One of the things that we hear a lot about, particularly in church work, is to "build relationships." The problem arises in the fact that we never actually define what this means. And that is where things can off the rails. So what exactly is meant by "build relationships"?
Some people view building relationships as hanging out and shooting the breeze. They think that hanging out in the youth room is the way to do it. The desire is to become friends with the kids in the youth group and, in this way, earn the right to speak into their lives.
For me, building relationships is about caring for their spiritual lives. Yes, I want to spend time with the students, but I want that time to be intentional. I define "building relationships" as caring enough about the student to make sure they do not stay where they are spiritually.
If we really look at it, students in the youth group have enough friends. They have friends at home, they have friends at school, they have friends in the youth group. They do not need a 33-year old, married father of four trying to be their friend. That is just weird. What they do need, though, is someone who cares enough about them to show them what it is like to live the life of a 33-year old, married father of four. They need to see me love my wife and kids. They need to see how I react to situations and what my response will be. Yes, they need to goof off with me at times, but they need that to see that I am human. They need to see that the faith I purport to have is real and alive and strong enough to weather any situation.
Building relationships is key, but it is even more key to define what that looks like. Students don't need us to be their friends; they need us to love them enough to share Christ with them.
How would you define "building relationships"? Do you agree or disagree with how I defined it?