Does your ministry to children or teens feel more like a business than a family? The dynamic can quickly change even in small ministries when the focus becomes about budgets, facilities, volunteer management and even curriculum rather than on the individuals touched by your ministry. Once your ministry has a corporate feel, it becomes more and more difficult to truly minister to those God wants you to serve.
Thankfully, making one small change can help shift the dynamic back to that sense of family truly effective ministries usually have. What is it? Taking the time to touch base with all of the people your ministry touches on a regular basis. The more often you check-in with people, the more they will begin to find like a valued friend or family member.
So with whom should you be touching base and what are some good ways to do it? Here are some ideas to get you started.
- Students. Whether they are three or eighteen, the young people served by your ministry have lives outside of your ministry environment. They are filled with challenges, victories and disappointments. Many young people today don’t have anyone interested enough to check on them regularly and listen to what they need to say to process and heal if necessary. Often the best conduit for this is the age appropriate Bible classroom and the volunteers teaching them. Encourage teachers to have weekly times where they touch base with every student. Have them spend five minutes of class giving students an opportunity to share the high and the low of the days since your last class. If students are emotionally close, this can be done verbally. Students who are reluctant to share can be encouraged to write their response or share it with a volunteer privately. You can’t force them to share, but you may just be surprised at how much they want to say. Once students are accustomed to sharing what’s happening in their lives, volunteers can add a personal or group text asking for similar information between class meetings. Ministry leaders and volunteers may also want to have regular ice cream or “coffee” outings to give struggling young people more time and individualized attention.
- Volunteers. When is the last time you asked one of your volunteers about how they were doing in a way that indicated you truly wanted to know the answer? After decades of volunteering in various ministries, I don’t know that I have ever had a ministry leader check on how I was doing personally or even spiritually in any way. Stopping briefly by every classroom either before students arrive or after they leave is a quick way to touch base. You may also want to have more formal times multiple times a year where you get feedback on what’s going well, what isn’t, what new resources or training they believe might help them and any ideas they have. Depending on the age of your volunteers, periodic texts, calls and handwritten notes can also serve as touch points.
- Parents. Parenting is hard at any time and Christian parenting in the last few years feels like swimming upstream. Which means many parents are left feeling confused and isolated. Not to mention those who are struggling with children getting caught in culture’s web in one way or another. What’s worse, many feel like they need to put on a front that they have everything under control to avoid being parent shamed in some way. If you have children of your own, create an atmosphere of empathy…. We all struggle in various ways and we are all fighting a battle for the souls of our children that feels impossible from time to time. Share resources. Have small gatherings in homes and encourage people to be real with each other – which means you may have to be brave and go first. If you don’t have children you are raising or have raised, think of yourself as a defender of their children and a supporter of them. You aren’t there to criticize or judge, but to help them fight their battles in any way you can.
- Leaders. Let’s be honest. It’s not particularly scriptural per se, but you probably think of your church leaders as more of a boss who can fire you than a shepherd who is there to support and nurture you. And let’s be honest, some church leaders encourage that attitude. Regardless, they are people too. People who everyone turns to with their problems, but few ask about their struggles in return. Do your best to exhibit caring and concern towards them – no matter how they may treat you. Ask if they have anything they would like you to pray about for them personally. Check in when you know their families are struggling with something. Be really courageous and ask them something they love about your ministry and something that concerns or confuses them…. and try not to take their answers too personally, but see them as collaborators instead of critics.
Of course, many of you are thinking that this is great for everyone else, but who is going to check in on you? I won’t lie. That’s one of the frustrations I hear most often from people in ministry. It may not be easy, but keep working to find two or three people who will be your Barnabas when you need one. Who will support and nurture you, while still holding you accountable. Make it a top priority. Those who don’t often find themselves enmeshed in sin and walking away from ministry and God before their lives end.