By Josh Reich
If you are a pastor, you need some kind of accountability. You know it. You also need friends, people who care for you, shepherd you and walk with you and your wife. This is becoming even more and more obvious as pastors fall out of ministry, burnout, or also take their own lives. It is all tragic.
As pastors, we stand up and talk about the need that people have for community and accountability. The problem is that it can be challenging for a pastor to find community and accountability. Who can they turn to? Who can they trust? Some of this comes from the culture of a church but also your own experience as a pastor. On a deeper level, it shows up in your family of origin.
For pastors, the people who are most eager to be your friend or your accountability partner are usually the last people you want to fill those roles. They typically have agendas or are expecting things you won’t be able to deliver.
Here is the rub for a pastor. Men can vent about their bosses or someone at work. But, if a pastor opens up in their small group and says, “I’m frustrated at work right now.” Or he says that to an accountability partner, the game has changed. Who is the pastor talking about? Are there sides to take? Who got on the wrong side of this leader?
The same goes for a pastor when they need accountability for purity, integrity, want to talk about their marriage, their kids, or their struggles. Not just anybody can fit this role.
Here are a few things to look for in an accountability partner or someone to walk with you as a pastor:
Someone you trust. If you can’t trust your accountability partner or friend, you are off to a bad start. You won’t be honest, and the relationship won’t bring about the goals it sets forth. You have to trust the person completely. This is why many pastors don’t have an accountability partner or close friends.
Someone who understands your role. Being a pastor is different than being a doctor or a landscaper. The person who walks with you through life or holds you accountable has to know this. They have to understand the spiritual and emotional side of ministry. All work is hard work. Ministry work is just different hard work. Not harder, just different. The people closest to us have to understand this.
Someone who loves you. They must love you as a person and want what is best for you. This doesn’t mean telling you what you want to hear, but it does mean wishing to see you succeed and become the person God created you to be. Loving you means saying hard things to you sometimes.
Someone who isn’t begging for it. If someone is begging for this role in your life, it is usually not a good idea. When people want to get close to a pastor or his wife, there is typically an agenda you want to avoid at all costs. Not always, but you need to have wisdom in this.
Someone who is a big fan of yours, but not too big. They must cheer for you, but can’t be over the top. All of us need cheerleaders in our lives, and pastors are no different—people who celebrate when you celebrate, who get excited when you get excited.
Someone who might not attend your church. They might be outside of your church. At the very least, you should have another pastor, you can vent to and get advice about things you can’t get from someone who attends your church. If you want to share frustrations about your church and something you are walking through, it is often best to have a person who is outside of your church.
Someone you are not married to. Your sole accountability partner should not be your wife. Period. You should be open and honest with your wife, keeping no secrets, but someone else should hold you accountable. Too many men, of all jobs, their only friend as they get older is their wife, and that places too much of a burden on her and creates loneliness for you.
The last idea, some of the best people I have found for this in my life, have been other pastors. They know what you walk through, the challenges you face, and the hurts you carry. They have a unique perspective that can be helpful. They know what your wife and kids experience and how to pray and encourage you and them.
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