Relationships are a funny thing. And I’m not just talking about romantic, head-over-heels in love relationships. I’m talking about friendlationships… over even ministry relationships. Mostly, though, I’m talking about the kinds of relationships that challenge, inspire, and sharpen.

Relationships require work. They don’t just happen overnight, or because you see a person on a regular basis. It’s totally possible to have a deeper and stronger relationship with someone who you only see once a year than it is with the people who you small talk with in church every week. Why is that? What are the secret ingredients?

I spent the day Saturday at the wedding of my dear friend Kelsey, having a surprise reunion with some of my favorite people in the whole world. People who I have quite literally poured myself into over the years, even when I didn’t really understand what I was doing. People who are kind of like my own Timothys. As I looked around us at the wedding, I couldn’t help but notice that Scott and I were, by more than 6 years, the “old folks” at our table–even in our “section” at the reception.

We were grouped together with the “young friends,” which I appreciate, of course. But as we sat there talking, I couldn’t help feeling like a proud mama bear. These ladies who I’ve gotten to know over the past six or seven years have all grown up into beautiful, intelligent women.

So, what is it that makes these relationships so special?

Are they my “long distance youth group”? Sort of.

Are they dear friends? Absolutely.

Has there been emotional investment and the investment of time? Yep.

As Scott and I were driving up to the wedding Saturday afternoon, I started wondering aloud who else might be at the wedding. Then, we started reminiscing:

We recalled the time we drove from Cleveland up to Michigan to surprise Amanda during her senior year of high school when she was playing in the pit orchestra for Annie.

And how even though we lived two and a half hours away from each other, we didn’t go more than two weeks without seeing each other for an entire year.

I reminisced about the time Kelsey and I stayed up half the night in the upstairs of a youth house during a Spoke Folk tour having one of the longest, deepest conversations of my life.

The stories went on and on. And they still do.

Since we’ve been back, I’ve been spending a lot of time reflecting on those relationships, especially in light of my youth ministry. I’ve asked questions like: Why are all of the relationships where I can identify the most influence–the most “youth ministry” influence–with young people outside of the churches I have served? Are any of the ingredients in those special friendships transferrable to youth ministry? Where am I missing the boat in building relationships within the youth ministry I serve?

Question: What are the essential investments and ingredients in the most influential relationships in your life? Are those ingredients transferrable across contexts?

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