Life and ministry are way too hard to do alone. I want to encourage pastors and their spouses to reject the notion that ministry is a sentence to solitary confinement. Here are a few places to look for friends with whom you can share life outside the ministry.
When Janet and I moved to Nashville fifteen months ago, we prayed for friends. A week later, God sent Greg and Erica, who I wrote about last week in Why Multi-Racial Friendships Matter. We also asked God for some friends with whom we could share our love for the outdoors. Janet enjoys backpacking and I love to bow hunt. Someone at Lifeway reminded me that professional hunter and television host Jimmy Sites lived near us. I met Jimmy once ten years ago when he spoke at our Beast Feast men’s outreach event. Within a week of that call, Jimmy and I were kayaking on a nearby lake together with our wives. God is good!
I wonder how many of my unanswered prayers are actually just prayers that I never prayed. I am sharing my recent friendship experiences with you to encourage you to take the initiative with God and also with people who live all around you.
Can pastors have friendships in the churches they serve in? Some old school ministers believed that a pastor should not be friends with church members. Do not confuse friendship with favoritism or you will fall prey to this isolation trap. Your church is more than your job, they are your faith family.
I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:34-35).
Your church certainly needs you, but you also need them. If you don’t have a friend in your life, maybe you should look first in your church. But also look beyond the church into the community where you live. If not, you are missing out, or maybe worse—burning out.
MENTORS & MENTEES
For three decades I have made an intentional effort to have a mentor, a mentee, and a ministry peer in my life. These three relationships have become firewalls for me against isolation, loneliness, and spiritual drift. I wrote three posts about mentoring in June, so I will only add here that those in your mentoring relationships can also be included into your inner friendship circle.
If we love one another, God remains in us and His love is perfected in us (1 John 4:12).
I hope that you will make many friends in the ministry, but please do not stop there. Additionally, pursue friendships outside of the ministry which will make your life richer. They will inadvertently make your ministry healthier too because healthy pastors lead healthy churches.
Featured image credit (edited for size)