categories: church, communication, encouragement, relationships
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March 2nd, 2010

by Craig Groeschel

22 comments (+ Add)

Your Friendship Matters

Dear Church,

Thank you so much for treating me like a normal person. I feel that you honor the “office” of the pastor but love and accept me as a person.

I don’t take this for granted. Many of my pastor friends tell me that they feel lonely in ministry. Many have explained that other pastors in town are difficult to get to know and trust. Others have expressed deep hurts from friendships-gone-bad with people in their churches.

My family feels loved and accepted and not judged by the church. Some people may act differently around us because they are “with the pastor.” Our family enjoys when you are yourself and let us be ourselves. I’m especially grateful when you don’t put unrealistic expectations on my children and love them as regular kids.

We’ll always try to be a good and faithful example of Christ, but we’re grateful when you love us even though we occasionally fail.

I’d love to hear your perspective of friendships in ministry.

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  1. Mar 2, 2010 at 7:00 am

    Craig: this has been a tough one for me. I come from the era (I am older than you and most of your readers) where I was told, “Never get close to the people. Never make friends.” I violated that almost immediately because my personality isn’t wired that way. Some of our deepest friendships that still go on are from former churches I pastored. But also some of the deepest feelings of betrayal are from the same. I am glad that for the most part my “office” is honored but that I am also treated like a “normal” person. My one suggestion for the younger pastors is choose wisely whom you confide in. Don’t just blab things the first time you spend time with someone. Allow it to develop in order to see trust and confidentiality. Don’t take the road I was told to take (and didn’t) like the old guys but do choose wisely whom you and your mate decide to call friends.

  2. Mar 2, 2010 at 7:26 am

    Hey Craig,
    Great post. I’ve been in pastoral ministry for 35 years now. This has not been a problem for me. I’ve always enjoyed the friendship and comradely of those in the churches I’ve served in. Our family has grown and flourished in these churches as well.
    The first pastor I served with out of seminary did tell me not to develop close relationships with people in the church, but I couldn’t help it. The church was a great church and the people just welcomed me and my young family into their midst.
    Thanks so much for raising the questions.

  3. Mar 2, 2010 at 8:39 am

    Craig that is great stuff. I can tell you that those were honest concerns of my wife’s when I first told her God had placed a calling upon my heart.
    Bill…I think that is excellent advice and as a “young” guy I certainly do appreciate it.

  4. Mar 2, 2010 at 9:19 am

    [...] Read more here: Your Friendship Matters - : swerve [...]

  5. Mar 2, 2010 at 9:28 am

    A few months back I had to sit down with my leadership team and share a real challenge one of my teens was facing. I know that in some churches the pastor would have been challenged on his parenting skills or even asked to leave. My team cried and prayed with me. I am thankful for men who stand with my family. My congregation responded in the same way. I am blessed.

    My heart breaks for pastors that feel they are not able to be real with their church. Praying for the many who will read this and long for this type of relationship with their church.

  6. Mar 2, 2010 at 9:34 am

    Been burned and blessed from friendships since I have been a Pastor. I will never allow being burned keep me from the blessing that come through the church friendships but I am very choosey with whom I befriend - choosey pastors choose wisely.

    Thanks for the good thoughts!

  7. 8Jim Baer
    Mar 2, 2010 at 12:07 pm

    Thanks for the letter Craig, our prayers are with you. We appreciate your honesty and your seeking others input. I have experienced both critical responses and supportive actions. I know that some people expect super-Christian behavior from church leaders but praise God that He knows that we are dust like everyone. His grace is sufficient for us in every situation, we can’t serve others without His empowerment.

  8. 9BillG
    Mar 2, 2010 at 12:19 pm

    Hey Craig, what do you thing contributes to your success in getting people to treat you like a normal person? I think most of the people reading this blog would love to be treated the same by the people we spend time with each Sunday. Any Tips?

  9. 10Rusty Jarrett
    Mar 2, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    Great post and so true!

  10. Mar 2, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    In the Lutheran church I attend in Huntington Beach, CA, I’m fortunate that my Senior Pastor is a huge movie buff. In fact, he managed a theater for Regal Cinemas (formerly Edwards) before being called into ministry. He also has a poster of “The Shawshank Redemption” in his office. I love movies and appreciate that he goes with me to see some from time to time as his schedule is free. Even movies that aren’t PG…or PG-13, lol. He is still my pastor and I respect his godly wisdom, but he is also a friend.

