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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 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 years of coaching and ministering among them. I’ve learned you can have “best” friends in the church, but even 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.

Here are 7 ways to be a pastor’s “best” friend:

Let the pastor be true to self. Warts and all – don’t expect more from the pastor than you would anyone else. There is likely a church holding the pastor to a higher standard. And they should. But, as a “best friend”, you know everyone is still a “work in progress” – just like you. Allow your pastor to be human. And their family too!

Don’t make the pastor be the pastor in every situation. Let the pastor 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 hopefully 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 – side note, the pastor shouldn’t always have to be the one to pray just because they are in the room. Shoulder some of his burden when you are with them.)

Never talk about the pastor behind their back. Let them know you will always protect them and have their best intentions in mind. Above all have integrity in the relationship – which should be true in every friendship.

Never repeat anything the pastor 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 the pastor even when they make mistakes. You’d want that from your best friends wouldn’t you? Why not give pastors one friend they know they can always count on to be in his corner? And that should be even on those days where their emotional state or mindset make them seem not very pastoral – and maybe not even like a best friend.

Support the pastor publicly. You won’t be much of a friend if you don’t challenge them when needed, but it should always be done in private. When in a crowd be on the pastor’s side until you’ve had a chance to talk to the pastor in person – and alone.

Don’t hold the pastor 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 them to. Again, best friends don’t. Plus, maybe – hopefully – your pastor has a best friend or two already. All pastors need them.

As I close, I’m thinking these are good suggestions in all friendships – pastor or not. And we all need a best friend.

Pastors, any suggestions you would add? 

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 40 Comments

  • Cheri says:

    I would like to give an example and then a question. Let's say the pastor is a single female. She becomes friends with one of the members of the congregation where they go to movies every once in a while and out to dinner. They don't talk all the time for the friend has a full time job during the week. The pastor leaves only after being there for 2 years. Sometime before she leaves, there is a heated argument between the two over the phone. The member is apologizing all while the pastor is talking over her so as how does the member know if this pastor even heard her? To make it even more hurtful to the member, the pastor makes a wrong assumption of something that the member told her in confidence. Even if the pastor is no longer her preacher, isn't that preacher still obligated to hold this in confidence ? These 2 people whom I know very well. grew close in friendship and now hardly speaks. Maybe every once in a while but what would you say to these 2 in this situation ?

    • ronedmondson says:

      I don't know that I can offer specific information because it's a very personal situation obviously. But, I don't think preachers are the only one who have the expectation to hold things in confidence. That's part of being a good friend. And part of being a Christian. So, yes there has wrong been done here, but the bigger offense, in my opinion, is that there is a broken relationship. That is never Christ honoring. I think in the situations one party has to be humble and purposeful and reach out to restore the relationship. Forgiveness needs to be granted. Now, please understand, forgiveness is to be granted whether or not the other person reciprocates. They may not say what you want them to say or do what you want them to do. But begin reconciliation it almost always begins with one person being willing to lay down the swords and with grace extend the other cheek.

    • I will begin by say this “Rom 8:35-39”. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ Jesus…… in this scripture the word WHO SHALL is a question to be ponder on by the two. Avoiding each other is kidding christianity. The Apostle Paul said to us that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens us, so we can choose to bear each other yokes and burden in forgiveness and let go of any past, present and future issues fulfilling the scripture, or continue to hang out with a bitter spirit which lead to sin and death. Finally, read Rom 8:35- 39.
      You are not perfect and neither your friend. Accept each other weakness and live out the word which you have learned of God’s love.

  • This is spot on. Thank you! I would concur with the comment about loving our families. It seems that often our wives have no one to really confide in or spend time with as well.

    I would also stress don't expect more from our children. They don't have super behavior and decision making abilities simply because their dad is a pastor.

  • doranna cooper says:

    I am a PK, same age as his parents, knew he had been hurt previously so I didn't expect or demand that I be included as a friend, I had to earn it. I love my pastor, he is very similar and is the same generation as my son-in-law. Knowing what my kids like which is certainly different than me and has nothing to do with doctrine is OK. As we get older we need to lower our expectations on how our local church is run and not bring OUR culture into it. Fifty families mean 50 different ways of doing things but as long as the doctrine isn't compromised or changed then we should live with it. BTW, changing churches might not help because they have different traditions & problems.

