Social networking had made us start counting our friends. Or our followers. Or our circles. Or whatever label is given to quantify our relationships.
I remember back in the early days of MySpace that friends were even ranked and that occasional drama broke out when the ranking of friends was rearranged for one reason or another. We have learned to categorize our relationships–and that is not necessarily a bad thing. Let me explain.
As a youth pastor on a church staff, we talked about leadership and the people who are around us, both personally and in ministry. We read Gordon MacDonald’s book, Restoring Your Spiritual Passion and it resonated with me. While some of the discussions felt a little corporate, the talk of being intentional about our relationships appealed to me as a business major. Moses’ father-in-law talked to him about pouring into leaders who would multiply ministry. MacDonald suggested labels for some of the kinds of people we run into in our ministries.
- V.R.P. – Very Resourceful People – people who make us dream. They ignite our passion for Christ and for the work He has given us. They are our mentor’s, our spiritual directors, our heroes, our models, and our teachers. We draw great energy from them. Jesus was a VRP to the disciples.
- V.I.P. – Very Important People – people who share our passion. They are close friends and fellow workers in youth ministry. They aren’t “yes men” (or women) but they encourage us by their presence–we never wonder if they will help with a project or event. Where VRPs ignite our vision, VIPs share our vision. Barnabas was a VIP to the Apostle Paul. Peter, James and John were VIPs in Jesus life.
- V.T.P. – Very Trainable People – individuals who are willing to learn and apply those lessons in service. Someone called them F.A.T. people (faithful, available, and teachable). I suppose we can encourage some people to get F.A.T. as a resolution! Timothy was one of Paul’s VTP’s.
- V.N.P. – Very Nice People – people who enjoy the idea of the ministry, but they don’t really want to work or commit. They want to give you their opinion, but not their time They love you and they will tell you, “You’re the best!” But if you asked for volunteers for an event or task, they are nowhere to be found (or they make a polite excuse).. We enjoy their company, but in some ways it is “time spent” and not “time invested.” The rich young ruler may have been a V.N.P.
- V.D.P. – Very Draining People – people who sap our passion and our energy. They demand our time and attention They have a way of elbowing their way in, dominating conversations, and never leaving. They may not realize how much they are sucking the life out of others. Judas was a VDP to Jesus.
My takeaway from those helpful discussions about the book was that I needed to be more intentional about relationships, both ministry and personal. I needed to balance the kinds of people I was around–I acknowledged that I would be around all of them at some point or another. Ministry is not always orderly. I couldn’t say that I would be with VRP’s on Monday, VIP’s on Tuesday and so forth. I could however say that on days when I was preparing for a meeting or event (like Wednesdays!) I would try not to schedule time with a VDP. I anticipated that I needed time and emotional energy to be the teacher or leader I had to be for that time.
Here are some possible takeaway statements for you. Obviously, be sure that you have stated that the order of the importance you place on relationships starts with your relationship with God. Do you intentionally have a morning or afternoon once a month where you get away to pray, meditate and journal? With that said, here are a few bullet points:
- Demonstrate priority of your family. If you are married and/or a parent, the opportunity to pour time, attention and affection into your spouse and children is a sacred one.
- In ministry, start with the core. Who is a disciple? Who falls into the VTP category? They plug in because they want to be all that God has designed them to be. Jesus modeled time priority for the core (disciples).
- As you plan meals and coffee times, be intentional about the kinds of relationships you will cultivate. Make sure that you meet regularly with your VRP’s and VIP’s.
- Pray carefully about wise words and intentional (but limited) time with VNP’s and VDP’s. A key signal that you need to make an adjustment is that you find yourself with them over and over.
- Cultivate other significant relationships and envision new relationships. If a youth pastor has moved to town, give him or her a call. If an opportunity to work at a middle or high school arises, volunteer.
- Consider new relationships outside of your ministry or church. One of my most refreshing relationships is a man I met in the context of sports ministry. He and I talk regularly about the Bible, but I wouldn’t have met him without branching out.