3 Keys to Relational Ministry

20 07 2011

One of the largest struggles I have had thus far in my ministry has been the balance between program and relationships. While I was in college, I developed the mind set that if the band, speaker, atmosphere, design, event, etc. is excellent, then the crowd will show up and lives will be changed. So as I started my ministry at Cornerstone I implemented this philosophy. I took a small Wednesday night Bible study and turned it into a full blown Sunday night worship service. We had a great band, awesome videos, crazy games, and messages that were crafted to be relevant and exciting. And the crazy thing is…it worked…for a little while.

We went from a group of 8 students to a group of more than 30 in a couple of months. I was ecstatic! I put more and more effort into the planning of our program and less focus into knowing the people coming to us. As this went on we lost our attendance numbers. I thought that it must have been the night of the week so we changed it to Wednesday…no change. Then I thought it must have been the band so we switched it around…no change. Then I swallowed some humble pie and changed the way that I preached….no change.

Finally, our senior minister called me into his office and delivered the truth. I had lost connection with our students. That message hurt but after evaluating my ministry I realized that I had replaced my love for students with my love for flashy success. So I hit the brakes and refocused myself on these three priorities in relational ministry.

Ministry is not a production

When you make your ministry a production it looses its “hook” into the lives of people. There could be the best movie of the year coming out, but if it opens on the same night as something which holds relational stock in your life, you’ll realize there’s always next week to see it. That’s how people will view your ministry if it’s just a production. The band will be there next week, the videos will be there next week, the games will be there next week. So rather that spending most of your week planning out the craziest programming ever, ministers should spend most of the week focusing on making a deep connection with people in their ministries.

Just because there’s an “I” in ministry, doesn’t mean you can do it alone

Unless you only have 3 people in your ministry, you need a team of leaders. What can happen when you try the solo-minister act is your connection in lives will end up shallow and ineffective OR you have a heart attack from stress and you die. Teams are the best way to ensure that all of the people in your ministry are being connected with. Let’s say you have 30 people in your ministry and you have a team of 6 leaders who connect with 5 different people each week. That means you can focus on connecting with certain people every week and with your leaders, but at the same time everyone in your ministry is receiving a relational connection every week.

People need love more than they need an experience

When I think back on my life there is one person who stands out as having the greatest impact, my D-Group leader Buzzy. He met with me (and the group) every week at Chic-Fil-A, without an agenda, but only to love us and share life with us. The crazy thing is, he was involved in our youth program, but my life was not changed because he played guitar with the youth band or because he taught lessons every once in a while 0r even because he ran around during crazy games. My life is what it is today because Buzzy loved me and I knew it. More than anything the people in our ministries need to feel the love of Christ from us in life and not hear or see it from stage.

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Enough?

11 07 2009

There are times in my life when I am allowed the opportunity to step back and actually see where I’m headed and how I’m living. These times are self-reflective and usually drive me to my knees in repentance and prayers for help. In all honesty, I avidly try to avoid such observations. Who in their right mind enjoys bringing themselves down? But in the past month or two I have invited the Lord to lead and guide me through a self evaluation and this is what I have found out.

I am not enough, no matter how much I work, lead, read, study, or preach.

As I looked at my life, my desires, and what I focus my time on, I discovered that I am doing too much on my own for my mind, body, and soul to handle. My sermons are being written by my own accord, but turning out rigid and abrupt. My programming is organized through my own thoughts and ideas for the most effective ways to reach out to people, but is not producing effective discipleship. My leadership is sourced from my own strength and ability, but is left loosely connected and ambiguously undirected. Even my loving the people around me is out of my own heart, but I found myself loving people out of obligation and without authenticity. I am not enough.

And the reason that I am doing so much on my own is because I am not engaging the Lord in prayer and intimacy. Over the past year or so, I have forgotten what the Lord has done in my life and I have abandoned a life devoted to prayer, and it stops here, it stops now!

I know what it is to enter in prayer, witness the Lord move and act powerfully in a matter. I witnessed the Lord heal a marriage completely after a couple hours of praying. I experienced a night of hopelessness transformed to hope because we spent the hours struggling in prayer. I know what it is to have the Spirit of God guide my soul in groaning for a need. I know and now I must walk in it!

This life is too hard for my own strength, love, wisdom, and ability. I can no longer have the right intentions for the Kingdom but then fight as a mercenary!

I love what Paul writes concerning his desire for people to know Christ, “For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” (Colossians 1:29, ESV). That as Paul moved from town to town, engaging person after person with the Gospel, being beaten, mocked, flogged, arrested, and persecuted, he still was able to preach; not because he was enough, but because God is!

The strength, ability, wisdom, and love is available for me, it’s just not within myself. Everything I need in this life is found in the Lord and actualized through time of prayer, meditation, worship, and intimacy with the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.

To God be all the glory and praise as we learn to walk, work, and minster with all his strength which he will powerfully work within us!