“We don’t think we are going to be able to work with the youth group any more.” Those were the words that greeted me one Sunday morning as I was making my way to the youth room as Barbara, a volunteer in my ministry, stood in my way. To be honest, I was neither surprised nor discouraged. I had inherited Barbara and her husband from the former youth pastor. I knew that they didn’t agree with the direction I was taking the group. They were moving on and we were both glad the tension was over. I saw this problem coming but I didn’t know what to do about it.
Thinking back on it now I realize that I made a critical mistake. I had set up Barbara and her husband for a frustrating situation. My big mistake was that I had not made it clear what we were shooting for in our ministry. I had a plan for where we were headed, I just hadn’t shared that vision with my team. It was a recipe for disaster.
We as leaders have to make the goal and mission clear to our followers. We need to make it very clear what success looks like. All of our volunteers want to win. They want to be involved in a ministry that is successful. The problem comes when you don’t make it clear to them what the win looks like. Strong people (volunteers tend to be strong people) will define the win for themselves if you fail to define it for them. Since their core values might be different from yours, their definition of success will be very different from yours. If you aren’t proactive your volunteers could change your ministry in a way you didn’t intend.
My mistake with Barbara was a classic example of this problem. Since I hadn’t clearly defined what it looked like for our ministry to succeed, she came up with her own definition. I wanted students to be involved in accountable relationships and spiritual discipleship through small groups. She wanted her small group to be a place where girls could come for acceptance and love with nothing expected of them. Things were fine until I started asking questions about how they were spending their time in small group. It was soon clear that my goals were different from Barbara’s. We experienced some friction for a while. She did what she wanted to do and I got more and more frustrated. It wasn’t until I clearly communicated my expectation that she decided her ideas wouldn’t fit and moved on.
Sometimes the tension of these types of situations can become pretty intense. Many a leader has found himself driven from the helm of his own ministry. Even if the problem doesn’t go that far, not clarifying the win for your followers can keep them from being fully committed to the ministry. You can avoid all of these problems by being clear about what success looks like in your ministry.
So how do you make the win clear for your staff? You need to start be being clear in your own mind what success means to you. This will be related to your vision for the ministry and the core values you want the ministry to express. Think about what you want a student to look and act like as a result of their involvement in your ministry. Determine how you want your ministry to impact your church, your community, and the world. Once you know these things it will be easier to determine what a win looks like.
Next you need to communicate this measure of success to church staff, parents, and volunteers. All of these people have a stake in the ministry and deserve to know what you are trying to achieve. You can even invite your staff to help you define the win together. Their ownership of the process will make all the difference in your team’s ability to reach their goals.
I learned a big lesson early on in my youth ministry. Helping my volunteer staff really understand where the ministry was going and how we would be successful allowed me to avoid driving more of my staff away like I had with Barbara. Spend some time this week thinking through how you can clarify the win for your team. Your team will be more successful and your ministry will stay on track.
If you would like to know how we do this at LeaderTreks, or if you have a question or need an additional resource, email or call me. I will be happy to share our ideas with you. firstname.lastname@example.org
Doug Franklin is the founder and president of LeaderTreks. LeaderTreks is a student leadership development ministry that partners with youth ministries across the nation to equip them to develop students as leaders.
Article used with permission of www.leadertreks.com