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So, I mentioned in my last post a thing we call “friend night.”  On the surface it’s just people getting together, eating wings, and watching reality t.v.  While all of that is true, it is certainly much more than that and worth sharing with you.  Don’t get me wrong…friends, wings, t.v., that alone is a beautiful thing.  Allow me to expand.

As with just about any success in my life (and I am not being falsely humble) it was not my original intention to do it the way things panned out.  To clarify, most of the successes I have experienced are not “by the book” or followed a direction that I had mapped out.  They were “mistakes” for lack of a better term.  The same is true for friend night.  Simply, at one point, it was probably over 9 years ago or so we were watching American Idol and invited one or two friends over to watch.  It was wing night at a local restaurant and we added the wings.  Then…it grew.

At the time I was on staff for YoungLife and had a “team” of college and young adult volunteers.  These folks were or became our friends.  We wanted to give them a time to not be “ministry minded” and just be around adults.  So, Tuesday nights became a time when we all hung out.  I had a friend on staff who talked to me at length about “ministry in a community” and the value of that.  I dismissed that as the latest mumbo jumbo that somebody was using to sell a book or wasting their time “planning” ministry but not “doing” ministry.  As he explained it I realized, “oh, you mean wing night.”  It turns out that (again, as a mistake) I was doing the right thing without intending to do the “right thing” in the first place.

As the years went on, the volunteers moved on from volunteering and were simply friends.  Many of the people we had “ministered to” (for lack of a better term) as they graduated from HS became regulars at wing night.  Many of have come, many have gone, and a few have been there all along.  There are probably over 100 different people who have been there on a Tuesday night (it’s always been Tuesday nights).

The name has changed to “friend night” only recently as our kids  have named it as such.  All they know is that a bunch of adults who love them have come by on Tuesday nights and they want to stay up and say hi.  What I hope they, and you, realize is the hidden (but now very intentional on my part) reason for “friend night.”

It is a safe place.  It is a time where you are welcomed, loved, cared for, and accepted.  There are no fronts, no pressure, no expectations, and certainly no judgement.  Most of us are Christians and it has been said to me that they love not having to be “on” for just one part of one day per week.  That seems like that they are being fake the rest of the week but it really speaks to the inner monologue we all have that worries what others think about us.  It illuminates the conundrum that most Christians face in having Christians say you are a “bad witness” and non Christians saying that you’re “judgmental” for just about anything you say or do around anyone.  Not at wing/friend night.  Say what you want, be who you are, just don’t talk when the show is on.

Sadly, the people who have the biggest problem over the years with friend night are a certain type of Christian.  They just don’t understand how we can get together without it being a bible study, prayer meeting, or some sort of mission planning something.  Further, our humor at times comes waaaay too close to inappropriate.  That is simply not o.k for them.  Well, we don’t do those things and we do laugh a lot at a lot of different things.  We talk, eat wings, and watch t.v.  That’s it, that’s the list.

We have people say, “This is the closest thing I’ve had to a family.”  Others have said that they value this night so much because they can just relax.  We have had as few as one or two people over, other times the room has been filled with as many as 20+ folks.  I love when somebody comes with “a regular” and then one day shows up…without the regular.  I also love the fact that when those who have moved out of town are in town for a visit, they stop by on a Tuesday night.

The true hidden gem of the night is the fact that it is based on relationships.  It is yet another way I can help keep people from being alone.  Most people, and I have mentioned this and written about it in many posts, don’t have a place where they know that they can be loved and in a safe interaction with others.  They go through life…alone.  Well, not on my watch.  Not when there are Tuesday nights, not when there are wings, not when there is reality t.v. to watch together.  No, you will be a friend, you are family, you will be accepted,  you will relax, and you will keep quiet when the show is on.

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