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Question:

Relationships With Other Ministers

How important is it for me to have relationships with other ministers in my community? What about relationships with other ministers who are not in my community, but are friends? Honestly, I stay busy enough with my own staff and my own church that it’s not easy to find time for meaningful relationships with peers in ministry. What is the value, and how much effort do other pastors put into their relationships with other ministers?

Responses:

Pastor Sam SmuckerPastor Sam Smucker – Lancaster, PA

Relationships with other ministers in the community where our church is located has been a valuable thing for me. We have a prayer meeting where ministers from different streams of ministry in our community get together to pray for our community and for each other. This reminds us that we are all working together in the Kingdom of God and it takes away any competition that tries to creep in.

My wife and I also have some pastor couples outside our community that we have close relationships with. These couples have been a great blessing to us because sometimes it can feel lonely in ministry. We get together with these couples to fellowship and have fun and share our hearts with one another. So I believe it is important to carve out time to have these kinds of relationships.

Pastor Billy Joe WattsPastor Billy Joe Watts – Tulsa, OK

Great question. The Bible reminds us that iron sharpens iron and a friend the countenance of a friend. The idea of pastors having accountability and friendship is an important subject. Having a few close relationships is not only good for the soul, but necessary to keep the balance between those you’re called to serve and fellowship with those of like, precious faith. When it comes to personal or ministerial issues, you can’t always talk to the sheep. You need a shepherd!

Pastor Chris CatonPastor Chris Caton – Middlebury, CT

My wife and I have derived great strength and encouragement from our relationships with ministers of a like, precious faith. I have found that it is necessary to be deliberate with these relationships. We try to have fellowship with friends in ministry at least once a month. We don’t wait for a minister friend to call us, we reach out to them. The effort put into connecting with friends is not always equal, but we try not to focus on that. The friendship is more important to us than getting hung up on being the one who usually (or always) initiates the fellowship.

Every once in a while we will get together for a meal, but we often just meet somewhere for coffee or breakfast. I think sometimes we can hold off on making plans to meet up with a minister friend because we think we have to plan a big meal or go out for a full meal at a restaurant, which can be expensive or be a lot of work. Keeping it simple by just meeting for coffee or breakfast is very doable. It is more about the fellowship than the food.

Because we have taken the time to get to know a few other pastors, it turns out that they are people we can turn to when we need prayer, wisdom, or encouragement. We can be there for them too because there is already a relationship. These supportive relationships help us know that we are not alone in ministry. We have found that these friendships are just as important to maintain as any program or project or busyness that keeps us occupied in the church. Meeting with a friend in ministry is often like a mini refreshing vacation that often helps us gain a new perspective. It’s as if we step away from what we’ve gotten too close to so that we can see the bigger picture again. We often leave these times of fellowship with a healthier perspective on the issues we are dealing with.

When it comes to building relationships with other ministers in our community, I have found that because of our differences, it is not always that easy and there is a limit to how far the friendship can develop. But, I have found that it is important to try to build some level of friendship with other ministers in our town. We found this to be important when a tragedy struck close to home – the Sandy Hook, CT school shooting. Because of our close proximity, many in our community knew people who either worked at or went to the Sandy Hook school. Because all of the clergy in our town already knew one another from our monthly clergy luncheons, we were able to meet and put together an ecumenical memorial service in the days after the shooting. We all worked very well together because of our already-established rapport. If we had attempted to put such a service together having never met one another before, I think it would not have flowed so smoothly.

There are probably many reasons why a minister would remain isolated and not work to build friendships with other ministers, but I think insecurity is a leading reason (I’m speaking from experience too). The reality is, all ministers are just as human as we are. They are all real people who face real challenges that can make them feel alone or that they are the only ones experiencing what they are going through. Everybody needs a friend.

Pastor Craig McCunePastor Craig McCune – Sandy, UT

I have fluctuated from lots of interaction among ministry peers in Salt Lake City to none. I am now reengaged in fellowship and prayer with around 20 pastors at a monthly prayer and discussion meeting.

This activity has proven invaluable to me, and I believe, the church. For example, the issue of somebody coming to our church with baggage from somewhere else is greatly mitigated by the fact we can call the church they left and freely communicate about the situation (and vice versa).

Another great benefit is the exchange of ideas, challenges, victories, and things only the fraternity of ministers can relate to, being discussed and prayed about. Having a venue for pastors to get to know one another helps to dispel the “they are a cult” mythology so prevalent among us ministers.

