Thursday, January 28, 2010

Who do you talk to?

I recently met with a minister who admitted he felt he was nearing burn out.  He was tired, and he was tired of being tired.  Everything he did made him feel he was trying to roll a large steel ball uphill.  After we talked for several minutes he noted that he really didn't feel he had anyone he could talk to about how he felt except his wife, and he didn't want to keep burdening her with his problems.

Unfortunately, he is not alone.  Many ministers can identify with his words.  Ministry can be a very lonely profession.  Most ministers have a lot of acquaintances but few real friends.  Their relationships may be a mile wide but only an inch deep.  For many ministers, the problem is one of trust.  They feel they cannot tell too much to other ministers without being judged or having their comments used against them at some time.  Some believe they cannot talk to their judicatory leaders without running the risk of having their words or feelings creating problems the next time they want help in finding a new place of service.  Many have been taught they should not have friends in their congregations, and since those are the people they spend most of time with, who can be their friends?  Finally, they cannot talk to anyone about things that would violate confidentiality.  As a result, many ministers carry around a huge load of issues they believe they cannot share with anyone.

First, I do not believe you cannot have friendships in your church.  That is an old philosophy of ministry that I just don't believe is relevant any more, if it ever was.  Admittedly, these are friendships that the minister must be careful not to abuse.  There are ministry related items that are off limits to share within these friendships.  When I was pastor I had very close friendships with a few families that have continued since leaving the church.  We still occasionally go out to eat together, but we are very careful to not talk "shop" while we're out.

I also believe that every minister needs friends outside of his or her church.  As a bivocational minister I worked with a number of believers who lived in various communities.  These became very important relationships for me, and a few became close friends.  We could talk about personal and church related issues without any fear that it would go any further.  Who do you talk to?  Every minister needs someone they can be honest with and talk to about their greatest challenges.  If you can't think of someone you can honestly share with I recommend you begin to develop such relationships with a few people. 

In the meantime, you may want to consider getting a coach to help you through some of the challenges you face.  A coach is someone who will ask you the tough questions that others won't or can't ask.  He or she can guide you through some of the difficult times in your life.  Although it may cost a little to get a coach I believe it is an investment rather than an expense.  It is an investment in yourself and your own personal well-being.  I recently heard a successful former pastor and now counselor say that he wished he had hired a life coach when he began his ministry because he believes that person could have helped him through a lot of the challenges he faced in his ministry and his life.

Could having a coach help you?  Check out my webpage for more information on coaching and a list of times when having a coach could benefit the bivocational minister.  Just click the coaching tab.

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