7 Suggestions for a Pastor or Pastor’s Spouse to Find True Friends

I have been asked numerous times lately how a pastor or pastor’s spouse can find true friends. I understand the question. It’s difficult. Those outside ministry cannot understand how difficult it is for a pastor to find someone to trust.

Here’s the reality. People talk. If the pastor talks…shares a concern…heaven forbid a sin or weakness…people talk. People share with others the juicy news they received from the pastor and/or the pastor’s family. I’ve been burned numerous 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. Frankly, it’s made many in the ministry among the most lonely of people. I wish it weren’t true, but it is. (This can be equally true of all kinds of leaders; not just pastors.)

Of course, Jesus is a friend who sticks closer than a brother and hopefully our spouse is our best friend, but the truth is pastors need more. We need other same sex friends who can walk with us through life. I need someone who understands the unique struggles and temptations of being a man. We need community too, just as we would encourage our church to live life together with others.

That being said, I’m happy to report that I have some of those 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 some friends that build into me as much as I build into them.

With that in mind…

Here are 7 suggestions for a pastor or pastor’s spouse to find true friends:

Be willing to go outside the church – The simple fact is that there may not be someone you can truly trust, who is willing to keep confidences, and willing to always be in your corner, inside the church. Much of this will depend on the size of your church. I have a few of these friends in our church, but it is fairly large. I also have some true friends outside the church.

Consider bonding with another pastor – I guarantee you…not too far from you is a pastor just as lonely or in need of a friend as you are feeling. I’ve found that if I follow the Tweets, blog posts, Facebook updates, or check out the church website of another pastor that I can find out a lot about our similarities. Then I take a chance and reach out to him. You can begin a relationship online and turn it into a vital relationship. This is valuable enough to Cheryl and me that we’ve been willing to invest in traveling to visit with friends who live in other cities, but chances are good for most pastors they won’t have to travel that far.

Build the relationship slowly – I’ve seen too many times where a person wants an intimate, accountable, life-giving relationship that begins instantly. I’m sure that happens occasionally, but I don’t think it’s the normal way. Take some time to invest in the friendship. My guess is you’re looking for a longer-term relationship, so be willing to build it over a long-term.

Find common ground – Do you enjoy fishing, dining, travel, golf, or Nascar? Who are some people, whether pastors or laypeople who have similar interests to you? Take an afternoon to play a round of golf with them. Ask them to lunch. Hang out with them. I meet with a friend now regularly that I met this way. We simply started having lunch together. We’ve since traveled together as couples, but it started with a lunch invitation to a guy I saw who seemed to enjoy the subject of leadership as much as I did.

Look for someone healthy – This is critical. You won’t find someone perfect, but you need someone who is not looking for you to always be the minister. They do exist. Most of the time as pastors our attention is focussed more on the ones desperate for our attention. Who are the people around you who don’t need much from you right now? You’ll need this healthy relationship to nourish you when you don’t feel as healthy.

Be intentional – You don’t often find a friend unless you go looking for one. Recognize the value in true friends, make it a matter of prayer and a goal for your life, then begin to look for one. I’ve found I’m more likely to hit a target I am specifically aiming to hit.

Take a risk – You’ll eventually have to make yourself vulnerable and risk being hurt to find true friends. I realize that is scary, especially if you’ve been hurt before, but finding true friendships is worth the risk. Be careful building these type friendships, but don’t allow fear to keep you from having them.

Pastor, be honest with me, do you have someone in your life you could call when you’re at your lowest point in ministry? Do you have someone investing in you on a regular basis? Are you lonely?

For those who have these types of relationships, what tips do you have for other pastors?

Let me close with a personal note to the lonely pastor. I understand your pain. I’ve been there. I’m praying for you as I write this post. Don’t struggle alone too long without reaching out to someone.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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35 thoughts on “7 Suggestions for a Pastor or Pastor’s Spouse to Find True Friends

  1. Ron, I am going to guess from the number of responses that you have once again pointed out the elephant in the room. Thank you for tackling these topics. I am encouraged by reading them and inspired by your grace in approaching these subjects.

