Digging Deeper-The Importance of Good Relational Skills

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Are relational skills really that important? Dale Carnegie, Zig Ziglar, and many others have written books and built entire seminars around growing your people skills. I was recently reading something by Zig Ziglar and he said that 85% of people that get promoted at their job don't get promoted because of their technical skills, they get promoted because of their relational skills. This is the first thing I want everyone to remember: relational skills (for the most part) trump technical skills. Now, if your job is tech support, you need to make sure you are growing your technical skills. But, when I'm talking to pastors, ministry leaders, and managers of people, promotion is often directly proportional to my interpersonal skills. I have found no scientific data to back this up, but I’ve taught this for years, that 80% of people who fail in youth and children's ministries fail because they lack good people skills. If you want your ministry to shine, you’ve got to polish your people skills; you’ve got to remember that relationships matter!

Jesus spent three years on earth teaching his disciples and really teaching them how to love people and how to relate to people. As a children's pastor or a youth pastor, you can teach a great lesson, you can lead killer games, and you can plan great events. But, if you lack people skills, who cares because really you aren’t going to be effective. I’ve seen people struggle with this in my ministry and you guys probably have, too. There have been people on my volunteer ministry team at my church that I put in key positions that have the heart for it. They get there early and prepare, and I genuinely think they love the kids, but their relational skills with adults are so not where they need to be, that nobody wants to help. So, they're constantly frustrated that they don't have enough help. The parents don't seem to really like them that much, so they wonder, “What am I doing wrong? I thought I was doing all this right.”

We have to remember that the kids don't bring themselves to church. Jim Wideman does a great job teaching us that as kids ministry leaders, we work with four groups of people. We work with kids, their parents, the volunteers, and the other leaders in your church, such as the pastors and elders. Kids are really only one of the four groups you work with, so relational skills trump technical skills. I think if there's anything we can learn that trumps all else is that you have got to love people. I get it! There are some people that are introverted, so this is harder for them. There are some people that just by the nature of who they are, may love people, but their expressions don't show it. For some people this is work, but it is like a muscle that you can exercise. You can do things everyday to go out of your way to smile more. When I was young in the ministry, I would run around so busy; I would run around the church from here to there and people would say, ”Ryan, are you mad? What's wrong with you?” It wasn't that I was mad. I had so much on my brain that I was running from point A to point B to point C, and I ran over people on the way. So, I've learned to just slow down, smile at people, and manage the face.

Can good relational skills help me with my volunteers? It is so important; it is all about putting people first! I talk to so many kidmin leaders and here's what I hear: I don't have enough volunteers, these people don't show up, and they don't call me when they’re not going to be there. I try to get them to come to these meetings and they don't come; I'm so frustrated. The common word that I hear is “I. I. I.” You have got to really have a major mental shift where you think it's all about them and here's why I say that. It's not about me and I need more volunteers, and I don't have enough help, and you aren't letting me know; you've got to flip it around and just majorly majorly majorly invest in these people that are serving with you. So much of ministry is about deposits and withdrawals. In the context of this conversation, the more I need from people (that is a withdraw), the more I need to put into the people (that's a deposit). Often times as leaders, we're great at scheduling our planning center and we know exactly who we need and we know exactly what we need them to do make sure they've got all their stuff. We put the world on these people and it's great, but we’ve got to make sure that we are depositing into their lives.

What are some practical ways to put other people first? I love what Andy Stanley says about doing for one what you wish you could do for all. You might think: I've got 25 volunteers or I've got 75 volunteers or I have 150 volunteers, how am I going to practically do this? Many of you that read my articles or listen to my podcasts are bi-vocational, so you not only have this ministry that you’re leading, but you’ve got a job from 9-to-5 on Monday through Friday. You've got kids to run to basketball over here, to football practice over there, and swim in the morning. Then, you’ve got this ministry on top of that. How do you get it all done? You do what Andy says and you do for one what you wish you could do for all. There are some very practical things you can do to start putting other people first. First, you can't forget to pray for these people and let them know you're praying for them and really genuinely pray for them. Take advantage of the time in the car when you're driving; turn off the music and pray; spend some time with people. Again, it's going to be hard for you to take every one of your volunteers for coffee this week, but I wonder what if you could take one volunteer a week for coffee, or what if you could invite one volunteer family over to your house every month for pizza and just start spending some time.

What about touch? By touch, I mean things that really do impact and touch people: like being a better listener, smiling, asking questions. You can send text messages and send cards in the mail. There are all kinds of touch points, both digital and physical touch points. It doesn’t always take a lot to let people know that you really do care. For probably the past 15 years, I send somebody a thank you card in the mail everyday. That takes me about 60 seconds and the cost of a stamp. It might just be as simple as “Becky, I was walking down the hallway and I saw you on the floor reading a story to the two-year olds on Sunday. I just want you to know what you do matters. Thanks for being a part of our team.” Now I could have sent her a text and that would be good; I still think it's good to text your volunteers. I could have sent her a Facebook message, but I think there's something cool about going to the mailbox and finding something in your mail other than bills. We could each text one volunteer everyday, not a copy and paste that you send everybody the same day, but “Hey TJ. I know it's been awhile since I've told you this, but thank you for what you do Sunday after Sunday. I hope that you and Jessica have a great week. Love on those kids this week.” Doing for one today what you wish you could do for others. For those of you that are in vocational ministry and you are 9-to-5 in the church, you need to get out of your office and away from your computer. Start spending some time with people, whether it's meeting in Starbucks or having a meeting at the church. Get out of your office, start relating to people, stop in a room before church starts and look the volunteer in the eye and say, “Hey, Jim, I don't know the last time I told you this, but thank you for teaching these kids on Sunday mornings. It means a lot.” Just that 20-second look in the eye and a genuine heartfelt thanks can go a huge way with people. It can be that shot in the arm that people desperately need.

What effect do my relational skills have on my influence with others? Rick Warren from Purpose Driven Life and Saddleback Church said one of the most important issues every pastor must decide is whether you want to impress people or influence people. He went on to say you can impress people from a distance, but you have to get up close to people and love people to influence them. I believe that if you're reading this article today, you really do want to influence people. So, just a reminder that one of the best things you can do is get up close to those people and just love on them and you will start influencing them. Your ministry will grow as a result.

Your #1 fan,


Ryan Frank