This topic is adapted from PursueGOD Network YouTube channel. This is part 5 of 5 in the Self-Care for Pastors series.

Ask yourself this question: how isolated am I? We all need relationships, but leaders especially can experience deep loneliness that can hinder the long-term effectiveness of ministry.

Allies Versus Confidantes

It’s important to understand the difference between these two groups of people. Failure to do so can create social damage and break trust. Allies share values and work together with you, but they cannot always be loyal to you because of the organizational roles you and they hold. By contrast, confidantes have few, if any, competing loyalties. They will usually be found outside of your work structure. Other pastors in the community can become great confidantes – they you can overcome the tendency pastors often have to compare themselves with each other. They understand the pressures and challenges of ministry like most people do not.

Levels of Friendship

Friendships occur at many levels. You will have acquaintances, casual friends, close friends, and intimate friends. Failure to distinguish between levels of friendship can hurt pastors, because you may mistake who is safe and who is not. What’s more, in church or ministry you will have dual relationships. You serve multiple roles in other people’s lives. At different times, you might be a close friend, a spiritual mentor, a hired pastor, or an opponent on some issue. What about others on our ministry staff team? They may be allies or they may be confidantes.

[Related: Hope for the Generations – Our Friendships]

Finding Safe, Intimate Friends

It takes time and patience to find healthy relationships you can confide in. You have to be willing to take the initiative and make an effort. Take small, safe steps to reveal yourself and test people’s reaction to your vulnerability before you decide to open up even more. Pray about it and talk to your spouse for input.

Pastoral spouses also need to find safe, intimate friends. They can bear a great deal of pressure in the ministry and need confidantes as well. You can encourage them, but you cannot find friends for them. They will have to test different relationships themselves to discover who has common interests and who can be safe for them.

Healthy self care in your relationships means finding people who energize and support you. Find people you simply enjoy being around. Find some who will respond lovingly and confidentially when you need to pour out your soul.

[Related: Don’t Try to Man Up and Fight the Battle Alone]

Discussion Questions:

  1. Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
  2. What is your initial reaction to this video? Do you disagree with any of it? What jumped out at you?
  3. How isolated are you? Explain.
  4. Name some people in your life who are allies but not confidantes. How can allies be an encouragement and support to you?
  5. Name some people who are confidantes. What makes them so?.
  6. What can go wrong when you mistake an ally for a confidante?
  7. What can go wrong when you mistake someone’s level of friendship with you? (For example, you mistake a casual friend for a close friend.)
  8. What is challenging about having dual relationships in the church?
  9. What have you learned about finding safe, intimate friends?
  10. Does your spouse have safe, intimate friends? Explain.
  11. Write a personal action step based on this conversation.

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