By Scott Perkins (Guest Blogger)
The quality of our inner circle relationships is a key foundation for successfully enduring the unique rigors of church leadership and pastoral ministry. We all need connections, outlets, relationships for support and comfort.
While in ministry my world collapsed, and because my inner circle was empty, my fall was hastened. Some of the emptying was done for me; some of it was done by me. My wife and I had no connection. She had distanced herself from me and I had stopped trying. The person in the world that I would want to describe as my best friend, my supporter through thick and thin, was instead the person that I felt the most distance with.
Rather than being able to offer support and guidance through the crests and troughs of ministry, my sharing sounded more and more like whining filling her with bitterness and resentment toward my job. This resentment was compounded by the fact I turned to my ministry job more and more and the distance between us became greater.
How is your inner circle relationship with your spouse?
Pride is my root sin. In my relationships that expresses itself as a fear of rejection. A fear that if someone knew the real me, my real struggles, the real condition of parts of my life then they would certainly reject me. So I wore my “I’m fine” mask and acted like everything was great all the time. If questions were asked I became very adept at deflecting them; turning conversations to the other. Listen and people will talk to you. That’s not a bad thing until you start using it as a defense mechanism.
How are your inner circle relationships with others?
Workplace relationships can be beneficial. It is not a bad thing to have some of your close relationships in the office or among staff. In fact, it is likely to happen, especially in an arena as relationally focused as church work. Yet, if that is the only basket that you have all your relational eggs in, that is a danger.
Where do you go for an outside perspective of your relational system? To whom do you have relational freedom to talk about your trials? That was my problem. Every one of my close relationships was a church leader.
I needed a safe place to turn. Do you have a safe place to turn?
When I thought the pain of someone knowing my weakness was less than the pain of going on without help, I did make an attempt to reach out and share my marital struggles to one in my inner circle. I reached out to one of the elders to whom I was close. Told him what was going on. Asked if his wife could reach out to mine. He did do that, but at the same time he shared my struggle at an elder meeting and suggested that I was unfit to be a pastor.
Rather than an offer to walk alongside me, possibly even to mentor me as a husband or help me with my ability to perceive what I was contributing to the dysfunction of my marital system, my issues were shared with a large group of leaders. Looking back, even worse, no one did come to talk with me about it. It was kind of shoved under the rug and I was happy for it.
In my state of unhealthy spirituality, the effect of that action on me was for me to revoke trust for any of my inner circle. I universalized. I became fearful of losing my job. I did not see the potential benefit that some light could shed on my situation. I’m not even sure the system that I was functioning in was capable of that sort of spiritual intervention. In that assessment I may be wrong, but it would explain why the question on the table was whether or not I should work there rather than what could we do to help. Be that as it may, I am not attempting to transfer the blame for my actions to someone else or to some other group. The choices were mine and I take full responsibility for them.
The wisdom I pass on to you is this: develop your inner circle relationships, especially one with outside perspective and the ability to come alongside you and provide real help.
Getting this right leads to success that lasts!
Scott Perkins has worked with pastors and church leaders for most of the last 14 years in a variety of contexts. He is coach trained and certified by Creative Results Management, an organization that trains coaches for church planters and missionaries around the world. Also, I am a member of the International Coach Federation, the standard-bearer and largest certifier of coaches in the world. Scott will help you see things from different perspectives, develop actions, and understand your identity and its impact on your life. Learn more at PerkinsPerspectives.com.