Please permit a bit of advice from an aging and grieving minister of the gospel. The work of a pastor is isolating by nature. For the most part, you pastor in an area you did not grow up in and therefore do not have close friends who live there or worship in your congregation.
To make matters worse, you move from time to time and start the process of making friends all over again. Add to that the inadvisability of having too many very close friends who are members of your congregation, and you truly become very isolated. (When I began pastoral ministry, they told me to never have a close friend in my congregation. That, I believe, was bad advice.)
Even when you make friends in the congregation, few, if any, of them have any clue what it is like to be a pastor, to be married to a pastor, or to have your parents be pastors. It is a unique position with unique challenges.
Often pastors work in an area where there are few, if any, other Adventist pastors. Again, you are isolated.
If you pastor a very large congregation, the problems and pressures are multiplied. Even if you have other pastors on staff, you are their supervisor, and that changes the relationship dramatically. While you may have at some time pastored a small congregation and perhaps even had a district, almost no one in a small congregation can understand the sort of pressures you live with every day as the senior pastor of a very large congregation.
Let me share one further complication. When you are the speaker/director of a media ministry, you hold a position that very few in the denomination have ever held. And although you do have colleagues whom you love and respect, your schedules are so busy that you may see them only a couple of times a year. While you have other people on your staff, they are rarely clergy and you are their supervisor—thus the relationship does not lend itself very well to close, supportive relationships.
JUST ONE FRIEND
For years my wife, Gayle, and I remarked that although we knew we had some wonderful friends whom we loved deeply, we almost never saw them because of our travel schedule. Gayle and I had always been each other’s best friend, but at times it seemed we were each other’s only friend! While not true, it certainly felt true. I would joke, “Neither of us can afford to die since we would leave the other completely alone in the world!”
Well, that has happened. I have my family, and they are wonderful, but my children are not my best friends and should not be. I have few true colleagues, and those I do have are as insanely busy as I am and are therefore no real support. My close friends from academy, college, and ministry are farflung, busy, and many years removed from close contact with me.
I do not share this for anyone to feel sorry for me. I will survive. God is my refuge and my strength. Do not pity me in any way. I made my choices, am responsible for them, and truly would not do things any differently—except in one area.
I would, if I could do it all over again, put more effort into remaining more closely connected to good friends and colleagues. There is a value in such relationships that can never be truly measured.
So here, now, is the unsolicited advice, especially for those of you who are younger than I am (which is most of you). In addition to making your spouse (if you have one) your best friend, seek out colleagues and friends and foster those relationships. You truly never know when you might need them.