devozine

For Youth Workers Post

Best Friends

Lanecia A. Rouse

For use with devozine meditations for March 1–3, 2013.

MAKING THE CONNECTION

          “When we consider the blessings of God—the gifts that add beauty and joy to our lives,
          that enable us to keep going through stretches of boredom and even suffering—
          friendship is very near the top.” —Donald W. McCullough, Mastering Personal Growth

“Over the past thirty-five years, I have been fortunate to have a circle of friends who have taught me what it means to love and to be loved by others. Most of my best friends have been men. With little heartbreak, I have managed to nurture healthy, close relationships with men whom God wrote into my story to help restore, heal, stretch, discover, and embrace me in ways that are different from the blessings of my friendships with women. My friendships with men have taught me how to order and discipline my desires as well as to identify what I truly desire in a romantic relationship.

“As I cultivate my friendships with intentionality and care, I am reminded of who I am and who I have been created to be. Sim, Mike, Dan, Jack, Matt, Patrick, Justin, and Will have brought love to my life, each in his own way, helping me to become a better person, women, friend, and servant. I am extremely grateful for these men and the impact each has had on my journey with God and neighbor.

“Friendship between men and women, when cultivated with honesty, intentionality, integrity, respect, and love, is possible and can be life-giving to both parties. At a time when the dominant culture does not portray healthy co-gender friendships, the church can help provide models and direction for how we love each other well. Co-gender friendships have developmental benefits for both boys and girls. The church has a unique perspective on holy friendship, which needs to be part of the conversation so that the community can experience the gift of true friendship that gives life.

“Christian friends build each other up emotionally, spiritually, and physically. We receive from one another strength, encouragement, and love. We talk, we cry, we listen. At times we also say what our dearest friends need to hear. Because of mutual trust and acceptance and because we know how to deliver the hard message with truth and grace, we are able to have an impact on a friend’s heart. I believe this is what Proverbs 27:17 (NIV) means when it says, ‘As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.’

“True Christian friendships are rare treasures. They take time to nurture; but in the process, we grow more like Christ.” —Lanecia

 

MEET THE WRITER

Lanecia-293822_10150340224790820_517825819_9583054_6724068_nLanecia A. Rouse is my name. I am beloved. I receive most of my days trying to discover the implications of being beloved as I live in the tension of “the already but not yet” with people living on and off the downtown streets of Houston, Texas, on the campus of St. John’s Downtown. I am an artist, photographer, painter, musician, and writer. I am daily learning how to play and to embrace the freedom to love and be loved by others. Currently, I am serving as the project manager of The Art Project, Houston, a therapeutic art and self-empowerment project of the Bread of Life, Inc. Before moving to Houston in March 2011, I served in youth ministry for thirteen years, mostly received with the brilliant, bursting beautiful youth of Belmont United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tennessee. Check out Lanecia’s blog “What Lies Within: LAR Art” and her photographs, and learn more about The Art Project, Houston.

 

STUFF YOU WILL NEED

• pens and paper
• Bibles
• large sheets of paper
• quotations and scripture verses (see “Exploring the Word” for ideas)
• markers, colored pencils, crayons
• mailing envelopes and stamps
• (optional) music player and soft music that speaks in positive, healthy ways about friendship
• Print-Friendly Version of Session

 

PLUGGED IN

Here are a few resources to help you to explore and think through the topic of healthy male-and-female friendships:

 

Video:

+Friendship & Vulnerability

 

Books:

+ Way to Live: Christian Practices for Teens, by Dorothy Bass and Don C. Richter. Read the chapter on “Friends,” pages 187–200.

+ On Our Way: Christian Practices for Living a Whole Life, by Dorothy Bass and Susan Briehl. Read the chapter on “Friendship & Intimacy,” pages 71–87.

 

Websites:

+Teen Friendships,” by Andrea Grazzini Walstrom, on the Parenting Teens website

+The Upside to Boy-Girl Friendships: Nurturing healthy, non-romantic relationships between boys and girls” from “Field Guide to Families,” by Lynne Griffin, on the Psychology Today website

+The Great Friendship Debate: Can Men and Women Really Be Friends?” at Revelife.com

+We’re Just Friends. No, Really,” on the Christianity Today website “Hermeneutics” is a beautiful article on the sacred friendship between a male and female.

