March 27, 2014

Who Are Your People?

Friendship and ministry. It's the combination that leads to the conversation I have with ministry wives everywhere I go. Do you have friends? Do you have friends within your church? How do you develop friendships? How much do you share with women in your church? 

It seems to me that this is an issue that all women wrestle with, so it's probably not just me or you or us. There is simply an added complexity to friendship for ministry wives that is just, well, difficult to put to words. 
Yep, I'm friends with Princess Lea. I'm cool like that.
With a friend over lunch, I tried to share how I wrestle with relationships, and I stopped in the middle and said, "I feel weird talking about this." Because it sounds like self-pity, but it's really just that I want to do relationships well, and I don't always feel like I'm doing them well. Relationships in ministry are constantly evolving, and it's just so hard to pin down.

Our church, almost six years old, is at a stage where I've really had to sit myself down about friendship. I have relationships that have been around since the beginning of the church and most of those have shifted and evolved in some way. I have relationships that started a few years in to the church plant, and many of those are still finding their way and making themselves known for what they will be. I have relationships with those I've invested in through discipleship, some that have become friends. And there are also always new folks added to our numbers that I want to get to know. Somewhere along the way this year, I looked at all those relational plates I'm spinning, and I just stopped even trying I got so overwhelmed. 

That's why I have to have a sit down with myself, so I can say this:

"Christine, it's not possible to spin all those plates. It's not possible to have all those relationships, unless you're just going to go wide and never deep. It's not possible to know and be known by everyone, even though you really, truly want to."

And then I have a sit down with the Lord, and I ask Him a simple question:

Who are my people?

He's led me to ask this question over and over as I've wrestled with friendship and relationships in our church. What it means is this: 

Who are my primary people? This is easy: my husband and kids. I'm not to forget that they are my most important ministry.

Who are the people God is calling me to invest in? For me, this includes girls I'm discipling, staff and elder wives, and women I'm in community with. These women should get the most of my time and energy, and writing their names down helps me remember to be purposeful in that way.

Who are the people who are my friends (where I live)? Because there is a difference between ministry-related relationships and friendship. Unfortunately, the lines can get really blurred really fast. And sometimes people say stuff that's just not helpful, and the paranoia sets in, and I seriously question if it's OK for me to pursue friendships rather than pursuing everyone, and it just stops me dead in my tracks. 

But I've decided that every girl has got to have friends, even (especially?) if that girl is a ministry wife, which is why God always leads me back to that question.

Who are my people? 

My friend-people are women who are life-giving, who I would let see me cry, who I can be honest with, who aren't afraid of saying things that need to be said, and who encourage my faith. Those are pretty good parameters for discerning who my friends are, and God typically points people out pretty quickly that I should continue to pursue for friendship.

But sometimes I am so busy in ministry-related relationships that I neglect time with friends. Without fail, then, something interesting happens: I forget who my friends are. And I start to think I don't have any. And I panic a little. 

I've simply learned to go again to the question, turn it over in prayer, and let God answer it for me:

Who are my people?

Your turn: Do you feel like it's hard to discern sometimes who your friends are? How have you learned to delineate between ministry relationships and friendships?