We also have a very unique thing occurring where we are exchanging personnel, as there is need, among churches. If someone has an excess of people in one area, we can investigate if it works to send them to someone with a deficit in that area.

I have been able to “eat the hay and spit out the sticks” around our various doctrinal positions and am finding a great deal of enjoyment and peace in knowing the hearts of men and women I am serving with in my city. Out of the monthly gathering, I have developed a few closer relationships with pastors who are not totally aligned with me doctrinally, but we have like-minds regarding reaching the city and developing people. Out of that commonality we have had great fellowship over lunch, attending sporting events, golfing etc. and spending time together just being ourselves.

I encourage developing relationship among your peers; it will help, not hurt.

Pastor Kevin BerryPastor Kevin Berry – Lansing, MI

There are times that I don’t feel like I’m giving my own staff enough of my attention; however, I still feel a draw to spend time with other ministers within the community and those that are outside of our community.

When I think of the ministers that take time to encourage me, talk to me on the phone, and invest in me, I quickly realize that if they can figure out how to pull that off, so can I.

In the process of this journey, I’ve found that a simple text—given at a strategic moment—is powerful. The words may be few… but they are powerful. Often, early on Sunday morning I’ll send out a few text messages to some pastor friends.

I’m trying to learn how to freely give, because I have freely received!

Pastor Duane HansonPastor Duane Hanson – Saint Paul, MN

Developing and maintaining strong personal relationships with other ministers is vital to a healthy spiritual life! Speaking from personal experience, these close personal ministry friendships have been invaluable in my life.

I could write volumes about the importance of these ministry relationships, and give dozens of examples, both positive and negative, of the impact these close relationships have on our lives. I’ve known those who have unintentionally isolated themselves, because they’re so busy and absorbed in the ministry, that they fail to allow anyone to challenge them as a minister, and more importantly, nurture them as a person! They will eventually find themselves in a difficult situation without anyone around who is “close” to them, who will honestly speak truth into their life, and who really knows and cares for them personally (not just as a minister in the pulpit).

Over the years, as a District Director for R.M.A.I., I’ve noticed that certain members have developed some meaningful friendships within the organization. These relationships have flourished because they’ve purposed to attend the various luncheons and events in our region. Others have not been as fortunate, and because they failed to appreciate the necessity of developing these close relationships, I’ve witnessed the results of a moral failure.

Twenty-five years ago, I was fortunate to connect with a few ministers in my community who desired to see unity in the Body of Christ. We formed a Pastors Prayer Group that meets weekly, and we pray for our city, our churches, and especially for one another. Many of us know each other so well, that if one of us comes into the group with any weights and cares of life, the others will pick it up and immediately come along side that person. I can testify that these ministry friends have prayed us through some of the most difficult times in our life! I’m so thankful to have developed such a trust relationship with these ministers, that I can be open and transparent with this group of ministry friends, knowing that they care for me, my family, and our church.

These pastor friends have been very important in my life, most of whom flow in different streams of ministry, and yet are of “like precious faith” when it comes to the Gospel. We have a genuine sense of community among our various churches, regardless of our affiliations, denominations, or associations. Because we pray with and for one another, we have successfully eliminated the threat of “competition” within our immediate community and have a genuine love and respect for each other.

For example, my wife and I meet every couple of months with a group of pastor friends and their wives. We coordinate our schedules in advance and rotate the agenda in order to meet at each other’s homes. This provides an atmosphere where true friendships are established, while enjoying some food, fellowship and fun. All four couples are in different ministerial organizations, but we have a love for Jesus and His Church as our common denominator! Needless to say, we are very intentional in our desire to build these meaningful relationships.

If you do not have a couple of close ministry friendships, I strongly encourage you to ask the Lord who you might approach to begin developing them. I believe our relationships were built primarily on the foundation of praying together all these years. Seeking first the Kingdom, and praying together, is a safe place to start!

For these ministry relationships to be fruitful, it takes effort and commitment to develop strong personal friendships! We must be willing to “show ourselves friendly” and “lay down our lives” for others if these relationships are going to be genuine and successful. Take the necessary time to build the trust that a close personal relationship requires. The deep sense of Biblical friendship is well worth the time and effort.

