Summer brings an interruption to our regular schedules. It means a pause in many of our daily routines and an opportunity to embrace some new habits and introduce some new events into our calendars and daily lives.
In the church calendar, we will hold special events like VBS or summertime youth events, but many churches take a break from Wednesday and Sunday night services and even pause small groups meeting regularly. This is done to allow both the congregation and staff to have more time to invest in focused family time. Many people vacation during the 10+ weeks of summer, which means both attendance and the manpower needed to make events happen are greatly reduced.
This respite in the busy routine of church life is also a terrific time to consider investing more deeply in specific relationships in your life. As church leaders we are expected to intentionally invest in, of course, our families but also our staff, our leaders, and people in the church who need mentoring and counsel. All this needs to be done as we shepherd our entire congregation. When a few of our weekly responsibilities are taken off of our plates during the summer, this may allow some margin in our lives to build relationships with individuals that could bring a return blessing in friendship and accountability.
We need to give ourselves permission to take time for friendship and refreshing. For some that may mean a trip to the mountains and a hike with friends or for others an early morning fishing trip on a lake. Other people may enjoy a weekly basketball game or an afternoon on the golf course. It is so important as a leader who pours out so much each week for us to remember to be intentional in caring for ourselves. This includes building friendships and relationships that can minister to us when we need it. At times as leaders, we can mistakenly put an unhealthy burden on our own shoulders, thinking we need to be able to handle all of the responsibility and stress of church life by ourselves.
The Lord gives us other godly people to help us bear up under the weight of this emotional, spiritual, mental, and physical pressure. Taking time to have fun with these friends when times are not stressful is so important for our overall health. However, I have found that making this happen requires two things:
1) I have to BE INTENTIONAL.
I have to look at my calendar, especially the summer months, and intentionally choose times to calendar in this time for friendship. That means plan the trip to the lake and block off a weekend for family. It means setting up one night a week during the summer to meet my group of friends for basketball at our local YMCA. It may mean saying no to some other regularly scheduled activities, but investing time into friendship and relationship during this summer break will reap great benefits throughout the rest of your busy year.
2) I have to BE PRESENT.
When I clear my calendar and show up to be with my friend, but I’m constantly thinking of other things I need to be doing, checking my phone, and taking calls….this stifles my ability to engage and connect with my friend. Take the time to put your phone on silent and intentionally be present wherever you are. This is an important practice really for life in general, but especially when it comes to building relationships with others, our focus and attention is essential. So much of our lives are spent multitasking that it can be a hard habit to break. Our focused presence is a gift to whomever we are with.
In his book, Love Does, Bob Goff writes, ”I learned that faith isn’t about knowing all the right stuff or obeying a list of rules, it’s something more, something more costly, because it involves being present and making a sacrifice. Perhaps that’s why Jesus is sometimes called Emmanuel, God with us. I think that’s what God had in mind, for Jesus to be present, to just be with us. It’s also what He has in mind for us when it comes to other people.”
Giving your time and scheduling intentional time with friends may feel like a sacrifice. Yet, Jesus set us a tremendous example of this in the way he spent time with his 12 disciples. He could have filled his time ministering to large groups, but instead he intentionally invited these 12 to join him and not only taught them but also built relationships with each of them. There are many instances in the Gospels where he also spent time with smaller groups of the disciples as well.
We would be wise to follow his example by not only intentionally making time for relationships, but also practicing being present when we spend time with our friends.
How can you look at your summer calendar this week and intentionally make time for investing in friendships?