See what's coming soon! Coming in October »

Jump directly to the content
magcover

Already a subscriber?

Home > Issues > 2005 > Spring > In Search of a Real Friend
Article Preview. Log in or subscribe now.

Calling upstairs in your own house may seem strange, but this arrangement helped maintain boundaries with our good friends. Ron and Rosha were not just neighbors, they lived in the upstairs apartment. And they belonged to the church I pastor.

Just before moving in, Rosha, pregnant, suffered complications requiring home rest. Despite some hesitation at moving again, they both soon felt glad about the new situation. Instead of Rosha being alone all day, I could check on her. Over those tense months, we shared more than a house. We shared many prayers and concerns, which led to the joyful delivery of their first-born son, Rajiv, that fall. Our daughters were soon like sisters to Rajiv.

It was good to have close friends, even if friendships with parishioners are a bit risky.

Soon after I moved to Cincinnati to marry Roger and plant a church, my only other friends in town moved. Ben and Cheryl had introduced Roger and me. Both pastors, Ben and Cheryl were mature friends who also understood the challenges of ministry. When they moved to pastor in another town, my only remaining friends were Roger's colleagues.

Missing Ben and Cheryl, I wondered, Do we look to our congregation for friends? One early attempt was with Anna.

When Anna and her husband, Kent, moved to our neighborhood, I rejoiced at the prospect of a friend. We shared a similar stage in life and began to spend time together. But soon, I felt we were struggling in our relationship. I asked Anna if we could talk about it.

"Anna," I confessed, "you're my best friend." I felt vulnerable baring my heart.

"Kathy, I don't know if I can be friends with a pastor," Anna admitted. "I feel intimidated, like I can't measure up." Yet as we talked, Anna also criticized me for some faults I had been honest enough to reveal. She said I was "too good" to be friends with, yet I didn't measure up to what she thought a pastor should be.

This paradox characterizes what many pastors experience. People in our churches feel a barrier to befriending us. This problem, of course, exists in other professions, especially for those in leadership. Chris Argyris, in Overcoming Organizational Defenses (Prentice Hall, 1990), writes, "Loneliness at the top is a product of a reciprocal isolating dynamic of aloofness between subordinates and the executive."

Leaders of companies struggle with this dynamic. Yet if they don't have friends at work, church provides an outlet. Pastors have an added tension. For pastors, the workplace and church family are intertwined.

What is the answer? How do we meet our human need for friendship in the complex atmosphere of our ministry?

Friends who pastor me

After a painful situation had erupted at our church, a professor at Asbury Theological Seminary wrote me a letter. She had invited other women from my denomination to meet for a retreat prior to a minister's conference. When I showed my husband her letter, he asked with a smile, "Are you going to meet every week?" He knew the intensity of my need for just ...

log in

To view the rest of this article, you must be a subscriber to LeadershipJournal.net. Activate your online account for complete access.

Katherine Callahan-Howell is pastor at Winton Community Free Methodist Church in Cincinnati, Ohio.

From Issue:Bridging Barriers, Spring 2005 | Posted: April 1, 2005

Also in this Issue: Spring 2005

A Mad Multi-gen Strategy that Works, DudeSubscriber Access Only

Bring generations together and reduce 20-something dropout.

Attacked by a MonsterSubscriber Access Only

Depression hit me by surprise, and help came despite my foolish reactions.

Up Against a WallSubscriber Access Only

We were working well together to reach our changing neighborhood—until the cornerstone story came out. Did we have a future without repenting of our past?

3 Fibs and a Truth About SexSubscriber Access Only

Help for married pastors when talking to single adults.

Not a Subscriber?

Subscribe Today!

  • Monthly issues on web and iPad
  • Web exclusives and archives on Leadership Journal.net
  • Quarterly print issues

Print subscriber? Activate your online account for complete access.

Join the Conversation

Average User Rating: Not rated

No comments

Use your Leadership Journal login to easily comment and rate this article.
Not part of the community? Subscribe, or on public pages, register for a free account.
Reader's Pick
The Prayer-Centered Church

The Prayer-Centered ChurchSubscriber Access Only

What it takes to lead a prayerful community.
Sister Sites
Discipling in a Digital AgeBuilding Church Leaders

Discipling in a Digital Age