Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Support Networks - Personal

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

Support Networks: Personal

There are many ways we can have support around us in ministry. The main one will be through the personal relationships with have with people. These can include:

1. Friends

Whether they are also in ministry or not, we are all likely to have a couple of close friends with whom we can be open and honest. When you find a friend like this – hang on to them and figure out a way to actively support and encourage one another, as well as keep one another accountable.

I* have some friends in ministry with whom I can share almost everything, and similarly I have some friends not in ministry who are just as likely to be my first point of call in times of crisis.

With one of these friends we have both become more purposeful over the years with our support for each other, so we now ask each other the pointed questions – How is your marriage going? How are you coping with that? Are you being godly with that? It was awkward in the beginning, but it comes more naturally now.

2. Mentoring

Obviously this works both ways. In an ideal world, we would hope to have someone we can mentor and someone who can mentor us.

In recent years I have purposely sought a mentoring relationship with an older, wiser Christian woman (who is also a ministry wife). It’s been wonderful to read the bible with her and be asked the hard questions of my own relationship with God and where my struggles are. I am able to watch her life and how she shares with me, and store up knowledge for myself.

I am now in the position of being able to actively ‘mentor’ other younger Christian women, and I will take some of the lessons from my mentor, as I now also become a mentor.

A note about choosing a mentor: it’s worth thinking about who you want to be your mentor. Consider someone who is a little different from you and who is likely to encourage you to grow in areas you would not push yourself in. Don’t pick the person who is the same as you will be in the future, but rather someone who has characteristics you admire but don’t tend to be strong in yourself. In short, choose someone you want to be like.

3. People you have responsibility for

We should be trying to establish support networks amongst the people we are ‘responsible’ for in ministry. So, as the number of men that have my husband as their direct boss increase, so do the number of wives that I seek to care for. Sometimes we catch up one-to-one, other times it is in smaller groups. However, as our husbands are responsible for staff, we hopefully will be seeking to care for their wives.

4. People you just want to care for

Sometimes in ministry you know of people you want to care for. You may have no direct reason to do so, other than it seems right.

A few years ago a colleague moved to Adelaide for ministry. We did not know them very well, but another wife and I offered to form a prayer group with this new wife – purely because we knew how hard both of us had found settling into a new city without old friends around. We all met for about 3 years and it was a lovely time of support for each of us, all involved in separate ministries but all wanting to care for one another. It’s also helpful to remember that sometimes these relationships come in seasons, you don’t have to feel guilty or bad that such a support network has ended, but rather thankful for what it provided at the time.

Others who may be included in this category might be other people on your staff team – perhaps a single man or woman who your family wants to support, a new family or those who are a long way from biological family.

Next time: Support Networks - Groups

* This post and the next couple contain a number of my personal examples. I have benefited from numerous support networks, and it seemed more appropriate to use my own examples rather than finding others. I hope you will forgive me if it sounds a bit 'me-centred', that is certainly not my intention.

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