3 Signs of a Miserable Volunteer

I once spoke to a “been there done that” volunteer from a local church. Put another way, he was no longer a volunteer; he’d “been there, done that” and it didn’t go very well. In fact, he ended up silently leaving the church and was leading worship and a small group at another church. I didn’t have to ask about his volunteer experience at his former church, he told me all about it. The backstory is, I knew this man and also knew he had been faithful and committed to that church for many years prior. He wasn’t a grumpy, church-hopping kind of guy. 

I was glad to see how engaged and excited he was to serve at the new church. I was saddened to realize that he was a miserable volunteer at his former church, which probably meant other volunteers were as well.

Patrick Lencioni wrote a book designed to help organizations identify the key factors that lead to miserable employees in the workplace. As you might expect, those same factors apply to the volunteers in our church and ministries as well.

The Three Signs of a Miserable Volunteer
Adapted from “The Three Signs of a Miserable Job” by Patrick Lencioni

1. People Feel Anonymous

“People cannot be fulfilled in their work if they are not known. All human beings need to be understood and appreciated for their unique qualities by someone in a position of authority…. People who see themselves as invisible, generic, or anonymous cannot love their jobs, no matter what they are doing.” page 221

Volunteers need to believe you know and care about them. This means you’re not just interested in what they can do to make your ministry a success. It means you’re interested in them as individuals. Great leaders will take the time to learn about their lives, their families and the things that are important to them right now. They will check in on them when they are experiencing life-challenges. 

You can make a lot of mistakes as a leader, but if your volunteers believe they are important to you, they are much more likely to be loyal to the ministry you lead, despite it’s weaknesses and faults.

Leadership Test: Do you know the names of each of the volunteers you lead? Do you know what personal challenges they are facing right now?

2. People Feel Irrelevant

“Everyone needs to know that their job matters, to someone. Anyone. Without seeing a connection between the work and the satisfaction of another person or group of people, an employee simply will not find lasting fulfillment. Even the most cynical employees need to know that their work matters to someone, even if it’s just the boss.” pages 221-222

Volunteers want to make a difference. It’s the reason they chose to give up some of their freedoms (to do other things) in order to serve in ministry with you. Irrelevance is a sickness that is so easy to cure, yet is often left untreated. Leaders must regularly keep the vision/purpose for ministry alive in volunteers. Explain why their role is so critical and how it connects to changed lives in the church. Tell them about people who have experienced God in a special way, and how they played a role in that transformation. And make a concerted effort to regularly express gratitude and appreciation for the investment they are making in people’s lives.

You will keep your volunteers motivated by reminding and showing them how they are making a difference.

Leadership Test: When was the last time you sent a special ‘thank you’ note to your volunteers? Do your volunteers know why their position in ministry is important to you and God?

3. People Feel Immeasurable

Employees need to be able to gauge their progress and level of contribution for themselves. They cannot be fulfilled in their work if their success depends on the opinions or whims of another person, no matter how benevolent that person may be. Without a tangible means for assessing success or failure, motivation eventually deteriorates as people see themselves as unable to control their own fate. page 222

Volunteers thrive on consistent, positive feedback from leaders. Often, volunteers are thrust into responsibilities with little experience or training. Consequently, they can feel insecure or inadequate for the job, eventually leading to them quitting. Unfortunately, the kind of feedback volunteers often receive is grossly inadequate and sometimes not even real. They don’t need to hear, “You’re doing just fine.” They want to know how they can do better, without feeling like a failure.

To truly “lead” others, we must be committed to modeling the kind of ministry we’re looking for, training people to be a success, and resourcing them with the tools they need to do it with excellence. 

Leadership Test: Do you know how well your volunteers fulfill their respective responsibilities? When was the last time you gave them constructive feedback or training so they might improve?
 


 
Are you struggling recruiting or keeping volunteers in the church?

If so, I recommend you contact me today to setup a free 30 minute conversation about how I might be able to provide the help you need. I look forward to hearing from you!

Three Enemies of Unity

A few years back I heard about a church that was having a serious fight. The elders and the pastor were at odds with each other and it wasn’t getting resolved. It turns out, one side wanted to get rid of the projector and go back to just putting everything in the bulletin. The church was just inches from experiencing an ugly split over the issue. Finally, the pastor agreed to the elders demands and things settled down, for a little while.

