Healthy Relationships Cultivate a Healthy Church

Healthy relationships matter…

You can implement the best time management strategies known to mankind.

You can preach a masterful sermon or enthrall a room of preteens with a Biblical message.

You can have a staff of extremely talented individuals who create the best worship sets, graphics, and social media engagement.

You can have or do all of these things and still have an unhealthy church if you don’t have healthy relationships.

Don’t believe me?

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.” – 1 Corinthians 13:1-7

  • Speaking well
  • Prophesying
  • Having incredible knowledge
  • Having faith that moves mountains
  • Giving everything you own to the poor
  • Giving up your very life

All of these talents and offerings are worthless without love.

Think back to your last church board or staff meeting.

Was it characterized by respectful debate, agreement to do what’s best for the church and not just individual interests, and a desire to honor Christ? Or was it filled with contention and a lack of willingness to hear each other out?

What about how staff members treat each other?

Does each ministry department vie for resources to the detriment of others? Or does everyone take the time to consider what’s best for the church overall?

How about volunteers?

Are they willing to dive in and serve outside of their usual role if needed or do some consider certain tasks beneath them? Do volunteer leaders make it a point to welcome new volunteers and help them fit in or do you have social cliques?

These are just a few examples of how to evaluate the relationships within your church.

If the relationships within your church aren’t as healthy as you’d like them to be, there’s always hope.

You can experience healthier relationships and whether you’re the senior pastor, staff member, volunteer, or attendee, you can make an impact.

Here are a few ways to turn the tide:

#1 – Set the example

If you’re a leader (pastor, department head, volunteer leader) and need to raise a controversial topic with your team:

  • Pray beforehand that you would have a pure heart and motives.
  • Consider how individuals on either side of this issue may think and feel. What would be their reasons for their perspective? Try to put yourself in their shoes.
  • As you raise the topic, mention you’re interested in hearing various perspectives and understand folks may be very passionate about their views. Ask that everyone listen to each other respectfully.

#2 – Value relationships over tasks

I’m a Type-A overachiever and can get really task-focused at times. Sometimes that means I don’t listen very well when someone’s trying to get my attention or I steamroll right over people. I’ve learned that even if the task involves serving others, I’m failing if I neglect people along the way.

If a typically cheerful volunteer is really quiet one Sunday morning, make the time to ask if she’s okay instead of plowing ahead with the next item on your to-do list. If you can’t sit down with her for a long discussion, take a few minutes to pray with her and schedule time after service to talk.

#3 – Ask for input and truly listen

Stephen Covey wrote, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” You’ve probably heard the saying “God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason.” As a new project manager, I was hyper-focused on meeting deadlines. In one team meeting, I stated we were behind schedule and proceeded to name the past due tasks. Thankfully the practice of tarring and feathering has long since past since that’s probably what the team would’ve done to me in that moment. I hadn’t taken the time to seek out input and listen to my expert team members and made unrealistic assumptions instead.

Learn from my mistake – listen to those around you. Go out of your way to ask for input and truly listen to what they have to say (even if it’s hard to hear).

#4 – Ask about their story

Everyone has a story and even the most introverted of us still like to talk about ourselves to tell ours.

When you get a new volunteer, ask how he found out about the church or about his career.

If you’re not getting along with a fellow staff member, ask about where she grew up or what hobbies she enjoys.

Learning about someone’s background, their story, sheds so much insight on why they are the way they are. Once you know someone better, knowing their background and their heart, it’s easier to let silly things slide or understand why they reacted poorly to a situation. Then you can even confront them about it in a more loving and respectful manner than you would have otherwise. Plus, when you ask about someone’s story it shows you care and want to get to know him or her better.

These are just a few ways you can influence the relationships within your congregation. Regardless of your title or role, you can have an impact. If you’re not satisfied with the health of relationships in your church, do what you can from where you’re at to turn the tide. Hurting people (and yes, even those with a massive chip on their shoulder are likely acting out of deep wounds) walk into churches every week and they need a loving congregation to help them heal. Let’s provide that to our communities and honor Christ with how we love.