Authors: Jeff & Sara Simons April 2015
It’s amazing how many leaders we sit with from whom we hear this sentiment: “I still love God, and I still feel “called”… but man, I just really can’t stand people right now. I just want to get away from them!” It may sound extreme but it’s a very real aspect of full-time relational ministry.
Even as an extrovert in the ministry world, I’ve been there too! Too many times. I’ve felt the same sentiment for example when support-raising to “get to the field”. As we would hit the road for yet another support-raising roadtrip. Pulling up to an appointment I would feel myself just wanting to be somewhere alone; away from ministry, family, and the energy output. I even remember pulling up to a close friend’s house one time and asking my wife what this friend’s kid’s names were again… it’s like the relational saturation was even flooding my ability to remember normal details—a helpful saturation “threshold sign” I’ve come to identify in time…
Consider your relational “web” for a moment:
· How many people are on your ministry newsletter list?
· How many are in your local gathering of followers and seekers in your context (whatever form that takes)?
· How many “friends” are you connected to on Google+, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and other frequently used social media sights?
· How many individuals, churches or groups are currently supporting your ministry in tangible ways that you keep up communication with?
Despite how structured, organic, tangible or fluid our ministry work and lives are, the bottom line of the “business” we deal and interface in is the currency of relational equity.
Where We Don’t Lean in Enough…
Often-referenced leadership author and teacher Bobby Clinton made some pretty significant discoveries around the area of relational connection, saturation and management in a lesser-know study that he called the core Social Bases of leadership endurance for long-term service.
In the process of researching the leadership timelines and patterns of hundreds of leaders, some significant patterns pertaining to leadership endurance began to emerge. Interestingly, there was not a marked difference between leaders who finished well and left a growing legacy, and those that “finished” but collapsed over the line, and those who burned out or fell away from ministry prematurely. At least not a marked difference in the usual support systems we think of: financial-support and prayer-support.
However, some very interesting patterns emerged in other significant areas; one of which Clinton defined as Emotional Support. This could include regular, life-giving relational connections for you that support the various needs for your social and relational needs—e.g. intercession teams, Spiritual direction, accountability groups, Counseling, time for free-flowing fun with friends, hobby-based groups, local gathering of believers, and frequency of life-giving connection with family and friends local and “back home”.
Intentionally engaging these areas regularly in a leader’s life proved to truly be a key aspect of empowerment that influenced a marked a difference between the few leaders who finished well, and those who left the journey of calling pre-maturely.
This remains a key attrition area to help leaders intentionally lean into, develop, and manage for relational health in our support structures. Often this is malnourished in place of our impassioned tunnel-vision attention to our growing “donor-base back home” and our growing “ministry community in context”. Often there is overlap between these and the areas of Emotional support described above, but how the time is focused and intentionally spentmakes the main difference.
Our hope is that new perspectives for connecting more authentically and sustainably with family, team, community, supporters, those you’re ministering to, and with God, will help move you toward better resiliency on the field.
See Relational Saturation - Part 2 for a construct to discuss healthy balance and sustainability
· Q: What implications could this have for doing furloughs and support-raising trips more effectively, sustainably, and fostering authentic connection?
· Q: What implications can this have on how we communicate to particular audiences in our newsletters and ministry reports?
· Q: What implications does this have for mixed ministry teams: families, singles, lifestage differences, age differences, cultural or sub-cultural differences?
· Q: What implications does this have for questions of “team” and “community” structure and how much they should overlap?
· Q: What implications does this have regarding the ways we are connecting, or pressuring ourselves to connect, and also projecting or pressuring our kids to connect in the context?
· Q: How do we expose our MKs to a variety of environments and help them process authentic and appropriate interaction in each?
· Q: What implications does this have for the way you do ministry and where and how you connect?
· Q: What similar and different implications does this have for doing ministry to moderns and postmoderns?