Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of five columns written by Ron Byler, Mennonite Central Committee U.S. executive director, to mark 100 […]
Last week was my busiest one yet with Franconia Mennonite Conference. I sat in on a board meeting. I went to a goodbye blessing and celebration for John Stoltzfus, who served for six and a half years as youth pastor for Franconia Conference and campus pastor for Dock Mennonite Academy. I went to a staff meeting that involved playing mini golf to build staff morale and unity. And I received my first opportunity to preach a sermon at Perkasie (Pennsylvania) Mennonite Church. Though all these events seem different, there was one thing in common about them: They were all about building relationships.
Last week’s events showed me the importance of building relationships within ministry. Now, I get that viewing the building of relationships seems like a no-brainer when it comes to ministry, but it is more complicated than I believe many people realize. To build relationships one must be willing to be vulnerable with others and allow them the space to do the same. In ministry we must be intentional about the relationships we form. This process of relationship building could take days, months and even years.
At the board meeting I saw the board laughing and eating together, while at the same time they were able to challenge each other to make sure all ideas presented were thought through well. I saw people share kind words about Stoltzfus and how his work and friendship impacted everyone within the room. I heard a small congregation share their loving memories of a congregant who had just passed away.
Without relationships, these moments couldn’t happen. The board wouldn’t be able to function in a way that is best for Franconia Conference without each member being intentional about building relationships with one another. One of the reasons Stoltzfus was so loved was that he had made relationships with everyone around him. Perkasie Mennonite Church wouldn’t be able to share freely their feelings with one another without everyone in the congregation being dedicated to building relationships with one another.
Last week showed me how essential to ministry relationship building is. Being in ministry is more than preaching a sermon, leading a devotional or sitting through a meeting. Ministry is about meeting people and cultivating healthy relationships with the people we meet. How we can hope to do the work God has called us to do without having the skills needed to build relationships with people around us? May we always remember the importance of healthy relationships as we work to show healing and hope to a broken and fragmented world.
Jerrell Williams is a Master of Divinity student at Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania) Theological Seminary and is interning this summer with Franconia Mennonite Conference and The Mennonite.
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