It’s common for pastors to be so busy and hurried that relationship building falls to the wayside. But if you keep it front and center, you’ll be amazed at how so many other pieces fall into place.
Four Steps to Build Relationships at Church
- Connect with leaders. This is a top priority. Yes, pastoral visitation is important. However, your relationship with your leaders is essential to move toward where you want to lead the congregation. Whether you have a congregation president, moderator or senior warden, stay close to them. Even (or especially) if you aren’t sure they are up to the role or are supportive of you, keep them close. Talk with them about themselves, their family, and their interests, as well as church matters. Think process, not content: relationships contribute to outcome.
- Connect with critics. This can be a tough one. When someone is critical or difficult, we want to avoid them. If you feel your heart pounding when you see someone across the room at coffee hour, experiment with flipping the script – -and be the first one to walk over and say hello. You don’t always have to discuss the content of their criticism, necessarily. Just stay in touch. If they have a pastoral need, make it a priority to follow up. Present yourself as someone who genuinely cares and who values their ideas. One caveat: don’t chase them if they don’t want to connect with you. They’ll just run farther and faster. Do your best and let it go.
- Connect with staff. Whatever the size of your staff, stay connected with them. If you are the senior pastor, work most on your relationship with those who report to you directly. If you are a staff pastor, the most important relationship is the one with the senior pastor. You can’t do your job without him or her. If you are a solo pastor with part-time staff, stay in touch, without chasing after them. Be clear about where you are heading and what you want from them. In addition, spend some time learning about them and talking about non-church matters. Add in fun moments, inside jokes, and opportunities to connect as people – not just staff. By building relationships, without being overly accommodating, you are more likely to get what you want.
- Connect with “lilies.” These folks may or may not have a formal role in the church, yet you always come away from conversations with them feeling more energized. They typically don’t need have a lot of pastoral needs, and you may feel like you “should” spend more time with people who are needier. Yet these are the ones who will help keep you going, and they can be allies in moving key initiatives forward. And really, it’s simply fun to be with them. Let them know that you value this role in the church and your life!
P.S. Here’s an article with nine suggestions for connecting with church members in the summertime.