I can remember back to my early days of ministry when I was trying to figure out what in the world I was doing. I found myself leading a youth group when I had never actually attended a youth group. I knew that I was in charge of things like Sunday nights, Sunday school, ski retreats, and summer mission trips. I had to learn how to calculate how much pizza we would need for 43 high schoolers and how much insurance we needed to buy when we rented vans. There was so much that I needed to learn, and it felt like there was always so much to do.
I also learned that it was much bigger than all those things. My boss and mentor quickly made sure I knew that, when you really boil it down, it was all about relationships. Sure, I needed to make sure all the logistics were taken care of (or make sure someone else had their eyes on those things), but I really needed to make sure that we were building a relational ministry that focused on helping adults connect with students so that the students could connect with God.
As you think about the ministry that you are leading, ask yourself a few questions to evaluate whether you put a real premium on relationships:
1.Are you building your relationship with the God who is leading you?
We all know that we cannot pour out if we are not filled up. We often find ourselves trying to lead out of our own strength, and we know that this produces a shell of the results we could get if we have a real, growing relationship with God. Don’t get so busy doing the work of the Lord that you forget to take the necessary time to connect with the Lord of the work. That relationship should be the most important one you have.
2.Are you building relationships with those who are leading with you in ministry?
Ministry is not a solo sport, and we all need leaders and volunteers who are in it with us. Make sure you aren’t just spending time preparing the tools and resources that your leaders need while neglecting spending time equipping the leaders themselves. Pour into the people you serve both personally and spiritually. Let them know that you love and care for them, their family, and their spiritual walk with God. Don’t just give the information you think they need; give them yourself and point them to the God you know they need.
3.Are you building relationships with those you are leading?
As you build your ministry calendar, plan events, buy supplies, and send communications, don’t lose sight of the need to spend quality time with the students you lead. Share life with them, have talks with them, have fun with them, and truly get to know them. You’ve heard it said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” This is especially true when it comes to teenagers. Make relational ministry not just something you teach but something you live.
4.Are you helping families build relationships with each other?
Families today are in desperate need of real, authentic connections. How often do you build a program or provide a resource that puts the focus squarely on the family and the relationships they need to build? No relationships are more critical in the life of a teen than the ones they have at home. Consider directing some of your energy away from what is happening at church and put some real thought into how you can help support what is happening in the home.
Relationships matter because God seems to value them over almost everything else. We are called to love God and love others, and our ministries need to reflect this focus on building strong, encouraging relationships in our church and community. As you take time with these four questions and evaluate your ministry, consider what you can do to make your life and ministry more relational and how you can follow the model of Jesus as you point people towards Him.