Let’s Dance! Meaningful Relationships for Ministry

The basis of the faith we proclaim is a relationship. The God that we worship and serve exists as the Trinity, a beautiful dance of mutuality and love. God the Father loves God the Son, and the Father and Son love God the Spirit, and the Spirit returns the favor. It’s a giant dance, and the Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, proceeds to us, always inviting us to join in God’s divine dance.

It’s no shock that you and I thrive on relationships. After all, we were created in God’s image, right? We were created to be in relationship as God exists as relationship. Our ministries will die a slow and painful death if we don’t tend to our relationships.

For us ministers of the Gospel, there are few relationships which are absolutely essential, not just to our thriving in ministry but to our survival as pastors, spouses, and parents.

Vital Relationship #1: God

This shouldn’t even need to be said. But it does. If you don’t tend to this one, none of the rest of it will matter. Here’s how:

  • Worship genuinely, even if you need to attend another church at a time yours isn’t meeting to do it.
  • Soak in the Scriptures. Read it systematically and with purpose. Read it slowly.
  • Sit quietly. Clear your mind. Don’t think, just be. Allow God to speak to you.
  • Bear your soul in prayer. Talk to God like you would when you’re venting all of your frustrations to a best friend.

Vital Relationship #2: Yourself

Again, this one is a no-brainer. Your mind and your body will give up on you if you don’t take care of it. What you should do:

  • Sleep well.
  • Set boundaries. Guard them like they’re an appointment with someone very important because they are.
  • Take a day off every week. Do something you enjoy. Create something.
  • Spiritual discipline and physical discipline are connected. They use the same “muscles.”
  • Eat right. It’s hard, I know. Especially during the summer. Veggies are your friend (I want to believe they are, but I find it very hard to believe…).

Vital Relationship #3: Your Family

If you take care of your family, your spouse, your girl or boyfriend, and your kids, they can be your greatest cheerleaders. If you don’t take care of these relationships, they can become a constant source of tension and conflict. They’ll either be in your corner, or they’ll be helping the other side. Maybe you don’t have a spouse and kids yet, then substitute the people who mean the most to you. What to do?

  • Boundaries, again. Seriously, you cannot let church invade every sphere of your life. At times, you must let your spouse or kids know in tangible ways that they are more important than the work you do for the church.
  • Date night. With your spouse or significant other. With your kids.
  • Even if you don’t go anywhere. Find a week in the summer somewhere to spend solely with your kids while they aren’t in school. Turn the phone off. Don’t check email.

Vital Relationship #4: Sr. Pastor/Supervisory Pastor

You won’t last long at your current assignment unless you have a meaningful relationship with the one who supervises you. If you work toward a meaningful relationship with your Sr. Pastor, it will make it easier for you to support him or her, to offer suggestions, to give critiques, or advocate for the needs of ministries you oversee. A solid relationship with your supervisory pastor will also make it easier to hear the words of correction or advice that are bound to come your way. The staff/Sr. Pastor relationship deserves much more attention than a few bullet points, but this should get you thinking:

  • Talk about non-church related things. Find some common ground. Build your friendship around those things.
  • Don’t be defensive. Accept critique and correction gracefully.
  • Communicate your plans. Sr. Pastors hate surprises, especially if what you’re doing hasn’t been well thought out.
  • When you have doubts about decisions he or she has made, express them with grace. Never offer a critique without trying to think out a solution. Either way, reassure your pastor of your continued support. If you have their back, they’ll have yours.
  • Understand that they work tremendously hard and face a lot of pressure. Work to alleviate their stress. Doing so will help them trust and rely on you.

Vital Relationship #5: Outside Folks

You will soon feel like you live in a very small fishbowl if you do not cultivate relationships with people who do not attend your church. Don’t look at these relationships as potential converts. You need, and this cannot be stressed enough, friends who know little or nothing about your church, friends with whom you can be real.

You need these relationships and ones we haven’t discussed. You need them, but relationships must always be mutually fulfilling if they have a chance of looking anything like the Trinitarian divine dance. Throw yourself into these relationships for the sake of the other party, all the while knowing that you and your ministry will benefit from them.

Jason Buckwalter