It has often been said by those that are pastors "Being a pastor is a very lonely calling". I, being a pastor for the past 20 years can say this no doubt is the truth. But how can being a pastor be so lonely? After all every Sunday, Wednesday and beyond a pastor is around people. What could be so lonely about being a pastor? Allow me to explain.
The past few weeks reminded me of just how lonely being a pastor can be. No doubt you, or those you know have been in friendships where you had to initiate every get together. It would almost appear your phone only works in one direction. Your email only has a send feature and your texts/messages go only one way. If you want to do something, it has to be initiated by you otherwise you probably won't do anything with anyone. Does this sound familiar? The same can be said of being a pastor. I literally had a person lay into me because we were going to do dinner (at no cost to them). Weeks went by without hearing from them so I ended up changing plans. This was met with a very hurtful response by this person that I have bent over backwards to help in the past and treated to meals before. The church I pastor even helped them out fiscally a time or two.
I have had people in my life where I have rearranged my schedule to help them move, do chores, engage in crisis counseling, etc. The classic is being asked to borrow a tool, tech device, etc. and being expected to drop it off and pick it up when done. People are needy and as a pastor, this is part of our calling. We are there for people and it is okay...it's what we do. This Sunday I will have a houseful of guys over as we grill steaks and enjoy conversation around a bon-fire. Earlier this year I have connected with people, treated them to lunch after church because I knew they were in a slump. Once a month I organize a men's ministry event. Just three weeks ago I had close to 50 people at the house from the church for a cookout. It can be a lot of fun while at the same time it can be...or rather is very exhausting.
Pastors get invited to a lot of birthday parties as well for kids and fellow adults. They are fun to go to but like graduation season each year, these get togethers have a purpose and include bringing a gift. This adds up quickly when a pastor realizes how many events he/she has to go to that require a gift. If drinking is involved, the after party is usually never met with an invite. It is great to have the pastor "friend" there but don't expect more.
Looking back on the people I have noticed being down and out that my wife and I have taken out to lunch, not one time was it ever met with a "just because" invite to go out for a meal with them. Of my 12+ years at this church and for that matter the previous 8 years at the church I was on staff at in Milwaukee...I could count on two hands how many times, I or my family and I have been invited over to someone's place for a meal. I absolutely cannot remember the last time someone called me (without an ulterior motive or in need of counseling) to invite me out to lunch, dinner, ice cream, etc. Pastors are always taking other people out for these things but hardly ever is it met with an invite in return.
So, yes we (pastors) are around a lot of people but when we are the ones having to do the inviting or when an invite happens it is because of a person is in need of counseling, party, etc. It makes a person feel lonely and honestly...used. How we/I long for someone to just say, "Pastor, can I treat you...or you and your family to dinner some night?" It would make my day.
Don't even get me started on "pastor appreciation day" or anniversaries.