When a new pastor and his wife enter a pastorate position, it can be tempting for the couple to monopolize their time with getting to know people in the church and building friendships. It is healthy for the couple to establish relationships, but if they rely solely on interactions within their church, the outcome could be disappointing. As young pastor’s wives, it’s important for us to ask, “Will we have close friends?” and “Where will we find them?”
Will we have close friends?
God has designed us to be relational human beings, which means we long to be loved and to give love. This is no different for a pastor and his wife! In fact, it might even be to a greater degree. As Christians, we are called to love the church, the body of Christ.
“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” John 15:12-15
The role of the pastor is to lead his church and in doing so, LOVE them. But with every strength, there is a weakness. Sometimes the couple can give of themselves but never really establish mutually beneficial and encouraging friendships with others.
“People in the church are always looking to us to be their spiritual leaders and teachers, and this is a hat we can never take off. Because we have this responsibility, we will of necessity censor ourselves from sharing certain frustrations or concerns. Lingering in the back of our mind is the awareness that if we say something offensive or hurtful to this person, or express our frustrations about the church too candidly, it might impact their connection to our church, or it might come back to hurt our leadership.” -Mark Brouwer, The Friendless Pastor
Please understand, it is great to have friends within the church but it is important for a pastor and his wife to establish relationships where it is possible to be transparent and where sharing frustrations and seeking guidance about situations in the church is permitted. So, if we can’t solely rely on our relationships within the church, where do we seek close friendship?
Where will we find them?
It is important for a pastor and his wife to be intentional when seeking out close friendships outside the church. It is easy to tell ourselves that if God deems a relationship to happen, it will be effortless. WRONG! You wouldn’t view marriage to be effortless, right? Friendships, just like marriage, take intentionality and commitment.
There are many instances in the bible where the apostles sought friendship outside their ministries. In fact, the letter of 3 John was written to a man named Gaius who was also a fellow man of the faith. John wrote to him to warn him of certain perils and to encourage him in his ministry. It is apparent that John cherished his friendship with Gaius and made it a priority to spend time with him.
“I had much to write to you, but I would rather not write with pen and ink. I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face.” 3 John 1:13-14
Friendships often occur because of common interests. It is natural then for us to find friendship and common ground with other pastors and pastor’s wives.
“One of the richest kinds of friendships is that with a “brother” pastor. It may be a friend from seminary days or a colleague in a nearby district. What a joy it is to laugh together, to share perspectives, concerns, and experiences that you both understand!” -Benjamin D. Schoun, Can a pastor have friends?
Pastors and their wives also might continue relationships with their “timeless friends”. These are the friends that know your strengths and weaknesses and still aren’t afraid to tell you the truth. You might have met them in high school or college or at church, and no matter what, they will always be your “go to” people.
“True Christian friends will build each other up emotionally, spiritually, and physically… But at times we also have to say the difficult things our dearest friend needs to hear. Yet, because of the shared trust and acceptance, we are the one person who can impact our friend’s heart, for we know how to deliver the hard message with truth and grace.” -Jessica Bufkin, 5 Traits of True Christian Friends
It is also common for pastors to seek professional support relationships to deal with the hardships of ministry. Wise counsel can be received from those who have experience in the pastorate or can offer healthy ways to cope with it.
“Many pastors are greatly helped by having someone they relate to who is gifted, trained, and tasked to help them be open and honest. A counselor, coach, or mentor. Such people can help us open up about things that we might not otherwise.”
-Mark Brouwer, The Friendless Pastor
Friends from within the church are a blessing but can not be the only form of friendships for a pastor and his wife. It is beneficial for the couple to seek relationships with other pastors, timeless friends, or counselors and mentors. No matter the source, an encouraging, christ-focused, and truthful friendship is priceless for the young pastor and his wife. The greatest summation of this topic comes from Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.“