Paul opens up his first letter to the Corinthians with these words:

“I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.” 1 Cor. 1:10

This appeal to local churches is easier said than done. Our mutual enemy seeks to tear down the body of Christ by sowing discord wherever he can and as often as possible. It is so critical that our leadership teams are aware of these attacks and are ready to combat them. 

Following are 3 strategies the devil uses to sow discord. 

1. Pride

Last night I listened to my two teens fighting about something. The content of the fight was very trivial and there was really no point in them arguing about it at all. I asked one of them, “Why are you guys still fighting about this?” The answer? “Because I’m right.”

Sometimes we are just unwilling to let things go. We believe we know what’s supposed to happen and are unwilling to give in until others admit we are right. Most prideful people don’t see themselves as being prideful and, unfortunately, are often unwilling to admit defeat. 

The below questions might help bring awareness to the team, if pride is hiding away in someone’s heart.

  • Am I angry?
  • Am I willing to be wrong in this conversation?
  • Am I really listening and seeking to understand the other perspectives in the room?
  • Are my thoughts and words expressing love and gratitude to those around me right now?
     

2. Failure to Communicate

George Bernard Shaw once said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” We send that quick email or mentioned something in passing and think we’ve communicated. I know what this is like. Once I think I’ve communicated something to someone, I put it out of my mind for good. If I actually didn’t communicate, then there will be problems.

If there are unresolved disagreements among the team, it’s because of a failure to communicate. If team members feel hurt, angry or frustrated with others on the team, communication isn’t happening. If people are making assumptions that others ‘get it’ when they don’t or are getting things done when they aren’t, then someone needs to have more conversations.

3. Lack of Shared Purpose

It can be challenging to take my family to an amusement park. I have 4 children; two teens and two young gradeschoolers. Sometimes, what they want to do at the park goes in four different directions. If we spend all our time just catering to one child, then there’s a chance the other three will leave disappointed and frustrated. Each one has a different idea about why we are at the park.

The same can hold true in the local church. When the leadership team has differing ideas on what the church should be doing or how it should be behaving, there will be conflict. This is why I encourage churches to host monthly or quarterly strategic meetings designed to determine vision, purpose and strategy together as a team.

What other enemies of unity should I add to this list?

 

Making Vision Stick (Define the Problem)

It’s important that leaders choose to be students of communication. We should never assume we have ‘arrived’ or ‘know’ how to communicate effectively. Our culture is constantly morphing. History is made every day. Innovation and creativity demand that we stay sharp. To fail to do so means we will only reach a small segment of our community.

In today’s post I want to share a quick quote and recommend Andy Stanley’s small, yet well written book, ‘Making Vision Stick‘. I urge you to add it to your library. I reference it several times through my year and ask many of the leaders I work with to purchase and read it. What I really like about it is it’s simplicity. Andy lays out five key principles to ensure that vision stays front and center in the hearts of your church attendees.

The following quote is the first of three steps found under the second main principle in the book, “Cast the Vision Convincingly”.


Define the Problem

“To cast a convincing vision, you have to define the problem that your vision addresses…. Every vision is a solution to a problem. If your vision doesn’t get traction, something that needs to happen won’t happen. A problem will continue to go unaddressed. To make vision stick, your audience needs to understand what’s at stake. It’s the ‘what’s at stake’ issue that grabs people’s hearts. Only a clear explanation of the problem will cause people to sit up and say, “Something must be done!” If your target audience doesn’t know what’s at stake, the vision will never stick…. 

To cast your vision in a convincing manner, you need to be able to answer these two questions: What is the need or problem my vision addresses? and What will happen if those needs or problems continue to go unaddressed?”


EXAMPLE #1

This Sunday, pastors are casting a vision, right? Whether it’s giving an announcement about an upcoming church activity or preaching about forgiveness, people need to know why it’s important; what’s at stake.

EXAMPLE #2

Someone on your team is likely in need of more committed volunteers (probably in the children’s ministry!). It’s very important that you follow Andy’s advice when recruiting others to get involved. At the end of the day, it’s not about filling an empty spot, it’s about making a difference in the lives of those you serve. That’s the need your’re addressing (not the need of a warm body in a room to babysit.)

EXAMPLE #3

You may even need to cast the vision to yourself at times. Perhaps this week you have a funeral that you will need to administrate and speak at. Defining the vision, and consequently, the need, will help clarify what you will say and do to best care for the needs of those attending that event.


