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.
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.
Thom – Just found your blog. I think there is at least another group of we ministers and reasons for lack of friendship. As a pastors son who moved every 5 years or so, I never learned how to make and keep friends. Now in ministry, it is a product of my raising. Not blaming my past but understanding how it shaped me. I have moved about, even overseas and back and have many friends but no real, deeply connected, hold me accountable, love me and my warts, friends. I don’t know how to have them or keep them. I am now built on a willingness to let them go if a move happens. Surface level friends are nice but now at 52, I am recognizing what I do not have and am clueless to know how to get it.