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Friendless in Ministry

by Thom Schultz

The old pastor advised the new young minister: “Whatever you do, don’t form any friendships in the church.”

I’ve often heard this advice in the church and in business. The fears of friendship seem to center around several factors:

  • “The friendship will fail, and you’ll be hurt.”
  • “You can’t converse with friends and maintain confidentiality.”
  • “Some will accuse you of playing favorites with your friends.”
  • “When you get close to people you’ll expose your imperfections, and that’s dangerous to your leadership.”

A pastor of a large church once told me, “Friendships are just a series of paper cuts.” He proudly proclaimed he had no friends inside—or outside—his church.

He’s friendless—and bitter, negative, cynical, lonely and disconnected from the real world. And he’s adamant about remaining friendless in ministry. The paper cuts aren’t worth it.

I don’t buy it. Never have—in church or business settings.

Friendships—in and out of the workplace—keep us healthier, happier, better adjusted, and more empathic. For those of us in leadership, friendships also keep us more connected, humble, and real.

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But aren’t there risks? Of course. Good things involve risks. But the abundant returns are worth the risks.

The risks were worth it for Jesus too. He didn’t let his sense of ministry keep him from forming friendships in his team. He didn’t allow his leadership prohibit him from forming friendships among his followers. He didn’t let the prospect of future betrayal keep him forming friendships in his team.

The world’s authority on relationships in ministry said, “I no longer call you servants. I call you friends.” (John 15:15)

May we follow his lead.

2 thoughts on “Friendless in Ministry

  1. Friendships are based on honesty. If a pastor is honest about his struggles, he hands his friend a weapon that friend can someday use to destroy the Pastor’s career and family. The problem lies with the astronomical expectations laypeople attach to their pastors. The slightest weakness and he’s gone.

  2. Rob Edwards

    I have always had friends in my ministry, yes, even in my own church. It is the only way. It stops me from being a professional spiritual carer and preacher and turns me into a pastor, weaknesses and all. I don’t think I could serve a church which didn’t allow me to be human,

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