What vision are you casting this week? There’s no doubt in my mind you should be casting the vision about something, it’s just a matter of what. When you do, don’t forget to FIRST define the problem!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Five Steps of Leadership Development

If you haven’t had a chance to read Dave & Jon Ferguson’s book, Exponential: How You and Your Friends Can Start a Missional Church Movement, I recommend you do so this summer. 

In today’s post, I thought I’d share their very simple formula for leadership development. That is, how to train staff and volunteers (or anyone, for that matter) to do whatever it is they need to learn to do in both life and ministry. Don’t let the simplicity of these five steps deceive you. It’s a powerful and effective tool that you want to keep in your back pocket at all times. In fact, the authors of the book even wrote, “If there is one section of this book that I want you to photocopy and send to somebody else, it is this section.”

The Five Steps of Leadership Development

1. I do. You watch. We talk.

As an experienced leader leads a team, an apprentice takes the time to observe him or her. Within a few days the two should meet to discuss what the apprentice has observed. This debriefing time should include three simple questions: (1) “What worked?” (2) “What didn’t work?” and (3) “How can we improve?” This time of debriefing needs to continue throughout the process.

2. I do. You help. We talk.

In this phase of development, the leader gives the apprentice an opportunity to help lead in a particular area. For example, if someone is being developed to lead a student ministry small group, the leader might ask that person to lead the prayer time while the experienced leader leads the remainder of the time together. Again, this experience should be followed up with a one-on-one to talk.

3. You do. I help. We talk.

Now the apprentice transitions from supporting or helping the leader to taking on most of the leadership responsibilities of the team or group. If a person is being apprenticed to lead a team of sound technicians, he or she will operate the sound system and provide leadership for the other sound technicians. The more experienced leader now begins releasing responsibilities to the new, developing leader. As in the previous steps, the leader and apprentice leader should meet regularly to debrief the ministry experience.

4. You do. I watch. We talk.

The apprentice process is almost complete as the new leader grows increasingly more confident in his or her role. Consider how this step might look in a children’s ministry. A children’s group leader, at this point, would give his or her apprentice the opportunity to fulfill all the functions of leadership, with the more experienced leader now looking on and watching the new leader in action.

5. You do. Someone else watches.

This is where the process of reproducing comes full circle. The former apprentice is now leading and begins developing a new apprentice. Ideally, the leader who has developed and released several apprentices will continue to work with those leaders in a coaching capacity.

 
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Six Things That Make or Break a Leader

Leadership develops daily, not in a day.

It’s something we must consistently and intentionally focus on if we are to be effective. It is something that can be developed and strengthened. Contrary to some opinion’s in the world today, I don’t believe people are just born ‘natural leaders’. Yes, some are born to lead, but they won’t lead well unless they work at becoming a true leader. 

There are many qualifiers that effect a leader’s success. One of my favorite books on that topic is John Maxwell’s ‘The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership‘. That said, here are six that I believe will greatly determine what kind of leader you will be.

  • What You Read
    That’s assuming you do read. Reading has always been a little bit of a challenge for me, but I’ve figured it out. The key isn’t that you read – it’s that you find great books, articles and blogs to read as well. Lately, I’ve discovered that a revisit to some of the books I read ages ago (like the one mentioned above) has really helped me stay sharp as a leader.
    “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” Harry Truman

  • Who You Are With
    I think you can tell a lot about a person by looking at their friends and mentors. Who we surround ourselves with will impact the kind of leader we will become. If our circles tend to be small-minded or pessimistic, it will be difficult for you to dream big and push through the dips in life. Of course, the opposite is just as true.
    “A leader’s potential is determined by those closest to him.” John Maxwell

  • How You Think
    This mostly has to do with your attitude. Do you tend to believe you can face the difficulties and challenges that come your way? Do you digress and complain about roadblocks or accept them and move on? How you think about your circumstances will greatly impact your success as a leader.
    “The last of the human freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.” Holocaust survivor, Victor Frankl

  • What You Say
    The Bible has a lot to say about our words. In the leadership world, worlds can rise or fall on the words of one man. People can be inspired to greatness or brought down to despair with just a few comments. What you say to those around you, both verbally and non-verbally will determine if and how people follow your lead.
    “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.” Philo of Alexandria

  • What You Do
    Indecision is a your greatest enemy. Leaders will make the tough decision and act on it, even when there is no clear indicator that they will succeed. They won’t be stupid. They’ll just be proactive and take initiative. Better to fail and learn from your mistakes than stay stuck in indecision, do nothing, and learn nothing.
    “Well done is better than well said.” Benjamin Franklin

