Saturday, January 28, 2006

Loneliness

The theme of loneliness in the second chair has struck me several times in the last couple of weeks. It was a theme that we sort of stumbled into as we were interviewing different leaders for the book, and I continue to hear it in other conversations.

No doubt about it, the second chair can be a very lonely place to serve. It’s often hard to share frustrations, fears, or even dreams with your first chair, and it may not be appropriate to talk freely with those you supervise or with lay leaders (if you’re on the church staff). So who can you talk to?

I’ve been blessed to share the second chair with someone who is a good friend and a trusted advisor (Roger), but I know that my situation is more the exception than the rule. If you’re not this fortunate, where should you turn? In addition to Roger, I’ve found rich community with many others outside my church. Some are second chair leaders and some are just close friends, but the time with them is a great antidote to loneliness. Is your second chair a lonely place? What are you doing to overcome it?

11 comments:

Marie said...

Oh does this speak to my heart! This has been one of - if not the biggest challenge I have had. I almost asked about it here last week. More than once I have even asked my first chair..."where can I take this?" When I have had a problem with my first chair - I have always taken those issues to him first. But sometimes how I wished I just had someone else to bounce the whole issue off of first...of whether it is even an appropriate issue to bring to him...or is it something I should just lay low with..give time for healing....just let go of without discussion? I don't have anyone I consider a close friend outside of ministry. I certainly am not going to take a problem I have with the pastor to ANY other congregational member or to any other member of the worship team. (I'm the team leader and those folks are my closest friends). At one time my pastor recommended I try speaking to another pastor outside of our church - but I feel like that would be a betrayal if it is anyone he knows...and there is no one from my past that I can go to. An obvious answer would be my husband...and he can be wonderful but he has some separate frustrations with this church and pastor and I have found that I have sometime fueled those feelings inadvertantly so I have found that is not the best audience either. Sometimes it has been so frustrating...but I have also learned to just let some time pass...spend time talking to God (occasionally shaking my fist and stamping my foot at Him) and I have learned so much about waiting until I can speak with humility and concern and honesty from the heart...not with anger or hurt. But is is a very lonely place sometimes. What do the rest of you do?

DivaD said...

hmmmm. I'm completely and totally overwhelmed lately with the things Jay spoke of (commenting on the last post). He talked about being sometimes so overwhelmed doing so many things that it feels like the important things are not getting done. That's where I am... Filling in all of the 'gaps' - and even taking up the slack for others who are not holding up their end of responsibilities, or are intent on creating issues that weren't there before.

These situations, circumstances, and even personalities, have caused me to get to a place of not only loneliness but mental/emotional fatigue. I don't get to this place often, because I love what I do. However, that's where I am now... I call it 'the wilderness'.
I too want to guard my first chair, my husband, and others in the church. So... I sit on it. I deal with it. I talk to the only One who fully knows and understands. And now, I blog... :-)

Leadership can be very lonely at times because, although I have some great friends, people who really care deeply for me, I don't want to give ANY opportunity for them to know frustrations with the church, my boss, etc. I've done that in the past, venting with a friend, and although I said nothing that I wouldn't (or didn't) say to my first chair - it seemed very disloyal. Although that was NOT the intent... the intent was to get frustrations off my chest. However, in getting it off my chest, I added to someone else's load and opened the door for their opinion of my first chair, or the church, to be colored. A mistake that I've learned from with the help of my first chair, and the Holy Spirit. :O)

Loneliness... definitely been there...

But God...

Clayton Bell said...

What a great topic to talk about! I was just meditating on this the other day, as loneliness comes to me on a weekly basis, and I've got to fight it back with the Word of God.

One of the ways that I feel isolated, and tell me if you feel the same thing, is that it seems as if EVERYONE is dependant on me to live their lives. Saturday we celebrated our church's ten year anniversary, and I received SMS messages asking me what time it started, what the dress was, etc...FROM STAFF! Who sit in the same meetings I do, hear the same things I do, and can check on a website just as easy as I can! Then, I got a call from the guy doing our video presentation and he was asking me how to transfer something to a DVD IN A PROGRAM I'VE NEVER SEEN BEFORE! So I spent 3 hours on the phone talking him through a program I've never used...phone numbers, how to do an email...it seems no one can do anything without me!

And it isn't like I'm bragging about that; I wish it wasn't the case. But I find that I ask for little from people yet get asked all the time, and I was trying to figure out how I was going to be filled up, who I was going to turn to. It's like the starving baker, who makes so much for other people but never feeds himself and then starves.

This book, this blog, and this community of people in the same situation have been a tremendous help. My relationship and dependence on God becomes more vital each day, even though I didn't know that was possible. I'm also forcing myself to read as much as possible, letting those wiser than me pour into me through their words, helping me to sharpen my saw. Thank God that he provides away in all things and doesn’t want us to be lonely or far away from him. I pray that we each find a way, through spouses or other friends, to break through loneliness and live with joy and contentment.

