MINISTRY CAN BE LONELY

 

lonely

I have been at pastors’ wives retreats and leadership events/trainings where dealing with the loneliness of ministry has been a topic of discussion. I never really understood it.

It seems I have served in some capacity of ministry my entire life, and I have never felt lonely in ministry… until now.

My ministry role has changed. I am no longer a volunteer/team member. I am the Team Pastor (and the Lead Pastor’s wife). Jon and I started this church together, and everything we are seems to be poured into it. Starting a new church is a lot like having a newborn at home while already having older kids too.

We have an amazing and dynamic team. There aren’t enough positive adjectives to describe our team. However, when it comes to human input, the responsibility of the church belongs primarily to Jon and I.

We are the ones who hear and see everything that needs to be done to keep it running and healthy. We are the ones that eat, sleep (when we can), and breathe the life of the church. We counsel, we listen, we cry, we pray, we work with our hands, we study, we prepare, we meet, and we dream for the church.

Ministry wasn’t lonely for me, but lead ministry has felt very lonely.

Only others in leadership can quite understand the weight of leadership. It isn’t just the time. It isn’t just the physical energy. It is the spiritual and emotional drain. It is the deep desire to see God’s best in each person’s life. Genuinely and honestly, we want that with a passion….maybe even a desperation.

When God called us to lead a church, he called us to love. He then expanded our hearts with an intense love for people we didn’t know we could have. Who knew love could be so lonely?

Why am I lonely?

I am lonely because I cannot share all of the stories I hold on to and pray for- the stories I worry over and want to make better. I know I have to listen, pray, and let go… but I can’t stop caring and wanting to see the best in the lives of the stories…and they weigh on me.

I am lonely because I work two full time jobs, and I don’t have time to spend with the friends I love and who love me.

I am lonely because I forget to spend more time with God. I read my Bible before I get out of bed, then I spend the day shooting up prayers of gratitude, petitions for grace, and pleadings for people. However, I don’t Sabbath. I don’t rest in him. I don’t rest.

I am lonely because I don’t share what it is to be me. I don’t share because I don’t want to complain, but I also don’t want to pretend I’m okay when I am not.

My friends, my dear friends. I am tired. I want to see you more. I am just really tired….and sometimes stressed. Please love me anyway….

Here is a snap-shot of my world on a weekend:

Friday-

Work from 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. teaching, grading planning lessons, meeting with professional learning community members.

Rush home and take middle daughter for a girls’ date from 5:30-6:30.

Go to neighbors’ house for dinner ….fall asleep on their couch (I’m a bad friend, but I have good friends that let me fall apart in front of them).

Saturday-

Run with a friend/coworker. Spill my guts and passions about school with her because she gets that part of my life.

Clean the house with kids and hubby for two hours… still not all the way done.

Take a bath while reading a book for school.

Sew some clothes. (Sounds super crafty and awesome… the clothes had holes… they sat in a basket for months… I finally took care of them because I am too cheap to throw things away.)

Take a short nap.

Feed the family.

Work on church stuff for two and a half hours to make sure everything is ready for Sunday.

Spend not enough time having fun with my kids. Go to bed feeling like a bad mom.

Sunday-

Arrive at 8:15 a.m. for set up. Set up a couple areas. Talk to team members about things we need (and ask them to put it in writing because I can’t remember anything by the time I get home).

Share in leading our team meeting. Teach the kids. Run the connect center after service. Talk with more team members about things we need. Go to our Life Group leaders meeting.

Grab bucket of chicken and fixings to bring to park to meet friends from church and the parents of our new intern.

Come home and meet with our social media point person/friend. Talk a lot about church stuff because she gets it.

Set up tables, tidy the house up, run to the store to get dessert.

Host people for our Connect 101 class.

Kiss my kids goodnight.

Stress about the papers I didn’t get graded for school. Realize how little time I spent with my kids.

Go to bed feeling like a bad mom and frustrated about not getting enough done for work.

Monday-

Drive youngest to school while grumpily asking her why she didn’t give me the papers to sign earlier (I’m sure it had nothing to do with the hectic weekend schedule).

Work from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Eat dinner with the family.

Attend staff meeting from 7-8:30 p.m.

Talk with middle daughter about school briefly. Rub her back and hug. Lay in bed with youngest and tell stories for a few minutes. Fall asleep on the couch between my son and husband watching football.

Wake up stressed about all the papers I didn’t have time to grade and the lesson I didn’t prepare yet. Try to sleep anyway.

Give up. Get up. Send emails for church. Edit a blog post for the Church Multiplication Network Wives Blog.

Decide to do my own blog because I can’t sleep- and I wouldn’t grade papers fairly when I am this tired. Don’t edit the writing of the blog and produce total garbage.

Feel less lonely because I have dumped a chunk of what it is to be me right now….

……

Ministry can be lonely (even when you have good friends) because so few people understand what it is to be me in the moment, but I refuse to let it stay that way.

We may not get to hang out the way we did before Redemption Church was born, but, like any baby, it will grow. I will have more freedom and independence again. I will look back and reminisce  about the baby days (but deep down be glad they are over).

I will get to spend more time with you, my friends. In the meantime, I’ll keep it real here to beat the lonely (because no one wants to talk at 1:30 a.m…. and that is when I let it out).

If you want to be in a church that loves people even when they are messy, check us out. Redemptioncc.com

 

 

7 thoughts on “MINISTRY CAN BE LONELY

  1. You can call me at 1:30am.
    I’m always awake LOL
    Thank you for always being so honest and authentic, it makes the rest of us feel ok to be human. 🙂
    What can we as friends and family do for those in leadership to offset the loneliness?

  2. My dear sister you should be stressed and lonely with all that going on. Nevertheless, in the midst of it all you must stop and find a space somewhere for you. Our bodies were not created to handle such a magnitude of stress with out serious consequence. My sister, God is waiting with His arms wide open for you to exchange burdens with you so you can rest. I have and am still battling loneliness.

  3. Rebecca, I have been burdened for you ever since I read your post. Just reading it made me tired. I remember how emotionally drained we felt when we pioneered a church in Upstate New York. (That’s when we were blessed to become good friends with your parents. They were pastoring in a nearby town.). And I wasn’t teaching school at that time. Both pastoring and teaching are time intensive and emotionally charged. One thing we learned is that we must take care of ourselves, physically, emotionally, spiritually. One pastor’s wife put it this way: “If you don’t come apart, you will come apart.” Carefully analyze your commitments. Can you turn some of your responsibilities over to others? Do you need to attend every church-related meeting? When we were pioneering our church, I made it my job to work myself out of my positions as I trained others to take over those ministries. Are your children old enough to assume some of the household chores? At the rate you are going now your body will wear out fast, and that’s not good stewardship. You are obviously sleep-deprived, and that puts a strain on your heart because it is not getting an opportunity to rest. I’m praying that you will be able to find some relief from the stress you are under. Thank you for being so honest with your struggles. I wish I could have been so open with mine. Please continue to share. Remember, Jesus said, “Come unto Me all you who labor and are heavy ladened, and I will give you rest, for my yoke is easy and you will find rest unto your souls.”

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