Note: This article has been excerpted from the SmallGroups.com training tool Foundations of a Small-Group Leader.
Author Donald Clifton said, "Relationships help us to define who we are and what we can become. Most of us can trace our successes to pivotal relationships."
My original idea for this article was to focus on accountability. As small-group leaders, we certainly need accountability in our lives. But we need more than that. We need friends. And there are lots of different types of friends that we need in our lives to keep us balanced, challenged, and sane.
If we look at the life of King David, we see three types of friends in his life. First, he had friends that he hung out with outside the realm of his calling. Secondly, he had friends that he also led that were loyal to him to the death. Finally, he had friends that were willing to call him out and give him a good kick in the butt when needed. Let's explore his life and relationships today to gain some insight on the types of friends that we need to surround ourselves with.
The friendship of David and Jonathan is legendary. Jonathan was the son of King Saul and the rightful heir to the throne of Israel. He knew that David had been anointed by the prophet Samuel to become the next king, but he still became like a brother to David.
We read in 1 Samuel 18: "Now when he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. Saul took him that day, and would not let him go home to his father's house anymore. Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan took off the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, even to his sword and his bow and his belt."
Jonathan not only befriended David, but he protected David from his enemies. Later in the chapter, we see Jonathan working to keep David safe from the murderous spirit of his own father, Saul. What strikes me as interesting about their relationship is that Jonathan's rightful place of leadership and David's prophesied place of leadership never entered into their friendship. It was never an issue.
As leaders, we need friends that are just that—friends, with no leadership demands or expectations. I'm so thankful for people like Julie Schaer. Like Jonathan, Julie should have been my enemy (oh, the stories I could tell you from elementary school days), but we became close friends. Both of us are in places of leadership in our own spheres, but when we are together, it's just Julie and Heather. No demands, expectations, or pressures. Just people navigating life together.
I'm also thankful for people like Leslie Adams. We were friends before I became "Pastor Heather." But when that title came, our friendship did not change. Yes, we minister together and alongside each other, but our friendship leaves our church roles at the door.
Every leader needs a Jonathan—someone who recognizes the leadership gifts and calling inside of their friend, but doesn't allow that to be an issue in their friendship. These are probably the friends I am most thankful for.
The Mighty Men
Secondly, David had a group of 30 mighty men who were willing to give their life for him. They included guys like Abishai, who killed three hundred enemies with a spear; Benaiah, who chased a lion into a pit on a snowy day; and Eleazer, who killed Philistines until he was too tired to lift his sword anymore.