It is a challenge for a pastor and spouse to find true friends. People talk. People gossip. People love to share what they hear.
That’s true about what they hear from a pastor too.
If the pastor talks about his personal life, shares a concern—heaven forbid, shares a sin or weakness—people talk.
I’ve personally been burned several times by trusting the wrong people with information. It’s wonderful to think that a pastor can be totally transparent with everyone, but honestly, especially in some churches, complete transparency will cause you to lose your ministry.
Every pastor knows this well. So, most pastors don’t talk.
And the sadder fact is, because of this dynamic, many a pastor and spouse have very few true friends.
Frankly, it’s made many in the ministry among the most lonely of people I have ever known. I was in the business community for many years and I didn’t know business leaders as “closed” to people getting to know them as some pastors seem to be. I wish it weren’t true, but it is.
Of course, Jesus is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. And that’s true. But we would never tell our congregation they don’t need human friends. Most of our churches are built around a reality that everyone needs community.
Hopefully our spouse is our best friend. That should be our goal. But the truth is, a pastor and spouse need more.
We need other—same sex—friends who can walk with us through life. I need men in my life that understand the unique struggles and temptations of being a man. Pastors need community too, just as we would encourage our church to live life together with others.
I’m happy to report that I have some of those types of friends in my life. I have some friends with whom I can share the hard stuff and they still love me. I have some friends with whom I can be myself. I’m thankful for friends that build into me as much as I build into them.
Every pastor and spouse needs them.
And here’s the other side—so does the pastor’s spouse. They need friends just as much, but have equal concerns and struggles to find them. Over the years, my wife has realized the hard way that some people were only her friends because of her position as my wife. They wanted information and access—more than they wanted friendship.
And some who are not in ministry will read this post and think I’m over-reacting. They’ll say everyone deals with this at some level. They may be right. (Not about the over-reacting, but about the fact that everyone deals with it.) But I know having been on both sides—in ministry and out of ministry—this issue is more real to me now than previously.