If there is one thing Pilgrim’s Progress makes clear it is that you need friends to help carry you and be there for you. Christian faces trials and challenges to faith numerous times as he seeks the Celestial City. It is Jesus who carries him through, but the means by which this carrying occurs is through the friends he has along the way.
Friends are important. We know this ourselves. Socialisation and relationships are something we learn from a young age, or hopefully learn at least. The need for relationship and friendship and companionship is vital to living. This is why we begin making friends in playgroup and kindergarten, seek to be included when we’re in high school, find community in hanging out with university friends or work colleagues on a Friday night, and why recent widows or widowers marry again soon after the passing of their spouse.
Relationship drives much of what we do.
In youth ministry we are surrounded by people, but this doesn’t mean we have close friends. In fact, it is probably less likely for us to feel like we have solid friendships with others because we may only be at a church for a short period of time before moving on to another congregation. This is not to say that we don’t care about those people we cared for previously. Due to a new role and a new church, new relationships need to be made.
Another point to consider is that sometimes our friend card can be full. If we’ve had some really close friends from high school and that’s continued for a number of years, picked up a few more through church and other areas of life, then our social and relational needs may be met. When we get to a new church we may not need to be friends with people because of the friends we already carry. This is not always the case but worth recognising as a reality.
With this said there are two types of friendships we might come across in youth ministry. The first I call friends for the journey, and the second I call friends for the road.
Friends For The Journey
The word ‘journey’ has got to be the most overused Christianese I have heard. Ever. It’s probably lessened in recent time, overtaken but that word ‘space’. However, it is good to use the word to describe this situation.
Friends for the journey are those friends who are only around for a short period of time but they are with you through your ministry tenure at your church.
For example, this could be a member in the congregation or in the small group you connect with really well. They are genuine friends with you and you with them. The relationship grows and grows but when you leave then the relationship pretty much stops. There is the recognition that this relationship was only for a certain period of time because of the situation you find yourself in. It could well be that you rarely speak to a former colleague after leaving for another ministry placement. That’s OK. It’s going to happen. But while you were there it was a great friendship. When you meet up again it’ll be as if no time has passed at all. But, don’t be surprised if the friendship moves on and new friends are made from both sides when this occurs.
Friends For The Road
These friends are those friends who you’ll be 83 years-old with and still kicking around like you’re 23. These are the friends who stick with you, you may not see much of each other during certain seasons in life, they may not even go to church or be Christian. But, the relationship and friendship was formed years ago and over time it is just natural to continue that friendship. They know more about you than most other people will ever know, and they can speak into your life or come along and support you at anytime. You could pick up the phone, call them, and they’d take it.
This kind of friendship is needed in youth ministry as they will be there when there are challenges and tough times. They will be there in the joys and fun of the ministry. They will also see you grow and mature and become the pastor and leader you are. These are great friendships and are important to have as you lead and minister to others.
Friends and relationships are important in every sphere of life. Sadly, there are many who don’t have friends. But in ministry it is important to have people who walk with you closely for a period of time and then there are people who are needed over the long-term, those lifelong friends.
Do you have such friends? Is it time to give someone a call or shoot them a text?
A while ago I wrote a post about what I wished I knew when entering youth ministry. This is part four of a series dedicated to elaborating each of those eleven points. You can read part one, part two, and part three here.