Two Relational Practices I’m Starting


By Emily Robbins

relational-practices-startingI feel like the past few months have been a bit crazy!  It’s almost surreal to look at my life and realize that I am actually living in it. Last fall, after a lot of prayer and thought, I made an extra-ordinarily hard decision to change youth ministry positions so that I could work closer to where I live. After I got married in 2014, I had been driving 45 minutes to my church every day. It was so hard to maintain community, both personally and within the youth ministry!  I didn’t feel like it was time for me to leave my youth ministry yet but I also felt like it was time to pay attention to my personal needs as well. I am so grateful that a church close to my home ended up needing a Youth Minister!

I started as the Director of Youth Ministries at my new church on Sunday, January 3, 2016, just 2 ½ months ago. I am getting to know new teenagers, new staff, new parents, new rhythms and definitely new expectations!  These youth were excited to participate in the 30 Hour Famine for the 4th or 5th time – so that happened last month.

In this new context, I committed to try a few new things to build relationships to break down walls during this time of transition:

  1. Ask all of the youth and their parents to invite me over for dinner or games with their entire family.  In the spring of 2013 while leaving a youth ministry in Florida, many of the families had me over for dinner to say goodbye. I learned so much about the youth and their families during those dinners together: how they interact, expectations, personal jokes and so much more!  I also realized that as we broke bread together, I was allowed to become more than just a youth minister in their lives.  I sat at the table as part of their family. Crazy that it was happening at the end of my ministry with them!  And what a GREAT way to start at a new ministry! To build relationships with families–the entire family–from the very beginning, that’s the kind of ministry I want to be a part of.  So far some of the families have invited me over for dinner or for lunch after church.  It is working. I meet both parents and pets and see how the siblings get along.
  2. Use the phone. As in make actual phone calls.  I have had the blessing of being a distributor for an essential oil company for the past year.  One of the things that I do as part of my job is make “care calls”.  Not texts and not emails. I make these calls to check on the individuals on my team and to ask if there is anything I can do to help them.  I’m going to be honest – the calls feel risky until I’m actually on the phone with someone.  Anyone else feel this way? I always wonder what they think I am calling for.  But it is so good to catch up with them. Such a simple way to build relationships! I’m not sure when I stopped making phone calls (not just send texts) regularly but I’ve been challenging myself to call parents and youth to connect. Many times the youth do not answer their phone so I get to leave fun voice messages and follow up with a text!

There are always ways to do new things in our ministries especially when we’ve been in ministry for a longer period of time. We just need to pay attention. Where have you learned to try something new lately?