It is totally obvious to state, but here it is: Jesus was a genius disciple-maker. And to make disciples what did Jesus do? He shared his life and he shared the word of God. His practices influences our practices. The practices of sharing life and the word are the two foundational pillars for building a discipling relationship.
But sharing life with other adults is hard, isn’t it? One of the biggest obstacles to sharing life I heard come up in the summit was scheduling and time. We’re busy. Other adults are busy. Many ministry leaders find it easier to connect with students since their schedules are more flexible than most adult schedules. Schedules aren’t the only thing that gets in the way of building relationships with other adults, however. Our own insecurities, vulnerabilities and fears get in the way too. We might think to ourselves, “I really don’t want any other friends.” Moreover, when you’re a ministry leaders very few relationships in the church are actually peer relationships. Most of the relationships you have will have a spiritual maturity imbalance: you will be the more spiritually mature person and investing in someone’s growth. It is really hard to have a true friendships, however, when the spiritual maturity levels are mismatched. When the maturity levels are mismatched, it is more like a spiritual parent-child relationship than peer-to-peer.
So how do we go about investing in the lives of other adults in the church? I don’t have a ton of great answer right now. In fact, I am still in process. Most of these are suggestions rather than hard-and-fast rules.
Find a few peers
As a ministry leader, you do need a few spiritual relationships. Find those. It could be from another leader in the ministry for the church. You probably don’t need a ton of these, one or two will suffice. Consider the peer relationships your “base.” These are the people you can tell anything to and the people you will utterly rely on in the church. Having spiritual friendships like these can help provide you the stability to endure the long race that is ministry leadership.
Focus on a few
Jesus really only focused on twelve guys. Even among the twelve, he invited Peter, James and John into some situations that the other nine did not get access to. Of course, Jesus taught the crowds. He allowed himself to get interrupted (Mark 5:21-42). He healed many and spent time among the people. But he gave his deepest attention to twelve guys. And with twelve guys, he changed the world. It kind of puts the relentless guilt you might have about “not reaching out enough” into perspective, doesn’t it? So maybe sharing life with other adults is more about depth with a few than constantly availability for all.
Ask Yourself: “How Much Time Can I Really, Truly Give?”
How much time do you really need to invest in someone? Be honest. I think we carry a lot of unnecessary guilt around because we think we should be investing “more” time. But how much is more? An hour? Two hours? Eight? Be realistic as how much time you can really give to other people and other discipling relationships.
Here’s my reality: I don’t want my kids to hate the church. Many pastor’s kids hate the church because it becomes their dad’s mistress. Many PKs believe (often rightly) that their dad loves the church more than them. I don’t want that to happen to my kids. Therefore, I am extremely limited in how much time I can give to others because I want to give my best time to my kids. If I don’t get to spend time with someone I don’t really know well in the church, I trust that God will provide for that person. But the downside of neglecting those closest to us is exponentially high. If don’t get to spend time with my kids, it could shipwreck their lives because I am the person God has ordained in his good design for the family to most significantly invest in them. No one else can fulfill my role of father.
So I set a “night out” quota. I can spend three nights doing ministry stuff MAX per week. If I go over that, I seriously restrict my ability to be present with my kids. So ask yourself: How much time can I really, truly give to other people? And once you’ve given that, don’t worry about giving “more.” You’ve given enough.