According to Lifeway Research, 28% of pastors say loneliness or lack of friendship is a mental challenge they face in ministry. Issa Safadi, pastor of Arabic Church of Milwaukee, joins Ben Mandrell, president and CEO of Lifeway Christian Resources, to discuss the Greatest Needs of Pastors study and breaking down barriers to friendship with other pastors.
Ben Mandrell: Let’s talk about friendship with other pastors. More than 28% of pastors indicate that they struggle to find friendships with other pastors. Why do you think it’s such a struggle?
Issa Safadi: The problem is when they’re competition. “I’m afraid that this pastor will take my people.” So when we are safe, we trust in God, and we serve in our call, I can be friends with any pastor. I know a lot of pastors are afraid to make a friendship. Sometimes maybe I said, “There aren’t any pastors who want to be friends with me.” But I need to take a step and let the pastor be a comfort for me. And I let him see I’m not thinking about the friendship just to have something to take from you. I need to be friends with you. I make a lot of first steps with pastors. The first time, I may see something as a block. But I continue, I continue, I continue. I am not proud and don’t say “He doesn’t want to talk with me.” No, I try and try and try. After that, the pastor sees I really want to be friends with him. After five or six times, he’s open. And now I have a good friendship with many, many pastors around us.
Ben Mandrell: That’s interesting you bring that up. I heard a pastor, even today talking about how it’s easier to be friends with pastors in other cities because there’s no sense of “We’re competing” or any kind of conflict of interest. Which is hard to swallow in some ways, because you feel like pastors in the city should be friends. But it is difficult.
Issa Safadi: Yesterday, another church planter who’s close to my church sat with me. And a catalyst introduced us to one person from Tennessee who wants to come and do a VBS or help churches in Milwaukee. The catalyst tried to introduce me first, with the other church planter sitting next to me. So now what do I do at this time? If I start to talk, maybe [the other church planter] will be jealous of me. I told the catalyst, “Okay, let him talk first.” So he trusts me more. He sees I’m not a competition for him. And I don’t need to take everything for myself. That makes me friends with him. When he sees I’m not thinking about myself—I want him to be successful too—he will be friends with me. I think sometimes other pastors see me as needing to take something from him or I’m a competition for him. Maybe he’s thinking that, but I need to do something to comfort him and make him trust me. That will build the bridge for relationships.
Ben Mandrell: That’s really good. So making a tangible act of love to show compassion or concern for his church.
Issa Safadi: Or invite him to preach in my church. Invite him one time.
Ben Mandrell: It changes things.
Issa Safadi: I think if I’m safe and stable and I trust in God, I’m not afraid of anything being taken from me. And I can make friendships with you.
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