The Leadership Gift of Presence

Gift 4

This Advent, my Tuesday posts will focus on often overlooked gifts church leaders can give their congregations. I have seen such gifts deeply move God’s people. Such gifts that can form and shape the culture of a thriving congregation.

It was clear, Betty felt she wasn’t doing enough for her brother-in-law. In the final stages of cancer, her brother-in-law was in Hospice, fading in and out consciousness. Betty sat with him for several hours each day. Sometimes she read Psalms or prayed aloud, but mostly she said silently reading.

When she expressed her sorrow at “just sitting there” for hours, Pastor Vic smiled a knowing smile. As I remember it, he said,

“By sitting with him, you are doing more than you could ever imagine. Tell him when you enter the room and when you leave the room. He knows you are with him. I think it means everything to him.”

Such is the power of the “Ministry of Presence.”

Ministry of Presence is ministering by “being” as opposed to ministry by “doing.” It is relying on our mere presence to provide comfort or ease anxiety.

This proves challenging for many leaders. In churches, leaders are expected to do things. Lead meetings. Answer questions. Repair routers. Visit members. Write sermons. Print worship folders.

Due to this expectation, leaders devalue the Ministry of Presence. How could silently sitting in a Voters’ Assembly benefit anyone? Or sitting quietly in a hospital room? Or standing beside a member who is sharing news of a personal tragedy?

Here’s how.

The very presence of church leaders in the midst of crisis can provide a calming effect on the people involved. There are times when no words will help a situation. The most powerful impact is made by being present, listening to the hearts of those who are hurting.

Leaders who are present during trials also convey the support of the entire congregation just by being present. In fact, we can take this a step further. Leaders not only represent their church, the leaders also represent God, who called the believers together.

Ministry of Presence can also serve as a reminder of God’s presence, the one who promised, “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5).

I sometimes muse about the story of Naomi and her daughter-in-laws from Ruth chapter one. Naomi and her daughter-in-laws were all widowed. Naomi decided to return to her homeland, so sent her daughters-in-law back to their homelands. Ruth refused to leave Naomi, instead choosing to live in Naomi’s homeland.

I can imagine the two women walking a dusty road. They are not speaking, just walking as the shadows lengthen across the road. From time to time, Naomi glances at Ruth, and quietly smiles. Ruth comforts Naomi by her mere presence.

Share your thoughts about the ministry of presence in the comments or send me an email. Additional posts in this series include:

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