  11. Mar 2, 2010 at 1:47 pm

    Bill G, Keep looking for ways to be real before your people.

  12. Mar 2, 2010 at 2:07 pm

    We have enjoyed some amazingly strong and lasting friendships and we have suffered some unbelievable hurt and betrayal…I think both are unavoidable in ministry…it is the amazingly stong and lasting friendships that anchor you during the suffering times..I guess it is a risk…sometimes the seemingly wise choices end in hurt…

  13. Mar 2, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    it’s not possble for my wife and I to be friends with the other pastors in the community in which we minister - my wife is the pastor and I her co-pastor and that is just too hard for the other pastors to accept and even many in their congregations run from us when they see us - nope - not possible for us here.

  14. Mar 2, 2010 at 4:49 pm

    I feel for you Brian. There are definitely pastors in this community that I would not trust as far as I could throw them nor confide in in any way, shape or form. Too much competition and hard feelings. But I have been blessed by being able to find a Naz pastor (I am not Naz) whom I have gone out to eat with on numerous occasions and now find him a good ally. He is also one year younger than me (a fact he reminds me of) :) In fact, I recently asked him to be my accountability partner in Covenant Eyes. I trust him implicitly. Can you go to another close town and find someone from your own denomination?

  15. Mar 2, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    Bill G: I would like to take a gander at your question. It is tough being treated the same. Some won’t/don’t want to. They want their pastor on a pedestal. On the other hand I have known pastors who “take pride” in their people being earthy around them. I find that offensive and showing a lack of respect (for me or anyone for that matter). I think one of the things you need to do is find those who have some of the same things in common like eating out or watching movies or going to ball games. My wife and almost always eat out on Sunday and have found a family or two who are “of the same mind.” We almost always have a standing date and enjoy the time together. That is just one example.

  16. Mar 2, 2010 at 6:15 pm

    Brian, My heart goes out to you and your wife. Praying for God to work.

  17. Mar 3, 2010 at 12:08 am

    I am really confused as to why people in almost every congregation would do this…it just doesn’t make sense to me. I am greatly perplexed…

    But at the same time, I will take your warnings and choose wisely!

  18. Mar 6, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    oh, we have friends nearby and in our district (we’re AG) just not able to be friends with the other pastors here - not going say who they are with. It is frustrating but something I have to take to the Lord and try not to get too displaced about. thanks for the comments (to a certain extent I can see why they feel they way they do (about women pastors) - it’s just unfortuante that in some cases doctrinal loyalties get put ahead of Christ’s commands to love and accept one another).

  19. Mar 8, 2010 at 2:55 pm


    You write…
    “Many of my pastor friends tell me that they feel lonely in ministry.
    Many have explained that other pastors in town are difficult to get to know and trust.”

    How sad.

    If “pastors/leaders” (as we see them today) are of God?
    He’s not taking very good care of His shepherds; Is He?

    This is info from a website helping burned out Pastors.

    PastorCare offers support and encouragement for pastors and their families.
    At PastorCare we care about YOU and we want to help.

    According to the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership (2007)
    • 77% say they do “not” have a good marriage.
    • 71% have felt burned out or depressed.
    • 70% do not have someone they consider a close friend.
    • 40% report a serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month.
    • 38% are divorced or seriously considering divorce.

    According to the Ministering to Ministers Foundation…
    • Over 1600 pastors in the U.S. are forced out of their positions each month.
    • Nearly 1 in 4 pastors experience a forced termination at least once during their ministry.
    •Only 54% of pastors go back into full-time church related positions.

    Think we might have a problem with the title “Pastor?”
    70% of pastors are depressed or burnt out.
    70% Don’t have a close friend. Hmmm?

    That’s who is running the show.
    77% who say they don’t have a good marriage. Hmmm?
    That’s who is “abusing” God’s sheep.

    Think there might be a problem with today’s “Pastors/Leaders?”

    1600 pastors a month, that’s 19,000 a year, leave or are pushed out. Wow!!!
    That’s 1600 families a month suffering “abuse” from a “Corrupt Religious System.”
    That’s a lot of broken hearts, disappointments, feelings of failure, pain, abuse.

    In His Service. by His Grace.