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American Christians Consider Their Pastors as Friends

A recent survey showed that 50% of American Christians treat their pastors as a friend.

The Barna Group published a study on Christians’ relationships with their lead pastor or priest outside of church services and events. The data suggested that half of the churched adults, or those who have attended church other than a special event in the past six months, considered their pastors as ‘friend.’ Meanwhile, 19% see their lead pastors as a mentor, 13% as a counselor, and 11% as a teacher.

One of the best ways you can show your appreciation to your pastor is to commit to walk alongside them as they walk alongside you. —Joe Jensen, Former pastor

Former pastor Joe Jensen, Director of Strategic Partnerships & Church Engagement at Barna Group, explained that Christians see their pastors as more than the leader of their church. “He or she is also your brother or sister, a fallible human being in need of the same mercy, compassion, companionship and encouragement as you.”

The study also found that one in five Christian adults, or 20%, claimed that they interact with their pastor outside of regular church services or events. Among practicing Christians—those who have attended a worship service within the past month, 43% of them said they regularly met with or talked with their lead pastor. Thirty-two percent of churched adults answered that they regularly socialized with their pastor outside of formal church settings.

In terms of the lead pastors’ engagement in the community, more than one in four Christians, or 28%, said their pastor often attends social events, 44% among practicing Christians, and 38% churched adults answered the same.

The clergy is the eight most trusted profession in the US, according to a Gallup survey. John Fea, professor of American history at Messiah College, said, “Men and women turn toward clergy in some of the most intimate moments of their lives. They are conduits of people’s deeply held religious convictions that shape the way we understand this world and the next.”

Jensen advised Christians to spend time with their pastors and be the latter’s spiritual friends. “One of the best ways you can show your appreciation to your pastor is to commit to walk alongside them as they walk alongside you.”

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