. Because of our role, pastors often can't or don't pursue authentic relationships of vulnerability and trust. This makes the other struggles we experience more damaging, because we often face them alone.
8. There is a palpable loneliness that is intrinsically related to the profession and the stratospheric demands we place upon it as evangelical Americans.
9. Friendships are a struggle. A true, deep, lasting friendship usually doesn't come from within a congregation, but that's where a pastor spends most of their time. Where are friends supposed to come from?
10. Pastors have strange jobs. There is no other job that I know of that is quite like being a clergyperson. This makes us feel like others can't relate. Relationships with other pastors seem to be difficult, so we often don't end up with many (if any) healthy relationships in which we feel understood.
Reflecting on these responses, I’m reminded of Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus as a prayer for our pastors and ministry leaders:
“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:14–19, ESV)
If you know a pastor or ministry leader who faces similar challenges, we’d love to invite them to our “Thriving Churches, Thriving Cities” ministry leaders summit, coming up on Tuesday, Oct. 24. Share this article as an invitation with your pastor and church staff!
Dustin previously served as the director of communications for Denver Institute of Faith & Work, with prior communications and marketing experience at the University of Colorado Boulder and Wycliffe Bible Translators. He holds an M.A. in Communication from the University of Colorado Denver and a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Florida. He and his family attend Storyline Church in Arvada.