Friday, November 09, 2007

Thankful for friends

I woke up this morning thinking about friends. Specifically, the ones God has blessed me with. I realized that I have about 5 or 6 close friends that I see regularly (and always wish I could spend more time with them). Then there are others that I really enjoy being with but our schedules don't allow visiting that often, except at church or in passing. But when we do spend time together, it's great.

Conventional wisdom used to say that pastors' wives (or pastors, for that matter) shouldn't have friends in the church. I've always thought that was silly and I am thankful that these days, it doesn't seem to apply. I am also thankful for where God has placed us so that we can have these friendships.

I imagine that part of the problem for some pastoral families is that it takes a long time to develop close friendships and pastoral families are often not in a church for that long. I just googled it and this page says that the average length of time for a senior pastor is 7.2 years and slightly longer for bigger churches at 8.7 years. That's actually longer than I expected. This site quotes Barna research and says it's 5 years on average. That's the figure I'm familiar with.

At any rate, if after 5 years, the pastor typically moves on to another location, how can he and his wife develop close friendships in the church? I think it would be very difficult, especially after the 3rd or 4th move. We've been at this church for 10 years. I know that if anyone had asked 5 years ago or 8 years ago how I felt about friends I would have said that we had a few close friends. Now after 10 years, the Lord has blessed us with many more and part of that is from having 10 years together. Some of my friends are new to the area but overall, it's the women that I have worked with and raised my kids with and gone to different activities with that have developed into the lasting friendships.

I must admit to being somewhat cynical about the "forwards" and posters about friendship that I get occasionally. And no, just because I don't send them on to 10 people and back to the person I got it from, doesn't mean that I don't value that friendship. I just don't value the forwards. But in thinking about friends this morning, I have to say that sometimes the fancy posters do say it well.

Actually the Bible says it even better:

"I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy."

Phil. 1:3-4