Friendly Reminder: You Need Friends

“Friendly Reminder” is back for the first time in 2016! To refresh your memory, these are occasional posts that tell you something you probably already know. However, there is usually some new fact, story, trick, or twist that will help you remember why it is important and why you should give it some more thought.

Researcher and writer Dan Buettner shared this fact on an episode of the TED RadioHour:

Loneliness can shorten your lifespan by up to 5 years!

A March 2015 research study from BYU found that loneliness is comparable to obesity in its affects on lifespans.

In Buettner’s book “Blue Zones,” he identifies 9 habits and practices that are common to the healthiest and longest-living populations in the world. One of the nine is what he calls the Right Tribe. He writes, “The world’s longest-lived people choose, or were born into, social circles that support healthy behaviors.”

It can be difficult to make friends anywhere, much less as a pastor. You want to have relationships with parishioners, but you don’t want to be seen as playing favorites. You want to be open and honest, yet you need to be able to serve as a spiritual leader.

Relationships with colleagues can be helpful, but ministry will often move people around geographically, making it that much harder to build and maintain lasting bonds. You may also recognize that colleague relationships can be unhealthy, especially when they consist mostly of complaining about your ministries (note that Buettner says Right Tribes “support healthy behaviors.”).

While these can be excuses, we need to fight back — our lives literally depend on it. Find ways to build solid relationships. If you need to make friends outside of your church, don’t feel guilty about it. If you need to get in a covenant group that is committed to regular, healthy check-ins, do it. Block out time for friends similar to how you should be doing for your family.

The healthier we are all around, the more capable we will be to meet the stress and demands of ministry. Better health will make us better stewards of the opportunities we have been given to make a difference for the Kingdom of God. And when we are assessing our health, it’s not just about the scale, but it is about our “tribe” as well.

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