Relationships. That’s how we’re to build our ministry. Makes sense, right? Then why is it that so many churches are getting this wrong? There’s been a post going around about what Millennials are seeking from churches and why they aren’t attending churches anymore. One theme I picked up on was that Millennials are seeking relationship.
If we’re preaching relationship, then why are we so bad at doing it? Jesus was all about the relationship. There are many examples throughout the Gospels where Jesus practiced relationship. He had an inner circle of 3 friends: Peter, James, & John. John was his absolute closest friend and most trusted confidant. Jesus also had his 12 disciples. They spent a lot of time building relationship with each other and then building relationships with the multitudes that followed them and Jesus everywhere they went.
If we KNOW relationships, we KNOW ministry. However if we have NO relationships, we have NO ministry. To be honest, I haven’t always been best about building relationships in my ministry, which is why at that time, there was no ministry.
The nice thing about building relationships is that it also builds a sense of trust. When the day comes and you mess up, because that day will happen (it does for me, often), when you have a relationship with people in your ministry area, they are more gracious and forgiving than if you don’t have that relationship with them. Relationship are the FOUNDATION of your ministry. In my last church, I had a difficult time building relationships with the families. As a result, the foundation of my ministry there easily cracked.
Building relationships with the kids in your ministry area is equally important. Just because they are little doesn’t mean they don’t matter. When kids in your ministry area KNOW that you truly love and care, they are much easier to work with. According to Dan Jenkins, who ran the breakout session on relationships, when kids know that you truly love and care about them, it’s easier to discipline them instead of constantly being on them to keep their hands to themselves or whatever the case may be.
One huge piece of building relationships is learning to listen. Listen to the parents. Listen to the kids. Listen to your team. Listen to your co-workers and pastors. Don’t just hear them, but listen. Force yourself to slow down and listen instead of thinking of what you want to say next. This is hard to do, but it is good practice and it goes a long way with those in your ministry. I can attest to this. When you listen, instead of just hearing, you can discover what the needs are in your ministry area and build on those. Listening builds relationship.
Greeting families when they are dropping off and picking up kids is a great way of showing you care and building relationship. Heidi Hensley, in another breakout session, talked about greeting families while wearing the giant overstuffed Mickey Mouse hand. Kids know and love that Mickey Mouse hand. I ordered myself one of those after listening to her talk about that. I cannot wait to see the looks on the kids’ and their families’ faces when I stand by the door wearing my big Mickey hand (not to mention the looks on the faces of the rest of the congregation).
I’ve recently transitioned into a new and smaller church. I’m super excited to be there. Our council is doing a book study together of “The Emotionally Healthy Leader” and it lead to conversation about our behavior types via the DiSC assessment. I am a C when it comes to this stuff – I am introverted, analytical, very detail and task-oriented. Sometimes, because of that, relationships can be overlooked. I have to intentionally work at it. I know that sounds weird for a children’s pastor to say that, but it is true. Now, as far as my personality goes, according to Myers-Briggs, I’m an ENFJ – an extrovert. It should be easy for me to be relational and to build on that. While I am extroverted, my anxiety and my need for everything to be right and perfect and detailed often gets in the way.
Relationships don’t take details and don’t need to be perfect. They can’t be perfect because we are human and we are a fallen people. Thankfully, God gives us grace and forgiveness. He is a God of mercy and grace. The number one relationship we really need to foster and work on is our own personal relationship with God. We need to be working for Him, an audience of 1. When that is in place, it will be easier to make and maintain relationships. God designed us to be relational, starting with our relationship with Him. The entire Bible is full of examples of God being relational. Look at His relationship with Moses and Abraham and Noah and David and Daniel and Jesus. Just as God had relationships with those Bible “heroes”, God wants to have relationship with us.
When we build on our relationship with God and with others, we can help others to have that same relationship with God. Relationships matter. Relationships are connecting with one another and helping them to connect with God.
***Featured image from Vertabalo***