3 Ways to Live in a Ministry of Presence

3 Ways to Live in a Ministry of Presence


“More and more, the desire grows in me simply to walk around, greet people, enter their homes, sit on their doorsteps, play ball, throw water, and be known as someone who wants to live with them. It is a privilege to have the time to practice this simple ministry of presence. Still, it is not as simple as it seems.” – Henri Nouwen

Indeed, to truly live in a ministry of presence is a gift (see what I did there?). 

As expected, my family and I were quite active during the Christmas and New Year’s “break”. We spent much of the time entertaining family and friends at our home or going to gatherings elsewhere. Between Christmas, New Year’s, church functions, birthday parties, family gatherings, meals at restaurants, and more, we always seemed to be around people. 

In between gatherings, Gail and I took solace in the quiet times at home with the kids. These quiet times were few and far between, but sacred nonetheless.

And I realized – now more than ever – that I’m becoming more interested in living in a ministry of presence.

1. In Conversations

My friends have called me out in the past for having a short attention span. They joke by telling me that I’m fair in giving everyone equal amounts of my time and attention: about three seconds.

I’ve been working really hard on this. I find that one place where I especially need to be careful is at church, in particular after Mass. Often I’ll be speaking to someone when out of the corner of my eye I see someone else approaching to talk to me. I want to acknowledge that person’s presence but in doing so I may let my attention drift from the person I am speaking to – even if it’s for a split second. I need to trust that the person approaching will realize that I’m already engaged in a conversation and that he will wait for me to finish.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that there’s a line-up of people waiting to speak to me wherever I go. But I’m certainly working on using better eye contact within my conversations. It’s one way to let the other person know that I’m fully engaged.

2. In Relationships

I don’t have a Saviour complex – at least I hope I don’t.  But in the past, I have tried to be all things to all people. I often tell the story of my early youth ministry days when I wanted to be the most popular youth minister.  So I’d want to give every teaching, every testimony, be in every skit, lead every prayer, instruct every game, and be the first point of contact for everything. Needless to say, I turned many people – teens and fellow leaders – away with this self-centered attitude.

As I get older and hopefully wiser, I’ve been investing more into certain relationships. Whether younger or older, near or far, these are the people I care about the most. I want these people to know that I will be there for them and that I will challenge them, affirm them, and encourage them as required. And hopefully they know that I would expect the same from them.

I’d much rather have a smaller group of close friends than a larger group of peripheral friends and acquaintances. This may seem counter-intuitive for someone with a decent number of Facebook friends and Twitter followers.

However, I have a good sense of who’s who in those realms. And I know who I can go to when I need to, whether it be to share my joy, my pain, or ask for prayer. I trust that the feeling is mutual.

3. In Time

One of my pet peeves is when someone complains he is too busy. To a certain extent, that’s poor time management. At the risk of sounding insensitive, I truly believe that you can always make time for the people and things that are most important to you. It may not be perfect timing or as much time as you’d like, but you do what you need to do to make it work.

To be truly present to my family, it means focussing on quality time instead of quantity of time. That means getting off my cell phone and away from the computer or TV. I need to be present to my family - not just physically but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. 

Same goes with my prayer life. Sometimes I may not feel like praying or I might think that I’m too busy (there...I said it) to pray. There may be times when I don’t feel like spending time with Jesus, but for the sake of the relationship I do. When I make this choice, then I know that I’m praying for the right reasons.

What are some ways you can live out a ministry of presence to those you encounter?

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