There was a time in my life several years ago when I was talking to my wife about how I wasn’t sure if I had any friends who weren’t teenagers. When you spend so much of your “free time” hanging out with teens as a youth worker, it easily starts to feel that way!
I was in my early thirties at the time. We had four young kids. I had my full time job at the church, and a side job as well. Life was full. Night meetings, Sundays, etc etc. You know the drill. When was there time for friendship? I realized that I hadn’t hung out with a friend (or friends) just for fun – unrelated to a church activity – in months. Now I don’t know what stage of life you are in – but my bet is no matter what stage – having friends doesn’t happen easily for any of us in ministry.
Proverbs 18:24 says: “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
It is so much easier to have many companions, than it is to have one good friend. Especially in ministry. It is so easy to just relate to people in and around church events and never make time to actually BE FRIENDS. It is so much easier to keep conversations at surface level, than to take the time to be real and vulnerable with each other about our struggles and dreams. Do you find this to be true for you?
This article is about “soul care” and as I prayed about what to write, the Lord put this on my heart – one of the best ways to take care of our souls is to foster true friendships. If you were to take an objective look at your life, do you have friends or mostly companions?
Why are friendships important for people in ministry especially? Here are two reasons I think of:
To Build Us Up
1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” You know as well as I do, ministry can have a way of tearing you down. Whether it is a teen whom you’ve invested in and is struggling, or a decrease in numbers at your group, or conflict with those you work with – ministry can be downright demoralizing at times. One of the best things I’ve found in my life to take care of my soul during those times is having a few friends I can be honest with. This is especially hard in ministry I find. It feels like you can’t talk about some of your issues because you don’t want to talk negatively about the ministry. I encourage you however to find trustworthy friends you can confide in. Your soul can’t, and shouldn’t, carry all the burdens and wounds of ministry on your own.
To Keep Us Honest
Proverbs 27:6 teaches us that, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” The other issue with ministry is that we can often be surrounded by people we are ministering to. Their view of us isn’t always an honest and accurate assessment. Friends are able to speak (if you let them) into our lives in ways that teens really shouldn’t. Do you have friends who can challenge you? Who can talk to you about your dating relationship or your marriage? Who can talk to you about your prayer life? Who can talk to you about your emotional health? Recently my wife and I had two friends of ours come over to “check on us” since we just planted a church. They wanted to make sure we were taking care of our marriage and our kids. They wanted to make sure also, we knew we weren’t alone. It was a powerful thing to have someone not just encourage you, but challenge you. I was very grateful for it.
So when we talk about “soul care” I know we often think prayer, meditation, solitude, and nature walks. I love all those things. But can I encourage you that equally important is making time to have fun with your friends? To build memories and have conversations? I know it doesn’t sound as spiritual, but I can guarantee you that it is just as important for your long term spiritual health.