“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” -Dale Carnegie
I have a confession to make. I enjoy talking about myself, my family, and my ministry. I’m pretty sure that most people reading this blog would say the same thing about themselves. Why? It’s fun to talk about ourselves!
The only problem is that most people I encounter don’t care about me. They care about themselves. That’s true in ministry as well. We are all naturally selfish. It’s part of the human condition. It’s part of being human. And that’s okay.
To be an effective leader in ministry, we have to spend more time being interested in other people than getting other people interested in us.
One of my ministry mentors modeled this so well for me. Time and time again, I would watch him engage other people and find out about their lives, family, strengths and weaknesses, and their personal faith story. Each person that spent time with him felt like he truly cared about them and was genuinely interested in their lives. He was a master at this!
I learned a lot about relating with people from him. I watched him employ these two strategies constantly.
1. Spend “down” time with people
In the busyness of our ministry or meeting agenda, it is difficult to get to know people on a personal level. There are tasks to be accomplished and items to be discussed. That’s why spending “down” time with the people you minister to and with is essential. This is about putting aside all ministry tasks to just be present with the person. Two of my favorite “down” time opportunities:
- Sharing meals together
- Trips in the car
These are great opportunities to have total focus and attention on other people.
Spending “down” time with others is just the first step. It’s what you do during that “down” time that makes a difference. That’s where the second strategy comes into play.
2. Ask good questions
I love being on the receiving end of good questions. Good questions allow me to share from the heart about my life and experience. What constitutes a good question depends on who you are spending time with. For me (and a lot of people I know), asking about their family can provide a lot of conversation. People love to talk about their family. What are some other good questions to ask of the people you minister to and with?
- How did you get involved in ministry?
- Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
- Where did you grow up?
- What is one of your favorite memories growing up?
- How’s your daughter (or son) doing? (I always talk about a storm when someone asks me about my daughter!)
- Tell me about your career.
- How did you meet your spouse?
These are great starter questions. Once you start hearing more about someone, it becomes easy to ask follow up questions related to what they have said.
One temptation to avoid is to start answering these questions in the midst of the conversation. When someone talks about their child, for instance, we naturally want to share about our family as well. Don’t! That time will come. The focus should be on the other person.
At the end of the conversation, the person you are building a relationship with will feel like a million bucks! She will feel that you really do care about them and they will think the world of you. They will be likely to stay involved in the church because someone took the time to get to know them.
Are those the most important goals in relating with people? No.
The most important goal is to truly love and care for the people God has put in your path.
And remember what John C. Maxwell always says: “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”
How do you show people that you care about them?