"The lonliness of ministry, although essentially positive, can shape the minister toward being cut off from support systems. It can keep him from having close confidants with whom problems of the work can be discussed. It is a psychological fact that one cannot resolve conflicts or clarify issues simply by thinking about them. Self-talk and introspective rumination with no outside input leads inevitably to distortion and irrationality, whereas talking things over with someone else can help to clarify issues and remove distortions. Every minister needs close confidants - staff, family, other ministers, trusted laypersons in the congregation - to help in this clarifying process. If steps are not deliberately taken to develop these trusting and supportive relationships in each pastorate, the loneliness of leadership responsibility will lead to isolation and a distortion of reasoning - and this spells depression for many ministers."
How did you feel as you read that paragraph? Bivocational ministers can feel very isolated in their work. Our second jobs can keep us from building relationships with others in ministry, and most of the people we work with do not understand the challenges of ministry. If we are able to establish relationships with fully-funded ministers they often will not appreciate the unique challenges of the work we do. There is no question that bivocational ministry can be a very lonely place, and yet the author is right in his warning. Without strong support we do run the risk of distorted thinking and depression.
Do you have a supportive people in your life? Who are they? I think it would be helpful if we shared with one another who we turn to when we need to talk things out.
My primary support is my wife. She has helped me work through many ministry and personal challenges in the nearly 42 years we've been married. The region staff with whom I work is another support. We spend time at each staff meeting discussing any personal or professional challenges we may be having. Each staff meeting includes a case study from one of the staff persons about some issue we are having, and it is always helpful to hear the comments and questions that come from those around the table. I also know that each of them are just a phone call away if I need to talk. In the past I have also made use of a life coach to help me address some challenges, and for a year I met with a pastoral counselor to help me deal with some major issues in my life.
Where do you find your support? I am also very interested in knowing if you feel you have no support.