  2. I'm a pastor and I used to have very close friends until we hired a staff member who ran me down behind my back and turned people against me. Very close friends betrayed me and hurt me deeply. They finally realized what the staff member was doing and asked me to forgive them. I did, but my wife can't. The staff member left, but we now have no friends and the ministry is very stressful and painful. I never thought it would happen to me. I really wish we had friends and I wish we could leave our church

    • I am so sorry. I will be praying for you to find those friends who you can truly trust. We've been blessed with several. I would say you'll have to take a risk again someday. And, there are healthy churches out there. I'm praying you find one.

  3. Thanks so much for this post! Not long ago someone made a comment about having "a thousand acquaintances and no friends," and I realized I could relate far too well. From the time I was 5 until about 3 years ago, I've had at least one (and often several) very close friends. The last friendship lasted 14 years until her life imploded, and our friendship was a casualty. Incredibly painful. I'm ready to have someone I can call "for no reason" and who knows all my flaws. It's good to know I'm not alone. I'm determined to find and join a woman's group of some sort and see what happens.

  4. I'm a pastor's wife and am very blessed to have a close friend outside of our church who listens to me, encourages me, but is also honest with me when I need it. We also have some close friends in our congregation. It's been tough though. We've been burned by people who we thought were our friends – not just my husband and I but also our children. But God has replaced those people with true friends, and if we had not taken a risk or been friendly with them we would not have these relationships today.

  5. Ron – It's something that church members rarely if ever think about. While the Pastor is expected to be friend to all, who are the Pastor's friends. This is great advice for anyone, not just Pastors.

  6. Thanks for this great advice. I have one other pastor friend and feel blessed to have even one friend. But ministry is pretty lonely at times. I'm perplexed why members don't think of including me more often in say, going for coffee or lunch, or stopping by the house–just little stuff. I do agree that having friends outside the congregation is important, and my pastor friend is good for that. It is sad to me that many of us pastors who could benefit from friendship are likely quite close by geographically, but have trouble connecting.

  7. My father was a pastor for 50 years. During those years of ministry, he and my mother did not allow themselves to be close friends with anyone within their congregations and only had surface relationships with other pastors and their wives. In their efforts not to show partiality to any one, they lost the ability to have and be a good friend. It is sad to see them in their 80's with no friends with whom to enjoy conversation over a cup of coffee.

  8. Thank you, Ron. Rachael and I read this aloud together and enjoyed it. Good advice. We are working on friendships like that right now. It is slow for us, but in the long run, it will be worth the patience to get there.

    • Brett, you two will make great friends for anyone. Finding friends does change somewhat when you get married and have children. Hope you are well.

  9. Ron, I am among the lonely. I have recently taken a break from ministry because of some deep betrayals. My wife and I have taken some time to heal but we are having a difficult time finding true friends. Thanks for this post! It was very helpful.

  10. I am a woman in ministry and pastor's wife. I joined a women's study at another church and made 3 of my best friends from that group. They were leaders in that ministry and have become close confidants and dear friends. It was scary to take that step but well worth it! :)

  11. Good stuff my Bro! Yes, I have great friends that I know are there for me, and love me unconditionally. It wasn't always like that, but over the last 10-Years I have found that sweet spot with great friends.

    I am also honored and blessed to number you on that short list!

  12. I have another pastor friend. We connected through my full-time job outside of my ministry role. It was only after we had connected that we realized we shared common ground of ministry and being pastors. Now we regularly, as regularly as we can, connect over a meal in a neutral setting. We have grown comfortable enough that we share some deep stuff. We are not in each other's daily, inner circles, so we feel that we can share those things that would otherwise cause a "stir."

    My advice though is to use every outlet possible to stay connected. We might go weeks before we sit down again to eat and talk, so don't let it build up where you are "dumping" on each other. And don't let it always be about the bad stuff. If you are genuinely praying for that person, let them know through a text or email.

  13. My husband and I are in ministry leadership. We find friendships with others in different ministries – that way, the friends “get it” but aren’t in the same situations or relationships with the same people as we are. It gives us a bit more freedom to speak freely in conversation.