How’s My Support Network
by Helen Calder
peer-reviewed by Glyn Carpenter, former National Director of NZ Christian Network
We all have some level of support network, whether we recognise it or not. Here’s an opportunity to look at your support network and consider ways to strengthen it. This may be especially relevant for those whose situation is changing or has recently changed.
Admit it or not we all need support. It’s a critical part of our well-being. God does not intend us to be alone, He created us in community. But have you ever thought about the network of support that you yourself may receive from family, friends, neighbours, work colleagues, church congregation and others? A whole variety of people may provide you with practical, emotional, professional, social and spiritual support. However, there may also be ways you can strengthen your network so that you are even better supported and your wellbeing is enhanced.
When I was ill in 2013 I took the opportunity to review where my support came from and where there might be gaps that could be helpfully filled. I developed a support matrix (table/grid) to do this, together with a series of questions. That helped me see some gaps and take action. Since then I’ve shared the matrix with many others who’ve also found it helpful.
An explanation and some guidelines
Here are some guidelines on how to use the support matrix. Everyone will need to tailor it to their own situation.
- The columns are the types of support that may be needed.
- The rows are the people and areas of life which may already provide support or where you may be able to find it.
- Add (and delete) rows and columns for your situation.
- Fill in names of people who give support in specific areas eg John is a neighbour who offers practical help with household maintenance; Jill is a friend who has a similar job & provides professional support for work; I regularly meet Andy and Tom so that we can pray for one another; Jane is a friend I can go to the cinema with. Some names will probably appear in more than one place. After an initial attempt which identifies the obvious people I find going across each row and down each column cell by cell flushes out more names. It may help to do this another day.
- Look to see where there are gaps that need to be filled or current support that needs strengthening and take action accordingly. NB Not all cells in the matrix may be relevant for you.
- Pray that God will guide you and inspire you as you undertake this exercise.
Some questions it may be helpful to ask yourself
Where are the gaps? What’s missing or needs strengthening?
Are there particular situations where you need more support at present?
What other types of support (not people) do you have or could you develop? This might include for example daily devotional time, reading a professional magazine or website, giving yourself a treat. Use the bottom row of the matrix for this.
What do you do to chill out and relax?
What changes in your life might affect your support network?
Which of your support networks are likely to change if you end paid employment?
How might your support network be affected if you moved to a new area?
What intentional steps can you make now to strengthen your support network? What is the priority at present?
When should you next review your support network?