Posts Tagged ‘pastors and friendships’

Pastors need friends … they just don’t have very many.

In fact, the latest statistic I’ve seen is that 70% of all pastors don’t have even one close friend.

Charles Wickman, a classy and gracious man who knows his stuff, wrote the following in his book Pastors at Risk: Protecting Your Future, Guarding Your Present:

“Perhaps a problem of the pastor’s own doing, he/she is isolated and lonely.  No understanding ear to listen to him when he needs to talk.  Few if any genuine friends who unconditionally support him, especially when he is open and transparent about the good and the bad of his life.”

Why is this?  Wickman goes on:

“When the pastor chooses to talk to his judicatory people, he jeopardizes his career; when to other pastors, competition multiplies; when he befriends a member of the congregation, he is thought to be partial; when he talks with extended family, they won’t believe he feels so alone.”

I resonate with Wickman’s comment.

Let me offer four possible reasons why pastors have few or no friends:

First, pastors are consumed by church activities.

The average pastor is so busy “doing church” that he has little time or energy to invest in personal friendships.

Sometimes it feels like Sunday comes every other day … and everything in a pastor’s life revolves around Sunday.

If I had any free time as a pastor, I did things with my wife … or carried out household chores … or tried to conserve my energy for the next church activity.

Getting together with friends wasn’t high on my list because friendships seemed peripheral to the church’s mission and vision.

I wanted friends … I needed friends … I just didn’t know how to fit them into an already-packed schedule.

Second, when pastors do make friends, somebody invariably moves away.

I became friends with someone in my first pastorate.

Then he moved away.

I became friends with a fellow pastor in my second pastorate.

Then he moved away.

I became friends with another pastor a few years later.

Then he moved away.

I became friends with a board chairman in my third pastorate.

Then he moved away.

There were times when I’m sure that I was the one who moved, but it seems like every time I made a friend, one of us left the community.

And after a while, you hesitate to make any more friends because you tell yourself, “If I do become friends with someone, one of us won’t be staying.”

I suppose this is just how life works, but it’s harder for men to make new friends as they get older … and it’s even harder for pastors.

Third, you don’t know who you can really trust.

Remember when you were a kid and you liked another boy or girl?  Would you share that information with a friend?

I wouldn’t trust anybody with that information because I saw what happened when other kids admitted that they liked somebody.

The news traveled all over the school.

I remember a night in my last church ministry when I was really down emotionally.  I was struggling with some issues and wasn’t handling matters rationally.

I confided in a church leader that evening, and assumed by the way he listened that he was my friend.

Then he went and shared what I told him with others and they interpreted my thoughts and feelings in the worst possible light.

And earlier in my pastoral career, I confided in a district official … who used what I told him against me for years.

Like most pastors, I trust very few people: my wife, my kids, some family, and a select few friends who have track records of keeping confidences.

That’s it.

Most pastors know that if they confide in the wrong person, and their thoughts/feelings get out, it could damage their position or their career … so they keep things quiet … and remain friendless.

It’s ironic that pastors … who are expected to keep the confidences of others … know few people who will keep their secrets.

Finally, many people react awkwardly around a pastor.

Why is this?

*They’re unsure how to act or speak around a “holy man of God.”

*They’re afraid they might offend the pastor in some fashion.

*They feel like the pastor, as a representative of God, can see right through them.

*They’re afraid of saying or doing something that may end up as a sermon illustration.

*They can’t seem to connect with the pastor on a personal level.

When I was a pastor, I could sense that many people only wanted to know me in a cursory manner.  Conversations were brief.  Something else was more important.

Those people probably weren’t going to become my good friends.

I once read that some people think there are three sexes: men, women, and clergy …  and pastors sense that’s how some people view them.

So the circle a pastor can choose friends from is usually quite small … which reduces the chances he will find a close friend.


Now that I’m back in Southern California, I’ve had the opportunity to meet with many old friends, and I sense they love me as I am … without conditions.

I’m not “pastor” to them … just “Jim” … their friend.

Sounds good to me.


I’ve only scratched the surface with this issue.

Why do you think that pastors have few friends?






















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