  • What You Believe About People
    There is no doubt in my mind that I would not hold the influence and platform that I currently have if it weren’t for the leaders in my life who believe in me. Often, their faith in me is far above my own and my drive to succeed comes from what they believe about me more than what I do. Look at those around you and choose to believe the best in them and for them – and don’t forget to tell them regularly!
    “When you believe in people, they do the impossible.” Nancy Doran

How To Maintain Unity in the Local Church

A while back I was asked to create a devotional video for christian leaders focusing on the topic of character. I decided to discuss character as it relates to unity in the local church. The passage I shared from is found in 1 Peter 3:8:

“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.”

This may be a great video for your leadership team, eldership or board of directors to watch and discuss together, just to keep the conversation about unity in the church alive and in the open. Enjoy.

Questions:

At the end of this teaching, I ask a few group questions. Here they are for your reference as well.

  • What relationship are you dealing with right now that’s causing strife, division, or discord?
  • What part, if any, are you playing, to fan the flames of that discord?
  • Which of the following words do you feel need to be applied, based on the passage I just read?
  • What is the Holy Spirit speaking to you right now?

Why Churches Struggle Finding A New Pastor

My son loves to fish. A couple summers ago he caught a great fish (see picture) in a pretty small pond. He and his friends even landed a huge snapping turtle! The thing is, Ben has a somewhat unique fishing method. His primary fishing hole is at a pond near our home that has a bridge spanning the middle. He and his friends simply “pick their fish” while looking down over the bridge, and then focus on that catch. They’ve been pretty successful too!

I was talking with a leader the other day about succession planning for the local church. I told him there’s a big difference between Succession Planning and Replacement Planning. It’s a crude illustration, but I found myself sharing about my son’s fishing strategy.

I likened Succession Planning to what my son does at that bridge on the pond. Pick your fish, then focus on that fish until you’ve successfully hooked and brought it in.

Replacement Planning is going to be a lot more like the traditional fishing methods most of us use. Bait, cast, catch a bunch of green stuff. Try again, set the hook, pull in something small and ineffective, try again and again and again, until we catch something close to what we’re looking or hoping for. 

Every pastor wants to find the right person to replace him when it’s time to pass the baton. The problem is, most don’t think to look for that person until it’s too late. Sometimes I’ll receive a call from a pastor who is ready to resign or move on. They ask me, “Can you help me develop a succession plan?” After a few questions I have occasionally answered with, “No. But I’ll help you work on a replacement plan.” 

Succession is about finding one or more candidates for pastoral leadership and then mentoring them until one has shown him or herself ready for leadership. By then, it’s usually obvious to the senior leadership of the church, if not the congregation as well, that the new pastor is in the house. The transition usually goes a lot smoother for everyone.

Replacement is about finding one or more candidates who hopefully fit the bill, and putting them in the saddle, with a prayer that they were the right one. Too often, it turns out they aren’t. By the time you find that out, it’s too late and the church is often sidetracked for months or even years dealing with the repercussions.

Here are a few more differences between succession and replacement planning.

Succession

Replacement

  • Is a process.
  • Is an event.
  • Begins 2-3 years before the transition.
  • Begins 3-6 months before the transition.
  • Is proactive.
  • Is reactive.
  • Prepares the congregation for change.
  • Surprises the congregation with change.
  • Yields expected results.
  • Yields mixed results.
  • Values are embedded into the new leader before succession happens.
  • Values are discovered in the new leader after replacement happens.
  • The new leader holds a high degree of trust by the congregation.
  • The new leader holds a mixed degree of trust by the congregation.

You get the idea. It’s wise to begin developing a succession plan for your church sooner than later. You can begin this process at any time and build it into your overall leadership strategy. It doesn’t matter if the Lead Pastor is 35 years old or 65 years old, it’s worth starting now.

Which plan will your church implement when it’s time to find a new leader?

16 Ways To Lead A Bad Meeting

Many years ago I attended what I would call a bad meeting. It was the traditional setting: Long table with 6 people on each side, a meeting facilitator at the head and someone (me as it turns out) at the opposite end. It was, by far, the most boring meeting of my life. The frustration and anxiety I experienced in those two long hours are vividly etched in my memory. I can’t get them out even today when I think of that experience. I remember watching the gentleman sitting next to me pull out documents and a legal pad and evidently begin doing work from his office. He looked to be 100% disengaged from the discussion. I remember watching the seconds tick by on my watch just like I did while in high school. When the meeting was over I was the first one out the door. I have no idea where I went, I just remember thinking, “I need to get out of here.”