  • Nathan says:

    I think these could apply to the lady pastors out there too.

  • Larry says:

    I’m in my tenth year as a pastor in the church of which I’ve been a member for 25 years. One of the advantages of this unusual pathway to the pastorate has been the establishment of deep Christian friendships among many of the members prior to becoming their pastor. Those relationships grew deeper when there were no pastoral expectations. Prior to he pastorate I was just a brother in Christ, fighting, sometimes succesfully and sometimes not so succesfully, for the faith. I am grateful that my “Friends” have not forgotten that my role as Pastor hasn’t changed that. I still fight for faith daily, just in a more public arena! We are shepherds (lowercase) but we are also sheep, so I would add that if you want to be a friend to your pastor, be available to help him in that fight! He’s not on the shore directing you to a landing site! He’s in the boat, pointing to one; laboring with you to arrive safely ashore! Thanks for the article!

    • ronedmondson says:

      Yes. I share your story of coming into the ministry later after being “best” friends with many in ministry. Thank you. 

  • denny says:

    Great insight! Thank you for all your personal sacrifice in service to your community. It brought me so much peace when my congregation leaders visited my wife and I in the hospital just moments after my early morning phone call to report we were in trouble. You deserve good friends!

  • Lisa says:

    I love these thoughts and, as a clergy spouse myself, I would suggest that these same principles apply to being a friend to a clergy spouse which is a pretty lonely job.

  • Doug Gaskell says:

    this is great, but I would submit we are missing one thing: Prayer. Pray for 'em. Pray with 'em. Pray for the Pastor, the family, the cat, and the dog. Pray for strength. Pray for faith. Pray for safety. Pray.

    • ronedmondson says:

      Absolutely. But, I would hope the entire church does this — not just the “best friend”.

  • Steve Johnson says:

    Ron, I enjoy reading your posts. My dad was on staff at Immanuel for many years and I have a friend on staff there now. So encouraging to see the Lord at work at IBC. As a pastor I might add or at lease expand on those you mentioned. Look for ways to encourage your pastor. He probably beats himself up enough–or he may have many helpers. I have also found it helpful when elders would get together to see how I was doing and just pray for me with no motive for “checking up” on you–just “checking in”. Great post! Grace and Peace.

  • Emmanuel Ikiebe [email protected] says:

    This is a powerful advice to Pastor’s friends and intenders. but worry here is this aspect of challenging them in the secret. what if the pastor is your superior what would courtesy demands

  • Alfred says:

    It's great to want to be the pastor's best friend and a lot of people would like that position. I think the pastor needs to be free to choose who his closest friends are rather than having people wanting to be in that position. The qualities you shared are great ones that a pastor would want in a friend. I am just concerned about those who are looking for this position and now have a list of things they need to do to move into that role.

    • ronedmondson says:

      That's fair. I agree with you that each pastor should choose their own friends. I don't think this post prevents them from doing so. But wouldn't it be great if we had more people in our churches doing each of these giving the pastor a larger pool from which to choose?

  • Amy says:

    Laugh with them, let them laugh…….let them first be who they are without pastoral expectations. Be completely trustworthy and most important……LOVE….no matter what!!

  • jimpemberton says:

    I know some pastors who would approach this with extreme trepidation. Necessarily so. They've been burned by people they trusted. That said, don't expect your pastor to provide exceptional friendship. Understand when he is guarded. Also understand that there are things he can't share with you. The best thing to do is to be the friend he needs whether he will be able to be the friend you need at the moment.

  • Dave says:

    Here's one- INVITE HIM OVER. Pastors I talk to are always the ones initiating phone calls, lunches, etc. Pastors I talk to are always the ones inviting people over, it it is very, very rarely reciprocated. Take the initiative and invite him and his family over for dinner, or lunch, or to a movie. That is definitely a way to be a best friend. Don't make him do all the inviting- he pretty much does that all week long.

    • ronedmondson says:

      That's great. Thanks. I would suggest to keep in mind he may say no. As an introvert, with a large church and busy schedule, I can only do so many “social” visits each week and still be ready for Sunday. But, yes, take initiative.

    • I think this is great! I know that I struggle with sometimes feeling left out when I hear people who I know consider me a fried talking about them or their families spending time together. Sometimes you feel like you will never be the cool kid.

  • Jim Watson says:

    Love his family.