Ministry happens best through relationships…period!”
If this is true, then creating healthy relationships should be one of our highest priorities. This isn’t easy for everyone. Relationships don’t occur naturally for some (my hand is up!). But relationships are essential, and I’ve discovered that, for me, three ingredients are essential to both build and maintain healthy ministry relationships. When these three ingredients are present, it allows me to serve, follow, and lead better, so no matter what the ministry dynamic is, I’m able to invest fully.
What are those three ingredients?
1. A genuine love for people.
If I do not truly love the people I serve and minister with, I probably should not be in the position I’m in. Jesus said the second greatest commandment is to “love others” (the first being to love God). This should be the norm for any believer, much less those who lead in ministry. If I am to be able to serve and minister with anyone in my ministry (kids, parents, leaders), then I must genuinely love them.
A good question to ask is: HOW am I demonstrating love for those in my ministry in a tangible, practical manner?
2. An ability to listen carefully.
Early in my ministry, I was just the worst at really “listening”. I think many of us in leadership positions tend to be this way. After all, we already know what we want, right? We probably are the best one to do it or to tell someone else how to do it (our way), right? And we’ve got an agenda – a service that needs to stay on track, an event that needs to run properly, a goal to help us accomplish our mission. What I learned, though, is that ministry moments are not manufactured. Ministry happens at the most unexpected times, in the most unexpected manner. Ministry happens best through relationships, and if I am so focused on my agenda, I am most likely going to miss the moment. I have to be listening – listening to a child tell me about her week or the volunteer who comes by the office to share his concerns or the parent in the hallway trying to tell me their frustrations at home.
A good question to ask is: WHAT did I learn by listening today, and what does that mean to my “agenda’?
3. A willingness to laugh often.
I love to laugh, but I’ll be the first to admit that my personality leans toward the serious side. I have had to learn to lighten up, to laugh at myself, to laugh with my team, to allow for fun and laughter among those I’m serving, serving with, and leading. Victor Borge said, “Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.” He’s absolutely right! Finding ways to have fun and laugh together has opened more doors to ministry relationships than any other thing. I think it also is such an important way to manage ministry. So much of what we do is difficult, draining, and downright not fun! Solomon says that there’s a time for the difficult, “a time to cry,” but he also says there’s a time to laugh, and I believe it’s so important to make connections through laughter.
A good question to ask is: WHO have I laughed with today, and how can I use that to strengthen my relationship with them?
It is relatively easy to pretend to love others – it’s what’s expected of those who minister. It’s pretty easy to disregard others and not listen – after all, we’ve got a mission to accomplish. It’s really easy to get weighted down and forget to laugh – ministry is usually about pretty serious matters.
But if I don’t love genuinely, listen carefully, and laugh often, I am cutting out the very core of effective ministry – relationships.