7 Ways to Build Relationships with Church Coworkers

7 Ways to Build Relationships with Church Coworkers

May 4, 2016 by

“I guess it’s time to drink the Kool-aide. Can you teach me how to Facebook?”

When I started at Prince of Peace, Ken wasn’t very interested in what I did.

As a long-time member of our facilities staff, he could bring a furnace back to life or make a popcorn cart out of an old wheelchair and some Plexiglas. He was certainly friendly and helpful, and always cheerful.

But he didn’t see Facebook, social media, websites, the Internet—just about anything in my job description—as relevant to his world.

Then came the day he wanted to get on Facebook to see pictures of his grandchildren.

Communication Is About Relationships

We often hear that communication is all about relationships. In the church setting that usually means establishing relationships with visitors, maintaining relationships with members and inviting everyone into a deeper relationship with God.

But what about relationships in the workplace?

As church communicators, we have an opportunity to live out our ministry in our workplace as surely as our pastor and coworkers do when they take a moment to care for our spiritual needs.

My experience with Ken told me I was doing something right—not by being a “Facebook expert,” but by striving to be a good coworker and nurture good relationships at work.

Here are a few things I try to do.

1. Remember We Are All Human

We all have bad days, we all make mistakes and sometimes every one of us can be a pain to be around.

The main message we are communicating is that we are all—despite our mistakes and bad days—God’s beloved children. You, me and our most difficult coworker or volunteer.

I try to remember that and treat everyone, even myself, with a little grace.

2. Take an Interest in Coworkers’ Lives Outside of Church

It’s easy to fall into the habit of thinking of my coworkers as content-creating machines.

Despite being a card carrying Church Lady, I am very aware that I have a deep love of inappropriate humor, TV shows about bad people and movies where things blow up.

It’s easy to fall into the habit of thinking of my coworkers as content-creating machines and not people with a life as rich and varied as mine. Even if we don’t share a taste in entertainment, we all had a weekend.

As an introvert, I find making small talk a bit of a chore, but I love the way a two-minute conversation about someone’s family builds relationship.

3. Meet People Where They Are

Try to act and respond as if there are no dumb questions.

Prince of Peace wasn’t doing much with social media when I started. So I had some education to do.

I held a couple of brown bag lunches to give people a simple social media overview and to tell them what the church would be doing. I ended each one by saying: “Come to me with any questions. Any questions at all.”

Since then I have answered everything from “What’s the best and cheapest platform for texting daily devotions to our families?” to “Can you help me get this picture out of my phone?” to “Can you help me get on Facebook so I can see what my grandkids are up to?”

I try to treat each question as if it were as important as the next. I assure people there are no dumb questions. Most importantly, I try to act and respond as if there are no dumb questions.

4. Be Honest About What You Can’t Do

As magical as I might appear to some of my coworkers, there are things I can’t do. A lot of them. And I don’t always have the time to do everything I can.

When I was younger, my instinct was to say ‘yes’ to everything, then stress out trying to do things I didn’t have the time, the skills or frankly the talent to do. I am trying to break that habit.

I say ‘no.’ I say ‘not now, but later.’ Say I can’t design. I admit I can’t proof my own work. I ask for help. I remind myself I am a member of a team and act like it.

This may have started as a self-protection measure, but I have discovered it is an amazing way to build trust.

5. Keep Your Ego out of It

When I can remember this is about God’s work and not mine, I find it easier to move on and do good work.

I’m not talking about the “Dang! I did a good job!” kind of ego. I’m talking about the “it’s all about me” kind of ego.

  • Someone is upset and short with me? It’s not about me.
  • The event had a low turnout? It’s not about me.
  • Someone found an error in something I did? It’s not about me.
  • There’s a disagreement about what goes in the newsletter? It’s not about me.

When I can remember this is about God’s work and not mine, I find it easier to correct errors, to back down in disagreements, to move on and do good work on the next thing. And I suspect it makes me easier to be around.

6. Mind Your P’s and Q’s

I have learned to trust my team, and that’s a nice feeling.

It’s like they told us in kindergarten. Please, thank you and excuse me are magic words. But just recently I realized the magic happens in me when I say them.

When I started thanking people for pointing out my mistakes, it was mostly to appear polite. But it didn’t take long for me to really feel thankful. I’ve heard people say they like getting criticism, but that’s never been me.

Usually my defenses slam up when my mistakes are pointed out to me. Since I have started thanking people for their negative feedback—whether I feel thankful in the moment or not—I have been experiencing less defensiveness and more thankfulness.

My coworkers have my back and are helping me create the best product possible. I have learned to trust my team, and that’s a nice feeling. Likewise, no matter how big a rush I am in, whenever I approach a coworker about something I need, I say “Excuse me,” and make sure it’s a good time to interrupt them.

It shows I consider their time and work is as valuable as mine, and that they are important to me. And it reminds me to slow down and remember the same.

7. Try to Take Care of Yourself

You can’t be there for others it you aren’t taking care of yourself.

Note the word try. We all know how easy it is to let go of the things we need to do for ourselves. Still, here a reminder: you can’t be there for others it you aren’t taking care of yourself.

My meditation app starts every session reminding me to visualize the people who will be affected by increased calmness and presence. Taking care of myself isn’t just something I do for myself, it’s something I do for everyone I interact with every day.

How I act and feel at work is often the best indicator of how well I am taking care of myself. When I am faithful in my self-care, I seem to do the things listed above effortlessly.

When I slack off the become harder and harder until they just aren’t worth the effort, I stop being the kind of colleague I want to be.

Post By:

Beth Beaty

Beth Beaty is a communication specialist for Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, Minn. She worked in cooperate communications for nearly 20 years while being active in church leadership as a volunteer before merging her passions five years ago.
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6 Responses to “7 Ways to Build Relationships with Church Coworkers”

  • Natalie
    May 10, 2016

    Great article! I can relate to everything you wrote, and these are all good reminders.

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  • Barbara
    May 10, 2016

    What meditation app are you using?

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    • Beth
      May 12, 2016

      I use Headspace. You can down load it from the app store or check it out here: https://www.headspace.com/

      I like it because in the beginning it talks you through some basic step each session and gets a little into the science (for lack of a better word) of meditation. The later sessions give you very simple ways to let go of distractions during meditation.

      There is a free version that gets you started and frankly you can listen to the last few free sessions over and over and still find it very useful. I have moved on to the paid version, but still go back to those early sessions sometimes.

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  • Greg Shore
    May 11, 2016

    #5 reminded me of something I frequently tell others – You can accomplish a lot in the Kingdom of God when you don’t care who gets the credit.

    Along with that is not being defensive or shifting blame when others look at you because something went awry, whether it’s your fault or not. Refusing to adopt a defensive attitude or refusing to shift blame can quickly defuse someone who has approached the conversation as an adversary.

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  • Lisa
    May 11, 2016

    Great article – thank you! I have been looking for a meditation app – could you please let me know which one you are using?

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    • Beth
      May 12, 2016

      I use Headspace (https://www.headspace.com/).

      I gave Barbara (up above) some details, but I’ll just add it is a “talky” meditation app. It’s really about teaching and reinforcing techniques. There are no bells or chimes, just Andy, a Buddhist monk, introducing each session and then calling you back out of the silence. But he does have an amazingly calming voice.

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