7 relationships that keep your ministry on track
Starting a student ministry in a new place often makes me rethink, retry, and reevaluate plans and processes I’ve done in the past.
I have just landed in the UK to start a student ministry out of a local church.
Last term, I was asked by a fellow campus minister, “What are your primary responsibilities?” and I was surprised by what I said.
I told him that at this moment I was settling my family and marriage, strengthening trust between me and the church staff, networking and learning from other student workers in the city, and shepherding and settling my staff team.
I could have mentioned spending time with God and prayer, but even with those five big roles and responsibilities students were nowhere to be found in response. What?!
I am learning through my response that I am in this for the long haul.
I am not running a sprint; I’m in this thing till the end. As Donald Trump says, “I’m in it to win it.”
Therefore, I’ve found that if I’m not aware of and investing in the following seven relationships, my ministry will be short-lived, shallow, and impotent.
If we neglect them, our ministries will come to a grinding halt. Maybe not today, or tomorrow, but soon.
These relationships are oxygen and the life-blood to our evangelistic and discipleship engines. Student ministry cannot live long without them.
You might need a relational “oil change” to revive your missional engine reaching the lost.
I previously thought these relationships were hindrances to reaching the lost – costing too much time and limiting my impact.
Instead, I have come to find that they actually help reach the lost. They are liberating as opposed to limiting.
If anyone is serious about reaching the lost, they will reach out to these seven relationships often and sincerely.
Supervisors (churches, boards, ministries/charities)
Each of us, more than likely, is under authority from someone, somewhere.
Whether that be the board of directors, church elders, mission agency, etc. But, more often than not, we are under the authority of like-minded men and women.
How quick a ministry’s plans stall when we are not operating in full disclosure, vulnerability, openness, and integrity with those we serve under.
Lack of trust and assuming the best will kill your ability to pull off events, ask for money, ask for exceptions to policies, and just be a normal functioning Christian within the body of Christ.
Don’t hurt the evangelization of the college campuses because you have neglected relationships with those whom God has put over you.
As Hebrews 13:17 says,
“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls and will give an account for their work. Let them do this with joy and not with complaint, for this would be no advantage to you.”
Wife and Family
When Sara and I are not doing well, then I am not doing well. If we are struggling, my ministry struggles. When we are unhealthy, my mind is distracted rather than being free to be engaged in the moment.
When marriage is neglected, heavy, argumentative, and stale then I carry this over into my evangelism, discipleship, and shepherding.
As much as I would like it to be, life is not compartmentalized.
My wife and family cannot get my seconds or be side dishes, but they must be my primary area of discipleship, care, love, and attention.
It’s no longer, “I can’t do this…[because of my wife or the kids]” but more importantly, “Thanks for offering, but I am planning on being with my family during that time. Let’s do it another time.”
When I am leading, loving, and listening to my wife, she feels understood and I get all her wisdom, input, and experience that I badly need.
One would think that by investing in your family you are taking away from ministry. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I need her. I need all that she offers me. She and my children are my best investment for my ministry. My team needs me to be the best husband and father I can be.
If you do not invest well at home, you will not be able to invest well outside the home.
It is amazing to see the freedom, challenge, and inconvenience Sara endures when she sees my commitment to our family on quality time level.
She makes me feel empowered when I leave home to spend a night out with students rather than guilty.
When she feels in competition then it is hard for her to be my complement.
We need to take seriously the call to shepherd our households well because, “if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for the church of God?”
We all know how critical it is to shepherd our staff. Just keeping the team together can be half the battle.
Is their support raised and maintained?
Are they developing, maturing, and growing in responsibility and capacity?
Do they have healthy relationships inside and outside the team?
What sort of past or present relationships have added to their present stability or instability and insecurities?
Are they meeting with God?
The answers to these questions are incredibly important and necessary.
We cannot just teach our staff strategies and movements.
We are not asking them to just impart a gospel message, but we are asking them to impart their “own lives as well” because that is Christ’s model of ministry (1 Thess. 2:8).
Free people produce free people. Healthiness begets healthiness.
True discipleship cannot be faked. The apples do not fall far from the trees.
As our Savior says, “A tree is known by its fruit.” You will always reproduce after your own kind.
