In my 32 years of ministry, I’ve served 4 churches – one in Florida, one in Virginia, and two in Iowa. In my first three ministries, I eschewed the idea that a pastor needed to be careful about having his closest friends within the church membership. My closest friends were “in-house” guys and I was confident it would work well.
Of course, as a younger man who showed evidence of “youthful arrogance and immaturity” right up into my late 40s, who was hyper-competitive in sports until I got too fat to participate anymore, who had a lot of rough edges on my personality, it caused problems. It caused problems for me, when some men I considered friends turned against me. Some of my deepest wounds in ministry have come at the hands of people I considered real friends. It also caused problems for friends when they had trouble respecting me as pastor after they saw all my warts in our private interactions.
It is hard to have a “soul-friend” – one to whom you are vulnerable about your weaknesses and struggles who is also a member of your church and following your leadership as pastor.
In my current ministry, I have some good friends. However, I’ve become a little more reserved and less likely to share my hurts, struggles and weaknesses. I once confessed burnout to my deacons and they blessed me with about a month off – a ministry-changing time. But I was not specific about the things that were bothering me. I just don’t do that anymore.
That leads to another problem, of course. I don’t have a lot of time to invest in friendships outside the church and that can leave a pastor with no real friends at all, beyond the surface. I know there are many pastors who decry their lack of close friends. Maybe that issue needs a forum all of its own.
But, I’d be interested in hearing your views on this. Do you maintain your closest friendships within the church, or do you look to fellow pastors or other believers outside the membership of your church? Do you have close friends? Do you feel lonely and isolated in ministry?
Tell Uncle Dave all about it.