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One is the Loneliest Number

Posted: 10/19/19 at 8:40am. Column by Ed Jordan.

A few days ago our church had a Pastor Appreciation luncheon for my wife and me. It was a fun day, and we enjoyed the blessing of love. 

I hope that you regularly attend a church near you and that you realize the value and worth of having a pastor and his or her family to bless you and your family with ministry and support.  

During October in my column, I have been addressing some of the stresses that people encounter which are difficult to bear.

While these are often the stresses pastors encounter, they are relevant to you as well, because in this fallen world we all encounter unpleasant circumstances or situations as well as the emotional pain that accompanies them.  

One of the painful scenarios that humans encounter is lonelinessLoneliness is a feeling of isolation and being alone.

Loneliness is a feeling of isolation and being alone.

In the Creation accounts of Genesis chapters 1-3, God’s crowning creative act was the creation of humans. First there was Adam, and then God saw “that it was not good for the man to be alone,” so God made Eve to share life with Adam. Loneliness has been with us a long time.   

Now, I realize that there are some people who prefer to be single, and that is fine. But all of us still crave some form of companionshippeople to interact with, laugh with, or talk with.

We need others to share our hopes, dreams, hurts, or doubts with. This is a good thing. Sometimes just knowing that you have someone to help you sort out your thoughts can be helpful.

Moral support, or a listening ear, can go a long way to help destress us.    

When we see a pastor, or their mate, or others involved in leadership activities, participating in a flurry of seemingly unending functions, events, and projects, we often totally dismiss the idea that they might be experiencing loneliness.

In The Secret Pain of Pastors by Philip Wagner, the statistics state that 70% of pastors feel that they don’t have a close friend. It seems like a shocking statistic, but when one understands the complexity of a pastor’s life and work (or the family’s unique pressures), it is probably very accurate.        

Why is the percentage so high? Are pastors unlikeable?

Not at all. There are many reasons for such a high rate of isolation and loneliness. Pastors don’t have normal lives nor work schedules.

As a pastor, any plan you make is likely to be bumped by unexpected crises, and personal plans must give way to the needs of another.   

Developing friendships takes frequent get-togethers, which are hard to fit into an already full schedule. Spending more time with particular people can sometimes ruffle the feathers of others you are not spending so much time with. Furthermore, some subjects are understandably off limits.  

So it is no wonder that pastors and their mates often feel alone, lonely, and overwhelmed. So what can be done?

If you are a pastor, find another pastoral friend you can meet with for lunch or just a talk. Schedule at least one day off each week and unless there is a sudden death on that day, try to stick to it.

Develop relationships with folks with whom you have other things in common beyond church stuff; doing some things together lets you destress, laugh, and be yourself.

Take care of your family. Write in appointments with your mate and/or children, and don’t let other engagements encroach on them unless it is unavoidable.   

Realize that Jesus knows everything you are going through. He couldn’t talk about some things with the disciples, because they wouldn’t understand. Talk to Jesus about those things.

Find some personal promises that you can go to when you are hurting, such as Hebrews 13:5 (CSB) which says: Keep your life free from the love of money. Be satisfied with what you have, for He Himself has said, I will never leave you or abandon you. 

Focus on what you have (faithful Jesus, who is everything), instead of what you don’t have. You may not have many deep friends, but you have the one friend who is worth all the friends in the world, and he promises to never leave you nor abandon you.   

As a friend of the pastor, take them and/or their family with you to something you know they will enjoy and where they can get away from church work for a couple of hours.

Be a friend. We all need a friend. Pray for them, and their family. Pastors’ kids are often teased and isolated, too, and they didn’t volunteer for the stuff that comes with pastoring. Bless the pastor’s kids and you also bless the pastor.  

ed-jordan2Award-winning columnist Dr. Ed Jordan is pastor of Gwynn’s Island Baptist Church, Gwynn, VA. You may also read his past columns.

He can be reached at szent.edward@gmail.com.