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? 


Christine Hoover said...

This was for me! I have prayed for years for that true friend and am still waiting for my "kindred spirit." As a pw, it is hard to get close to the other women, certainly to the point of having someone to confide in. I felt my prayer was answered last year and boy, did I get burned on that one. I have never felt a sting from another female that hard since middle school!! I am slowly healing from the feeling of perpetual loneliness that has followed me in my adulthood, as I started leading groups at age 20, then was a youth pastor's wife, now pastor's wife.

A single event in my early twenties will forever haunt me:
At 21 I was a new wife and had a baby girl, and felt called to start a small group for young mothers. By the grace of God my husband and I had stayed together in our immaturity (he is now the wonderful man who has been transformed into a lead pastor, but entered that church with a blue Mohawk, 8 piercings and a bad attitude in 2000.) unfortunately the other young mothers were struggling with exes who didn't want the baby or were unfit to be around them. Mind you, I was having my own struggles with a party boy at home, but as we went around the circle for prayer requests, one girl literally said, "we can skip her. She's married. She doesn't have any problems." The entire group gladly moved on past me and never blinked an eye.

I can't seem to escape the uncertainty of how to lead and have good friends within the church. I can't share any struggles within my marriage unless it is an extreme emergency or it is to an elder for the health of my husband and the church.

I am still working on this one and am seeking out blogs like this to encourage me in accordance with the Word.

Thank you!

Christine Hoover said...

Should have warned you- long comment alert!

Christine Hoover said...

I've let my guard down with a woman several years my senior at this church. She's been a great mentor and friend to me, and I've found myself confiding things to her that I later wonder, "Is it beneficial for her to know that about the pastor and his family?" It's definitely cathartic to me, but I don't want to burden her.
It feels as though she's more of a minister to me than vice versa. And that's the lesson I've learned from this relationship. Just because we are the "ministry family" doesn't mean we're not there to be ministered to as well.
Are your friends part of the congregation at your church, or are they others? Is there cross-over?

Christine Hoover said...

I think friendship in the church is something that ebbs and flows. Sometimes everything is going well. Sometimes we're hurt. But ALWAYS it's worth the risk.

Christine Hoover said...

How beautiful, Rae, that you have that relationship! Many ministry wives wish for something like that. Take advantage of it and enjoy it!

Yes, my closest friends in Cville are a part of our church. I have friends outside of that as well, but I try to be a part of the community (it takes my effort for sure) rather than just helping everyone else have community. This isn't easy for me and I second guess myself a lot, but I've found that it's worth the effort and the risk.

Christine Hoover said...

I have been a ministry wife for 23 years now, and this is still something I struggle with...especially, as you mentioned, with the ebb and flow of people in and out of the church. It's a hard thing. I just had a young mother ask me about friendships. God in His grace allowed me to share with her how God has taught me so much over the years about friendships. In my life as a pastor's wife (yes, it was different before I gained that title) God has given and taken away friendships. And in His great sovereignty, He knew when I needed it...and when I needed to be content with just Him. I still long for it, but rejoice when He gives it, and accept it as His best for me when it is absent. I agree with the statement that sometimes you just "know" :) I actually sort of "court" friends before I truly commit to the point of being able to really share my heart, hurts, and hurdles. It has saved me, I believe, much heartache (in hindsight) as God has directed my path concerning friendships.
Great post Christine...wish we lived close and could be friends. In the meantime, I'll trust Him to encourage your heart and all of ours as well!

Christine Hoover said...

We're totally on the same wave-length, so you're right, I think we'd be friends :)
When are you moving to Charlottesville?

Christine Hoover said...

:) <3

Christine Hoover said...

I can remember going to a Women Of Faith event 10 years ago and listening to the speaker talk about how we all needed to have a good friend. I went into the hallway and cried for over an hour because...YES! I LONGED for a friend, but didn't know how to get one! I went home from that event and cried to my husband, telling him about my friend deficit. His words to me were simple and paradigm shifting: "Don't worry so much about HAVING friends. Focus more on BEING a friend." He really was right. Today I feel like God has met the need for friendship in my life. It's taken a long time, but I've developed many friendships with many women both inside and outside the church. I've had to accept that some friendships will be different than others and that's okay. Above all, friendships blossom when you love others more than yourself and put their needs above your own. This blog post reminded me about God's faithfulness to bring friends into my life! Thanks, Christine, for being one of those friends!

Christine Hoover said...

Great stuff, Annie. So glad we're friends!

Christine Hoover said...

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