Never in my lifetime have relationships been so critical for leaders. Our culture is crying out for authenticity, community and transparency.
As leaders we must realize that:
- We cannot lead or influence 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.
Show up with intentionality
Relationships begin by just showing up and having something in common.
Relationships are made when working, playing, eating, learning and praying together. Relationships 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 relationship.
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 just be the people there with you.
Showing up is good, but intentionality says, “There is an eternal purpose in this moment.” Intentionality 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 actually engage him or her, intentionally. This may require making the first move towards conversation or asking the person out to lunch.
Confession right here … 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 that 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 in order 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.
I’ve gone back to school on this in two unconnected, yet relatable, situations. One is my involvement in the local gym where I work out. The second is at our children’s camp with Ed. Yes, showing up was the first step. But, the more critical step was 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 the hurtful journey from a new friend. Just one gentle, purposeful question opened a painful door she willingly opened. We were on a long training ride, so time and space was created 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 …,” hearts may open, and walls may come down.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Ed and I whisked away all senior high school student leaders serving in our middle school camp for a midmorning Krispy Kreme run. There, some helium balloons proved to be too tempting. I watched the students go crazy as Ed succumbed and started singing in a “munchkin” voice as well. The students were laughing so hard. Was that sacred? You bet it was. The man who storied the prodigal son and discussed shame the night before could suddenly be silly—wearing a Krispy Kreme hat, his 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 with great intentionality and yielding comfort to get to places and people that our Sunday morning lives will never easily touch. Yet, life and the world is so much bigger than Sunday mornings, and many of the people we need to touch most won’t be Sunday morning people or be in Sunday morning settings.
Look around you. Where do you need to be more intentional? Where is God telling you to show up and create connection?
Published October 13, 2016