By Joe McKeever
The lion knows.
When searching for lunch, the stalking lion doesn’t take on the whole herd but looks for the loner.
The antelope too small, the calf too weak, the cow too sickly, those too elderly or headstrong—and he has found his next meal.
“It is not good for man to be alone,” said God the Father as He looked at His creation. And thus, “He made a helper for man.”
That judgment—that aloneness isn’t good—applies to all of us, and in particular, to those called by God to spread His gospel and shepherd His sheep.
When Jesus sent His disciples out, they went two-by-two (Mark 6:7). When the Spirit called the first missionaries, they went out in pairs or in larger groups (Acts 13:2).
And yet. Pastors can often be cocky about not needing anyone else, seeing that need as a weakness and a reflection on poor spirituality.
But the simple fact is the Lord who made us “knows what we are made of, remembering that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14).
He knows we’re made of humble stuff and need all the help we can get. And that help often takes the form of friends and benefactors.
I asked a group of preacher friends for their take on how pastors can form community with others. Here are a few of their suggestions.
1. Intentional development
Since our local association of churches is so large, it’s been divided into seven regions. Each region has a pastor-convener who looks after the churches and pastors in his area. The associational mission strategist over the area periodically gathers these seven leaders for a time of coaching, at which time they make plans.
2. Informal gatherings
It’s as simple as calling a fellow pastor friend and asking him to meet you at a local spot. It can get even better when three or four gather. The dynamics change when the twosome becomes a quartet.
3. Monday afternoon discussions
A denominational leader can invite several pastors to meet him on a Monday afternoon—surely the deadest moment of what’s typically a down day for pastors—at a coffee shop for discussion, openness, and prayer.
4. Retired pastor conversations
One pastor loves to gather several retired ministers in his church together for “ministry talk.” He’s the one who usually benefits the most from these conversations.
5. Leverage hospital chaplains
Start with chaplains at local hospitals. If anyone knows other pastors in the area, these chaplains do.
6. Weekly meetings
If an association or a group of local churches is small enough and the churches are close, a weekly gathering for pastors can be ideal.
Aim to have no other agenda than an opening, an announcement or two, and a time for each person to introduce themselves. See what happens.
7. Times of prayer
When doing revival services, I used to go with my host pastor to the weekly gathering of ministers. There must have been sixty people gathered in a huge circle in that room.
After each minister introduced himself, the leader said, “Who has something to share?” A pastor said, “I was fired yesterday.”
For the next hour, those godly ministers surrounded this brother with love, counsel, and support. I’ve never forgotten it.
8. Cross-denominational fellowship
A fellowship time for pastors across denominational lines can be a good thing. One pastor said, “Ours is mostly evangelicals. It’s surprising how much we have in common.”
He said they also started a Facebook page, which is paying dividends.
9. Small groups
“Groups are good,” said one pastor, “but we still need a close friend (or two or three)—for coffee, to share pains, failures, hopes, all without getting a ‘theological answer.'”
10. Keep it simple
The pastor who’s missing a meaningful fellowship time with colleagues should take the initiative and reach out.
The surest way to kill such a get together before it begins is to say, “Let’s meet for an hour every Monday afternoon.”
Best to start simple, with something like, “I’m inviting you and two other pastors to join me for coffee Monday afternoon. No agenda, just fellowship.” If it meets needs, it will continue.
In many cases, one or two will drop out, and you’ll need to invite another pastor or two until you find the right mix.
Be careful not to make this a closed clique, but an open fellowship where others feel free to come.
If it’s in danger of becoming too huge, start a second fellowship time on another day. You may find this to be one of the finest ministries you’ve ever been a part of.