One of the greatest joys of my first two years as a pastor has been leaning into the gift of pastoring in community. I was just 23 years old when I accepted the call to lead Faith Baptist through the process of church revitalization as their pastor. Faith is a historic, 180 year-old church, with great people and good resources. However they were slowly slumping towards death after having endured two pastoral changes in just four years when I came on. Leading Faith as their pastor has been, without a doubt, the most challenging thing I have ever done.
I truly can’t imagine having made it through one month, much less almost two years (and counting!) without the community that God has raised up to travel on this journey with me. This community has been, and I do not think this is to speak too strongly, soul-saving; and I shiver to think of where my faith, ministry, and marriage would be without having had them alongside me for the ride. The core of this community has been made up of my counselor, my friends, and my coach. I’d like to take just a moment to share with you about the impact each of these persons has had in keeping me healthy and thriving in life and ministry.
Mid-way through my first year of ministry as a pastor, I had a breakdown. It wasn’t a public, dramatic affair, but a private, developed-over-time season of stress and frustration. I knew things were bad when I received a harshly critical email from a trusted congregant and spent the next twenty minutes in a total haze. The words this congregant wrote had affected me so much I couldn’t even emote or pray. I was shattered. I just wandered the building over and over again, struggling even just to keep walking.
At some point that week, as I processed both the email and my reaction to it with others, I realized that something had gone deeply wrong with my heart, and I needed to seek professional help. The strength to start searching for that help in the form of a counselor actually came from a funny place. Frustrated and struggling as much as I was I was still too proud to really admit I needed the help, but motivated myself by saying, “Andy Stanley has shared about his counselor. And if Andy Stanley needs a counselor, I probably need one too.” Whatever works, right?
I’ve been working with my counselor, Chris, for a year now, and I can honestly say that walking into his office one year ago was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Chris’ office has given me a safe place to be my true self. In the hour I spend with Chris I’m not Pastor Grant, just Grant. My time with Chris has made me, without question, a better leader, husband, and child of God. Pastor, you need a counselor.
Ministry is lonely, but it doesn’t have to be. In a recent poll, 55 percent of Pastors admitted to struggling with feeling lonely in the ministry, and there have been seasons in my own ministry in which I would have counted myself among them. But by God’s grace, and through intentional effort spent investing in relationships with others through meals, phone calls, and networking, I’ve been privileged to develop a community of friends both inside and outside of ministry that have encouraged me tirelessly, and kept me running my race.
Friends come in all shapes and sizes, but those who’ve been most valuable to me have been friends outside of the church. The time I spend with my friends outside the church is always a great reminder that life is bigger than Faith Baptist. Perhaps that sounds silly, but when you’re giving everything you’ve got to a community of people it’s a truth that can be all too easy to forget. Much like my relationship with Chris, my relationship with my friends reminds me that there is more to me than my calling, and that I was Grant before I was Pastor Grant.
One last note about friends- some of my most encouraging friendships have been those that I’ve developed with other area pastors. I’ve chosen to invest in relationships with a few local guys who share many similar convictions- though we lead quite different churches, and these relationships have been an absolute lifeline. I can’t count the number of times I’ve come into a lunch or phone call with these brothers believing I’m on an island alone, struggling with problems and failures that no one else does only to come to the realization through conversation that I’m not alone because these brothers are struggling just like I am! Pastor, you need friends.
Before I began my ministry at Faith one of my friends from college encouraged me to look into getting a coach. He shared with me about PastorServe, and after researching them some online, and connecting with the person who’d eventually become my future coach over the phone, I was sold. Investing in coaching through Pastorserve has been one of the smartest decisions I’ve made since becoming pastor at Faith. My coach has been a constant encourager, admonishing me to stay the course even when the sea has gotten rough. More than being an encourager, though, my coach has been a challenger. My coach has sharpened me immensely as a leader, pastor, and husband, and has consistently called me out of apathy and into action in each of those roles. Pastor, you need a coach.
PastorServe obviously believes in the value of pastoring in community, and they continually remind pastors to invite key relationships into their lives. You can learn more about these key relationships by watching this brief video:
Grant Diamond is the Senior Pastor of Faith Baptist Church—Mill Creek that is located in Geneva, IL