Ministry isn’t meant to be a solo endeavor. Unfortunately, for many pastors, it is. A 2011 LifeWay Research survey said half of pastors in the United States experience loneliness in ministry.
Lonely ministry contradicts how God wired the universe. We need each other. You’ll find the phrase “one another” 58 times in the New Testament. We’re to love one another, care for one another, pray for one another, etc. Those references aren’t just for lay people. All of us—especially those in ministry—need other people to help us do what God called us to do.
Remember, even the Lone Ranger had Tonto! You weren’t meant to do ministry on your own. I wouldn’t be where I am in ministry without the help of others. For example, mentors have played an incredibly important role in my life. When I first moved to Orange County 33 years ago, Ray Ortland—from nearby Mariners Church—played a crucial role in my life. There were other mentors in my life before that.
And I’ve been able to mentor many young pastors during my ministry. In fact, mentoring is a driving focus of what I do these days.
You are well aware that pastoring is a lot more complex than most people think it is. Pastoring is more than preparing a sermon. Pastoring is being an example in speech, life, love, faith and purity. The fastest way to help someone grow spiritually isn’t giving them information. It’s showing people how to live in a way that honors Jesus.
You can’t learn pastoring like that just from seminary. You need mentors—you need other people to be your example, too!
But you don’t just need mentors. All of us in ministry need four different kinds of relationships.
- You need role models. Some of your role models may be dead! In other words, you need to identify people who have served faithfully in ministry and finished well. For instance, my role models have been people like William Wilberforce, John Wesley, General William Booth and D.L. Moody—among others. They are great guys to learn about ministry from—through what they’ve written and what others have written about them.
- You need co-workers. You may not have anyone else with you on staff, but you need other people to help you with the work of ministry. It can be staff or lay volunteers, but they are crucial. As a pastor, your job isn’t to do ministry—but to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. You can’t do all the ministry God has called your church to do on your own.
- You need friends. You also need people you can confide in—people who care about you and your ministry. I suggest you have some other pastors in your life as friends because they can better understand your world.
- You need mentors. And as I mentioned, you need people you can learn from in ministry. These are people who are further along in ministry—but they don’t need to be much further. Six months further will be helpful to you.