Community

Friends or Ministry?

We all have that one friend that pushes our buttons and maybe pulls us out of our comfort zones a bit. When working in ministry, it can be easy to confuse authentic friendships with those we are ministering with or to. While Christ calls us to love others, He doesn’t call us to be best friends with everyone we encounter. So what does an authentic Christ-centered friendship look like then?

Step One

In recognizing healthy vs. unhealthy friendships we can first start with ourselves. We can ask: what are my intentions with this friend? What am I expecting from them?
When we ask ourselves these questions, we first acknowledge our own thoughts and feelings about our friendships. In this reflection, whether good or bad feelings and thoughts come up, we are reminded that healthy friendships involve someone we enjoy spending time with, share interests with, and who is walking with us towards Christ in some way.

Called For More

So if God calls us to healthy, holy friendships, how do we distinguish between a friendship centered on Jesus versus a burdensome or unhealthy one?
Whether a Youth Minister, Core member, or adult volunteer it is essential to remember that we aren’t called to be best friends with everyone we minister to or with (we literally don’t have the time!). Christ is calling us to real discernment and intentionality in our friendships. On top of that, there can be friends in our lives who genuinely don’t draw us closer to Christ and might not have our best interests in mind.

Red Flags

Christ calls us to life in its fullest in recognizing when it is necessary to step away from certain friendships. This could mean permanently or temporarily saying no to a friendship. It involves reflection, prayer, and clear boundary setting in communication. These are just a few red flags for adult friendships that it might be time to walk away:

  • Possessiveness – This could be a friend who only likes to hang out with you alone or a very select group of people. They might not like your other friends or they might put down other people you want to spend time with. Friends that are isolating aren’t respecting your freedom or dignity and aren’t building you up, or the Kingdom.
  • Degrading – This might be someone who degrades and minimizes your thoughts, feelings, decisions, and faith, even jokingly. Even amongst adults, this could look like derogatory or put-down humor regarding what you feel, think, choose, and value. It could also involve blaming, denying, and manipulation.
  • Makeshift Therapist – While advice here and there is a part of any friendship, this might be a friend who doesn’t seek the professional help they really need and instead dumps-on or overshares with you. They might look to you as their therapist, which sets unhealthy boundaries and expectations in the friendship.
  • Objectify – This might be a friend who relies on you too much for rides, money, and doesn’t return your clothes or things. This can be common in ministry when someone looks at you solely as the Youth Minister or a Core member. It might be a friend who only sees you as someone they can get something from when they need it, materially, spiritually, or emotionally.
  • Miss the Mark – This could be a friend who simply leads you into temptation and sin. As we see in ministry, even leaders can be really struggling with vices, addictions, and sinful habits. Friends that are actively leading us into sin and aren’t trying to get better aren’t building us up as the saints we are made to be.

Support for the Journey

Friendships and healthy relationships require real honesty with ourselves and intentionality. The Holy Spirit longs to guide us and give us the strength, direction, and peace we need in assessing boundaries and expectations in our friendships. Saying no or walking away from an unhealthy friendship can be difficult, and there can be backlash. Through it all, Christ is with us and gives us the grace we need to live as sons and daughters of the Father. We are reminded that in our stepping away, Christ is still working, and we can entrust that person to Jesus as their Savior.

When setting clear boundaries or walking away from a friendship, God gives us healthy friends, family, priests, spiritual directors, and therapists for support to check in with and help us navigate.

Christ calls us to holiness, peace, and gives us healthy friendships for the journey that is life. He reminds us that we aren’t called to be in unhealthy relationships, but to live life in all its fullness through healthy Christ-centered relationships. God calls us friend and helps us to navigate and build up the healthy and holy friendships that He has made us for.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

About the Author

Adam Cross

I am a Marriage and Family therapist and Youth Minister in SoCal. I love the intersection of psychology and theology, and I provide therapy over video chat for people looking for a Catholic therapist in my state. I love reading Fulton Sheen, Henri Nouwen, C.S. Lewis, and love the band the Oh Hellos!

Want to write for Life Teen? Click Here to learn more.