Pastors who Suffer from Relational Anorexia

relational anorexiaIn my research for my latest book, 5 Ministry Killers and How to Defeat Them, I discovered that pastors are often the loneliest people in the church, second perhaps only to their wives.

I interviewed Dr. Michael Ross, Executive Director of The Pastors Institute, who has worked with several thousand pastors in various capacities. He told me that the number one problem pastors face is isolation.

Gary Kinnaman author and former mega-church pastor and Alfred Ellis, author and founder-director of Leaders that Last, an organization for ministers, wrote, “Most people in full-time ministry do not have close personal friendships and consequently are alarmingly lonely and dangerously vulnerable.”[1]

Well known author, Steve Arterburn has observed that “the men in the church who are least likely to have friend connections are pastors.”[2]

Focus on the Family discovered that nearly 42% do not have any accountability partner with whom they meet.[3]

And the Alban Institute, an ecumenical organization that serves thousands of congregations through research and publishing, has learned that pastors tend to seek help from others only when they are in crisis, “rather than allowing these resources to sustain and nourish them consistently.”[4]

In other words, we don’t seek out safe people to help us process ongoing ministry issues until they escalate into major crises. Even then, many pastors suffer alone.

6 Keys to Mastering Change in the Church

Kevin Cashman wrote the book Leadership from the Inside Out: Becoming a Leader for Life. I highly recommend it. I’m reading it for a second time.

In one chapter he writes about managing change in an organization. His change mastery  shifts below apply to church leadership as well.

  1. Focus on Opportunities vs. Problems
  2. Focus on Long Term vs Short Term (don’t lost sight of your long-term vision in the midst of change)
  3. Focus on Purpose vs. Circumstance (keep focused on your and your church’s purpose and values to avoid being mired in difficult circumstances)
  4. Focus on Adaptability vs Control (control will only yield a certain degree of results; good leaders must remain agile, flexible, and innovative to sustain results over the long haul)
  5. Focus on Service vs. Self (serve your leaders during the stress of change)
  6. Focus on Listening vs. Expertise (effective leaders stay open and practice authentic listening to stay connected to others and to remain open to other innovative solutions)

Other related posts:

For more Help and Resources for Discouraged Pastors, visit Pastor Stone’s main site.

12 core questions pastors should ask themselves about leading

In the book First, Break all the Rules, by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman, they list 12 core questions Gallup discovered that, when asked, give organizations the information they need to attract, focus, and keep the most talented employees.

Speech bubble with the word questions on white background.

Pastors and church leaders would do well to regularly ask their employees to answer them.

1.      Do I know what is expected of me at work?2.      Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?

3.      At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?

4.      In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?

5.      Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?