I know you are intrigued. You’ve been wondering for weeks now just how you can most effectively lead a meeting as frustrating, ineffective, unproductive, and boring as this one. Today is your day. Following are my top suggestions on how to lead a bad meeting

How To Lead A Bad Meeting

Begin the meeting late. 

Whatever you do, be sure to NOT start the meeting until everyone has arrived. Even better, show up late yourself to the meeting. 

Kill several trees.

Hand out lots of documents and papers. Make sure several of the documents were handed out at the last meeting. To add a layer of confusion to the meeting, include a document or two which you will never explain or refer to. Lots of paper will help you feel important and will require everyone to shuffle things around a lot and look busy.

Take attendance before you begin.

You know, like your teacher’s did in school. This will remind the team that you are in charge and that they should never miss a meeting.

Vote on the previous meeting’s minutes.

This is especially effective when there is no reason to vote on the previous meeting’s minutes (for example: it’s not a meeting that requires a vote based on an article in your organization’s by-laws.) The best way to facilitate this act of boredom is to request that everyone read the minutes from top to bottom; then ask for a motion to accept the minutes, for a second motion, and be sure that all in favor says, “I”. Don’t forget to personally record who made the first motion and who seconded as well. 

Rehash old conversations.

From the minutes, go over all of the previous meeting’s discussions, adding commentary and inviting additional discussion. One of the best ways to frustrate your team is by spending the bulk of your meeting re-hashing conversations and decisions that have already been made.

Recruit a scribe or note-taker on the fly.

In particular, do so after you’ve already led the meeting for 15 minutes and ask the scribe to write down what’s already happened. You can also ensure your scribe loses several hours sleep that night if you ask him about every 4-5 minutes, “Did you get that in the minutes?”

Overload the agenda.

Make sure there are more items on the meeting agenda than you will have time to address. This will provide an amazing tension in the room as the participants wonder if the meeting was meant to be an all-day meeting. It will also create an added layer of discontentment because the meetings will never seem to accomplish the designated goals.

Do most of the talking.

You love the sound of your own voice as well as your own opinions, so you know your team will hang on your every word. Well, not really. If they hung on your every word the meeting wouldn’t be very boring would it? No. Just talk a lot and make sure what you have to say is mostly irrelevant and delivered with the least amount of energy and passion as possible. Think of your History Professor in college.

Lose track of the conversation.

Focus is your enemy. Go on as many rabbit trails as you want, especially if they aren’t on the agenda or if they are discussions you have already hashed over in past meetings. Make sure you never really get back to the agenda item. Just close down one of the rabbit trail discussions, make sure it was recorded in the minutes, and move on to the next agenda item. Bonus idea: skip one agenda item.

Interrupt people.

If people start talking, wait until they are just getting to their point and either finish their sentence for them or thank them for their comments and move on to the next agenda item without inviting other thoughts. Note: never ask your note-taker if they got other people’s comments in the minutes, just yours.

Veto discussions.

An alternate to interrupting people would be to allow the team to discuss the topic at hand without your input for a long time and then veto their ideas with the one you’ve been planning all along.Don’t allow the team to question your decision, just move on to the next agenda item. Another option would be to ask someone else to lead a discussion while you are away on a business trip and then veto the decisions made in the room later in the week via email. These tactics require preparation: you have to have already made up your mind about what you want to do, before you ask for the team’s input. 

Assume everyone is on board.

This is easy to do. Just make sure you NEVER ask people if they understand or agree with the ideas or decisions being made. Don’t encourage questions either. If someone does ask a question, let them know they will understand once the discussion is over. Don’t follow up later to find out if that happened. Also, it’s really good to be slightly condescending when people ask questions. This will help them realize that they are big boys and girls and should be able to figure out what’s going on themselves. This will ensure others don’t ask questions later in the meeting.

Don’t hold anyone accountable.

Make sure nobody gets held accountable for outstanding action items assigned to them. One great method to accomplish this is to simply “forget” to send previous minutes. Also, don’t worry about setting due dates. If there is a due date and something doesn’t get done, just set a new due date. Using these methods, you will be sure to get almost nothing done as a team.

Mix things up.

