Should Pastors Have Friends Within Their Church?

One of the questions that a new pastor has to wrestle with is the nature of relationships they will have within their congregation. Can you be friends with people in the congregation? With leaders/elders/deacons/board members? With other pastoral staff?

During one ministry placement when I was in seminary, I had some friends come to the church where I was doing youth work. The pastor pulled me aside and asked me to end those friendships because once they started attending, they were now inappropriate relationships. At another church, not only did the pastor have friends within the congregation, they actually went to their friends for spiritual care.

There are people on all sides of the issue who have very strong feelings. I can only share my opinion.

I think that pastors are isolated enough that it is unhealthy to deny friendships. In certain contexts, people within the congregation may be the only people available for friends.

There are also times when friendships just develop naturally. There are people who have the same interests and values. Being around them makes you a better person and they spur you on to a deeper relationship with God. Such friendships should not be avoided.

Having said that, having friends within the congregation must be done with care. A pastor can not let their friends dominate their time during church events. When it comes to ministry time, everyone should have equal access to the pastor, not just the friends. Pastors should be watching and listening to how friendships are affecting the ministry within the church.

I also think that friendships are good within pastoral teams. I don’t mean just between the different associate pastors, but with lead pastors as well. Yes some hard decisions or situations may affect the friendship but those dangers are there in any relationship.

Not every pastor will agree with me and I am fine with that. For some pastors it just doesn’t work. For the others, enjoy those friendships.


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3 thoughts on “Should Pastors Have Friends Within Their Church?”

  1. Though I am not a pastor I will weigh on the positive for forming friendships. God called us into community and fellowship with one another. A pastor should not be isolated from friends in his parish. Good Christian friends are not only a comfort but a necessity especially to pastors. True Christian friendship that develops because of their common need to support one another in the love of Christ are invaluable. I can see how some people may seek a friendship with the pastor for reasons other than just being a good friend so discernment will always be required. But , I can also see that congregations might also wonder about a pastor who chose to remain at a distance. This could foster even more guarded and secretive behavior in both pastor and congregation . Look to Pauls example he loved and cherished several members of the churches. In turn they were able to cheer him and give him strength to run the course.

  2. I come at this from a unique perspective: I am now the Lead Pastor at the church my family and I began attending 15 years ago. For 7 of those years, we were just your run-of-the-mill congregants. I had a ministry job outside of the church. Then I was asked to step in and serve as Pastor of Worship (pt). 5 years ago, after several pastoral transitions, I threw my hat in the ring and answered the call to be the full-time Lead Pastor. So, I arrived at the position with ALOT of friends within the congregation. On top of that, the man I consider my best friend is my Associate Pastor with a longer tenure on staff, yet reports to me. I wouldn’t trade my situation for anything – it is an honour and privilege to “pastor” my friends – I think they would agree. I think the key sentence in this post is “Pastors should be watching and listening to how friendships are affecting the ministry within the church”. Being aware of potential areas of conflict and time-sucking goes a long way to maintaining health – for the church, for the friendships and for the pastor himself. Thanks, Stephen: excellent thoughts.

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