In this issue of Pastorpedia, pastors Knute Larson, Jeff Bogue, and Jim Brown talk about the importance of friendships for a pastor.
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Let’s talk about friends!
Good! I have many of them. Why just last Sunday attendance was up about 30, or 32, and….
No, no—we want to talk about close friends….
Well our three boards would stick by me in thick or thin, and I know all of them by name, and a few of their kids.…
We mean friends with whom you relax, say your anger or sadness, and even complain about the three boards….
I mean, a person only has time for so many people….
Let’s talk about just a few of them—the really good friends, and then the people you disciple or grow.
Okay, but let’s not get too personal here. That can be risqué, or risky, or whatever….
Knute, for Jeff and Jim
What do really good friends do for you?
- Provide a place of safety. I believe it is so critical to have a truly good friend with whom I can be open, honest, and vulnerable.
- Provide a place of joy. It is wonderful to be able to be yourself, to laugh, to enjoy, and to feel like you can be out of pastor mode with a really good and trusted friend.
- Provide a place of vulnerability. It is so good to be able to vent about the church and the unique pressures of ministry and to not be judged when you are opening up your heart and your soul. A really good friend understands what he is hearing and does not over-or under-react.
- Provide a sounding board for ideas and feelings. I could not tell you how many times that I have told my dearest friends that I want to quit and never be in ministry again J, and they have responded with patience. They’ve let me vent about my children, my relationships in the church, and the painful and frustrating parts of my life.
- Really good friends help you to achieve longevity. I shudder to think if I could have the stamina to stay in ministry without some close and deep friendships that I enjoy. Because they have provided all the things above, they have given me a sustained longevity in ministry and keep me in the fight on a daily basis.
- They offer me refreshment with laughter—true joy!—and they sharpen me to be a better man.
- It gives me a chance to remove myself from the bubble of “Grace Community Church” and they like and love me because of who I am and not my position.
- They have zero agenda other than being a good friend. They speak truth into my life concerning my being a man of God, a father, and a husband. Their words carry great weight in my life.
- They allow me to bare my heart without any reservation and let me be brutally honest as to how I feel. Plus I never have to worry about what they will do with that information.
- They create for my family a safe haven to do life in a fun way together.
- I need them to find balance in my life!
- They add life to my life and in turn allow me to press on with the call that God has placed on my life as a pastor!
- Help me laugh, relax, think, be candid, complain, change, grow, work hard, and have fun.
- In the best of cases, do the same for my wife and me together. It is superb when our wives can be best friends also, with no pressure. And it is unusual.
- Check my faults. A good friend will tag me out.
- Make me look forward to being with them. I never have to prepare or think what I must not say or do, or worry about their quoting me or saying what I did.
- Give me space.
Discipleship and accountability relationships
- To be honest, I am not a strong believer in accountability relationships. I know many have different opinions about that and I respect all, but when relationships are solely based around accountability I have personally found that they become stale and full of cliché in their interactions.I tend to lean more into true friendships which will provide accountability, where they can read between my answers, and would know if I was telling a half-truth or not. In a good friendship, that friend will respond to my life for my best interest, which is where the accountability comes from.
- I believe, as a pastor, when it comes to a discipling relationship I tend to lean more into the idea of, “I’ll walk through life with you.” I do offer this to some people and do seek this out myself.
- The line that I draw when I am discipling someone is this: “When I take more ownership over your spiritual life than you do, I stop investing in that relationship.” The fun thing about those discipling relationships is they tend to evolve into ministry partnerships. Seeing that happen and watching your disciple become a partner in ministry is one of the most fulfilling things in ministry!
- I still believe that before anyone will follow you they must know that you love them and see that you also are willing to go where you are asking them to go.
- I believe every man needs someone in his life that will ask him the hard questions. If he doesn’t have that man and lives without accountability, than he is more apt to fall.
- Far too many men are in compatibility relationships not accountability relationships. His compatibility partner sympathizes with his struggles instead of telling him he will no longer allow him to do so. An accountability partner must be someone you respect, and who even causes you to say no to sin because the thought of telling him you have sinned makes you afraid!
- A pastor also needs another pastor to be able to spill his heart out to since no one understands better than a fellow pastor. No one truly understands what we deal with except someone else who has been where we are.
- If a man becomes a loner in ministry it is a sure sign he is hiding something or on his way to falling.
- We must spend time in his Word daily, and be on our knees in prayer. If either of those two things gets out of whack, our walk gets out of whack, too.
- When it comes to discipling others, the best way I have found is a tool called FightClub414. This tool allows me to do life with hundreds of men, all the while encouraging, challenging, and pushing them upwards. I am a firm believer in developing leaders so that they can disciple others too.
- I believe with my whole heart that it must begin with my own kids first, so I work hard at pouring my life into theirs.
- I never want to become a crutch for someone else. My intentions are for them to be able to reproduce leaders.
- In coaching pastors the last six years, the second most common question I get is, “What is the best discipleship program for our church?” I always ask, “Who is in your discipleship group?” That is where it must start—with the pastor and staff. There is no good program as such!
- I believe it is better to lead a group of 4-6 other men than to do one-on-one, for the obvious advantages of having them help each other also, and also sheer productivity.
- True discipleship can only happen in a group of 3-7, with all being men or all being women. Strong community and love can grow in small groups with men and women, of course. But not strong, personal candor.
- While discipleship groups usually need a strong leader, accountability groups have all strong leaders who can take turns guiding. And discipleship groups should reproduce every two years, good accountability friends stay together a long time.
- Home groups and Sunday groups (ABFs, growth groups, whatever they are called) are great for community. But discipleship is more or at least different. It can be a product of the group, if men and women separate for more candid discussion, or meet at least twice a month at another time.
- The pastor always has to look out for the hidden agenda. There is a caution that when we sense that someone is a really dear friend, they may only be interacting with us as a pastor; therefore, if they become frustrated with the church or don’t like the direction of how we’re interacting, they will turn, they will attack, and they will leave—and there is nothing more painful!
- Test the water first, before you share with someone. People are sinful and will do things you never thought they would.
- Be wise as a serpent in choosing your close friends. We want friends we can trust totally! With that being said, never walk in fear and never try to please man. We are here to please God!
- No matter what, never burn bridges and always love them regardless. Do not ever seek revenge, and remember that people can change later even if they have been your worst critic!
- Never treat people differently based on their social, political, gender, race, or income status. God created them all in His image and He loves them all. Never play favorites!
- Do not try life alone. Do not miss the joy of a few very good friends.
- Know that we can have many acquaintances, a lot of friends with whom to grow and relax, and probably 3-5 very good friends.
- It is never too late to start good friendships, discipleship, or accountability.
Pastorpedia is produced monthly by three experienced pastors: Jeff Bogue, of Grace Church, in several locations in the Bath-Norton-Medina areas of Ohio; Jim Brown, of Grace Community Church in Goshen, Indiana, a church known for its strong growth, family and men’s ministries, and community response teams; and Knute Larson, a coach of pastors, who previously led The Chapel in Akron for 26 years. Pastorpedia is brought to you by CE National. Visit cenational.org/pastorpedia for more issues and to read the bios of our contributors.