In my journals which I’ve written all my adult life, one of the things I said repeatedly since the beginning that that I was lonely.
If I was once your minister, please don’t feel guilty. You didn’t know and you didn’t cause this. I’m telling it now because I hurt people when I left the ministry and I feel that I owe them some explanation. Also, perhaps it will help people understand the systemic problems of church that cause pastors to be lonely. Believe me, I’m not the only pastor who feels this way.
First, we have to move frequently. We don’t have time to form bonds and if we do, we have to leave them behind when we go to the next assignment.
Second, small town pastors are always outsiders. We didn’t grow up with you. We don’t share your history. We’re not your family. If you are nice enough to invite us to your house during family gatherings at holidays, we’re uncomfortable. Additionally, we often don’t have the time or resources to visit our own families.
Third, it costs too much to be friends with the pastor. If you had tried to get close to me you might have gotten hurt by church politics. Someday I’ll write at length about that but for now I’ll just say that most of the few friends I’ve made along the way… they don’t go to church anymore.
I always said that loneliness is just part of the job that a minister endures. But as I got older I became unhappier and lonelier, and I just couldn’t endure it anymore.
I had no one to talk to. Every week, sometimes twice a week, I slipped away to talk to a counselor, which helped a lot but not enough to make up for the isolation. I couldn’t tell anyone of my personal problems. I couldn’t talk about my theological struggles. I couldn’t talk about my problems at work.
I just ran out of resources to cope.