Fortress Press

A Path to Belonging: Overcoming Clergy Loneliness

A Path to Belonging

Overcoming Clergy Loneliness

Mary Kay DuChene (Author), Mark Sundby (Author)

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Loneliness, or the feeling of being cut off from others, is an epidemic among people in America. Studies have shown that up to half of Americans are lonely. While some may think that clergy have a strong built-in community, this is not often the case. According to leadership development consultants Mary Kay DuChene and Mark Sundby, clergy are as lonely as the general population.

In A Path to Belonging: Overcoming Clergy Loneliness, DuChene and Sundby argue that clergy need to address their experience of loneliness. First, loneliness can interfere with leadership effectiveness. Second, it offers a ministry opportunity to connect with people around the topic of loneliness. But clergy must first deal with their own loneliness and begin to experience the healing balm of social connection.

Each chapter begins with a case study that illustrates an aspect of clergy loneliness. DuChene and Sundby draw on original research on loneliness among clergy across denominations, first administering the state-of-the-art inventory to measure loneliness and then following up with qualitative interviews. They also draw on years of experience working directly with clergy and congregations. The authors then offer tools and remedies for the path toward a healthy sense of contentment and belonging. The book also explores what judicatory leaders, congregations, and friends and family of clergy can do to support clergy.

By normalizing and reframing loneliness, however, A Path to Belonging not only suggests ways to overcome the loneliness present in ministry. DuChene and Sundby propose an even larger vision: Perhaps clergy can also help the congregations they serve become social connectors in their communities and thereby begin to solve the epidemic of loneliness in the United States.

  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Paperback
  • ISBN 9781506473819
  • eBook ISBN 9781506473826
  • Dimensions 5.5 x 8.5
  • Pages 190
  • Publication Date July 12, 2022


"A Path to Belonging is an important contribution to the field of clergy and congregational well-being. In particular, the final two chapters are a reminder to those of us in congregational and denominational leadership of our role in helping our pastors get the support they need, which in turn benefits the whole congregational system."

Susan Nienaber, district superintendent, Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church

"A Path to Belonging conveys a profound understanding of the extent to which clergy express loneliness, a crisis revealed in their feeling isolated and alone even while ministering in community. DuChene and Sundby offer exceptional insight into how hard it is to care for others when we can't give our best in the midst of our own loneliness. Our synod highly recommends this must-have resource for clergy and those who equip and support them as they exercise their spiritual abilities and effective leadership during extraordinary times."

Elona Street-Stewart, ruling elder, synod executive of the Synod of Lakes and Prairies and co-moderator of the 224th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

"This book speaks to the hearts of clergy! Even in the best of times, clergy leaders inherently feel isolated and lonely. DuChene and Sunbdy share stories, studies, and reflections to help us better understand these feelings and then suggest ways to work through them toward a greater awareness of well-being. I will be recommending this book to our clergy."

Karen Olson, canon for ministry in the Episcopal Church in Minnesota

"In A Path to Belonging: Overcoming Clergy Loneliness, DuChene and Sundby provide rich, detailed, and deeply valuable guidance for the journey from depleting, soul-and body-destroying clergy loneliness to balanced care for one's congregation and oneself. Through multiple case examples and self-care methods, they offer readers hope of a satisfying life--caring for others' religious and spiritual needs while experiencing joy, health, and connection to others."

Thomas Skovholt, University of Minnesota, and co-author of The Resilient Practitioner, third edition