 

CHECKING IN

A great daily practice is receiving time to be in prayer for the youth you lead and the ministry you share with them. Before group members arrive, pray for the time you will spend with them, for those who will participate, for those who will not be present, and for the life of your church community.

Invite everyone to come together. Welcome everyone, extending a special welcome to those joining you for the first time. Ask everyone to take a seat, distribute paper and pens, and ask people to write their responses to the following prompts (adapted from an Internet quiz attributed to Charles Shultz and designed to foster the importance of having caring people in our lives):

  • Name the five wealthiest people in the world.
  • Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.
  • Name the last five winners of the Miss America contest.
  • Name ten people who have won the Noble or Pulitzer price.
  • Name the last half dozen Academy Award winners for best actor or actress.

After a few minutes, ask: “How did you do?” Allow time for people to respond. Then ask them to respond to these prompts:

  • List the two teachers who have made your journey through school worthwhile.
  • Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.
  • Name three people who have taught you the meaning of love.
  • Name a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special.
  • Name five people you enjoy spending time with.
  • Name six people who have inspired you and encouraged you to become a better person.

After a few minutes, ask: “Which set of questions was easier to answer?”

Make this point: “We don’t remember the people who have won awards or made headline news unless we have a direct connection with them. The people who make a difference in our lives are the people who care for, support, encourage, and love us. Relationships are important. Friendships are important. Life shared with others is a gift from God, and the way we care for friendships is important.”

 

Then introduce the session, saying: “Today we are going to reflect on the concept of friendship: What does it mean to be a good friend. What are the challenges and the joys of friendship?”

Invite the group to discuss opposite-sex friendships. Use questions such as these to spark and guide the conversations:

          What does it mean to be a good friend? (Colossians 3:12–17 provides some insight on healthy ways to relate to friends.)
          What are some of the challenges in friendships with people of the opposite sex?
          What are some of the joys or blessings that are unique to close friendships with people of the opposite sex?
          In what ways is nurturing friendships with people of the opposites sex more difficult than nurturing same-sex friendships? In what ways is it easier?
          What are positive examples of healthy close friendships between people of the opposite that you have seen on TV shows and in movies? What makes them good examples of friendship?
          What are some of the biblical narratives or teachings that you turn to as you seek to be a good friend?

 

EXPLORING THE WORD

Before the session, write on large sheets of paper some scripture verses and quotations about friendship and display them around the room. (The following are suggestions. Think of others.)

 

Scripture Verses

 

Quotations

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.’” —C. S. Lewis

“Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.” —Albert Camus

“A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.” —Elbert Hubbard

“Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. ‘Pooh?’ he whispered. ‘Yes, Piglet?’ ‘Nothing,’ said Piglet, taking Pooh’s hand. ‘I just wanted to be sure of you.’” —A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

“One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood.” —Lucius Annaeus Seneca

“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy: They are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” —Marcel Proust

 

Encourage group members to be still for some time, reflecting on the scriptures and quotations posted around the room. You may want to have some songs about healthy friendship playing quietly in the background during this time.

Have available paper, envelopes, pens, markers, crayons, and colored pencils. Remind group members of the importance of giving thanks and of letting people know how much they mean to us; and invite them to write letters of gratitude to one, two, or three friends who have meant a great deal to them. Encourage your group members to hand deliver the letters or to place them in addressed envelopes that you will mail for them.

 

SHARING IN PRAYER

Invite the group to sit in a circle around a lighted candle. Distribute paper and pens. Ask everyone to reflect in writing on this question:
          Where in our time together did you experience or see God?
After a few minutes, provide an opportunity for volunteers to talk about their response.

Then ask group members to join you in saying this benediction from Numbers 6:24–25 (NRSV):

          “The Lord bless you and keep you;
          the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
          the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.”

 

TAKING IT FURTHER

• Invite a man and a woman who are good friends to talk to the group about their friendship. This could be a good time for the group to hear about a Christ-centered friendship and to ask questions about how to navigate friendships with love, honesty, respect, and gratitude. Ask your guests to tell about when their friendship was challenging and how they worked through the gender differences.

• Encourage group members to invite their friends to share in ministry with them. Create experiences that will help to the youth in their relationships. Teach principles of unconditional love, boundaries, integrity, honesty, trust, holy listening, forgiveness, and presence within the context of friendship. Remind them that as God’s beloved, they are to mirror the teachings of Colossians 3:12–14.

—from devozine In the Habit (March/April 2013). Copyright © 2013 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.
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