The basic premise of the Gardening Principle is that you cannot neglect relationships and expect them to grow. In his book, Winning with People, John Maxwell gives us these six principles for cultivating important relationships:
Every long lasting relationship has ups and downs. The question for you is, are you committed? What will you do when things don’t go your way? How will you respond?
What kinds of relationship grows without communication? Communication is important for marginal / acquaintance relationships as well as with those to whom we are deeply committed. A person must develop ways to stay in communication to keep the relationship growing.
This allows deep relationships to stay fresh. Men: are you friends with your wife? Women: Are you friends with your husband? Find ways to remain friends in the midst of your marriage. Enjoy time together. For non marriage relationships, what does being a friend mean? It means time, care and connection. Being a friend means putting them first.
Shared memories are powerful. I often mention memories as one of the goals for the weekend conferences and retreats we host through Harvest Ministry. When a student has great memories of growing up in church, being involved in mission and other aspects of faith, that becomes the start to a foundation for a lifetime of following Jesus. The same is true for our children. When the family has shared memories of experiences and fun times together, children grow up wanting to recreate that in their own lives. The more bound together as a family, the better chance they will be healthy in the long run. I remember hearing one of the best things you can do for a young child’s identity is to name the family cars. It helps the child develop a unity with the family and creates a great memory. Our cars are affectionately named Frank and Buttercup. (For the record, my wife drives buttercup.)
New experiences spur on relationships. Growing in a talent or ability allows for you to respond to your important relationships differently. To cultivate fresh and strong relationships, you need to grow together. What is a new experience you can participate in? Often in Harvest, we are involved in taking people on the journey of ministry together. Not only do people have fun, but we grow in leadership, experience, and wisdom as we are serving. It’s a win win and each experience builds on the next.
Spoiling Each Other
In our deepest relationships, we must work to outdo one another in love. As John Maxwell puts it, we should spoil each other. Bend over backwards and go out of your way to do something kind, offer a gift or spend extra time. For those important people in your life – even your kids who aren’t supposed to be spoiled – cultivate a heart for extravagance toward them.
These six attributes help us actively cultivate the garden of our relationships! It’s what Christ has done for us and is calling us to do for others.
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