Are You Mixing Ministry With Friendships?

One of the joys in my ministry is being able to minister with friends.

One of the challenges in my ministry is being able to minister with friends.

In my role, I have the opportunity to lead many different ministries and I need a lot of volunteers to help make the ministry happen. I am fortunate enough that I have many friends that are involved in church and have been willing to volunteer for my ministry.

These aren’t just acquaintances. These are friends that I do life with. We go to each others’ parties. We are in a small group together. Our kids like to hang out with each other. These people mean a lot to me.

It is a joy to work with them in ministry. That joy can also turn to challenge when we begin to confuse our roles.

In ministry, I have the “director” hat on. I am the leader, the supervisor, the manager, and the one in charge. In essence, we are not equals. I am responsible for them, their performance, and the overall ministry.

At home, I wear the “friend” hat. We are equals and we enjoy each others’ company. I am only responsible for our friendship.

The challenge comes when someone begins to confuse the roles. For instance, I sometimes have to make a decision in my ministry in which one of my volunteers, who also happens to be a friend, doesn’t like. If the boundaries between friend and director are not set up properly, then that decision begins to negatively affect my friendship.

This is when trouble begins to arise. Tension begins to surface in the friendship. If it is not dealt with immediately, the real possibility exists that you lose a volunteer and a friend. Unfortunately, this has happened to me in the past.

As the leader, it is your job to mitigate against this tension and set boundaries up front. I recommend that you do the following:

  • Clarify your hats. When your friend begins to volunteer, have an honest conversation at the beginning about the two hats you wear. Encourage them to also wear two hats: “volunteer” and “friend.” When you come to the ministry, you promise to where the “director” hat and they should promise to wear the “volunteer” hat. When doing life together, promise to each wear the “friend” hat.
  • Don’t talk about ministry business while wearing the “friend” hat. Once you have established the different hats you each wear, it is up to you to take the lead and make sure that there is no confusion around when to talk about ministry.
  • Don’t involve spouses when the “director” and “volunteer” hat are on. What my wife appreciates about our friends who are also volunteers is that they don’t talk to her about things that are going on in the ministry, especially the complaints. Every volunteer has a right to complain about me as a leader, because sometimes I make mistakes. Sharing that with my wife is confusing the boundaries and creates unnecessary tension. I, also, won’t talk to my volunteers spouse about ministry. I’ve done that before and it became awkward very quickly. I learned my lesson.
  • Periodically check in about the boundaries. I should have periodic check in’s with all my volunteers. Part of the conversation with the volunteers who are also my friends is to check in to see how we are doing with our hats.

It makes ministry easier when I clarify the boundaries with my volunteers/friends up front.

Question: Has there been a time when you confused your hats? What happened?

John Rinaldo

As the Business Manager at St. Catherine Catholic Church in Morgan Hill, CA, Dr. John Rinaldo serves as the administrator over operations and finances for the parish in support of all parish ministries. Previously, John served as the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of San Jose, empowering parish communities to minister to the needs of youth and young adults. John is also an adjunct professor at Santa Clara University teaching pastoral ministry courses to graduate students.


John Rinaldo


As the Business Manager at St. Catherine Catholic Church in Morgan Hill, CA, Dr. John Rinaldo serves as the administrator over operations and finances for the parish in support of all parish ministries. Previously, John served as the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of San Jose, empowering parish communities to minister to the needs of youth and young adults. John is also an adjunct professor at Santa Clara University teaching pastoral ministry courses to graduate students.



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