Can You Be Friends with Your Pastor?

Well, the answer is “yes,” but I want you to understand the full implications of it.  I think everyone wants to be friendly with their pastor (well most people).  I would also say most people want to spend time with their pastor, but friendship is different.  Friendship has connotation of mutual and consistent engagement.   I don’t have time to fully define “friendship” so hopefully I can make my point in this way.  We all have “work friends” that we hang out with and talk with at work, and maybe even occasionally talk about work outside of work; but at the end of the day, if they left your work, you wouldn’t stay friends because they were just “work friends.”  Right?  We like them, we will miss them, but they were “work friends” – not “real friends.”  Hopefully that made sense; and if not, forget I said it.  Being real friends with your pastor is actually pretty unique and rare I think.  I only say that, because I think most people are content with not being friends with their pastor. He has a different relationship – your pastor.  That’s special and good.  But the people that want to be friends with their pastor, they might be surprised to realize that their pastor doesn’t view them as a friend in the same way.  You might be “leaning” on him, but is he “leaning” on you?  It doesn’t mean he doesn’t like you or even love you, it just means he views your relationship as more one-sided.  Again, that’s not bad at all.  But what if you somehow broke through that barrier and started to become actual friends with your pastor.  You text back and forth regularly in both spiritual and non-spiritual discussions.  You hang out at restaurants, sporting events, movie theaters, and each other’s homes pretty regularly.  You have easy, fun conversations about a myriad of topics and the occasional deep discussions. Your pastor actually asks you for prayer sporadically and complains about various difficulties he’s having. With all that, you might actually be friends with your pastor.  So what does that mean?  You said there are implications?  Why was such an ominous sounding word used?  I’m gonna get there.  But let’s make a pro and con list first.

PRO’s to Being Friends with Your Pastor 

He actually has very few real friends, so he needs it

He needs prayer and even to vent occasionally.

Most Pastors’ are generally unselfish, pretty awesome people.

(I have no actual evidence for that one but can guarantee I’m right)

You’ll get a unique insight and perspective on ministry in general and your church in specific.  You’ll also probably get some ministry opportunities you might not have had otherwise.

CON’s to Being Friends with Your Pastor

He might not be good at being friends.  He hasn’t had many since seminary. It’ll take him a while to open up. He will probably keep you at arms length because previous friends have hurt him in various ways.  It will also be hard for him to share anything too personal wondering how it will hurt his ministry with you and others.

But if you are really friends with your pastor you will potentially (I almost wrote “probably” there) stop seeing him as your pastor.  He eats, jokes, and farts in the same way you do.  Aren’t pastors supposed to be different? He doesn’t pray, read the bible, or visit people nearly as much as you thought he did.  (He does it more than you but you aren’t doing those things enough, and you’re not a pastor so it’s “ok.”  At least that’s what you tell yourself.)  He’s not nearly as perfect a husband, father, and son as you would demand your pastor to be.  He’s merely… ordinary.  He’s not nearly as special as when he first came to the church.  That aura he was glowing with seems to have faded.

Ministry is harder than you ever thought it was.  Not the busyness, but the heartbreak and the failures.  There’s a cloth at the church that once you see behind it, it changes the way you see everything.  I guess it’s kind of like once you find out how hotdogs are made.  Your pastor lives behind the cloth and only gets to come out in front on Sundays.  Can the vegan be friends with the hotdog butcher? (I might have stretched that illustration too far.  Nah, I’ll stick with it).

So what are the “implications”?  Your pastor will be a needier friend than you ever thought he was going to be.  You will start to see him differently and you might like him as a friend but then you’ll want to go out and get a new pastor because you still kind of like having a regular one of those. And in time you’ll know too much and unless you can start thinking like a pastor too you’ll probably get disenfranchised to your church as well. So there it is – the implications.

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