How To Offer Amazing Ministry With Not So Amazing People

I recently visited a local gym who was offering a week membership for free. I was truly impressed. They had a wide range of workout rooms and exercise equipment and a beautiful facility. When I arrived for the first time, they gave me a tour of the facility and made themselves available to help me get acclimated to any of the equipment I didn’t understand. The offer to help wasn’t really necessary since there were instructional signs and videos available explaining how to use each machine.

They converted an inexperienced and mildly overwhelmed guy (that’d be me) into a confident individual who had the right tools he needed to get great results. At the very minimum, it would be hard to NOT have at least an average workout, though I’d definitely rate my experience above average, if not exceptional. 

Great systems turned the wrong person into the right person and quickly converted average results into maximized results.

The Systems/People Matrix

Let me introduce a revolutionary matrix that, if properly applied, just might change your perspective on how to offer amazing ministry with not so amazing people.

 

I call this diagram the Systems/People Matrix. It has been adapted from a similar graph I found in Nelson Searcy’s e-book, “Healthy Systems, Healthy Church“). 

The point of this matrix is simple. When you have great systems, you can often recruit people who aren’t necessarily the ‘right ones’ and eventually develop them into the right people over time. Amazing ministry happens not just because we have the best people in place, but because we have great systems that give people time to become the best people.

Let’s look at each quadrant a little closer:

Down and to the Right

When you have poor systems, but great people, your end result is frustration. That is, the people serving are frustrated, and the longer they serve in that role the more frustrated they become. This often eventually leads to volunteer or staff turnover. They love doing what they are doing and are passionate about it, but they don’t feel valued or cared for and don’t feel like they are equipped or empowered to do the job right.

RESULT: Not so amazing ministry.

EXAMPLE 1: A Sunday School teacher shows up to teach the class and discovers that the toys are dirty and put away in the wrong boxes from last week. She spends the first ten minutes putting them in order and getting all the toy pieces back where they belong. Those ten minutes were supposed to be spent preparing the craft and quieting herself before everyone arrives. The next time she arrives to teach, she discovers all the crayons are broken and the cereal box was left open so the cereal is stale.

EXAMPLE 2: The drummer shows up for worship team rehearsal 10 minutes early to prepare and make sure the drums are setup the way he likes and so he can warm up. When the worship rehearsal time arrives he discovers only two people have arrived. He waits 15 minutes before everyone else gets there and takes the stage. It then takes another 15 minutes to do the sound check and get the monitors mixed properly. He wonders if he should just show up 30 minutes late from now on and forget about warming up.

Down and to the Left

If you don’t have good people in the designated role, and you don’t have any systems to serve them, you’ll end up with failure. There’s really no way meaningful ministry can happen consistently in that environment.

RESULT: No Ministry.

EXAMPLE 1: A Sunday School teacher doesn’t really care about doing anything other than making sure the kids don’t hurt themselves. She doesn’t particularly enjoy kids either, but she serves because she knows it’s important. Since there are no systems in place to provide great toys, craft supplies and a lesson plan to the teachers, she literally just comes every week and spends her time trying to keep the kids occupied and prevent them from hurting themselves. Afterwards, kids leave the room crying or bored and the teacher leaves exhausted and ready to quit. As a result, the parents are frustrated that their kids aren’t getting any valuable teaching and don’t want to attend class and it becomes increasingly difficult to find reliable volunteers to run the class.

EXAMPLE 2: A volunteer is recruited to build a website for the church because he has some web experience. Since nobody gave him any instruction, images or content, he just creates a basic and simple site that ends up missing a lot of crucial data. And since all he was recruited to do was build the site, and not manage it, three months after it’s completed most of the information on the site is dated and some of the pages are broken. Guests who visit the site often choose to visit somewhere else simply because the website is so outdated and unprofessional looking.

Up and to the Left

The top left quadrant is the one that fascinates me the most. In this quadrant you have great systems in place, but not the greatest people serving in those roles. Perhaps the people are new, immature, unskilled, or simply not passionate about what they are doing. Despite this, the results will very often be average and sometimes above average. A great example of this in the business world would be your local fast food joint, like McDonalds, Arby’s, or Taco Bell. I’m fairly certain most of those employees don’t dream about making fast food service a career path or have a lot of previous training flipping burgers and taking orders. And yet, it’s highly likely you will receive similar service and products no matter where you make your order in the entire world. Why? Amazing Systems. 

RESULT: Nearly Amazing Ministry.

EXAMPLE 1: A hesitant single adult has agreed to do a ‘3 month test drive’ as a Sunday School teacher. At first, she is nervous she made a bad decision because she has never worked with kids much. But after attending two sessions as an apprentice, receiving great follow-up training and walking into the classroom each week with everything in it’s place and simple, easy to follow, instructions on the inside door, she has decided it’s not that hard and a lot of fun. At the end of the 3 months, she’s committed to serve another year and has already proven to be the ‘right person for the job.’

EXAMPLE 2: A volunteer that normally comes in on Saturdays to fold and stuff the bulletins calls in sick the last minute. The secretary has a substitute list of potential backups, but they have never actually done the job. She makes the call and as the backup arrives she spends 5 minutes walking her through a checklist and showing her the machinery, which is also well labelled with instructions. As a result, the job gets done as expected and the volunteer felt like she was able to help the church ‘on the fly’.

Up and to the Right

This quadrant represents not average ministry or even above average, but maximized ministry. Staff and volunteers are serving where they believe they are called to serve and they have the training and gifts needed to do it. Since there are great systems in place, they spend a lot of their time and energy actually ministering to people and improving the overall ministry of the church. Often, they move on to become the influencers within that sphere of responsibility. 

Result: Amazing Ministry.

EXAMPLE 1: The sound tech loves to do sound ministry, and over time he has learned how to do it well and is good at it. On top of that, the expectations, systems, and tasks necessary to do the job are well defined. As a result, he helps recruit and train new sound techs and is currently working on learning some advanced tech that will eventually help the church know how to best place the speakers in the room to maximize their capacity and actually minimize loud hot-spots in the room.

EXAMPLE 2: A Sunday School teacher serves twice a month in the four year old class and absolutely loves it. He actually looks forward to those Sundays. Since he knows exactly what to expect each Sunday morning there is little stress associated in the job. In fact, the children’s director has created room in the timeline of ministry to kids to allow him to personally pray over each child every week. He recently started a blog for parents of preschoolers at the church and is personally ensuring that each preschool teacher writes on it once a month. His love for the ministry is so contagious that the adults in his small group are thinking about volunteering too. 

I have a challenge for you . . . write out each area of ministry or responsibility you have delegated to other staff or volunteers. Now ask yourself which quadrant that ministry falls in, and what you need to do to improve the systems to better serve those serving within them.

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