I’ve heard it so many times that I almost expect it: pastors are lonely. They often minister among people they say they love, but don’t know well. They have few deep friendships. Here are 10 reasons why we struggle with finding friends:
- Someone taught us never to have close friendships in a church. Several of my seminary professors and most of my early mentors told me never to get close to church members. I’m grateful now that I didn’t listen well – but I have friends who continue to follow that advice.
- We’ve been hurt in the past. I understand why my professors and mentors said what they said. They had risked being vulnerable with church members, and it cost them. Their openness led only to pain, and they don’t the next generation of leaders to experience the same.
- We assume this ministry is not our last one. If we think that this church is only one stop on our ministry journey, it’s harder to develop deep friendships. Who wants to invest deeply when you know this role is a fleeting one?
- Many of us are introverted. Even people who speak publicly every week can be introverted and private. I suspect church members would be surprised by how many of us are drained by events like fellowship dinners. We sometimes seclude ourselves just to get some rest.
- Others are uncomfortable around us. I remember a church member whose family never invited me to dinner because they thought their dishes weren’t good enough for their pastor. That struck me as odd, not only because I’m just a normal guy, but also because most of my dinners at the time were delivered through a drive-thru window!
- Our spouse has been hurt. We can often handle it when our feelings are hurt, but it’s tougher when our spouse has been wounded. Protecting our spouse from hurt sometimes means avoiding deep relationships.
- We don’t want anyone to know us well. For pastors who admit this reason, it’s often because we don’t like who we are. We know we need to do better in our devotions. We fear others will see that we don’t always love, evangelize, or minister like we should.
- We get tired of people. It’s not that we don’t love people; it’s just that it feels like we’re around people all the time. Taking a break from people, though, usually means closing the door to friendships.
- Some of us were raised in churches with superficial relationships. At some level, we’re all products of our upbringing. When you’re raised around surface-level Christian friendships, that kind of relationship might be all you know.
- Even believers get jealous and competitive. As pastors, we fear getting too close to particular people, lest others get angry. And, even among pastors, we struggle getting to know one another because we compete against each other for members. In the end, everybody loses.
What other reasons would you add?