In my last post, I shared 5 Pieces of Advice from Daniel Tiger to Moms. I’ve received a lot of feedback from moms who say that they enjoyed seeing (and hearing) these familiar songs through the lens of deeper meaning for their own lives. Well, guess what. We ain’t done yet.
I’m not just a mom, I’m a leader, and until our season as pastors comes to a close, I have the responsibility to lead leaders and volunteers at our church. I take that charge very seriously, and so does Daniel, apparently, because he has a few thoughts on how ministry leaders should handle their people with kindness. Whether you’re a pastor, on staff at a ministry (or any organization, really), or just a high capacity volunteer who leads a team, it’s important that you keep these truths in mind when connecting with your folks.
Back to share her renditions of Daniel’s ditties is the amazing Caroline.
We’ve Gotta Look A Little Closer To Find Out What We Want To Know.
Ministry isn’t about systems and structures, or even vision…it’s about people.
As a ministry leader, it’s our job to get to know our people. They are not there to just get something done. Ultimately, they came to your church or ministry to know God better and to be known by others. If they didn’t want that, they could just watch a service online from home and never step foot in an actual building with other people on Sunday, much less serve.
So shepherds, it’s our job to get to know our sheep. And here’s the thing…sometimes sheep bite. Sometimes they act a fool. (and, btw, we are all sheep). Instead of getting offended or reprimanding a person when they aren’t “following protocol” or when they just plain screw up, let’s look a little closer to find out the why behind the what.
Did you just find out that your worship leader got his girlfriend pregnant? Well, that looks like a mess. Instead of just firing the guy and sweeping his mistake under the rug, why don’t you connect with him and ask the right questions to help him get down to the root of what drove him to the point of sleeping with her outside of marriage in the first place. If you’re kind and patient enough with him, he will be able to find healing from the Lord, and will probably clean up his own mess in the end.
Let’s stop cutting people off when they make a mistake, and instead see it as an opportunity to dig in deeper and help usher in true life-change through healthy restoration.
When You’re Sick, Rest Is Best, Rest Is Best.
Burnout. It’s an epidemic in churches these days. Why? Because too many leaders are so strapped for quality and reliable volunteers that they use and abuse those who show any sign of competence and consistency. This is unacceptable.
Leaders, listen to those you’re supposed to be equipping to do the work of the ministry. What do the conversations sound like from your children’s ministry workers? How many are still cheerfully bee-bopping through the hallways after having to serve every single weekend without a break for six months straight?
Zero. That’s how many. I know this isn’t PBSkids-approved language, but we are raping our volunteers to get our own needs and desires met.
We need to have a close ear to the ground to hear the rumblings before we have a mass exodus of burned out, broken people running like wildebeests out of our churches. If we can listen and know what is going on in the lives of our folks, we can make discerning moves as to how healthy they are.
And if they’re sick, it’s best to rest them, at least for a season. Ask questions, and not just at church where they feel obligated to give you a canned answer. Call them, take them to lunch, grab coffee with them. Sit, listen, hold their stories, and ask the right questions to help them communicate their need for a break.
When they do, can you as the leader trust that God’s going to fill that void, and He is more concerned with the health of your church than you are? If a volunteer needs rest, and you can give it to them without guilt, shame or condemnation, they will come back better than ever and will respect you in new ways.
Use Your Words and Say How You Feel.
This goes along with the last point. As leaders (and many of us are volunteers ourselves), we need not be afraid to speak up and create healthy boundaries with our words, specifically our yeses and our nos. There are times when we need a break. Even staff members can get overwhelmed and on the brink of burnout. We need to be able to use open lines of communication with our own leaders and let them know how we are feeling about the position we are in.
It is impossible to not be offended in this life. When we are offended, we need to learn healthy ways to communicate and work towards forgiveness and reconciliation. This is a whole ‘notha series of blog posts, y’all, but for now I’ll say that this is something most people suck at (including me, at times). We would rather not talk about it, sweep it under the rug, and allow it to fester than confront someone when they’ve wronged us. We need to recognize that healthy confrontation is the prerequisite for healthy relationships.
Generally, if we can communicate how someone’s actions made us feel, it can be the start to a healthy confrontation. It may go something like this, “when you don’t take into consideration my suggestions on how to improve our check-in systems in children’s ministry, it makes me feel frustrated,” or “when you said ________, it made me feel ___________.”
Can we learn how to turn fierce conversations into opportunities to acheive greater success with those whom we do life and ministry? Are we willing to put in the work to become effective peace-keepers for the sake of bringing health to Christ’s body?
Everyone’s Job Is Important, We All Help In Different Ways.
Paul, in his first letter to the church in Corinth, emphasized that the body is made up of many parts, and that each part is vital for the health of the body. In fact, he emphasizes that the parts of the body that we would normally consider as weaker, or menial are actually the most important ones.
Yes, many people want to be on the stage with a microphone, but the guy who shows up every week to push a road case, unload, and set up the pipe and drape, and is done before everyone else shows up…he should be honored even more! God actually honors the hidden parts, the lady faithfully changing diapers, and the one who puts signs out at the road before the sun comes up.
Leaders, can we create a culture that celebrates the hidden parts instead of emphasizes those who get the natural limelight? What would that take in your own ministry? How can you continue to support and equip those who are more behind the scenes?
Taking Care of You Makes Me Happy, Too.
Somewhere along the way, the people who are called to serve have become the ones being served. Pastors, leaders, let’s get it straight. You didn’t get called into ministry so others can fawn over you hand and foot. Volunteers are not meant to spend their time taking care of your needs, they are supposed to be ministering to the “least of these”… it should be the other way around.
It breaks my heart when I hear, “I know you’re probably really busy so I won’t bother you with _________.” What?!? This is so backwards and it comes because people are used to the pastors and high-level leaders being untouchable. Leaders, we are here to help. We are here to serve.
I love how my husband handles this. He communicates to people with his words and actions, “I want to listen to you. I count it an honor that you would trust me to hold your story, no matter how messed up you think it is. It is a PLEASURE to care for you, because as I am caring for you, I am caring for the One who called me to serve you, who brought you into this fold, and who promises to take care of me.”
Leaders, does taking good care of your people bring you happiness? If not, I suggest taking a hard look at why you are doing what you’re doing.