Many declare, “We do relational ministry.” That’s good. But some who declare it don’t really do it.
When people claim to do relational ministry they often explain that their ministry is based on authentic relationships. Sometimes they add, “We’re about people, not programs.” That’s good–when it’s true.
How can anyone determine if a church’s claim of a relational ministry is, in fact, legitimate? I’ve discovered a revealing, sometimes painful, test. It’s simple and straightforward. And it demonstrates if a church truly values people above other earthly priorities.
The test comes in two bits. And, interestingly, neither bit happens on Sunday morning.
The first test happens before you even step onto the property. You’ll know a church is relational if it makes it easy–or even possible–to connect relationally through normal means. When you call during normal hours, someone actually answers the phone. Or, if an answering machine must take the call, someone promptly returns the call. And, if you attempt to connect through the church’s website, the ministers’ email addresses are easily found. And someone promptly responds to your inquiry.
Sadly, I must report when my team members and I try calling churches, we very frequently encounter unanswered phones or recorded messages that warn, “Our message box is full.” That’s not a relational ministry.
And, sadly again, we see so many churches–small and large–that do not provide ministers’ email addresses. I guess they’re too busy or too important to be bothered with common people. That’s not a relational ministry. (For Pete’s sake, even the White House website provides an email path to contact–the President of the United States.)
The other test happens after a member decides to part ways with a church. If a ministry is truly relational–woven by relationships–the member’s departure from the official meetings does not extinguish contact. The ministers and members continue to relate to the resigned person–because the love of Christ lives in relationship, not in dues-paying membership.
I’ve witnessed this test turn out both ways. In some churches, once a person stops attending, I’ve seen all communication and interaction cease. It’s like the resigned member has contracted a contagious disease. In other churches, I’ve seen church staff and members continue to communicate and get together with departed members, and relate as friends.
This test separates those who view members as numbers, from those who view members–and ex-members–as brothers and sisters.
Truly relational ministries relate–as the Body of Christ.