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In the past few years, we’ve learned how it feels to spend less time in face-to-face settings with friends, colleagues and congregations. Many people still work remotely. Many congregations still see sizeable percentages of members worshipping virtually rather than in-person. When we consider the ways that spirituality and friendship are connected, have we considered how our new social habits impact the art of making friends?

Companionship seems to be woven into the fabric of Scripture as a necessary dynamic in our spiritual well-being. God told Adam that it was not good for him to be alone. Moses needed Aaron beside him before he yielded to God’s call to speak to Pharaoh. Jesus had an inner circle consisting of Peter, James and John.

Congregations sometimes overlook friendship as a vital spiritual practice. We confuse gathering people in the same room with fostering relationships. To make friends, we must do more than bring people into the same physical or virtual spaces. As you will notice in this week’s resources, making friends requires intentionality. Having supportive friends is profoundly beneficial, especially for clergy. Due to multiple factors, ministry often results in social isolation, which makes having genuine friendships central to a leader’s emotional, spiritual and even physical well-being.

Summertime is here, and it’s the perfect season for getting together socially. Leaders who are looking to help people deepen or expand their network of relationships might be interested to know that there are specific behaviors and attitudes that make it more or less likely to develop closer human connections. Making friends as an adult is not something that happens every day. However, when we cultivate the art of friendship, it is — in the words of Psalm 133:1 — both “good and pleasant.”

Resources

Plants can teach clergy a lot about building networks

Gardens grow in ways that are mutually supportive and connected. That’s an underground lesson for pastors, writes the director of the Thriving in Ministry Coordination Program at Leadership Education at Duke Divinity.

By Alaina Kleinbeck

7 secrets to making friends as an adult

Assume people like you, and keep showing up.

By Marisa G. Franco

The art of friendship in the mess of life

When adjusting to a new situation, it’s tempting to look forward, not back, writes a United Methodist pastor. But it’s important to attend to those deep friendships that are the living connections between memories and dreams.

By Laura Stern

Why leaders need holy friendships

Personal sustainability requires sacred relationships formed in God’s love. A managing director of grants for Leadership Education at Duke Divinity writes about what makes these friendships vital in this adapted excerpt from her new book.

By Victoria Atkinson White


Before you go…

Because of my Gen X childhood experiences, I like my children to spend as much time as possible outside and with friends during the summer. When I offered to take my teenage daughter to the community pool, she asked me who she was going to play with. I suggested she just find a group of kids and make friends. She looked at me as if she did not understand English. Her older brother chimed in to let me know that what I suggested was not as easy as I thought it would be.

Honestly, I knew he was right. Making friends is not easy, but it is important. Let’s not forget that part of our mission is to build a spiritual community that is rooted in friendship with Jesus and with others.

You can reach me and the Alban Weekly team at alban@duke.edu. Until next week, keep leading!

Prince Rivers

Editor, Alban at Duke Divinity