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Every Tuesday morning, before the staff at our campus begins the day, my campus pastor calls the staff into the lobby for what he calls “Pastries With The Pastor.” He supplies donuts and other sweet treats and we spend the first 15 minutes of our day sharing highs and lows of ministry and praying for one another. Occasionally he will share a short devotional or thought for us to think about for the week. One in particular has challenged me a ton the past couple weeks.
He shared about how ministry can be a lonely place. We often are pouring out so much that making real friendships can be difficult. He challenged us to think about the three friends everybody in ministry should have. After he shared with me these three relationship types, I have been pressed in my heart to be intentional to find these friends and share them with others. I think we all should find these three types of friends.
Timothys are the people you are intentionally pouring into. This friendship is more than just one on one bible studies. You invest in them as if they were your own child the same way Paul invested in Timothy (1 Timothy 1:2). Fruits of these relationships may not be seen until some maturity takes place. That could take months or years. These people are easy to find but sometimes are hard to convince that they are a Timothy in need of a Paul. Convincing young believers that they need a mature believer to invest in them can be difficult, but so is convincing teens they need to still be parented. Your relationship and love to them will open up their hearts which will eventually open up their ears to you. Timothys will often be students in your ministry or even adult volunteers.
These are the co-laborers. Your relationships are mutually beneficial. Your time with them is both pouring and receiving. Like Barnabas, these friends are encouraging to you (That is what his name means: Acts 4:36). They are part cheerleader and part advisor. Your relationship with them in return is the same. Along with encouragement, your relationship leaves room for disagreements. When you co-labor with someone, you are bound to disagree with some things. If compromise can happen, then great! However, there are times where the disagreement may mean going your own way on some things (Acts 15:36-41). These friendships are real and honest. You are side by side in the trenches together. They have your back and you have theirs. Things can get messy, but it is worth it. These friendships could be fellow youth pastors from other churches to other staff or volunteers in your own ministry. In my life, these have been folks I am friends with in the YouthMin Facebook group and my own Senior Pastor.
I would argue that this is the hardest type of friend to find. The responsibility to be someone’s spiritual father or mother is heavy. There is also the sin of pride preventing us from even seeing the need for such a relationship. As we pour into all of our students, the thought of needing to be poured into is often lost on us by our own unchecked arrogance. These people not only need to be found, but also intentionally pursued at times because sometimes they are not looking for Timothys (or think they are mature enough for a Timothy). These folks pour into you more than just Bible knowledge and theology; they give you practical wisdom and insight on things you were probably unaware of. They not only care about correct beliefs, but they also care about your right living. They ask you hard and uncomfortable questions about your private life, marriage, and parenting. Our flesh wants us to be defensive, but these Paul friendships only ask because they want to see the best in you. You offer little to the relationship. Not because you are worthless, but because you need someone to simply pour into you and it doesn’t require you to pour into them. These are, for many of us (depending how old you are), the grey hairs in our church. They can be your pastor or an elder in your church, or even your literal mom and dad.
I struggle to keep consistent Pauls in my life. I think it is because I love feeling like the most spiritually mature person in the circles I run with. There is something humbling and terrifying to sitting down with a Paul. I think the humbling is good and needed. The fear comes from my own flesh of not wanting to be humbled. Fight your pride. Find your Paul. Find your Barnabas. Find your Timothy.