Benefits of a Vocational Friendship | Forum for Theological Exploration

Benefits of a Vocational Friendship

By: John Allen & Nathan Bledsoe
September 16, 2015

Since graduating from Union Theological Seminary in 2013, we have been intentional about maintaining our friendship as part of our ministry.

Several months ago a member of my congregation in suburban Houston told me that her sister in Boston was dying. My congregant was doing everything she could from afar, but as anyone who has lost a loved one knows, it’s a daunting process. As she headed up to see her sister one last time, I told her that my best friend from seminary was a pastor in the area and I would put them in touch. At the hospital, my friend John sat with her as she made the decision to remove her sister from life support and provided pastoral care to her and the family. John also led a graveside service for her sister. I felt completely confident that my congregant was in great hands.

Since graduating from Union Theological Seminary in 2013, we have been intentional about maintaining our friendship as part of our ministry. We are convinced that intentional, deep, friendships between colleagues in ministry are essential to sustaining effective ministry over the long-haul. Here are three observations about how our friendship has strengthened our ministries.

Good relationships keep the important things front and center

Ministry is filled with the temptation to sink into a rhythm of maintenance. It is so easy to let things that are deeply important, but perhaps not as urgent as this upcoming Sunday, slip further and further out of our workflow. Our friendship helps keep those priorities in the foreground. We remind each other why we got into this work. We hold each other accountable to the core of our call. We make fun of each other when appropriate, too.

Location, location, location

While we were classmates, we quickly realized that our upbringings and experiences shared a lot of commonality, and we had similar goals for our ministries. Still, we are from two different contexts, John serves a UCC church in New England and I serve a United Methodist church in Texas. In our conversations, we often are startled to realize how many things are different because of our different contexts.

Having such frequent communication with someone in such a different context really helps us to always be asking: “is my ministry connected to the Gospel?” It’s so easy in day-to-day life to get so profoundly deep inside your context you forget which way up is. Nothing can replace the blessing of having a close friend in ministry from a different congregation, a different denomination, and a different context.

Build a practice, make it a ritual

The most important practice of our friendship is a weekly Sunday evening phone call. We make every effort to protect this time, to leave space at the end of the day for a leisurely talk. We have used this call to support one another through challenges of life, to workshop ideas that we have in ministry, to dream about the future of the church, and more than once we have taken time to debate the merits of the designated hitter rule.

As we continue making a transition into ministry, I expect that this friendship will remain a vital component of our calls. We are committed to holding on to this relationship because, at the heart of it, we just plain like each other. We enjoy taking, we take a peculiar delight in arguing, and we are grateful to have companions in this sometimes lonely work.

Tags...: Thinking Out Loud


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