Pastors: The Importance of Hanging Out

Sam Rainer

July 14, 2009

The Great Commission requires that we enter into the lives of people. Quality leadership means that you are among those who follow you. Pastors are shepherds that lead by example. These elements of church leadership involve approachability, transparency, and trust.

No pastor begins a ministry with several chips in the pockets. Pastors must earn the respect of the congregation. A healthy relationship between pastor and congregation forms over time and in many different ways. For instance, a string of solid decisions shows the church a pastor has talent and discernment. An archive of theologically sound sermons demonstrates a pastor can communicate God’s word. Years of service reveal to the church fruit of a long-term vision.

One uncomplicated leadership trait that is easy to neglect is simply hanging out with the people. While some pastors shirk their responsibilities by being with others too much, many of us pastors don’t take enough time to be with families and small groups of people. And perhaps more than any other trait, spending time with the body enhances approachability, transparency, and trust. Here’s a short list of the benefits of hanging out.

Leading by example in real time. It’s tough show people the right way if no one ever sees you do it. How does a pastor demonstrate living incarnationally? By being among the people.

Discovering opportunities to mix with people outside the church. One of the easiest things to omit as a pastor is leaving the church bubble. A pastor of any size church can fill years of service with just church members. One of the easiest solutions is to hang out with church members who are willing to introduce you to their unsaved and unchurched friends at a ballgame, dinner, or the park.

Balancing the second greatest commandment. We are called to love others as much as ourselves. If all a pastor does is hole up alone in the study, then the second greatest commandment is out of balance.

Enhancing the ability to make tough decisions. When you know people well, you understand better how to make difficult decisions that will affect them. When people know you well, they are more willing to let you make those decisions.

Giving people the correct perception of who you really are. You’re probably just a normal dude who got called into ministry. People need to see that. I can’t tell you how many times people have told me they had an entirely different perception of who I really am until they hung out with me.

Having fun. Really, it’s ok to say yes to a church member who wants to take you out on the boat, or give you tickets to the game, or make your family dinner. People are a lot of fun, so have a good time with them!

Feel free to add your story about hanging out with a church member or another leadership benefit of taking time to be with people.

11 comments on “Pastors: The Importance of Hanging Out”

  1. SandBFlag says:

    What does a pastor do if he feels like he doesn’t have friends in his church? He can’t just crash parties and if the church is cliqueish or familial how can he penetrate that?

    1. SandBFlag,

      If a pastor doesn’t have friends in his church, he is probably on a pedestal and/or in a condescending relationship with his congregation. At any rate, something is wrong… really. This is a dangerous place to be as the more isolated a pastor becomes, the less capable he is to share his own real life and struggles.

      I would say that the key is making that first real friendship. Once you broken that barrier, the rest can come in a more natural way.

    2. Vic says:

      well sir what you have to do is build relationships. That’s the primary goal as a pastor, in my opinion. How can you lead the flock if your not relational? Not you but you in general haha. Try having fellowship time at your house or at the church. I pray that this helps

      God bless

  2. Sam Rainer says:

    SandBFlag – Sometimes a pastor has to lead by example by taking the initiative. If others aren’t reaching out, then he must. I would recommend inviting others out for lunch following the Sunday services, without focusing on one clique or group.

  3. SandBFlag says:

    Keep beating on the wall. Take the initiative, realize that perhaps previous leaders were possibly not relational, and so people are surprised you want to be.

    Or, the prior pastor was there a nice, long time and was deeply beloved, and so you have to spend a lot of time to demonstrate that while you are different, you still are interested in them.

    Where I am, the immediate predecessor wasn’t strong in relationships, but his predecessor was the founding pastor of the church, and had spent 20 years with the folks. So, in 23 years before me, they had 2 pastors. One for 20 years, one for 2. Guess what? It’s hard to crack in on the relational level. So far, in a little over a year, there’s one extended family that we’ve develop a non-Sunday relationship with. So, we’re trying to strengthen that one, and build one or two more, and go from there.

    I hear your frustration. It takes you taking the initiative and takes a lot of calendar, not so much in hours a day, but more as months. It may take 10 minutes a day, for 2 years, but you can’t substitute an hour a day for 3 months. And it’s a frustration, but you aren’t alone with it. Some pastors are much more natural relationship people, just like some seem to be natural preachers, teachers, counselors, or hospital visitors. Some of us, like myself, are much more human and have to work at all of it.

    So,keep trying. And find some good blogs at the least to come on and ask questions and voice any frustrations.


  4. Tim Farley says:

    What about pastors in a multi-staff church hanging out with one another? I am an associate pastor and I feel our staff could do a better job of this (much better). In my experience and through observing others, this is an area of great neglect in churches. How can a staff break down walls and become vulnerable to each other if they do not know one another except in the office and they never share their private lives?

  5. Sam Rainer says:

    Tim –

    Great point. I too serve at a multi-site church. There can be a natural disconnect between campuses. It’s critically important that everyone is on the same page and able to model church unity for the rest of the body.

    1. SandBflag says:

      Thank you for the suggestions

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