When you think about your ministry, who are the people connected to it? The children or teens who are the primary focus of your ministry are a given. But what about their parents? Your volunteers? Church leaders or your Board? The community at large that has yet to be served by your ministry?
As surprising as it may sound, one of the top reasons many ministries begin to falter is that all of those people you listed above begin to feel disconnected emotionally from you and your ministry. Sometimes it is from a disagreement, but often it is just a lack of effort on both parties to have a real, personal connection that helps people move beyond petty misunderstandings, hurt feelings and even disagreements. The longer those connected to your ministry go without any real attention or connection from you, the weaker their ties will be to you and your ministry.
So what types of things create a relationship when you don’t have the type of time to invest in each person like you might your best friend? Here’s our list.
- Tokens of affection. Mass produced volunteer notes with a little token are okay, but have the opposite effect on some people. Taking a little extra time to recognize birthdays, volunteer anniversaries, special family moments, etc. make those tokens feel more personal and meaningful.
- Signs of support. Making sure a volunteer who has surgery has a hot meal delivered or someone who lost a job is delivered some needed items…. or just notes acknowledging their struggles and that you are praying for them (with an offer to help) … mean a lot to someone who is struggling. And who wouldn’t love someone forever who helped them move or watched their small children so they could have a date night? Remember, you don’t necessarily have to be the one to do these things, but arranging for them to be done and personal notes or calls create an emotional bond.
- Being accessible. Anyone to whom I minister knows they have 24 hour access to me in an emergency. It’s a privilege used only rarely (and often by mistake when someone forgets to factor in time zones), but giving them that opportunity lets them know I will be there for them even if it is the middle of the night. For every day accessibility, make sure you check in with every volunteer when they come to serve and they have multiple ways to reach you both onsite and offsite. Also give students, parents, volunteers and leaders plenty of opportunities to give you feedback – honest feedback – on your ministry. Want to make a huge impact with your students? Attend some of their events. Many a mentoring relationship began because a ministry volunteer attended a child’s concert, recital or ball game.
- Listening well. Often ministry leaders miss out on tons of great ideas, because they refuse to hear and consider them. Nothing frustrates those connected to your ministry like feeling unheard. You don’t have to agree with every criticism, suggested change or new idea, but you do need to listen to them respectfully and give them full consideration. You also need to let people know what your final decision was regarding each suggestion.
- Giving specific compliments and expressions of gratitude. “You are a great Bible class teacher” does not feel nearly as encouraging as ”The parents were just raving about the wonderful xyz activity you did in your last class.” Not only does it feel more sincere, but it gives them valuable feedback. And what parent wouldn’t love to hear their child is generous or kind – especially when told about a specific incident when that characteristic was displayed.
Your ministry can be everything you wanted on paper, but if your students, parents, volunteers and leaders don’t feel loved, your ministry may actually be more like a clanging cymbal.