In grad school counseling class, we took a session on the ethics of relationships and counseling. The bottom line: never have more than one relationship with a person at a time. The professor wasn’t talking about boundaries and inappropriate behavior, he meant, “don’t be someone’s counselor AND friend, or counselor AND family member.” He was talking about how to refer people who are close to you (friends, family etc) to another counselor so you can maintain just one relationship.
Meanwhile, as an MHP in a church of my peers, I find myself in multiple relationships with many people. I’m pastor, friend, taskmaster, leader, counselor, employee. Some of this is easy to manage (I never counsel my close friends), but the rest is unavoidable if you choose to be friends with your church members.
For the record, I don’t know how some pastors choose NOT to be friends with their church members. Lisa and I would have burned out long ago if not for the amazing friendships and love in our church. If you cannot find those friendships at your church, could that be a sign of a bigger problem?
10 9 lessons my friends and I have learned about growing a friendship in the midst of multiple relationships:
1) I’m the only friend in my circle of friends who’s job gets critiqued on a regular basis by his friends. No one sits around talking about a friend’s business ability, what is wrong with his company, what he could do to work on it, but it happens to MHPs all the time.
2) Conversely, I’m the only friend who monologues at his friends for 30+ minutes every Sunday. How weird must it be for my friends to hear me preach at them? No one else does that to them.