Justin Hiebert

Catalyzing Change

Life as a lone lonely loner

Posted on 22 Jun 2013 in Christianity, Church, Ministry, missional theology | 3 comments

Sometimes, life as a pastor can be a little lonely. I can (at times) feel a bit like Sid. I’ll let him explain:


Why is it easy to feel this way? Here are the two primary ways I have identified and experienced this:

  1. Vocation (what God created you to do) mixes with profession (job). This is almost entirely unique to being a pastor. Others wake up and go be a dentist, lawyer, plumber, janitor, school teacher, engineer, or nurse. Then, for times of fellowship, support, and encouragement, they can hang out with church people. That is, they have two (related) but separate spheres. What I’m not talking about is a ‘church’ self and a ‘world’ self. What I do mean is that they have the ability to minister, create friends, relax, and engage in a variety of spheres. Pastors usually only have one: the church world. I prayed and struggled for a long time to not go into ministry. When I was younger, I was convinced that I knew better than God and had my own ‘Five Year Plan’. The more I am in professional ministry, the more I come to love it and see how God has uniquely blessed me for it. It is a stress, but also a joy, all it’s own. The problem is that my job (how I make money) is intertwined who God created me to be in a way that few other professions experience.
  2. Limitation of friendships. As a pastor, most of my friends (or any pastors friends) occur within the church structure. That means, I always have to be a bit guarded about what gets shared. I had two people recently ask me (in separate situations), “How are things going?” One, was a church friend and someone that my wife and I work hard to disciple. I want to be honest, authentic, and real; but because of my position it also means that I have to be a little self-limiting in what information I share. I can’t open up to them about what’s going on in other peoples lives and/or the difficulties I’m having. The other friend knows the rigors of ministry, has experienced them personally, and knows where my family is at. When they ask (because they are in a completely different situation), I’m a bit more free to be open with them and share more personal things (which is followed up with prayer, something I am really thankful for). In short, when the plumber needs a break from a stressful work situation, he can go to his fellow believers and receive prayer and support. For the pastor, that isn’t always an option. (look no further than this (pretent) conversation. Plumber: “Man I had a stressful week. Let me tell you about this difficult client….” much different than: Pastor: “Man this week sucked. Let me tell you all what you did to me….”

I have also found ways to combat these two feelings. Yes, they are obvious (the opposite of the problem) but sometimes the obvious answer is the right one.

  1. Find something to do outside of the church. For me this has become cycling and camping. Do I get to do either often? No, but I do them enough to feel connected to something outside of a church, the building, and the culture that I work in.
  2. Make friends not in the church. Elise and I prayed for over a year to get these when we moved to Denver. God has abundantly blessed us in that category and we appreciate now more than ever friends that can encourage, uplift, and support us at all times.


What do you think? How do you see job and vocation as helping or hurting? How are ways that you have experienced this? What do you do to combat these feelings? Please Enter the Discussion below.

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Justin Hiebert

Leadership Catalyst - Entrepreneur - Coach at JSHiebert Leadership Coaching
I am a Business and Life Coach in both non-profit and for profit settings. I coach leaders, executives, and pastors in areas of vision, clarity, and values. In relationship coaching I focus on healthy and sustainable relationships, and in leadership development roles I catalyze change for individuals and groups to thrive. I also consult churches and organizations on how to train new leaders and create a healthy culture. In addition to that, I am an Anabaptist pastor in the Denver metro area. I specialize on topics that include: missional theology, discipleship, culture and the church in today’s society. I am married to my wonderful wife Elise and we have three kids. I grew up and now work in the United States Mennonite Brethren Church (USMB) and love the people and history of the Mennonite Brethren faith. I am a graduate of Tabor College with a dual degree in Youth Ministry and Christian Leadership, a graduate of Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary with a Masters of Divinity, and a Doctoral Student and Bethel Seminary. I also teach college classes in areas of Bible, Communication, and Business.

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  • Bill Kinzie

    Having been a pastor’s son, I can relate to this. Yes, you should use a hobby or interest to connect with people not even remotely connected to your congregation.


    Maybe become close friends with a Jewish rabbi in a town not too far away or possibly a Buddist leader. This might require you to do some study, but you would be richly rewarded and blessed by making this effort.

    • Bill,

      Thanks for sharing. I worry about my kids sometimes, there is no doubt that they will experience some of this too. I hope to shield them from what I can, but am aware that they will be held to a higher standard (fair or not).

      Hobbies are what keep me grounded.

      Grace and Peace.

  • This is true even though we do have people at the church our age (and older/younger) that we enjoy hanging out with. It almost sounds like we’re trying to be fake or something, which couldn’t be farther from the truth. Ha! We don’t have the luxury of being fake! But it does mean that it is not all about us. For us to be healthy, we need deep meaningful relationships that can unbiasedly help guide us toward God’s will. (On the other hand, I think both our parents would “unbiasedly” guide us toward buying the house across their street!)

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