Pastor/Lay friendships

In my 35+ years of ministry I’ve had many good friends who weren’t clergy. In fact, while I’ve had lots of good friends who are pastors, most of my best friends (golfing, fishing buddies) have been laymen. One thing that has helped that relationship is that they thought of me as a friend and not as a pastor. That isn’t to say we never interacted at that level, but there was a sense of mutuality about it.

However, I’ve known some good men with whom I couldn’t have that level of friendship because they could never forget that I was a pastor. We could be right in the middle of laughing about something and they’d say, “I can’t believe a pastor would think that’s funny.” When I hear something like that I reevaluate my relationship with that person. They aren’t ready to be a real “friend” to the pastor. I adjust things so I can treat them as a person in need of a pastor. I guess you’d say I stop being “one of the guys” in a group of Christian friends and move back to the pastor position so I can minister to them the best I am able.

In fact, I think wanting to “be friends” with “the pastor” is almost self defeating.  If someone wants to be friends with me, a person with whom they have something in common (like fishing for bass or hiking) that’s one thing.  If they want to be friends with “the pastor” well, that carries with it, at least in my way of thinking, considerable baggage.  After all, I don’t think to myself, “I’d like to be friends with ‘the doctor’ or with ‘the policeman.'”  Rather, I view them as people and not vocations.

2 responses to “Pastor/Lay friendships

  1. I guess that must be tough but I don't think it is entirely unique to pastors. I think a lot of people want to be "friends" with the person in charge – though I think there is baggage associated with wanting to be friends with the pastor not found in other jobs.

    When I meet new people my family always introduces me as a zookeeper (though I beg them not to) so that is where the conversation usually goes. They think my job is neat and they like knowing a zookeeper but they really don't know anything about me. Where I work defines just a part of who I am. I'd much rather talk about camping and hiking.

  2. Tinker, I know you are right. To some extent it's true of a wide variety of professions and especially true of professions that minister to people. In fact, I imagine physicians experience it even more than do pastors.

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