Sometimes being a pastor stinks. This is one of those weeks. I’ve been an emotional mess (though I hide it like the best of Pharisees). I have read that 70% of pastors lack good friendships. While I cannot prove this data, I wouldn’t be surprised. Pastors can isolate themselves.
This week, two things happened that have done a number on me (much more than I thought they would). On Monday, a dear friend and member of our church died of cancer. The cancer didn’t let him live long, as it quickly took hostage the two months the doctors gave him and shortened it to three weeks. Then, tonight I was around many friends of the church as we sent two of them off down the road–albeit it just an hour down the road. I don’t like losing people.
Who said, “Standard hand-on-shoulder pose”?
Weeks like this have me thinking a lot about pastors and friendships, and just how important they are–even if you have to say goodbye.
A few of the things that I have been thinking about:
- Get Ready…Because You Will Lose People: It’s both a fact of life and a part of ministry. You lose people. At times you lose people like Bill because cancer wins the first battle (though it won’t win the last). Other times people move, like Jed and Erin. Other times you simply lose them as a part of discipleship–you have to be ready to give people away.
- Losing People Hurts: If you love people, it hurts to lose them. That alone is why some are afraid to make friends.
- You Have to Dive In: Our church, like many, has a small group structure. Our closest friends and most fruitful (and messy) ministry have come directly from these relationships. It’s easy as a teaching pastor to make an excuse as to why “I don’t need that”–but that’s all it is, an excuse. Pastors, especially, need to be in and/or leading groups (assuming their church has them).
- It’s Worth It: I was chatting with a friend tonight at the going-away party. I said something like, “Everyone here is someone I love deeply.” (I can’t remember exactly what I said. I was too busy denying the fact that my friends were leaving.) The amazing thing: not a single one of those friendships existed even four years ago. Most of them didn’t exist three years ago, and even others didn’t exist even one year ago. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
The Scriptures remind us of the value of friendships, yet for those in ministry, sometimes they still seem so far off. Some pastors are lonely, some can’t (or don’t) trust their congregation, others don’t even know how to care well for people.
Here’s what I do know: three years ago, a couple I had never met invited me into their home and said, “We really want to get more involved. We usually don’t live in the same place long enough to get involved and have even used that as an excuse to not be involved; but we want to change that. Whatever we can do, we will do.”
And tonight, with many more kids around (and a lot of food), I knelt in a room full of friends and said goodbye to those same people.