In every sector of society, including the church, we see relationships defined by three (3) different kinds of formality: Informal, Semi-Formal, and Formal. Which category of formality a relationship falls into governs our expectations for the relationship.
|Level of Formality||Categories of People||Expectations||Examples|
|· Limited and varying expectations, depending on the depth and duration of the relationship.
· No expectation of pay
· Variable investment of time (specific and aggregate)
· Flexible scheduling
· Casual meeting environment
|· You call your mom on your drive home when you are having a bad day
· You meet up with your small group leader for coffee.
· You go running with your friend for accountability.
· You stop by your colleague’s workstation to bounce an idea off them.
|Semi-Formal||· Volunteer Caregivers
· Lay Caregivers
· Non-formal support group facilitators
· Pastors/Ministry Staff
|· Defined meeting times
· Defined meeting locations
· Indirect & voluntary forms of payment (bartering, donations, reciprocity)
· No formal documents defining the nature of the relationship
· Dual-relationships are common
|· You attend a church recovery group on a weeknight and put $5 in the donation basket.
· You meet a mentor at a coffee shop and buy the coffee.
· You are visited by the pastoral care team who brings cookies, you send a thankyou note.
· You attend a workshop presented by a professional pro-bono
|Formal||· Professional Counselors
· Spiritual Directors
· Life Coaches
· Doctors/ Physicians
· Personal Trainers
|· Scheduled appointments
· Professional Settings
· Defined Fee/Payment structure
· One directional relationship (no reciprocity beyond payment for services)
· Standardized licensure/educational/experience requirements
· Formal documents that govern the relationship (codes of ethics, professional registrations, legal definitions and parameters)
· Legislative and/or organizational accountability
· Dual-relationships are discouraged
|· You make an appointment to see a counselor, who was required to earn a certain level of education before they could be licensed to practice.
· You are not invited to your Doctor’s birthday party the weekend following your trip to their office.
· Your life coach is accountable to their certifying organization.
· The nature of your relationship with your Spiritual Director is subject to a specific code of ethics, and their supervisor’s oversight.
· Your interactions with the practitioner are governed by specific laws which prohibit certain behavior.