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A Pastor Needs Friends
We are made for relationship. Pastors, too, need to share their lives with friends. Can they find them in their own church? Here are pointers for pastors on making friends.

The story is told of a pastor who was so addicted to golf that he phoned in sick one Sunday and traveled to the other side of the city to play at a golf course where no one would recognize him. An angel in heaven noticed the pastor about to tee off instead of being at his church and advised God to punish him. Immediately a wind blew as the pastor hit the ball and it flew way up into the air, traveled 465 yards, bounced on the green and went straight into the cup. The angel said to God: "You gave him a hole in one! Weren't you supposed to punish him?" To which God answered: "I did. Now, who can he tell?"

… various ministers whom I greatly respected, warned me not to look for friends within my own congregation.

We were made to share our lives with others. You and I need friends, people with whom to share our joys and successes as well as our heartaches and struggles.

The Bible says in Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, "Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!"

If there is one person who really needs friends, possibly more than others, due to the many stresses and emotional highs and lows of his calling, it is your pastor. Like you, he needs people who are encouragers, with whom he can share openly and honestly knowing that it will go no further, because they genuinely love him.

However, pastors can have a problem here. When I became a pastor, various ministers whom I greatly respected, warned me not to look for friends within my own congregation. When I asked why, the answers I got went something like this: "They will only want to talk 'shop.' You need people with whom you can relax—friends that know nothing about your church and ministry and care about you just for being you. You must be able to let down your guard." Others were more ominous in their warnings:

"Friends within your church might only want to use their relationship to manipulate you to their way of thinking."

"Others will see a relationship with you as political advantage."

"It will just be a one way relationship."

"Find friends outside of your church!"

I have to admit that I did not take their advice and have many wonderful friends who have been a part of congregations that I have had the privilege of leading. These people still enrich my life. But to be honest, I have been "burned" a few times, and more than one devastated pastor has cried in my office telling me horror stories of how they have been treated by so-called Christian friends in their church. In spite of this, I believe that pastors can find wonderful friends within the churches that they serve.

Six ways a pastor can make friends in a new community:

• Find and connect with the "pastor's men," people with a God-given heart for the pastor, a few of whom exist in every congregation (rather like David's mighty men).

• Intentionally be part of a home group (you do not have to lead it) with people that you feel you have an affinity.

• Make a list of people who you would like to get to know and set aside a few personal evenings a month to have them over.

• Play a sport with people whose company you think you might enjoy.

• Don't get pressured to be "everybody's" close friend. This is just not humanly possible.

• Pray for God to guide you to great new friends and be open to His leading.

David Arrol Macfarlane is the director of national initiatives with The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada

Originally published on-line with Promise Keepers, April 2, 2004.




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