Leadership
Darren Sutton

Relational ministry can seem like a no-brainer. It’s simply being “in relationship” with students, right? Well yes…and no. It IS being in relationship with students, but how we evaluate that is everything. Simple things, like sending a student a well-worded text message or showing up at a football game or choir concert, are great places to start relationship. But to really evaluate TRUE relationship—life-on-life the way Jesus described—our team MUST go deeper. And that can sometimes be hard to quantify in a Top 20 list. So I’m giving you my Top 10 ways to know I might not have gone far enough in relationship with my students.

1. If I haven’t personally met a student’s parents, I’m not really in relationship with them—since parents are the most important faith influence a teenager has…even the unchurched ones!

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2. If I don’t know five things about one thing in the life of a teenager, I’m not in true relationship with them. For example, one thing I know about Cody is his football number: 96—and that’s good. Five things I should know: How did he end up with that number? When did he start playing football? Has he ever been injured in the game? What’s his favorite position to play? Where do his folks sit in the bleachers? (I can catch two birds with one worm with that little bit of info!)

3. If I haven’t done something fun, spontaneous, and not on the church calendar with a student, I may be missing the mark. Relational ministry usually happens best outside ‘the lab’—so I get out of the student center on a pretty regular basis and grab pizza or a movie with my students.

4. If I haven’t met and invited unchurched siblings, I’m not really impacting a family in a relational way. It doesn’t matter if I’m inviting them to kids ministry, youth ministry, or college ministry. I need to know their names and establish connection with them to truly claim relationship with my student.

5. When a student asks me to pray for their friends, they’re inviting me in! If I haven’t prayed for a teenager’s friend(s), by name and specific request…and then followed up with my students about that request, I’m not truly going far enough in our friendship.

6. Regardless of the size of my ministry, if I have personally met a student three times and still cannot remember their names…I’m not doing relational ministry well. (Sometimes this entails having “private eyes” to remind me and other adults in our ministry who are much better at that than I am!)
7. If I haven’t empathized with a student over their tragedy (real or perceived), then probably they aren’t sharing the hard stuff with me—which means I’m not quite hitting the relational mark like I should.

8. If I can’t write a note that includes something recent and personal in it, then I’m not there yet. (“Thanks for coming. Great to see you!” is simply a place to start, but it’s not the place to land.)

9. If I dismiss a student’s ‘excuse’ without delving deeper, I’m not really relational. I easily slip into “management” when my students want me to be “counselor.” If they have dropped the ball, there’s still time for accountability—relational ministry finds out “why” first…not to justify an excuse, but to know a reason.

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Learn Rapid Response Tips From The Emergency Response Handbook for Youth Ministry
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10. If I fail to identify major milestones (positive or negative), I missed the boat. (i.e. Grandma died. I signed with ________________ college. I failed my exit exam. My dad has been unemployed for 2 years and we’re about to lose our house. I had my first kiss.) If it’s important in the life of my student, I should know.

So as we begin deploying the great suggestions by Kurt & Josh, remember the goal of relational ministry is for a student (and their families) to be truly KNOWN and HEARD so that we earn the right to help them KNOW and HEAR Jesus.

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