by: Timothy Brown
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church-Raleigh, NC
Your Pastor is not your friend.
It's hard, because they feel like they are. Some pastors do make a friend in the congregation, someone they can absolutely be themselves with. But that needs to be rare. It may not always be rare...and then things get fuzzy...but I believe it *needs* to be rare, for you and for them.
Because here's the truth: you're one day going to have to tell them something that you can't tell a friend. Something about yourself, a deep truth, that maybe only your best friend might know, but they're not going to give you what you need about the topic because they're too enmeshed in your friendship. In that case you need a pastor. You need someone close enough to you to care, someone with some sort of authority.
Pastors are trained in the art of not hearing what we hear.People sometimes worry that a pastor's view of them will be tainted by something they learn or know, but I assure you, we learn and know so much about everyone that we've come to the conclusion that everyone is just as messed up as everyone else, ourselves included, so no one is any different.
By and large you need your pastor to be a pastor, not a friend, and your pastor is not your friend if they're doing it well.
Plus, your pastor can never confide in you the way one confides in a friend.
Plus, if you and your pastor are friends, then your pastor can never leave. As if leaving a parish isn't hard enough, the idea of leaving not only parishioners but also friends makes it impossible. Co-dependent. Bad for vocation and bad for any avocations you now share.
This doesn't mean you don't kid around with your pastor. It doesn't mean you don't drop by to say hi, that you don't do things for one another that friends do. It doesn't mean that you don't even sometimes take trips together, play sports, attend birthday parties, and have a beer or two...many of these things that friends do with one another.
And it certainly doesn't mean that you don't share many of the same qualities that you would with friends. Pastors can open up, to a point. Pastors can kid around, to a point. But everything is "to a point" and that point is exactly where the collar hits what you need from them...
In every situation, they are "pastor" ...which is just a very different way of being that just a "friend."
And finally, one thing we have to be really clear-eyed about: friendships end. They do. Friends fight and squabble, hurt each other's feelings, get jealous, and get enmeshed. Pastors who become friends run the risk of ruining the pastoral relationship when the friendship dissolves.
This is just plain bad for the office. It's a bad risk to take. It's a risk, I think, not worth taking.
It's hard to explain I guess, and hard to accept in some instance, but I really haven't found any other way to put it:
Your Pastor is your pastor, not your friend.