One of Jesus’ major functions on this earth was to demonstrate what it meant to have “God with us.” In the same way, through our presence in the lives of others, we are able to show that God is still with us. He is intimately concerned with what concerns us. In His parable about the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus makes it clear that we are to reach out in tangible ways to the people around us. Not only are we to see Jesus in “the least of these,” but others should see Jesus in us. As we will learn from the stories below, our interactions with people are a testament to the Jesus we serve.


A church plant initiative took advantage of the unseasonably warm fall weather to host a service in the park. James, an elder who had just started working with the church, noticed a couple who had come with their infant daughter. This couple, who were not members of the church or even Adventists, had been attending the plant on a semi-regular basis. As the weather started to get cold, the couple was not sure what to do because their daughter was not dressed warmly. The elder, remembering that he kept a blanket in his car, ran to get it for them. The couple was surprised by the gesture but thankful that they could stay and worship. The couple began attending the New Believer’s Sabbath School class that James taught and soon made a decision to be baptized. Four months after the church picnic, James and the pastor baptized the couple. What joy it was for the elder to see how one seemingly insignificant action could impact a whole family for Christ.

Taking time to pay attention to people and being attentive to those around you will not only bring smiles to their faces but to yours as well. “We little know the bearing of our acts upon the experience of others. What we do or say may seem to us of little moment, when, could our eyes be opened, we should see that upon it depended the most important results for good or for evil.”1


Mary, one of the local elders, befriended a young woman who had moved into the area and starting attending church. When the young woman’s church attendance dropped off, Mary made a point to connect with her. The young woman was struggling in her faith and feeling unsure about where her life was leading. Mary knew that she would not be able to provide all the answers but felt strongly that she needed to be intentional about keeping a connection with the young woman. So they arranged a standing lunch date once a week in which they could talk about the daily ups and downs of life, including spiritual matters. During these lunches, the young woman is able to voice her struggles without fear of judgment. Although Mary cannot always relate to the struggles, she continues to listen and be present. Both Mary and the young woman are thankful to have the opportunity to deepen their friendship.

People are hurting all around us. Marriages, careers, and family problems abound; spiritual, emotional, and physical aches are present. So we must bring to those people the presence of Jesus which brings peace, hope, and rest. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).


In addition to being in the right place at the right time, a ministry of presence is also manifested in intentionally providing for the felt needs of both members and the community. Many elders hold English classes for immigrants or computer classes for people returning to the workforce. Others provide welcome baskets to families who move into the neighborhood, while some coordinate Welcome Baby baskets for new mothers at the local hospital. Some elders focus on a reconnecting ministry and reach out to former members, often through visitation. And visitation goes beyond the home and the hospital. For example, an elder with a gift for hospitality might invite families to her home several times a month for Sabbath dinner. Or an elder could make phone calls or send cards to let people know someone is thinking of them.


As a Navy Chaplain candidate, Kristy has come to understand the significance of the ministry of presence. It is about holding the hand of the hurting and slowing down enough to walk beside these individuals. We worship a “God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Cor. 1:3, 4). It is about helping people realize that the Holy Spirit can empower them to move forward in their spiritual journey. Allow yourself to be a conduit for the One who loves this world unto death (John 3:16).

S. Joseph Kidder is a professor of church growth and leadership at the Andrews University Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary in Berrien Springs, Michigan, USA.

Kristy L. Hodson is a student at Andrews University.

To avoid confusion, we will refer to S. Joseph Kidder with the pronoun “I” and reference Kristy by name.

1 Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1905), 483.