Monday, January 18, 2010

Going the Distance - Chapter 9

This series was originally posted on In Tandem, a blog for ministry wives. 

Chapter 9: Friendship
Since we are made in the image of the triune God, it is little wonder that we long for and thrive on committed friendships. Relationships matter to all people, pastors are no exception. Whether we are married or single, we grow through our friendships. As we give and receive in friendships, we find growth. (p144)
Pastors, while needing friends, often find themselves without them. This can be for many reasons: a perception on behalf on others that pastors do not need friends, or instead having put them on a pedestal; sometimes pastors themselves see themselves as separate from the congregations and view special friendships within a congregation as unwise or unhealthy.

Brain notes that:
  • pastors need friends
  • the pastor cannot be a friend to everyone
  • those who form friendships to the pastor are exercising a ministry to him on behalf on the congregation; and
  • there are different levels of friendship, and all members of a congregations can engage in friendship at one level or another.
Brain (using MacDonald) presents 6 kinds of friends the pastor needs:
  • the sponsor (or mentor/discipler)
  • the affirmer - the person who can quietly express genuine appreciation for what the pastor has done
  • the rebuker - "we all need truth-tellers, even if we don't really want them" (p149)
  • the intercessor - any congregation member can be a support to their pastor through prayer. As pastors and their families, perhaps some of us need to be better as communicating prayer points to our congregations?
  • the partner - fellow workers. These will be harder to find in parishes where the pastor is the only minister, "the one-man band".
  • the pastor - the one who will come along side us when times are hard, to pray, support and encourage.
Brain then spends more time thinking about mentoring. There are some very helpful points in these pages. He talks about how mentoring relationships will: affirm, be available, be open, pray, be confidential, be sensitive and be accountable. He also lists some helpful questions to ask one another.

I suspect many pastors find themselves being mentors for a number of people in different ways, but are rarely mentored to. It takes humility and a willingness to be honest and open in order to seek out a mentor. In some denominations, the structure itself (eg. the diocese) can provide the opportunities for such a mentoring relationship (eg. with bishops, elders, etc). However, all to often this does not happen in reality. Pastors and their wives should be willing to search for appropriate mentors for all stages of their life and ministry. At the same time, they should also be willing to take on a mentoring role for those who are younger and less experienced than them.

Brain finishes the chapter with these words:
I thank God for my friends. I'm sad that I've not always made time to build friendships. But I am convinced that they are essential to my growth as a person, as a Christian and especially in my work as a pastor. (p158)

Some things to think about:

  1. Do you struggle to have friendships in ministry? Why?
  2. Thinking about the roles of friends listed above (affirmer, rebuker, etc) - do you have anyone who fills these roles for you?
  3. Are you being mentored be anyone? Can you seek out someone to be a mentor to you? Can you think of anyone who you might like to mentor?

Next Monday: Chapter 10 - Principles and strategies of self-care &;
Chapter 11 - Where the rubber hits the road - a maintenance plan

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