I recently met a new pastor who was frustrated and confused about the lack of unity and connection pastors seem to have in his community. While this early experience will likely be the norm throughout his ministry, there will also be many refreshing exceptions along the way.
I wish I had a more positive answer for him, and for you.
Just because ministry friendships are hard doesn’t mean you should give up on them. Here are a few suggestions for those who want to be bridge-builders instead of bridge-burners.
Connect with the ministry friends you already have.
It is understandably tempting to focus on the pastors who are too preoccupied or busy to connect with you or other pastors. There will always be pastors who will strut around like they are God’s gift to the community.
Instead, why not thank God for the pastors you already have a connection with? Text your ministry friends periodically to remind them that they are important to you.
Isolation is one of Satan’s favorite schemes for ministers, so don’t be surprised when a simple text becomes a divine appointment.
Keep initiating with new pastors.
Please don’t hear me saying that you need to be close friends with everyone who shares your calling. Befriending another pastor in your neck of the woods is opening an important door to your life for someone God has placed on the same harvest field.
Some pastors are insecure and therefore will be guarded. Others may be preoccupied with growing their ministries to the extent that they neglect growing personally.
This is a professional blind-spot we all must watch.
However, not all pastors are putting you off because of selfish reasons. Some are serving through a tough season and are overwhelmed with challenges at home or church or both.
Reach across denominational lines.
Although Lifeway is a Southern Baptist entity, I intentionally build ministry bridges with other non-SBC evangelicals. I have done this enthusiastically for three decades because I love the diversity within the body of Christ.
You won’t regret playing in a new spiritual sandbox once in awhile, although you may encounter some crazy Christian cousins along the way.
This seems to be easier for younger pastors because they grew up in a post-denominational era. But seasoned pastors often carry more weight, so they can build a bridge simply by walking into a room with other pastors.
Host a meal for pastors only.
I have seen several ministry bridges burned to the ground by inviting non-pastors into ministerial meetings. Pastors’ meetings are fertile ground for well-intentioned ministry partners to promote their products, events, films, or para-church ministries.
Nothing will strip the room of genuine camaraderie faster than constantly introducing a “guest” to promote their ministry. I work for Lifeway and completely understand why those who resource churches need to get in front of pastors. However, the local pastors meeting is often the only place some pastors get to connect with each other; in my experience it needs to be protected. If you are having a sales-pitch, or a ministry-head who might ask for money, the pastors should know that in advance so they don’t feel ambushed.
You have heard it said that if you want to have a friend, you have to be a friend. You may be surprised who will walk across a bridge of friendship if you start building it today.