Detail oriented tactical conversations don’t mix well with big picture strategic conversations. So to lead a bad meeting, mix them into the same meeting. Start talking tactical, like who is going to do that upcoming event, and then move into a strategic discussion about why it’s important; then go back to more tactical. This method will confuse and exhaust your team over the long haul.

Avoid constructive conflict.

You probably have this one figured out. Best case, avoid all conflict. If you can’t prevent conflict, then simply pick which side of the conflict you are on and join in the battle. The key to avoiding constructive conflict is to ensure that everyone involved is defensive and focused on protecting themselves and their ideas. Do that, and you will succeed every time in alienating and destroying team trust.

Go long.

No. That’s not a football reference. I just mean that you should make sure your meetings all go much longer than scheduled. Bonus: start a new discussion 2 minutes before (or after) the meeting is supposed to end.

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.

Why Young Adults Don’t Attend Your Church

I used to visit a restaurant that had two separate dining areas, one slightly larger than the other. The larger dining area was always where I sat to eat, even though I had to walk right by the smaller dining area to get there. To be honest, it never occurred to me that I could sit in there if I wanted to. The reason was quite simple. It was where all the ‘regulars’ sat, who were also all much older than me. There was sort of an ‘exclusive club’ feel to the place. Everything about that space screamed, “Private Party” even though it wasn’t.

Sadly, our churches often send this same message to the younger generations, without even realizing it.

Let’s split up the ‘younger generation’ demographic into two categories, those (1) not interested in God and those (2) interested in or pursuing God, and focus on the latter group. It’s not hard to miss these people in our churches today, especially in the small to mid-sized churches. 

Why aren’t they attending more of our churches? 

I suspect the following 5 reasons might answer that question.

1. It feels like an insiders club.

Young people aren’t interested in learning the secret handshake so they can be part of the church. If they visit the church a few times and feel like an ‘outsider’ for very long, they’re not going to stick around. It is super important church leaders ask the question, “What (formal & informal) hoops have we created that people have to go through before they are accepted and integrated into the life of our church?”

In other words, how long will it take & what needs to happen before they are treated like family? More than any other age group, we need to be intentional about making this process simple, both practically and emotionally. 

2. It reminds them of their ‘mom & dads’ church.

I’ve heard young adults echo this phrase many times over the years. They leave the church they grew up in and find themselves at college or on their own. Eventually, they check out some churches in the area. From the moment they walk through the doors until they leave, their experience reminds them of church growing up. Only, for many of them, the Sunday morning experience growing up wasn’t for them, it was for the adults, for mom and dad. 

Although technically “adults,” many young people aren’t interested in acting like the ‘older’ adults they’ve been around their whole life. They want to express themselves as the younger generation. Churches who are actively reaching this group of people are also finding ways to enhance the Sunday morning environment to better appeal to them.

3. There is nothing interesting for them to do.

Despite the fact that young adults have a history of sitting in front of their devices, TV’s and xbox’s growing up, they don’t want to just sit around at church. They’ve grown up having a lot more freedom and control over what they get to see and do than those before them. And they are going to get bored real quick if they are forced to just do and go where everyone tells them to. They want to have a say in what’s going on and they want to do something important and interesting.

Churches who are thinking of this generation will quickly get them involved in ministry. They will encourage them to reach out to felt needs in the community. And they will provide lots of fun activities that are designed to keep young adults engaged with one another and the church family.

4. There is no one interesting to hang out with.

Many young adults who visit your church are looking for new connections. Surprisingly, not just with peers, but with people who can act as mentors and leaders in their life. That said, peers are important. Many a young person will walk in a church, scan the crowd, and determine to never return simply because there is no one else around their age. Churches that can reach a small ‘quorum’ of young adults have the beginnings of a foundation to build on, relationally.

It shouldn’t stop there. One of the best ways to truly connect to this auspicious group of people, is by inviting them into the homes and lives of your church families. I’ve never heard of a young person who turned down an invitation to dinner and who doesn’t secretly enjoy experiencing ‘family’ away from their own family.

5. Their questions are not getting answered.

Young adults hate watered down and pat answers. They have questions and they are genuinely interested in the answers. They want to know the Truth. But they have little patience for flowery speeches, big words, and long explanations. They want it simple. They want to get it. They want it fast.

Communicators need to brush up on their skills and not assume what worked ten years ago will work today. They need to know how to tell great stories and they need to be consistently asking themselves how they can connect with young adults. More than ever before, church leaders must, “be prepared in season and out of season.”


What other reasons are young people staying away from our churches?

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