Married at First Sight: A Look at Conversation
At the moment I’m fascinated with this reality show Married at First Sight. The show lives up to the title. People volunteer for this scandalous social experiment, are matched with a partner by the appointed experts, and meet for the first time on the day of their wedding. The viewer is shown the first six weeks of the marriage beginning with the wedding, honeymoon, and settling down to life together. After six weeks, the couples decide if they want to remain married, or divorce. Physical intimacy is strictly optional. I was immediately captivated by the conversations of the couples. And by captivated, I mean laser focused on every verbal and nonverbal communication exchange. This show could be the very definition of awkward. These people wanted love, marriage, family. So boom! Here is your partner. How do you start a life with a spouse who is also a stranger and, oh yeah, on camera? The conversations are a direct reflection of their relationships; the conversations tell their stories. They are stilted, curious, hopeful, scared, embarrassed, withdrawn, intrusive, sometimes needy, and all in all fascinating due to the tentativeness.
Dialogue can make your story. In fact, as Shakespeare knew, you can tell a whole story just through dialogue. Conversations can wound us, heal us, threaten us, and inspire us. A conversation can hold us hostage or give us wings. A conversation can energize us for days or make us want to walk away and never come back.
So how are your conversations telling the story of your church family, your co-workers, your ministry team, and your leaders? Are you having conversations with people in your church family or just about them? Are your conversations awkward, anxious, and stilted like the Love at First Sight newlyweds? Are your conversations centered around the passions of your ministries and inspired by Jesus’ love of others? Are you just trading pragmatic information or going deeper into each other’s lives?
As connections minister, a major part of my job is working with small group leaders, ministry team leaders, and visitors. I spend a decent time on the phone or in person just checking in with people. Email, texts, twexts (yes it's a thing), tweets, Facebook messages are all faster, but a conversation establishes a connection between two people that is unmatched. Taking someone to lunch is one of my favorite things because I get to really see who this person is. I take in the wide variety of expression, their voice inflection, specific word choice, and what isn’t said. I find out about their history, see how they see themselves, and get the scoop on their family. I really love getting the scoop on the family.
Tonight I talked to Jim, our A/V ministry team leader, and I loved hearing the pride in his voice as he talked about his teen team members and his plans for developing their abilities and leadership. He talked about the ministry challenges and budget requests. It’s my job to ask, “What can I do to support you?” People are seriously not used to being asked this question. I know. Steve, our facilities ministry team leader, called me one day. He said, “Amanda, I bet no one ever asks you if you need anything. What can I do for you?” I was suddenly teary at his sincerity and totally speechless. I found my voice a few days later when the break room garbage disposal malfunctioned on my watch.
As you assess your conversations to see what they reflect about your church family, compare that to what you want to talk about. What types of conversations produce the best energy for you and others? Which ones stimulate your passions and your desires to be the hands and feet of Jesus? I know, I know, we have lots responsibilities and the details will not take care of themselves. True. As you deal with budgets, hermeneutics, and anxieties, remember to talk to each other in a way that reflects the kind of people God wants us to be. Something that helps me is to start my call list first thing Monday morning so my priorities are focused on people and not just problems for the rest of the week. I always come out of those conversations with something positive to share with the rest of the team. Hopefully, we can balance our responsibilities with conversations that reflect a confidence in our own beauty as the bride of Christ rather than the stiffness of strangers that are technically married.