We had a very helpful seminar and discussion on loneliness at the 2020 Birmingham Church planters get together the other day with Kenny.
Key things from the seminar and discussion
- Being Alone and solitude should be distinguished from loneliness. It is possible to be lonely in a crowd. It is possible to be alone and not lonely
- People experience different types of loneliness at different stages in life. Loneliness often involves estrangement from others -especially those we care about -this can be due to bereavement, separation or distance.
- We can look to things to solve loneliness – e.g. sex, marriage etc but these won’t cure the problem.
- Pastors and planters need to be careful. Church life and ministry can take you away from your wife/family causing them to resent your ministry as the cause of loneliness
- Usually a society has things it values and things it struggles with. If our society values individualism is it any surprise that we struggle with loneliness?
- The church can be blamed for loneliness – if people think they are not cared for. We should be challenged by this but also a challenge in return. Is it the church at fault or is this an aspect of allowing our culture’s values to affect us?
- Many people in our society are isolated and lonely. They won’t have natural community connections. How do we connect? This may mean things like good old door to door work -making friends with those who don’t have friends. It may include providing other connection points
- We may want to help people find roles and responsibilities within our community. This might include taking risks with people who have forgotten how to be reliable. At the same time, challenging and holding people to account means there is a loving discipline that shows we care about them enough to do this. They have been missed. Their contribution is valued.
Some Further Thoughts – for consideration and discussion
- There is a loneliness that can come from certain roles and responsibilities. Pastoral ministry and church planting can involve a sense of being alone. This isn’t just about time spent working in solitude but about having to face issues and challenges where others don’t share the experience. This is why the idea of one man ministry is so dangerous. The greater there is a sense of team leadership working together the better. A wider network of Gospel worker friends also is a great guard against this.
- We can feel lonely when we begin to have the mindset that “no-one else understands.” This perhaps links to the above. We can end up thinking our situation is unique. Loneliness and self-pity are closely linked. Indeed, older writers like Augustine linked this to “love curved in on itself” or pride. It is important to be reminded that we have never been left on our own. God is with us but he also places us in his family. There are the remnant who have not bowed to Baal.
- If solitude is different to loneliness and is a good spiritual discipline then is this something that needs to be taught/encouraged.
- Churches should not be complacent. Loneliness creates a great need. It also provides Gospel opportunities and opportunities to love and serve. However, we should recognise that we are finite. This means we cannot guarantee that someone will never be alone. We can help them to face the challenge of loneliness Biblically and learn to enjoy God and be content in all circumstances.
Alone at Christmas
Many people are particularly aware of being alone and lonely at Christmas and over the New Year. If you live in the Bearwood area and will be alone or know someone who will be this Christmas, please get in touch via our Contact page and we’ll let you know about events and hospitality over the holiday period.
Also, please check out Premier Radio’s Christmas Alone project which has been running over a number of years. If you are organising something for people on their own, you can log details of your event here