There is a lot written about the need to have friends in your church. Some seem to think that it is impossible, if you’re the pastor, to have friends in your church. Others argue that not only is it possible, it is essential to have friends in your church as the pastor. Whilst I recognise that friendships can be difficult to navigate in the church as the pastor, I am of the latter view. It strikes me as less than loving your people if you are saying you cannot – indeed, will not – actively seek to be properly friends with any of them.
But there seems to be much less said about having friends outside of the church. Just as I think we ought to have friends in our churches, I think it is really important to have friends outside of our churches too. There is every reason to seek friends from within our church, but friends outside of the church matter as well and will help us over the long term.
Sometimes it is helpful to have support from outside. Having friends we can talk to about ministry who are external to the situation we’re in is helpful. Having people who love us from afar, who want to support what we’re doing but who aren’t in the thick of it with us can be extremely valuable. It is good to have such people in our lives. Those who love us unconditionally and who we can meet entirely apart from the ongoing realities of everyday church life.
These friends can be ministers themselves. Those sorts of friends can be helpful to us. But they don’t need to be. They can be friends, in other places, who are not necessarily in ministry. But they are nonetheless friends with whom we can refresh ourselves apart from our own congregation.
In the end, as important as it is to have friends in the church, it can be helpful to have some good friends outside of it too.