Making the time to invest in relationships in ministry can be difficult with all the other things on our to-do lists. It can become easy to define people by how they serve our ministries and our purposes rather than who they are as people. I have made this mistake before and it is a big one! People know when you are just filling volunteer slots and not really seeing them individually. That’s how you lose great volunteers and employees and have to go back to the drawing board with new team members. They need to know they matter to you and are making a difference. Ministry must always be about the people first and the process second.
The best way to prevent this type of loss is to invest in relationship with those around you. I believe that relationship is at the core of who we are as people and our purpose in ministry. Jesus said in Mark 12:30-31 our commandment was to: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” This scripture speaks to relationship. To love God and one another is to invest in relationship. Relationship is our purpose, our calling and our commandment. Here are four ways you can begin developing relationships in ministry:
One of the best ways to be genuine is to remember people’s names. They have value, so treat them with value. Remembering someone’s name shows a genuine care for them. Don’t call kids “kiddo.” Don’t say, “Hey man,” because you didn’t remember when you were introduced to him. If you forget, admit it, apologize and ask their name again. You will be sure to remember next time if you have to humble yourself in this way. I’ve become so much better at remembering people’s names through admitting my forgetfulness to them.
Have windows of time in your day that are blocked out intentionally for reaching out. Have a half hour every week to send emails to connect with volunteers on a personal level. Take 10 minutes to handwrite a card about their lives, not their service to your ministry. Or use an online service like justWink or Hallmark eCards for sending cards. If someone walks into your office, or calls you, make time for them and give them your undivided attention. Or tell them that you want to hear their situation without distraction, but something else needs your immediate attention, and then schedule a time later. Invite people into your home and serve them a meal. Making yourself available to them tells them you care about them.
Walk into volunteer areas just to ask how Shelley’s father has been feeling. Step away from your desk to ask your co-worker, Julie, how her daughter’s piano recital went. When you call into the office, ask the admin at the front desk how her minor surgery went. Remember what someone has shared with you. If it is important to them, make it important to you. If you need to write it down to remember, then do that. Some ministries are too large for anyone to remember all the details of everyone’s lives. And some of us are just naturally forgetful. Intentionality is about finding what works best for you. Carry a small notebook with you or take notes on your iPad, and before you walk into a space, read what you last wrote and remind yourself about what is happening in other people’s lives. They would not be offended that you wrote it down, they would feel important that it meant enough to you to not forget.
This starts with your family. Be at home who you are at the church. If you are making these previously mentioned efforts 8-5, Monday through Friday, and of course Sunday mornings, but not with your own family the rest of the week, then you lack true integrity. Be intentional with your spouse and kids. Make sure they know, by your actions, your schedule and your words, that they are more important than the ministry, the volunteers, the events and your to-do list. Call them just to hear their voices and ask how their day is going. Set aside time for them, listen and take notes if you might forget. Plan date nights. Plan family nights. Plan game nights. Plan babysitters for your spouse, especially in your busiest seasons. (Just a note of advice . . . consider hiring a nanny to help out with the kids if you go out of town. I do!) Be thankful for their sacrifices for your ministry, because they are many. Say “Thank you,” out loud, often. Put these things in your to-do list and your calendar, so you remember to schedule them and you remain available for them. If you are not making time for them, then they are not a priority to you, or at least not as big of a priority as the things you are Your presence at church often means your absence at home. Remember that and schedule accordingly. Your presence at home speaks true integrity to everyone around you.
Ministry would simply just be business without the relationships. If you want to invest in someone on Sunday, you need to know them on Monday. It’s all about relationships.