I don’t think the regular lay member or people outside of ministry understand just how lonely ministry can be. I don’t think some people realize how hard ministry is, either and how much a pastor has to endure. Every time a youth has come up to me inquiring about going into ministry, my initial response is to try to talk him or her out of it. Ministry isn’t a job. It’s a calling. And if you’re not called into ministry, when crap hits the fan you have nothing to ground you. When you’re called, there’s a deep sense of knowing that, despite all that stuff, God has called you.
I’m currently sitting at an empty gate in the Atlanta airport, waiting for my flight to Los Angeles, which won’t board for another hour or so. I just wrapped up my year as a Lewis Fellows. There are countless things I’ve learned through this program and am looking forward to the day when I can really start applying things I’ve learned here. But more than the workshops, what I truly value is the friendships that were formed throughout the year.
It’s nice and reassuring to know that there are other people crazy like me, serving in ministry, and more importantly, people who are my age. It’s not a secret that a lot of times, in UMC clergy gatherings, people have decades and decades on me (us).
Our last gathering in DC, we visited a baptist whose lead pastor is a female (and so is their associate). I know, right!? It was really cool to hear the journey that this church has been under her leadership. But things weren’t so easy. A huge conflict within her church ultimately put too much strain on her marriage. She endured through the conflict within the church, and she endured through her personal life’s situation. I can’t (and don’t really want to) imagine how painful and lonely ministry could’ve been for her.
And no one tells you that. Okay, no… people do tell you that ministry’s going to be hard. But you don’t quite understand how hard and how difficult it is until you go through it and experience firsthand how much joy and life ministry and Christ’s body can suck out of you.
That’s why it’s always important to remember that you’re never alone, and you shouldn’t be. The pastor of the Baptist church was a Lewis Fellow, and she said that the program saved her life. It’s good and important to have a group of friends who are not part of your local church. It’s important to have people in your life who you can just unload on, vent, and rant without the fear of somehow, someway this rant ends up in the ears of the people of your church.
I know that when things get rough, I’ll have people who I can call upon.
I think many clergy are eager and willing to drop everything to help someone in their congregation (or people in general) who is in need… but for some reason, we’re a bit more hesitant to ask for help, even when we know that we need help. We should give ourselves space to allow ourselves to receive the love and grace that we show others.
It’s thoroughly important to remember that God has called us into ministry, because that calling and God’s grace is the foundation of who we are as pastors and as persons. But, we’re created to be in relationships; to be in communion with other Images of God. We’re not meant to live alone and isolated. Therefore, we’re definitely not meant to live in ministry alone and isolated.