I also think it’s important that was talk with our first chair about understanding the right way to bring things to his or her attention before a situation arises so that when one does, you can follow the established process and point back to your formation of it if a disagreement or rebuke comes out of the appeal. If you’ve never talked about how to bring up an issue when there isn’t one, you don’t want to learn how to fight a war with bullets whizzing by. Finding the proper way to appeal to your first chair in a time of peace will do wonders when the time comes.

You all rock. Have a great day!

DivaD said...

'you don't want to learn how to fight a war with bullets whizzing by'. Great analogy Clayton! I immediately had a visual.

After 4 years working with my first chair (but only a month ago being given the 'public responsibility and title' of Administrative Director) I still learn things with bullets whizzing by. Mostly because as the church is changing, my first chair is changing as he leads differently, and therefore - sometimes it seems like I'm catching up with getting to know the right way to do things again. But - because there are some positive changes taking place in the church, I can live with it for now... I believe that the Holy Spirit is wanting to prepare me for these times of war prior to them happening. Sometimes I just don't listen to Him as well as I should and I get caught without my helmet on. :o)

Regarding the issue of others expecting you to be the end all of end alls when it comes to knowledge, solutions, etc. I find that can be true at times. Yet, I've made more than a few waves by simply refusing to do that. In the past I've been expected to be here - and there (both at the same time), do this - and that (although there are others who should be responsible for it), put this team together, make this process work, fix this problem, counsel this person, stroke this other person... And then (here's the kicker) been told that I need to 'let go of some things'. However, when I drew some lines that defined my second chair role - with, of course, the understanding and agreement of my first chair - all heck came down on my head. Then it became that I was 'uncooperative'. Sheesh. How do you win with some people?

Anyway - I have stuck to my guns with regards to doing what is feasible for me as a second chair, and what is within my scope of influence/ability/responsibility. In doing so, quite honestly, it is forcing the focus to be narrowed in some other areas that have been operating outside their level of volunteerism, ability, etc because it's the way it was done before - or the way someone else does it.

If I don't narrow my focus to the critical tasks at hand, and am the one everyone goes to for everything, then the church can't grow beyond me. Although, at times, I have to be honest - I like that feeling of knowing that I am the one everyone can turn to for anything... that I am believed to be someone who can 'do anything'.

Now before anyone rebukes me for my pride ;-), I know that's not what it's about. However, given the struggle between the loneliness, the switching of roles that can take place very easily when you go from being a system developer to a gap filler as 2nd chair, etc. sometimes my mind wanders into that horrible land of heroism and 'thinking more highly of myself than I ought'.

We're currently struggling to spread out the foundational leadership beyond myself and my first chair. (I also serve as the Arts and Programming pastor and a Teaching Pastor) On some fronts it has been easy distributing responsibilities and saying 'ask so-and-so' because God has brought some VERY competent people on board who GET IT! However, there are also some others who have what I call the "American Idol syndrome" and believe that they have these huge abilities in certain areas - yet don't - and want to almost "demand" that they be given responsibilities outside their realm of influence or giftedness. Not being willing to put holes in the foundation we're trying to strengthen, it can get sticky sometimes. Another leader and I were talking this weekend about not being someone who 'enables another person's dysfunction'. Personally, I feel that when we allow ourselves to become the end-all-of-end-all-guru-of-everything then we're setting both ourselves, and others, up for failure and hurt. Been there! Done that! Have the scars to prove it!

Great book that applies to this: Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend. For sanity's sake... :O)

Marie said...

I would like to just refer everyone to a song that has helped me so many times. When ministry get tough, I have put this song on and listened to it over and over again. It has never failed to give me hope and peace and it is as if God himself was speaking to me ...telling me not to give up..that He has it all under control and that His hopes and dreams and plans are so much greater than I can possibly imagine. The song is "When You See Bones" it is written by Brian Houston. You can hear a small clip from it here http://www.grassrootsmusic.com/artist/wtogether/wtogether10/?associateid=225

I don't think I can post all the lyrics due to copywrite issues but here are some of the words...

"When the ones you love and trust
hurt and destroy you
though you may be discouraged
certainly don’t think of giving up
When you are broken
when you are wounded
forgive those who persecute you
for it is alright to be broken
and it is no shame to cry

But I do not want you to remain
in that place of brokenness
Even though I am in that place with you
Still I do not want you to stay there

When you see bones
I can see the army
When you see floods
I see the shore
When you see dry (desert) winds blow
I see (feel) new life grow
When you see the clouds in your way
It is the Lord

To know that I the Lord, your God dwell within you
Live beside you and walk behind you
This is the pure gold I am talking about
That cannot be consumed by fire
or stolen away from you by human hands
This is the gold of ministry that you have longed for
That you have lain awake at night on your bed
dreaming of
And you need to know that I have been
wishing for you, dreaming in you, hoping for you
for my dreams are so much greater for you than yours
And to know my hand in your life
This is the greatest prize
so much better than recognition
and as you rise up in me
many will know, many will see
many will hear, many will fear
‘Cause I am your God
This is the pure gold that I am refining in you
That will shine within your soul
and your cup will run over
and you will see the fruit of your labors
and you will not be disappointed forever
for your toils and struggles are not in vain."

And it is done SO well. I have a number of scripture verses also that I return to but music reaches so deep inside me.