Pastor Gil ZaragozaPastor Gil Zaragoza – El Paso, TX

Over the 23 years that we have pastored in El Paso County, Texas, we’ve developed relationships with other pastors that came as a result of our local church producing a weekly telecast on our 24-hour local Christian television station. After a season of prayer, we’ve endeavored to teach/preach on subjects that would be a great blessing to our TV viewing audience. We’ve also endeavored, with the help of the Holy Ghost, to promote the Christian community in our region that has brought us favor with a good number of pastors in our region. The key operative word with these pastors is RESPECT. When fellow colleagues come to you and say that they highly esteem your ministry, this will speak huge volumes in the context that you are there to be a blessing to the Body of Christ in the region where you serve as a pastor of a local church. It’s from this perspective that we’ve developed relationships with other pastors that have been a great blessing to us, since we all have one thing in common … to reach out to the lost with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Pastor Jann ButlerPastor Jann Butler – Tacoma, WA

Relationships with other ministers are extremely important to me. God has placed many in my life over the years. I have noticed that those that stick only to themselves never succeed too well in ministry. They soon have developed what I call an “Independent Spirit.” They are always in competition with everyone.

I value the opportunities for prayer and to assist in giving into their life financially, and able to receive from them as well, revelation of the Word. As Paul to Timothy, Peter to Jude, John to James, and Paul to Titus, they all interacted in ministry together and supported each other. I am never too busy not to choose a time to be with other ministers.

Pastor Doug FouttyPastor Doug Foutty – Parkersburg, WV

I have some good friends who are ministers in my home town, but we don’t really see each other much. I think we all stay too busy at times. I know that I could call on them for help and they know they could call me. I think I have more communication on social media than anywhere else with fellow ministers. A lot of the time we are just talking sports, travel or trying to make each other laugh. It is a good outlet for fun and a place to unwind on social media. I always enjoy seeing photos of things going on at my friend’s churches. It makes me feel a small part of their ministry lives. It is a good thing.

I keep in contact from time to time with former Rhema instructors and also with ministers that I have yet to meet. The relationship/friendship is important to me with each fellow minister. It is good to encourage them and to be encouraged. I use private message if we are talking about something more serious or delicate matters. I highly recommend that you keep channels open with local ministers and with friends on social media. We are all on the same team and working for a common goal. At least that is how it should be. Enjoy your ministry and their ministry. Respect each other and walk in love. That is a winning combination.

Pastor Jack YurusPastor Jack Yurus – West Harrison, NY

What an awesome question. This can be answered on so many levels – time, effort, type of relationship etc. You need to relate to people according to the place they have in your life. You have superiors, peers, and subordinates. You should never mix them up.

  1. I can be a friend to a superior, but there are lines I won’t cross. I give them full access to my life and receive advice and correction if needed. I don’t hold that place in their life. In the movie, “The American President,” there was a line that demonstrates my point. Charlie Sheen is the Chief of Staff and Michael Douglas is the President. Michael Douglas says, “When we are alone, you can call me Andy.” Charlie Sheen responds, “Excuse me, “Sir”.” He said, “You were the best man at my wedding. You can call me Andy.” Charlie Sheen’s response, regardless of relationship or friendship demonstrates the proper value and respect you should have for someone who holds a position or place above yours. He said, “Yes sir, Mr. President.”
  2. I think you need to have fellowship with ministers that are peers but not necessarily close friends. Hearing what other peers are going through and the struggles they face, many times exposes the lies that the devil tells you about how there is something wrong with you or what or how you are doing things. You also can get valuable information to help you deal with things that they may have already gone through. These are not friends where you would share your struggles or frustrations.
  3. You have your subordinates. This is an area that is hardest for me. I want to be friends and buddies with everyone. I can switch gears from being the class clown, the life of the party to being a fierce competitor when needed, in a second. Many people will not be able to make that switch with you. It is also hard, if not impossible, to rebuke or bring correction to a friend. People are looking for a leader not a playmate.
  4. There is another category that I think is at the heart of your question: a friend that has walked in your shoes, whatever it may be. I don’t know if anyone really knows what it is like to be a Senior Pastor unless you are or have been a Senior Pastor. We have friends that we are so blessed to have. I was at the last church I was at for 18 years. I was completely frustrated for the final three years. As Assistant Pastor, I knew I couldn’t speak to any other church members. I was trying to process my thoughts so I could speak to the pastor, so I couldn’t talk to him. So, basically they came to our house and we verbally vomited all over them and they mostly listened. Another time, when my wife called me to let me know that the doctor told her in her eighth month of pregnancy that they couldn’t find a heartbeat; he was the first one I called. For the most part, even though they moved away, when we get together we don’t talk about ministry. We go on vacations, we visit them and we laugh. This kind of friendship is rare and extremely valuable. As far as how much time and effort you should put into a relationship like this, this relationship doesn’t take any effort at all. No one has to wonder if anyone is offended, and when we get together once, twice, or three times a year, we pick up right where we left off. This kind of fellowship leaves us rested and refreshed. So to sum up my answer to this question, pray for and earnestly seek out friends like this.

