Creating Connections Beyond Sunday Morning

Relationships are critical for leaders. Our culture is crying out for authenticity, community and transparency.

As leaders we must realize:

  • We cannot lead effectively from a distance.
  • We cannot genuinely disciple people without relationship.
  • We share the gospel best in the context of a personal, caring connection.

If we want to do any of those things well, we must be intentional in our relationships.

Intentionally Show Up

Relationships begin by simply showing up and having something in common. They are made when working, playing, eating, learning and praying together. They are made while conducting business, getting chemo treatments or sweating in spin class.

Even during difficult and painful life moments inside an ICU waiting room or grief class, relationships can be forged. When we share something in common with those around us, there is potential for friendship.

If God has strategically placed us in a time, space, place or experience with others, we must believe He has purpose there. The purpose might be the people there with you. Showing up is good, but intentionality says, “There is an eternal purpose in this moment.” It says, “I want to seize it.”

Connect with Intentionality

Of course, we must do more than show up. We must connect. We must seek a way to not just be present with someone but also intentionally engage him or her. This may require making the first move towards conversation or asking the person out to lunch.

Confession: I’ve missed many opportunities to connect because of busyness or overly compartmentalizing my life between the sacred and the secular. Such discrepancies are traps that potentially narrow your focus on ministry. We must remember all of life is the mission trip. Every moment matters.

Our moments invite a wide array of purposes into our every day, from building a bridge to share Christ, to pouring into young leaders or bearing someone’s burden. Even if the moment is brief, it is a missional opportunity to shine for Christ.

While showing up was the first step, the more critical step is being intentional with the “eternal purpose” of that moment.

While training for a triathlon with a group from our local YMCA, I got to hear about a new friend’s difficult journey. Just one gentle, purposeful question opened a painful door she willingly walked through, moving toward deeper conversation. Our long training ride created space for honesty and vulnerability. New intimacy was formed as I listened to her hurt, her wounds. One question and one honest answer moved our relationship down the road immensely.

We need to be willing to pursue intimacy with compassionate curiosity. Yes, when we ask “why?” or “how?” or simply say, “Tell me about that,” hearts may open and walls may come down.

Vulnerability of Another Kind

Vulnerability comes in many forms. Sometimes it’s serious, like the woman sharing during our training ride. And other times, it takes a humorous bent, where we let down our guard and connect with those we are ministering to.

For example, one morning, my husband Ed and I whisked away the senior high school student leaders serving in our middle school camp for a Krispy Kreme run. The helium balloons that were there proved to be too tempting, and Ed took a deep helium-filled breath and began singing in a munchkin voice. The kids went crazy. They laughed so hard.

It was a sacred moment. The man who storied the prodigal son and discussed shame the night before could suddenly be silly, wearing a Krispy Kreme hat with lungs full of helium. The distance from pew to pulpit got shorter. His vulnerability in that moment was of a different kind, yet it also created a new moment of intimacy.

We need more balloons and helium. They bring laughter and a child-like perspective back into our lives, sometimes creating a type of shared moment that a serious sermon could not. Trivial, yes, but still sacred.

As busy leaders, it takes work, intentionality and yielding comfort to get to places and people our Sunday morning lives can’t easily touch. Yet, life and the world are so much bigger than Sunday mornings, and many of the people we need to touch most won’t be in Sunday morning settings.

Look around you. Where do you need to be more intentional? Where is God inviting you to show up and create connection?

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Published October 4, 2021