The environment we were raised in and our family history are both factors that helped form us in our experiences and expectations of relationships of all kinds. Learn how to develop a healthy team culture with flourishing relationships, and how you can talk to volunteers about their life choices in an honouring way.
Lord, you designed me for healthy relationships – with You as well as with others. Help me to genuinely learn more about how to have healthy relationships as well as create an environment where relationships flourish. Amen.
1. The way in which two or more people or things are connected, or the state of being connected.
Relationships. We were literally created for them – in particular, for a relationship with our Maker.
Along with a relationship with God, the environment we were raised in has shaped our experiences of relationships. And
sometimes this can even affect our relationship with God! If your dad was distant, you might experience God as a ‘distant God’.
If you felt like you had to perform to be loved, you might feel like you need to earn the attention or love of God through good works…and that His love can be lost when you mess up.
Men and women both bring so much to relationships. Commonly, some of the strengths of men are a protective nature, a desire to provide, a readiness to act and a logical thought process.
Commonly, some of the strengths of women are being in tune with the needs and emotions of others, the ability to nurture, foster and grow things (from people to plants!), an eye for the aesthetic (seeing God’s beauty reflected in our environment), self-awareness and gentleness.
Those are not in any way exclusive or exhaustive lists, but give you some idea of how men and women are both different, and complimentary. What each gender ‘brings to the table’ is equally valuable.
In general, women understand women, and men understand men. The internal experiences of both genders are at least somewhat of a mystery to each other, so this is why brotherhood and sisterhood are invaluable to develop. We can connect and empathise with each other, giving each other the support and encouragement that we need.
Some of us will have had positive experiences of connecting with other brothers/sisters, and for some it has been a painful experience. If you haven’t found friends of the same gender as you who you resonate with, don’t give up! Brotherhood and sisterhood are priceless.
We’re blessed to have the opportunity for friendships with people of the same as well as opposite genders.
We don’t need to be afraid of friendships between men & women, but we do need to be aware that healthy boundaries need to be set. This helps prevent us from ‘accidentally sliding’ into a relationship, crossing physical boundaries or getting emotionally involved in a way which is inappropriate.
When we think of “relationships”, we often associate the word with romantic relationships. We know that that’s not the only dynamic a relationship can have, but romantic relationships are a significant part of our lives.
Unfortunately, our perception of what a health romantic relationship looks like may have been warped by different things such as media, peer pressure or even family.
“To love is to will the good of the other.”
~ Saint Thomas Aquinas
This is a very different perspective to what we often experience of love.
Our experience of love may have sounded more like:
“If you love me you’ll give me everything without reserve.”
“Love is pleasure.”
“Love has no boundaries.”
“I love you because I love the way you make me feel.”
“Love will tolerate anything, even abuse.”
Misunderstanding of what love really is may have resulted in us being hurt, or us hurting others.
With Jesus, there is always forgiveness and healing on offer!
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”
Colossians 3:12-13 RSVCE
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will
forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
1 John 1:9 RSVCE
“…as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”
Psalm 103:12 RSVCE
As youth ministers, we set the example to other young people through the words and actions of our lives. We might not realize it, but they are absorbing everything we do, as people they look up to.
We don’t have to be perfect to be youth ministers, but we do have to authentically reflect the love of God in the way we live out our life. This includes our relationships, and often, our romantic relationships. Young people are very perceptive and even if we try to compartmentalise our life (eg live out a Catholic lifestyle on Friday at youth group, but get drunk on a Saturday) – they will figure it out!!
One of the most difficult things we have the responsibility to do as youth ministers, is confront another youth minister when we know that the choices they are making and/or relationships they are engaging in are not healthy or truly loving.
Here are some questions we can ask, to chat with a youth leader in a way which is honouring as well as honest:
“I’ve noticed some of your life choices aren’t as healthy for you as I’d love to see in your life. Can you talk me through them?”
“We’re so thankful to have you as a part of our ministry! Someone brought up with me that your faith hasn’t been reflected so well through your social media lately. Have you thought about the messages people might be reading through your posts/photos?”
“You’re a really important part of this ministry, and the young people in our group really look up to you. I’ve noticed some of your life choices have changed recently, is everything okay?”
There’s no ‘template’ to follow for the difficult conversations you might need to have, but keep in mind that it is always best to seek understanding first-hand from the person, and try to make a plan to move forward towards healthiness and healing rather than condemn the person. Sometimes those tough choices need to be made to remove someone from a ministry, but helping someone to get right with God is always best wherever possible!
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