4 Secrets To Long-Term Ministry Relationships


Whether you are heartbroken or overjoyed by the Spurs’ loss last week, there’s a lesson to learn from the San Antonio basketball team.

Tim Duncan, the Spurs’ power forward/center, and Coach Gregg Popovich have been together on the San Antonio Spurs for sixteen years – that’s the longest player and coach relationship in the history of the NBA.

What is the secret to this seemingly miraculous working relationship?

ESPN recently wrote an insightful article about their relationship, Tim Duncan, Gregg Popovich: A San Antonio Spurs Love Story.

I gleaned four secrets to long-term work relationships from ESPN’s article, which are also applicable to church leaders thinking about the long-term health of their church leadership team.

1. Know what you are looking for. When Tim Duncan was looking at joining the NBA, he had one priority – he wanted to play in a warm city. Whether it is geographic location, size of city, denomination, or style of worship, decide for yourself the “deal breaker” for your next ministry position. To achieve long-term work satisfaction, it’s better to have one deal breaker and be flexible with your other preferences then get hung up on a shopping list of “must-haves.”

2. Be open to coaching. It’s natural to start looking for your next position when you get called into your supervisor’s office and you start hearing him or her talk about your shortcomings. When supervisors point out areas of personal and professional improvement, most of us feel defensive or humiliated. It’s difficult to put yourself in the hands of a supervisor and coach and say, “You are right. I need to improve, coach me, tell me what I am doing wrong, and tell me how to do it better.” It takes courage and humility, but the long-term personal growth you will experience is worth the discomfort.

3. Vent and then move on. You aren’t doing any good if you “play nice” but never voice your concerns or doubts. Voice your concerns but stay focused on the true mission – your ministry. Also, always voice your concerns to your supervisor and not to your peers or those reporting to you.

4. Invest in personal relationships. If you want your teammates to stay for a long time, invest in personal relationships. On the surface, Tim Duncan and Coach Popovich have nothing in common – not age, not race, and not even hobbies. The one thing they do have in common is the years they have invested together both on and off the court to a singular mission. Remember that you share a single goal with your colleagues: to glorify God through your shared ministry.

To that end, care about your colleagues’ area of ministry and make a point to ask a different colleague each week how their specific area of ministry is going. Invite your colleagues over for dinner, go to a movie together, or go to the golf range with them, even if you are a terrible golfer. Spend quality time building relationships with colleagues that are different than you. In the end, you might just find yourself in a long-term relationship together.

How have you seen fruit from investing in ministry for the long term?