Every minister needs intimacy. Unmarried ministers need intimacy with close friends. Married ministers need intimacy with thier spouse AND with close friends. Thus, every minister needs intimate friends, married or not. Some ministers equate intimacy with marriage. However, singles need intimacy just as much as married individuals.
Jonathan Haidt states (2006, 140), “The reality that people often wake up to is that life is a gift they have been taking for granted, and that people matter more than money.” Most ministers value people more than money or they would never enter the ministry. However, some ministers value ministry more than people. In your pursuit of ministry, do you overlook developing and maintaining intimacy with your spouse and close friends?
When humans socialize at a deep level, the socialization stimulates the brain to start producing serotonin. And serotonin provides an important margin against burnout and depression. So intimacy offers more than a “nice” activity. Intimacy provides a chemical jolt to the brain that physically protects humans from burnout and depression.
When asked what makes their lives most meaningful, most individuals first refer to their social relationships (Fehr, 4). For Christians in particular, relationships with God, self, and others form the basis for all meaningfulness. Relationships represent the only earthly possessions that we can take with us to heaven.
In Romans, the Apostle Paul reminded Christians to value relationships when he wrote, “So in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others” (Rom. 12:5).
|The Christian life not only rests on the development of relationships with God, self and others, but God created us to have relationships.|
Unlike secular society, good relationships not only enhance Christian life, they form the fundamental fabric of spiritual maturity. Consider Abraham. He matured spiritually, but not by reading God’s Word—the written Word did not yet exist. His relationships with God, self and others determined his spiritual maturity.
Socialization within a small, tight network (a tribe) seems as old as the Israelites. From the time of Jacob, the Israelites united in small tribes, facing together a world hostile to pursuing the one true God. In Leviticus, God commanded them to form social networks around the tabernacle and avoid intermarriage (socialization) with unbelievers. When they invaded Canaan, God not only instructed them to avoid socialization with outsiders, but they settled in Canaan by tribe. No Israelite survived apart from their group. The tribe formed their basic identity.
This clannish togetherness still characterizes many cultures. These groups normally prohibit privacy. As we travel in South America, Asia, and Eurasia, we commonly find several generations of families living within the same house, often in the same room. To the horror of Westerners, these totally enmeshed social networks control almost everything that happens within each family, and often within each community. The clan spends nearly all day every day with each other.
A few Western psychologists point to enmeshment as a hallmark of mental illness. However, Westerners show over ten times the amount of mental illness compared to these enmeshed cultures. And modern psychologists are just now beginning to understand the power and health of deep socialization.
- Try mapping your relationships to assess the strength of your support network. Identify the initials of each individual involved in your life and place him or her in one of the three circles on the relationship map below.
- If people really matter to you, what are your SMART goals to develop intimacy with your spouse and closest friends?
- To whom will you talk about your deepest troubles and feelings?
- Please note that intimacy may include those outside of your spousal relationship. Often it includes one or two close friends. Unmarried ministers often overlook their need for intimacy, even with close friends.
How many friends do I need? Some individuals feel much more inhibited, timid, and introverted than others. These individuals often desire deep intimacy, but they limit their efforts to only one or two close friends. While their desire for intimacy offers emotional strength, their restricted outreach to others limits their number of confidants. When these few confidants go on furlough or move away, the introvert often lacks emotional resilience, which can lead to loneliness and depression. Thus, a wide network of friends increases emotional stability. Regardless of your personality, we invite you to intentionally develop at least three close (intimate) friends.
Snyder (46) states, “Lacking the opportunity to share our personal experiences dampens, if not completely extinguishes, hopeful thinking.” He notes that when we lack friends, we lack the opportunity to share. When we lack the opportunity to share, we lack hope. When we lack hope, we feel depressed. The downward spiral into depression often starts with the lack of friends with whom we can share freely.
To learn more about intimacy, we recommend Transforming Conflict: Relationship Skills for Ministers. Please click on the picture of the book below to order a copy.
We proudly recommend the Christian Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program (CPREP) for married couples and those preparing for marriage. In addition to their book, below, they also offer training. Please log onto their website at
https://www.prepinc.com/content/curricula/christian-prep.htm for a list of resources and training opportunities.
For a well-researched self-assessment of marriage quality, please see the marriage danger sign assessment on the self-assessments page.
For resources on spouse abuse, please see:
1. Spouse Abuse: Assessing & Treating Battered Women, Batterers, & Their Children 2nd Ed. by Michele Harway & Marsali Hansen
2. Healing the Scars of Emotional Abuse by Gregory L. Jantz
3.Verbally Abusive Relationship: How to Recognize it and How to Respond by Patricia Evans
© 2013 Nathan Davis