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5 ways to have better relationships at church

| by Margaret Marcuson

When I ask pastors about the relationships at their church, many of them are quick to point out the challenges or frustrations. And I understand. It’s easy to focus on the negative people and interactions and spend a lot of time discussing them (if not complaining).

But here are two things we know:

1) Focusing on what’s working and how to get more of it is vastly more productive

2) Servant leaders start with themselves

Here are five characteristics of positive relationships at church.

Growth: People are growing in their relationships with each other and with God. They may serve in one capacity together, then create their own projects. Or they may move from only attending on Sunday to becoming a member of the church. Growth is evident.

Responsibility: People can take responsibility for their own part in relationships. They don’t blame others and actively work on their own “stuff.”

Positivity: People in your church spend more time talking positively than negatively – especially in regard to how they communicate to and about one another.

Lightness: They have a sense of humor. When things go wrong, they can see the lighter side and even seek it out.

Direct: People work on person-to-person relationships. They don’t triangle-in other people with gossip or complaints.

You can assess your own congregation for how often you see this kind of behavior and celebrate it when you see it. And, even more importantly, you can assess yourself and how you relate to others. Remember, you can always relate to others this way, whether or not they approach you positively. 

I recently came across this prayer:

With the help of God, my family and friends,

I am

growing confidence and assurance

in myself and others,

developing new possibilities and opportunities,

advancing compassion and encouragement,

and building vision and hope.

I pray that I will complain and lament less.

I pray that I will forget how to scold and whine.

God help me to grow, develop, advance and build.


It comes from Kennon L. Callahan’s Giving and Stewardship in an Effective Church. Published almost 25 years ago, it’s still in print, and I recommend it for your stewardship endeavors. However, the best part of it is this prayer. Callahan suggests you place it someplace you will see it every day, pray it and live it every day: “Help this be the prayer of personal growth of your congregation.”

I can safely say that if you do pray this and live it, your congregation will have more positive relationships. If you encourage others to do the same, the congregation will have even more. If you are willing, I invite you to commit to pray this prayer daily.

Questions for reflection:

Am I growing, responsible, positive, light and direct in my relationships at church?

How might I grow in one of these areas a little more this year?

Photo source: istock

Margaret Marcuson

Rev. Margaret Marcuson helps ministers do their work without wearing out or burning out, through ministry coaching, presentations and online resources. Margaret is the author of Leaders Who Last: Sustaining Yourself and Your Ministry and MoneyandYour Ministry: Balance the Books While Keeping Your Balance. She served as a pastor for 15 years.

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