Posted by Brandi Wilson
One of my greatest struggles in ministry has been balancing leadership and friendship. One of my greatest blessings in ministry has been balancing leadership and friendship.
Putting yourself “out there” in ministry also means you’re putting your entire family “out there” as well. I’d be lying if I said friendship in ministry has always been easy. I have been hurt, and I have hurt others unintentionally, I’m sure. Despite the pain, I still choose friendship.
The reality is your leadership hat and your friendship hat will collide. And because of what we are called to do, your leadership hat will trump your friendship hat. Here are a few tips as you’re navigating friendships in leadership.
Assume the Best. Friendship chooses to believe the best in people – to give the benefit of the doubt. Friendship refuses to fill the unknown with negative assumptions. A good friendship focuses on the positive.
About three years ago, I was in a season where I felt overwhelmed and needed to work through some personal issues with a counselor. Without even realizing it, I had gone almost three weeks without even talking to Lori. I remember which street I was driving down when she called me to check in. In that moment, I realized that in my disfunction I had distanced myself from her. But the best part of this story is when Lori said, “I knew you needed some space.” She didn’t allow negative thoughts to run rampant in her mind and eat away at our friendship. She didn’t follow a negative thought pattern like “She obviously doesn’t appreciate me enough… why waste my time trying to reach out to her and show her grace.” We need friendships that are forgiving and grace-filled. We need friendships that believe the best about us even and especially when we’re in a season of pain.
Authentic vs. Transparent. This was a game changer for me. Realizing that I am suppose to be authentically Brandi with everyone I come into contact with. When I’m grocery shopping, volunteering at my kids’ schools, talking to volunteers at church. I am called to authentically be myself in all relationships. However, I am not called to be transparent in every relationship I have. Transparency is reserved for a few close friends where trust has been established. It’s not that you don’t appreciate what all friendships have to bring to the table, but it’s also possible to crave community yet also crave your privacy.
Surround Yourself With Defenders. Be a Defender. I truly believe that part of friendship, part of serving on a church staff together is choosing to speak up for one another. But the lines are easily blurred between what you choose not to repeat. Sometimes people need to be aware of what’s said for their own protection. Part of being a friend, a sister in Christ, is fighting a battle for your friend…even a battle they might not know exists. I don’t have to repeat everything to you… but I do have to protect you. Hearing everything negative that is said about you is tough so it’s wise to surround yourself with people you know are in it with you through the good and the bad. Look out for your fellow staff members and their spouses. If it’s not uplifting, think twice before you repeat it back to them. Loyalty is a term that is thrown around a lot these days. Being loyal doesn’t mean relaying all conversations that can destroy and cause hurt. It means being a friend who’s safe whether I’m around or not.
Even if you have close friends, you will probably go through seasons of isolation. There will be situations you can’t discuss, incidents that you can’t get your friend’s feedback on and frustrations that should be kept to yourself.
Relationships cause pain but they also cause laughter, growth and provide community. Having friendships is scary but living a life of isolation is even scarier. I hope I will always believe friendships are worth the risk.
Have you found this aspect of friendship in ministry to be difficult? With whom are you transparent? Do you tend to be someone who gives friends the benefit of the doubt?