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Cultivate Community

Addressing Isolation in Ministry (Learning from the Lab)

How leaders are adapting to reach out
by Lee Ann Pomrenke | October 9, 2020

To some extent, the ministry has always been an isolating profession. Surrounded by people and their needs, church leaders may still feel alone in a crowd, without confidants. Now, observing public health protocols for distancing and facing added decision-making and tensions, there is a risk of sliding into deeper isolation on multiple levels. 

We asked members of the Learning Lab how they are addressing isolation in ministry in the midst of the pandemic. 

Maintaining Colleague Groups Online

Many have moved formerly in-person text study or other clergy cohort groups online. Some leaders have perceived a need and formed new groups either purely for support or around skills needed to adapt to ministry in a pandemic. Staff meetings over Zoom can even be a source of connection and support. 

Renewing Personal Connections

One leader described reaching out to cousins and friends they had not talked to in years. Others make it a discipline to call a friend or relative for the give-and-take of being cared for and giving care that it is not our job to give, at least once a week. 

Reconnecting with Mentors and Former Classmates

Leaders are reaching out to seminary classmates and mentors to check in, knowing that if they are feeling isolated, others likely are too. 

Coaching and Spiritual Direction

Self-care is paramount right now, and a couple leaders have responded by finding themselves a spiritual director or ministry coach so they can learn about themselves and grow while connecting one-on-one with another person. 

Naming the Isolation

Several leaders chimed in that talking with others about the isolation we are experiencing helps them to feel less alone. 

Physical Activity

The practice of moving our bodies helps many of us not to dwell on isolation but to turn our attention elsewhere. Leaders regularly schedule golf games and biking dates, plus enjoy walking their dogs to feel connected and see other people. A community of practice such as yoga addresses isolation as one of its benefits. 

Some Benefit from the Different Pace and Expectations

A few leaders named that they actually feel empowered and more in control of their own time now, or that they are naturally introverts so they appreciate the changed expectations for social interaction. 

What About You?

How are you addressing isolation in ministry right now? What have you learned over the past 6 months? One way to connect with supportive community is to join us in the Learning Lab to keep the conversation going.

 

About the Author

Lee Ann Pomrenke

Lee Ann M. Pomrenke is an interim pastor in the St. Paul Area Synod of the ELCA, digital content editor for The Faith+Leader, and author of Embodied: Clergy Women and the Solidarity of a Mothering God (Church Publishing, Inc, 2020). She also blogs at leeannpomrenke.com.

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