“As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” (Proverbs 27:17, NKJV)
Recently Becky and I went out to dinner with a couple from our church with whom we have become friends. It was a couple of hours filled with laughter, stories, and great food. It wasn’t a sermon or a Sunday School class; it was just two couples having dinner like all of the other people in the restaurant. Like everyone else, pastors and church staff members really need those times. Over the years, I have been blessed to have very good friends in every church I have served. It doesn’t threaten me when I see our staff members developing friendships with church members either. Many readers of this blog do not attend the church I serve. Please let me share a few thoughts about being a friend to your pastor (or a staff member).
(1) Be faithful to pray. Some of the most treasured friends are those we know pray for us on a regular basis. There have been times the Lord has used the encouragement of a praying friend in a great way.
(2) Feel free to have fun & talk about “normal” stuff. Sometimes people think since they are talking with a pastor the conversation must be about spiritual things or the church. Those things are certainly important – eternally important – and we are glad to talk about them. However, the truth is that we “do church” all the time, but we enjoy far more than just the church. We enjoy talking about college football, favorite vacation spots, hobbies, or a host of other things. We enjoy laughing, hearing your stories, and telling our stories!
(3) Be a “safe place.” As I write these words I am thinking of a family in a previous church who had us over to their home on several occasions. The very first time we went to their home, the wife told us as soon as we arrived: “Here you are just our friends, Greg & Becky.” That was her way of saying that they intended for their home to be a safe place for our family, and it was. There was never an agenda and never an expectation of anything other than friendship. Those were times filled with love, laughter, and generosity that I will never forget.
(4) Disagree but remain a friend. In one church I served I could always count on one phone call when the proposed budget for the next year was distributed: a call from one of my best friends. Every year he was bent out of shape about something in the budget and he would give me an earful. Then it was over. He disagreed, but he remained my close friend. Our friendship meant far more to him than a line item in a budget or an item on the agenda of a business meeting.
(5) Understand when we can’t share. One time we were having dinner with close friends and a particularly sensitive issue in the church were we serving at that time came up in the conversation. Realizing the position she had put me in, the wife looked at me and said, “I’m sorry; I know you can’t go there.” Every pastor and staff member has things they cannot share with even their closest friends due to confidentiality, etc. A good friend respects that even if it means we can’t tell them.
Every pastor and staff member needs friends. I am so very grateful for the gift of friends for life.