Relationships are vital to ministry. Whether you are a pastor, a church staff member, or serve as a leader in any area of church ministry, cultivating strong relationships is a necessary investment.
Relational-less ministry is both ineffective and harmful. It is ineffective because if we look at ministry only as a checklist, we may fulfill action-item duties, but we’ll not influence lives. It is harmful because it leaves the leader without one of the key resources to sustain faithfulness and accomplish their calling.
Relationships take time and purpose to develop. They also become the greatest treasures of life.
What relationships do we need to cultivate?
- Relationship with the Lord—A spiritual leader’s relationship with the Lord is not a given. It requires spending time alone with God in prayer and in reading and studying His Word for personal growth. Whatever relationships you may struggle to find time to pursue, don’t neglect your relationship with the Lord.
O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee…—Psalm 63:1
And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.—Mark 1:35
- Family relationships—As a seasoned pastor told me when I was new in ministry and struggling to make time for my family, “The church is Christ’s bride, but your wife is your bride.” In other words, God can use others to meet the needs of your church or ministry, but He has specifically called you to meet the needs of your family. Love your wife and children—and extended family, too. Invest in them. You’ll never regret you did.
Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.—Genesis 2:24
And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.—Ephesians 6:4
- Relationship with the pastor—If you are not the pastor, make sure you develop a relationship with him. As an undershepherd, he’s responsible to the Lord for the work of the local church where he serves. Allow him to pastor you and your family by sharing prayer requests and victories, and allow him to have oversight of the ministry you lead by giving updates and remaining accountable.
Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.—Hebrews 13:17
- Relationship with team members—Get to know those with whom you serve in ministry. Whether that be helpers in your Sunday school class or others on staff in your church, enjoy the camaraderie of co-laboring in the work of the Lord. Know the needs of one another. Pray with one another. Take time to do more than your duties together; develop relationships.
For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.—1 Corinthians 3:9
- Soulwinning relationships—From neighbors to those with whom you do business to unsaved guests at church, every Christian should be developing relationships for the purpose of sharing the gospel.
Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.—2 Corinthians 5:20
- Discipling relationships—These would be formal relationships of intentional investment. It may be as a Sunday school teacher, as a mentor in the church discipleship ministry, as a soulwinning trainer. Every Christian leader should develop relationships for the purpose of passing truth to others and raising up new leaders.
And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.—2 Timothy 2:2
- Encouraging relationships—In addition to those you are formally investing in, remember to love and serve others in the church family. Pray for needs. Write notes of encouragement. Care for one another. Take care that you don’t allow your official ministry role to exempt you from simply being part of a church family.
But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another.—1 Thessalonians 4:9
- Sharpening relationships—This is one of the most neglected and yet most needful relationship of spiritual leaders—Christian friendships. You need people in your life who sharpen and challenge you spiritually. People who provide spiritual accountability and encourage your spiritual growth.
Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.—Proverbs 27:17
Do spiritual leaders have relationships outside of these eight? Absolutely. But these are eight which don’t happen by accident and are vital to give the time and attention they require to develop.