In a world of increasing disconnectedness and declining numbers in vocational ministry, it should not come as a surprise that the relational dynamics of ministry are being revisited. Loneliness and lack of meaningful friendships are often highlighted as significant factors of pastoral discouragement.
An old adage says, “If you want a friend, you have to be a friend.” Authentic friendships are vital for wellbeing, but they take time to develop and can’t be artificially created.
Here are some helpful principles for building great friendships:
Find some who shares similar interests outside of the ministry. Close friendships are developed when people enjoy the same activities. Spending time together while having fun doing things you both value allows a friendship to grow organically. Having similar interests will make it easier to prioritize investing the time needed to create a lasting relationship.
Make it mutually beneficial. A quality that makes friendships great is that both parties find the time together beneficial. If one is always giving and the other is always taking, the friendship quickly loses its context and becomes “ministry” rather than friendship. There may be seasons where one or the other will need significant ministry attention, but healthy friendships shouldn’t be characterized by one-sidedness.
Invest yourself. Professional discussion will certainly take place in your friendship, but don’t limit conversations to ministry topics. As your friendship with one another grows, each can share openly about your life and thoughts. Knowing and being known will help your friendship last the test of time.
Make the time. Reachability is a key factor in determining the value you are to the other. When your friend calls, if at all possible, take the call. Learn to schedule time on the calendar and consider it part of your personal and professional development.
Choose a friend that your family will value. In a ministry home, it is vital to model healthy friendships before your family. Choose friends whose values and character your family members can admire. Remember, your closest friends will be like family to them too.
Ministers who are deeply connected to others will be better equipped for ministry for the long haul.
Doug DeMent serves as Lead Pastor of Grace Assembly of God Church in Syracuse, NY and as the Central Region Executive Presbyter for the NY District. From 1996 to 2011, Doug served as the New York District Youth Director.