What about others? Do you have certain "resources" that you have returned to that help keep you going? I'm not talking about anything replacing the bible, or quiet prayer times or any of the real basics that of course are absolutely vital..I'm talking about something like this - an extra piece of something that God uses to communicate strength and hope to you?
Marie

Jay said...

WOW...these blog topics have all been great!! Its funny how you can work in a ministry position where you are surrounded by still be lonely. This has been an area that have really been a struggle for me. Part of why the "Leading from the Second Chair" Book has been so great for me and now this blog is because it said to me that you aren't alone out there. There are others who experience what you experience, there are others who understand what you are going through, and that I'm not alone.

I am fortunate to have about 3 or 4 second chairs that I have great relationships with from other churches and I'm able to talk to them about situations, frustrations, and I'm able to learn from them and now I'm learning from each of you!

DivaD said...

Selah has a CD that is FULL of music meant to be an encouragement during tough times. It's great to feed your spirit when you just don't seem to have the strength to hold up your own arms, much less someone else's.

Revelation Underground has a great song as well that has always ministered to me - regardless of the circumstances... lyrics are:

GOD SEARCH MY HEART

God search my heart
And test my mind
Mold my heart and shape my mind
To sing about Your love divine
Let all the things I do
And all the things I say be evidence

God search my heart
And test my mind
I’m on my knees to seek Your face
Renew a brand new dwelling place, Lord
In my heart
Let all the things I do
And all the things I say be evidence

Chorus:
I’m open wide
And I cannot hide
All the things within my heart
When I seek You
I need You to
Receive me as I am

God search my heart
And test my mind
Let the time I spend with You
Bear fruit of who I am in You, Lord
_______________________

Music is what speaks most powerfully to me because I am a musician.

However, certain passages of scripture are lifelines. Such as when Jeremiah was so frustrated... questioning why God had called him to his ministry and wanted to quit, then said
"But your word is like a fire shut up in my bones and I cannot hold it back".

And the passage in Isaiah 50(previously posted) "God has given me the tongue of the learned that I may speak a word in season to him that is weary". I know the context - but it speaks to me about desiring to speak the heart of God.

Another is in Acts 26:16-18 "But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you. I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you, to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me."

These particular passages have spoken to me for years... especially during the most gruelling, disappointing, frustrating times when I have SO questioned God as to just why he wired me the way that He did... wanting so badly, like Jeremiah, to 'speak no more His name' but knowing that is not an option... I'd never be happy and could not hold it back.


I, too, am grateful to not feel so alone by being able to blog with you all. I can tell you, with the things that are happening right now at church, and having only had this position 'officially' for a month now, I am honestly at a place, emotionally, that I don't remember ever visiting before. Stunned would probably be the best word. Stunned by the jealousies and roadblocks that some are putting up. Stunned that some people are so threatened by a title. Stunned that true motives and feelings are coming to light now that roles have shifted.
Stunned... and disappointed... but determined to follow after God's heart and where he's leading me with regards to my First Chair and this place. Pray that I'll have the strength to get to the other side of this war :O).

I love my job. I love my first chair. I love my church. Yet this is one of those unfortunate times when I need someone to hold up MY arms :o/...

I'm praying for you Marie, Clayton, and Jay!! Hang in there!

Marie said...

Got your back Diva!! I'm praying for you even now - and in few minutes I'm going to retreat to my quiet space and time and ask God to touch you and embrace you wherever you are today. You put into words so well a feeling that I remember well! I also have been "stunned" at times at people's reactions to things. I have had to wonder if they could possibly be hearing the same sermons, the same teaching, reading the same great book and trying to follow the same Jesus! And last week this passage arrived in my email box (did I blog this aleady??) from Rick Muchow's newsletter from Saddleback...

"Remember that these are God's people not our people. He is also working on them as He is working on us.

Stop now and read James 1. Verse 12 tells us that "Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life." (Message)

Hang in there. Stop and breathe and remember to let some time pass. He's got it under control..you are caught up in some turbulance...some "refining fire" maybe?

If you need to bang out some frustration on the computer keyboard - we are all ears...and all hearts and we understand. Keep us posted....
off to pray.
Marie

Marie said...

sorry about the spelling mistake of your name!!! I meant Divad!!!

DivaD said...

Thank you, Marie. Your first sentence got me...

I appreciate the understanding. Have been in ministry of one kind or another since the age of 19, but 'full time' since the age of 21... 17 years... and have been through some ridiculous battles in those 17 years. Unfortunately, there are still times that I get blindsided by a battle. Like.......um......now :O)
Am at that place where I need to go swing high and feel the wind in my face and just enjoy the fact that God is...

Thanks for the scripture from James as well. I'm sure that I've read that in the Message translation - but today was the day it knocked me off my feet.
:O)

God is God and I am not! (And I thank Him daily for that!!)

Roger Patterson said...

Praise the Lord for His unfailing Love. His mercy endures forever. I am fired up to read the dialogue on the blog because it hits to the "why" of both the book and the blog. Thanks for engaging with each other and sharing with one another. This is that "Second Chair Community" that we were looking for.

May God pour out his grace in each our your lives and may he increase our dependence on him.