Building a Ministry on Relationship

My friend and colleague Gary Mathena quotes this insightful statement:

Don’t use people to build your program
Use your program to build people.

In a large church I once served, a choir member told me “The Minister of Music only likes me and speaks to me when I am useful to him… when I can no longer give him what he needs from me, he is no longer my friend.” What a sad perception, even if it is ONLY a perception. Our ministry is based on COMMUNITY, not on a “what can you do for me” mentality. I Thess. 5:11 instructs us to “encourage one another and build each other up.” And this concept is critical in ministry.

As a full time music minister for 42 years, I understand the pressures of ministry, the need to be alone from time to time, and the need to make final preparation before a rehearsal or a service. Sometimes one needs to meet with someone just prior to a rehearsal because of work schedules, but here are a few suggestions that will enhance a sense of community within your area of music ministry:

  • PRAY for each member by name each week. If you direct CHOIR, take a section a day…Sop, II Sop, alto, tenor and bass and pray for a section a day. In orchestra, break your prayer list up by brass, strings, woodwinds, percussion and rhythm section. Let your people know that you are lifting them up….and you will find that they will lift you up in prayer as well.
  • GREET them personally as they come into a rehearsal…as many as you possibly can…ask about their day, or about a difficult situation they are facing…show a consistent, personal interest in them
  • If you are male, take the guys in your group to lunch. Females take the ladies…when I initially took over a choir ministry my first goal was to take every guy to lunch individually…to get to know him, find out about his family and his vocation and thank him for his ministry in and through the choir. I was amazed at the life-long friendships that were started through that simple act ….It is true, “they don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”
  • Have an open house, either at Christmas or anytime, and invite members to drop by with their spouse for finger food and fellowship. Our people need to know that we are accessible, that we enjoy fellowship, and that our home is open to them.
  • Have them over to your home by sections….a good time to do this is after church on Sunday for several consecutive weeks. This allows a bit more individual attention, and can be a great way to build relationships within the group.
  • Have some interesting, personal hobby items in your office. Phillips Brooks, pastor of Trinity Church in Philadelphia and composer of “O Little Town of Bethlehem” loved children, so he kept toys in his office and invited the children to come in and play. I enjoy polished stones and Nascar cars, so I have ample examples of both in my office…Having some fun personal items in your “work” space makes your office more “real’ and less ”threatening” and makes you seem more approachable and accessible.
  • Unless you are working on a budget, planning a worship service or counseling, leave your office door open. It is amazing how many choir/orchestra/worship team members drop by the office in a given week, and seeing your door open is tacet indication that you are available to them.
  • VISIT team members when they are in the hospital, even if the church has a hospital visitation pastor or “pastor on call” rotation. That is when they need YOU the most…when they are facing trials and challenges that are out of the ordinary.
  • Send birthday cards….with a PERSONAL note from you, not just a form letter sent by your ministry assistant.

There are literally hundreds of ways to build relationship into your ministry… whatever you do, make “relationship” and “community” a priority. In II Thess. 1:3 Paul brags on that church by saying “…the love all of you have for one another is increasing.” As we model concern, interest, friendship, community and approach-ability, our example will be contagious, and our ministry teams will begin to make relationships a priority as well.

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