Is it okay to have friends in my church or should they only be outside the church?

This is a tough question for which there is not one specific answer. There are several factors to be considered:

  1. How vulnerable are you as a pastor?
  2. How used to having closed friends are you?
  3. What level of sharing is appropriate?
  4. What has been your experience concerning friendships thus far?

Many pastors have friends in the church. Many have friends only outside the church. Some of the usual roadblocks or fears concerning friendships in the church are:

  • If I share who I really am, maybe I will not be respected as their pastor anymore.
  • If I share some intimate concern, it may be spread as gossip through the church even if I have asked the friend to keep the information totally confidential. These are real concerns because unfortunately gossip has been spread and trust has been broken in all of our lives at one time or another.
  • Whatever the situation, there are some underlying challenges related to this question. As we talk with thousands of pastors each year, we find that 70% of all pastors have no real close friend in which to confide (whether inside or outside the church). This is a tragedy. Ecclesiastes 4:9-11 describes to us the importance of having friendships in life so we can vent or join together in a project or lift each other up when we fall or enjoy recreation together. The key word we hear from pastors is "isolation".

    Sometimes a pastor is gun shy because of past breaches of confidence. Sometimes a pastor does not really want to be accountable. Sometimes a pastor is just plain untrained in friendship development.

    We don't know where you are in the process but a key concern is that part of your health as a pastor is that you need someone in which to confide. Without this type of an outlet you will experience some of what Psalm 32:3 expresses -- "When I kept silent, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long."

    We all need a venting point in our life and ministry. Often times, when a pastor calls us they tell us that we are the first person they are telling this problem to or they say that this is the first time they have ever been this honest about a burden they are carrying.

    May we all seek to be healthy and come to a point of application with respect to Galatians 6:2 and 6:5 -- there are some things that we must bear on our own. However, there are some things we must allow the rest of the body to share. May God give us wisdom to know the balance. Whether we have friends in the church or outside the church, as least let's have some friends!