Hope it helped.

Pastor David KibbenPastor David Kibben – Cheyenne, WY

I believe it is important to build relationships with other ministers within your community as it broadens your perspective, and it helps you to realize that there are others that love Jesus and want to see the gospel expanded within your community. It gives you an outlet outside of your own church where you can share and pray about issues that you may not feel comfortable sharing with members of your congregation. I believe it is healthy for a minister, spiritually, emotionally and mentally. You may not agree on minor issues doctrinally, but it is good to be challenged in what we believe and why. There is a group in the town I pastor that meets periodically, and we have lunch and discuss events we can do together. I know that I can call on each of these men for prayer and/or counsel when I need it, as well as fellowship.

I believe that it is also valuable to connect with ministers that are outside your community. A minister from outside of your community can give you fresh insight and is able to see things objectively because they are not on the inside, so to speak. I have a couple of fellow ministers that I visit with regularly that I am able to share issues with that I might not share with ministers within my community or within my church.

There is also a protection by having these relationships. I have had one minister friend who has spoken some very direct things to me over the years that has helped me stay on course with God, my family, associates and others. What this minister has said to me was not always easy to receive, but I knew that it was done in love. I knew it was done to make me a better person, and secondly, to make me a better minister.

I also enjoy playing golf and this gives me a physical outlet, and of course we all know that ministers aren’t competitive.

It is very beneficial to have relationships with other ministers both within and without your community. You may not visit with them every week, but it is valuable and beneficial to know that there are others you can count on to pray with you, counsel you, and mentor you, and it will help you to stay healthy – spiritually, emotionally and relationally.

Pastor Barry FredericksPastor Barry Fredericks – Newtown, CT

Pastor Sheila and I feel that relationships with other ministers are very important.

It is not easy to have relationships with denominational ministers in our community. The ministers are friendly enough, but the baptism in the Holy Spirit and healing always seem to hinder any kind of a meaningful relationship. When 9/11 happened, all of the Newtown clergy were invited to pray at the high school football field. The congregational minister, who was in charge, came up to me and said when it is your turn to pray, you cannot use the Name of Jesus—this is ecumenical. I courteously told him that I would not do that and prayed in the Name of Jesus. The minister went off in a huff.

I have wonderful fellowship with the Rhema pastors in southern New England (Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts). We get together, share traveling ministers, and have minister meetings with ministers like Bob Yandian, Rick Renner and Tony Cooke. Our church always hosts a Christmas fellowship and virtually all of the ministers from this area come, as well as a few from New York and New Jersey.

After almost 34 years pastoring, we love to help pastors that are either starting out or would look to us for advice. It is an honor to help; not that we are so smart, but we have learned some things after 34 years.

We do not visit a lot of churches. When we do, we not only enjoy the fellowship, but try to learn from what we see the church doing. We implemented chalk boards after visiting Willie George’s church. We implemented skits after visiting Ed Young’s church. We have gotten several new worship songs when we heard them at other churches.

We do not consider the ministry hard. We consider the ministry an honor. Regardless of what someone does, there are always challenges and hard work involved. If I am going to sow my life into something, the only thing that to me is worth sowing my life into, is the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. Pastor Sheila and I love to share that with other pastors.

Pastors need each other. If the devil isolates a pastor, the devil can lie and tell that minister that they are the only ones who have challenges. Fellowship and honest conversation helps all of us as pastors know that there are challenges we face and that we are not alone.

The congregation of ‘my’ church loves to know that we are in relationship with other pastors. When we have a guest minister, they love to see a row reserved for the pastors of other churches. I believe it gives our congregation a certain sense of security.

We are busy and doing the Lord’s work is the best. We are never so busy that we cannot take time to spend with other pastors. Often they come to see us (a couple came 3-23) or we drive to see them. We never fail to feel edified and grateful to the Lord for time spent with other pastors. We surely need each other.

Pastor Ray EppardPastor Ray Eppard – Staunton, VA

My primary relationship with ministers in our community is a working relationship. This would mean that it is cordial, friendly, cooperative, but not a lot beyond that. You need to have a good working relationship with local Pastors if at all possible. However, your friends (those you have relationship with and spend time with) shouldn’t have to be from your profession. Your friends are based on who they are and the qualities they have. Trust must be established and developed for this type of relationship. You need to have friends; they do not have to be ministers.

Good friends are essential to maintain overall balance and health in life.