Every pastor I know needs a best friend. Don’t we all?
Most likely the pastor has a best friend in a spouse. I hope so. I encourage it. My wife is that for me. My boys are also.
But, I think there’s more. And, more these days than ever.
And, if “best” is too strong a word, pick your own word. Good. Close. Trusted. Every pastor needs a friend, besides a spouse – of the same gender – who knows them well and can encourage and challenge like no one else can.
Yet, in working with pastors as I do regularly, I would say more pastors live paranoid of who they can trust than have someone they would consider a close confidant. Some pastors believe not having one simply comes with the job. I’ve heard pastors say we can’t expect to have those type relationships with people – that we are somehow, for some reason, “above that”.
That’s dangerous talk. And, many pastors have failed buying that lie — or never inviting people into a closer circle of friendship.
I equally know some people who want to be that type friend to the pastor. And, the pastor has either been hard to get to know or the person doesn’t know how to relate to them. I appreciate those who have a sincere desire to befriend the pastor – which is the purpose of this post.
I can’t speak for all pastors – but I can speak for me and, I believe, I can speak for many pastors due to my coaching ministry among them. I’ve learned you can have “best” friends in the church, but certainly, if necessary because of the size church, outside the church where one pastors.
If you want to be this kind of friend to a pastor, I need to warn you the pastor may be skeptical at first. Every pastor has been burned a time or two. If your heart, however, is to be a friend – even a best friend – to your pastor here are some suggestions which have worked to endear my friends to me.
(I used the male pronoun for ease of writing, and because I’m speaking from experience, but this surely goes for all who are in ministry.)
Here are 7 ways to be a pastor’s “best” friend:
Let him be himself. Warts and all. Don’t expect more from the pastor than you would anyone else. There is likely a church holding him to a higher standard. And, they should. But, as a “best friend” you know he’s still a “work in progress” – just like you. Allow him to be human. And, his family too!
Don’t make him be the pastor in every situation. Let him be “off” occasionally. Don’t talk “church” all the time. If you’re best friend is a waitress you don’t talk food or customer service all the time, do you? A doctor’s best friend isn’t always looking for free medical advice. Talk sports. Or politics (that’s hard for most pastors to find a place to do). Or about your family. Talk about life. Also, he shouldn’t always have to be the one to pray just because he is in the room. Shoulder some of his burden when you are with him.
Never talk about him behind his back. Let him know you will always protect him and have his best intentions in mind. Above all have integrity in the relationship – which should be true in every friendship.
Never repeat anything he tells you in private without permission. Never. Ever. Ever. This may be the most important one. It’s amazing how people will repeat what you say if they think you are claiming to be a close friend. As soon as you do, it will be very difficult to trust you again. And, isn’t part of being a best friend the confidences you two keep between you?
Love him even when he makes mistakes. You’d want that from your best friends wouldn’t you? Why not give him one friend he knows he can always count on to be in his corner? Even on those days where his emotional state or his mindset make him seem not very pastoral – and maybe not even like a best friend.
Support him publicly. You won’t be much of a friend if you don’t challenge him when needed, but it should always be done in private. When in a crowd be on his side until you’ve had a chance to talk to him in person – and alone.
Don’t hold him to unreasonable expectations. I’ve seen people who want to be a pastor’s friend get upset when the pastor didn’t tell them everything going on in the church. They get their feelings hurt. Every pastor walks on a certain amount of “eggshells” wondering who will respond and how to things the pastor does. We should never place this burden on a “best” friend. Have no hidden agenda to the relationship – no attempt to gain information or status – just friendship.
Those are a few suggestions, but even with these, don’t be disappointed if the pastor doesn’t respond as you would want him to. Again, best friends don’t. Plus, maybe – hopefully – your pastor has a best friend or two already. We need them.
As I close, I’m thinking these are good suggestions in all friendships – pastor or not. And we all need them.
Pastors, any suggestions you would add?