First Third Conversations

Making the Main Thing….

By Dr. Nancy Going, Director of the CYF Distributed Learning Program at Luther Seminary

Anyone in ministry will tell you that it's all about relationships. And while there have been great correctives in recent years about the nature of those relationships (thank you, Andy Root!), the fact remains that relationships in ministry are what matter most.  So what would it mean to spend most of your ministry time in relationships?  

It doesn't mean spending your every working hour with people (whew Introverts, you got scared there for a moment, didn't you?).  But it does mean changing how you work and what you spend your time on in order to spend more time working on relationships with people.  But here's the big focus. Your work is not just YOUR relationship with them, although that matters.  No, the relationship time that you really need to be spending is on THEIR relationships with others.  

For a long time in the church, we have assumed that people were and even knew how to connect with others at a level that allowed them both people, whether children or young people or adults, to know and be known to one another.  So, we could offer fellowship events, because there were communal webs of connection between people that allowed them to come together and just enjoy one another.  But when the relational fabric between people in our communities is hanging together by just a few weak threads, fellowship will be poorly attended and deeply unsatisfying.  

Your people need you to spend a significant amount of your time helping them connect deeply to others.  

Jesus' ministry gives us profoundly simple but hard patterns for what that looked like. Simple because there is not much to it.  Hard because we are so used to spending our time hiding behind administration instead.  Jesus spent time some of his time with the crowds, and was also engaged with the seventy seven.  But he spent the greatest share of his time with his disciples.  And what they did together was not fellowship, although they did share their lives.  Jesus let them in on his relationship with the Father. Jesus used their life together to help them see what God was doing.  He named the places where they were they were pursuing their own ends rather than the Father's. And told them he loved them.  And after he died, they were able to do that for others. In fact, for many others.   

What would it take for you to spend far more of your time helping people think creatively about patterns of relating? Adults with kids; kids with kids; you with the people you need to pour into the most deeply.  What could you give up doing, so that you would have the time and energy to focus on people's relationships with one another, and come back to it again and again?

And, Jesus promises that THIS is the work that will bear fruit: "Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these."  

Where and how could you start?

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Nancy Going is a life-long youth minister, who loves Jesus, other people learning to love Jesus, her husband Art Going, and the two new families that are her kids and grandkids. 

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