You've read lately about clergy widow Faith and her experience following the death of her husband while serving a church. (Part 1 and Part 2) After her husband's death, Faith was surrounded and supported by many friends--some of whom she had grown close to while serving a previous church--but NO ONE from the church her husband served at the time of his death reached out to her at all. No meals, no notes, no help moving out of the parsonage. In that last ministry context, Faith was utterly alone.
Faith's story raises a serious issue faced by many clergy families: making friends with people in the congregation they serve, and not just being on friendly terms, but developing real relationships in which the pastor and spouse can be themselves, share thoughts openly and honestly, and find support for the struggles faced in ministry. How does one form close friendships with congregants when your spouse is in a unique position of authority, when everyone knows you will probably only be around a few years, etc?
I'll be honest--I do not have close friends in the church. My husband and I are young, and there are few young adults in the church. Our appointment is in a very different social context than what we are used to, and it required us to move an hour away from our friends, making it difficult to see one another regularly. It takes me years to develop close friends (both my best friend from college and from high school, I knew for three years before really considering us close friends), and it is difficult for me to invest emotionally in a temporary, transient context. My husband and I are each others' best friends (something I really treasure) but we do feel the absence of other support systems.
Take this week's poll and share about the close friendships you have developed in church. If you have (or had) close friends in the church, leave a comment sharing tips for developing such relationships. If not, this is safe space to share the hurt and reach out to others. I feel your pain and pray God will send a friend.
Jessica Miller Kelley blogs about her cute toddler and working motherhood at The Parsonage Family.