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Intentional Relationships By Dr. Al Hearne II

The Steward Leader Builds Intentional Relationships

What happens when the steward leader’s life becomes so challenging that they cannot fulfill their responsibilities or build relationships?

“We own nothing. God owns everything; we are simply managers.”

Boa (2005)

The Bible says,

You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’ But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth.’

(Deuteronomy 8:17-18), (para 5)

Stewards are charged with managing time, treasure, talent, and relationships. 

Every steward leader has a breaking point where their time, talent, and treasure are insufficient. They will reach a point where they cannot get everything done. However, rather than merely failing due to human limitations, they have a fourth area to ask for help: relationships. God has purposefully given steward leaders many relationships where they can turn and ask for help.  

Standard leadership advice is to put God first, your family second, and your career third. For the steward leader, this should be: Intentionally develop your relationship with God, family, and team!

An Intentional Relationship With God 

The first and most crucial intentional relationship to steward is one’s relationship with God, and nurturing it demands a commitment of intentional time. Envision spending time with God as you would with a dear friend or a loved one. It’s about carving out moments in your day amidst the hustle and bustle, where your focus is entirely on God through prayer, Bible reading, and worship.

In my journey as a steward leader, I’ve discovered that the depth, or lack, of my relationship with God is revealed in moments of immense challenge. When I have been intentionally praying, reading the Bible, and worshiping God during the good times, turning to God through prayer, Bible reading, and worship during challenges feels more authentic and natural.  

Intentional, consistent prayer transforms one’s relationship with God into a profound source of strength and guidance. This emphasis on persistent, continuous prayer in Luke 11:5-13, 18:1-8, and 18:9-14 underscores the necessity of having a sustained, ongoing conversation with God in both the good and the challenging times. A steward leader’s relationship with God grows through intentional and persistent prayer, just as consistent communication is required to strengthen any human relationship.

Intentional, active Bible reading benefits one’s relationship with God. Joshua 1:8, Psalm 119:11, and 2 Timothy 3:16-17 emphasize the transformative nature of internalizing the word of God. An intentional, active reading of the Bible is not a mechanical task but a conscious effort to immerse oneself in God’s wisdom and teachings for all people of all time. Furthermore, intentional, active reading is a dialogue, allowing God to speak through His word as the steward leader absorbs God’s timeless truths. Time spent during intentional, active Bible reading strengthens a person’s understanding, and connection with God naturally blossoms, just as time spent intentionally building any human relationship.

Intentional, active worship transcends mere rituals, as highlighted in John 4:23-24, Romans 12:1-2, and Revelation 4:11. Intentional, active worship is a profound expression of honor, glory, love, and devotion to God while acknowledging his sovereignty and greatness. Imagine this as a sacred time where you express your reverence, gratitude, and awe. Intentional, active worship engages with God’s presence regardless of the time or circumstances. Intentional, active worship fosters a spiritual connection far beyond any human relationship.

Billy Graham often said something to the effect that the most important decision a person will ever make is to become a disciple of Jesus. Therefore, especially for the steward leader, the second most important decision a person will make is to foster their relationship with God through intentionality with consistent prayer, active Bible reading, and authentic worship. These activities are a deliberate choice for the steward to prioritize their relationship with God.

An Intentional Relationship With Family

It has been said you can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family. God institutionalized the divine importance of family in Genesis 2:24. The family is civilization’s most important building block. Family relationships are inherited, not chosen, and therefore come with unique dynamics and challenges, different from any other relationship. Unlike the choice of friendships, family connections are supposed to be inherent and enduring. And this is why many leaders throughout history have not focused on an intentional relationship with family. How many leaders do you know who have sacrificed their relationship with their family in pursuit of leadership success?  

Two passages in the Bible contain household codes for the family (Ephesians 5:22-6:4 and Col. 3:18-25), speaking not only to the importance of the family but also to the responsibilities that come within the family. Although families come in all shapes and sizes, the Bible contains instructions for husbands, wives, parents, and children. Steward leaders need to foster these relationships intentionally.

For the steward leader, a crucial passage for intentional family relationships is the household code of Ephesians 5:22-6:4 because it is all based upon the foundation of Christ’s agape love for the Church. This agape love is the exemplar on which all family relationships rest. Christ’s agape love for the Church is so great that he willingly died on the cross. Only because of Christ’s sacrifice: husbands can love their wives as Christ loves the Church; wives can respect their husbands (Eph. 5:33); children can honor their parents (Eph. 6:2), and fathers cannot provoke their children to anger (Eph. 6:4). Whether a steward leader is a husband, wife, or child, building intentional relationships with your family starts with acknowledging the need to love your family with Christ’s agape love and this does not come naturally. It is outside of our human abilities. It not only requires the best of us, but it also requires us to control our negative human tendencies.  