If your staff’s lives are primary lives that will be multiplied into students, then their disciplers and shepherds must press in, jump in, and lean in early and often in situations and scenarios.
I recently moved outside the US and realized that there seemed to be a lack of unity and trust between churches and ministries.
There was history of misunderstanding, skepticism, and superiority between Christians in the same city that were doing largely the same gospel work (albeit in different ways).
As a mentor of mine has always said, “Andrew, [division] almost always comes down to difference in theology and territorialism.”
I have learned that a little bit of initiation and fellowship can go a long way in debunking misconceptions, resetting expectations, and restarting relationships.
If you are a new kid on the block (or the old kid), the type of relationships you have with partner organizations, ministries, and churches matter.
When was the last time you had a coffee with your peer in another organization?
When was the last time you prayed with them alone or in a group?
Have you asked them to share with your team or had them lecture at your staff training?
Our ministries are NOT the body of Christ, but are part of it. And the other members exist to resource and complement us.
Therefore, we should reach across the divide to initiate, restart, or repair relationships.
If you are waiting for them to do it, it might not ever happen. So far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all. (Romans 12:18)
Relationship with God
The term “burnout” is overused in ministry, but its symptoms do happen to varying degrees.
Far too often people are just tired, busy, or stressed and they diagnose themselves as “burnt out.”
Burnout is more accurately a description of prolonged (months long) exhaustion, lack of motivation, and apathy.
Trying to function on empty or upon the fumes of past time or knowledge of God can only go so far.
We are carrying around burdens and needs that only God was meant to carry.
It is crucial that we are explicitly leaning on and laboring in only the strength He provides.
Ministry is crushing and we are only capable and competent to endure as we “humble [ourselves] under the mighty hand of God, that He may lift you up in due time. Casting all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6).
As George Mueller says, “The first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day is to have my soul happy in the Lord.”
If we are leading and modelling discipleship and being disciples of Christ then we need and ought to lead in following after, feasting on, and being faithful to Jesus.
If we understood that His primary work was in us, maybe then He would do more through us.
No one enters this job because they want God to work in them more than through them. But then again, they are not disconnected, are they?
If we understand that His great work through us does not happen apart from His great work in us, then we might not see time with God at odds with time spent with people.
In fact, if this is true, your time with our God serves the vision tenfold.
It is exactly what your staff teams need from you more than anything. They need you meeting with God above all else.
I’ve heard that the majority of supporters stop supporting gospel workers because they do not think they care about them.
This is a slap in the face to Jesus’ commandment, “They will know you are my disciples by your love for one another” (John 13:34).
If lack of support exists because of perceived lack of care, then it is from Christian hypocrisy and inconsistency.
It is a shame that gospel workers will inevitably come home, quit, and end full-time gospel work simply because they neglected loving the body of Christ.
They were so focused on the lost and important ones that they did not have time for the essential ones.
We simply do not have the luxury to lose laborers. Jesus says they are already too few (Matthew 9:37).
Do not handcuff yourself, your ministry, and your staff by not investing in lives of those God has given you as teammates, partners, and co-laborers.
Shepherd them, pray for them, update them, and invite their influence.
We were not called to operate independently, but interdependently among the members of the body.
Let them complete and enrich your ministry.
They are not just a means to getting what we want, but to completing what God has called us to.
They are our ministry. Never forget that. If you do, they might forget you.
Whether it be secular or Christian, public or private, technical or liberal arts, it is extremely important that you have good ties with the people in power.
Being unknown in our line of work can result in unfavorable skepticism and negative perception when questions begin to arise about your presence, influence, and popularity.
Are you a known entity? Do you have a university sponsor or have you been approved as an official club or society? Do you have a university staff sponsorship or someone that can vouch for you?
To be able to navigate universities is usually not a problem for us. The problem is being able to stay on universities as officially and favorably recognized. This takes some time, relationships, and initiation.
Many times just a simple introduction, email, or hello can go a long way.
It is easier for a university to assume the worst about someone they don’t know, but it is much harder for them to make those assumptions if they can put a face and experience to your name.
Be wise and diplomatic and may God give us favor with those in positions of power and influence.
They might even be a “person of peace” that avails us much more opportunity than we ever imagined.