Pastoral ministry and leadership is too challenging to do alone. You need close friends who will support you, encourage you, and challenge you to be a better person and pastor.
Many pastors reading this will nod in agreement. But most male pastors are struggling to develop meaningful friendships with other men they can go to for advice. Friendships among men have been on a steady decline in America for decades, and 70% of pastors say they don’t have close personal friends.
From the collapse of the American community, a decrease in social groups and activities, to superficial connections online, many tributaries have contributed to this swelling decline.
If you’ve lost friends after leaving school or seminary or getting married, and you’re concerned that you cannot make friends again, then don’t. The friendships you form today may not look like they used to (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing) but they can be just as meaningful.
Here are four ways to help you form close friendships. Since God has created you for community, consider making friends a spiritual discipline that will help you to best live for the glory of God.
#1. Be open to making friends
A common myth believed by many pastors is that you cannot have close friends in your church. We understand that you may have had a bad experience or heard horror stories of other pastors who were thrown under the bus by a “friend” at church, but don’t allow these experiences keep you from making friends in your church.
It is difficult as a pastor to make close friends in your church. But it’s possible. As you keep reading below, you’ll discover a few ways to identify men in your church who you can develop a friendship with.
#2. Make friends around mutual interests
What hobbies do you have? Is there something new you’d like to learn? Forming friendships around shared interests is the best way for you to make new friends.
In The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis shared similar advice:
"Friendship arises out of mere Companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure (or burden). The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, 'What? You too? I thought I was the only one.’"
When you read this, fight the temptation to think you need to hunt, fish, or join CrossFit. Mutual interests can include anything, such as reading, chess, or photography to name a few.
#3. Join a team, organization, or random activity
From sports teams, Toastmasters, to book clubs, there are a ton of teams or organizations you can consider joining in your spare time. And, if you’re feeling adventurous, visit Meetup.com to find new groups you can join or activities you can participate in or Eventbrite.com for local events in your area.
#4. Find a group of pastors
Is there a group of pastors or church leaders in your area who you can meet with once per month and get to know? Is there a senior pastor mentorship opportunity? Are you affiliated with a denomination or network where you can make time to hangout with other pastors during church business? Are there conferences you can attend?
As a pastor, there’s a deep sense of camaraderie you can build with other pastors who can relate with you in the highs and lows. Having one or a group of pastors to help take the stress away will bring more light into your life and you can share that with your church.
Editor’s Note: This post was updated on May 4, 2020 for accuracy and comprehensiveness.