Agape love is described the best here,

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

I Corintians 13:4-7

Agape love completely differs from other types of love; all other types depend on thoughts and feelings. Agape love depends upon the choice to love no matter what.

For the steward leader, this means choosing to love throughout all circumstances in life. It means choosing to prioritize time spent with family. It means intentionally building a relationship with each family member and not taking the relationship for granted. It means being present and active during family activities and outings. It means pitching in, being present, and helping family members face their trials and challenges in life. It means establishing celebrations for milestones in life and establishing rites of passage. It means communication through words and actions that, other than God, family is more important than anything in this world.

Agape love is a deliberate choice to love unconditionally and is the cornerstone for building intentional family connections. Steward leaders exhibiting agape love choose to prioritize family members and their needs. In doing so, steward leaders become living embodiments of Christ’s love, fostering a foundation of strength, resilience, and agape love within their families. Through doing so, agape love forms concentric circles running throughout the family, establishing a pattern of behavior so that the steward leader can turn to their own family and ask for help 

during their trials and tribulations.  

An Intentional Relationship With Your Team

Every steward leader, by definition, must have a team because a leader must lead at least one more person. Building an intentional relationship with your team requires planning, and Jesus modeled such planning for steward leaders. In Luke 5:1-11, Jesus formed his team of 12 disciples by casting a vision and asking them to join him, and they responded. For the remainder of his earthly ministry, Jesus intentionally built his relationship with his team of disciples. 

The Gospel of Luke provides an outline of how Jesus went about intentionally establishing a relationship with his team of 12 disciples. In Luke 6:12-16, Jesus spent a night in prayer and designated them as apostles after picking his team, indicating a deliberate and prayerful process. While accompanying Jesus, the disciples were in ministerial training, learning about ministry, teaching, preaching, healing, blessings, loving enemies, and the importance of bearing good fruit.

After modeling how to do things, Jesus released the 12 disciples to go out and do ministry themselves, to preach and heal the sick (Luke 9:1-6), providing practical ministerial experience. In addition to public ministry, which was also modeling for the 12 disciples, Jesus included private training sessions just for the disciples. He teaches the 12 disciples how to pray in Luke 11:1-4 and Luke 12:22-34 Jesus teaches them to trust in God and seek the kingdom of God. We see here that Jesus developed the relationship with his disciples over time through modeling, providing practical experience, and private instruction. 

Following the pattern of Jesus and the 12 disciples, the steward leader needs to focus on building relationships with the team. The Golden Rule should guide every interaction.

So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them …”

Matthew 7:12a

Patterson (2012) suggests that you always “start with the heart,” asking questions such as, “What do I want for myself? What do I want for others? What do I want for the relationship?” (p. 43). When the steward leader starts with the heart, the team will operate in an optimal space where it can make decisions. This space is necessary for team communication that is “gracious, seasoned with salt” (Colossians 4:6). Another tenant of maintaining the relationship is understanding that all team members want praise and recognition. The steward leader should recognize and reward team accomplishments early and often publicly while recognizing and rewarding individual contributions one-on-one (Shapiro, 2015).

Intentional Relationships Support Steward Leaders During Challenges Times

When time, talent, and treasure are insufficient, the steward leader must turn to God, their family, and their team to ask for help. When facing overwhelming challenges, a steward leader should turn to God and ask for strength to endure and the necessary support to continue. Additionally, turning to family members for support involves sharing concerns, seeking advice, and collaborating on potential solutions. Finally, a steward leader should lean on their team by delegating tasks, seeking input on decision-making, and communicating openly about their difficulties.

As you reflect on the principles of intentional relationships with God, family, and your team, consider taking a moment to assess the strength of these relationships in your own life. What action steps can you take to intentionally nurture your relationship with God, your family, and your team? It could be scheduling dedicated time for prayer and reflection, organizing a special family activity, or initiating a team-building exercise at work. Challenge yourself to implement at least one intentional relationship-building practice in the coming week and observe its positive impact on your personal and professional life.

References

  • Boa, K. (2005).  Stewardship. In Leadership Qualities (chapter 32). Bible.net. https://bible.org/seriespage/32-stewardship 
  • English Standard Version Bible. (2008). Crossway. www.esv.org. (Original work published 2001).
  • Patterson, K. (2013). Crucial accountability: tools for resolving violated expectations, broken commitments, and bad behavior (Second Edition. ed.).McGraw-Hill.
  • Shapiro, M. (2015). HBR guide to leading teams. Harvard Business Review Press.

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Dr. Al Hearne II is the superintendent of Redwood Christian Schools, the Center for Steward Leader Studies president, and an adjunct professor for Columbia International University. He holds a Master’s of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership from Columbia International University.

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