?Calvin and Hobbes are speeding down the hill in the little red wagon. Calvin says to his tiger friend, “I thrive on change!”
Hobbes responds skeptically, “You?
You threw a fit this morning because your mom put less jelly on your toast than yesterday.”
Calvin revises his statement, “I thrive on making other people change.”
Most people see delegation as getting other people to do the work they don’t want to do themselves. But abdication and abandonment are not the same as delegation.
In an abandonment culture, volunteers learn never to volunteer for anything, never to suggest an idea, because if they do, they “get stuck with it for life.” In an apprenticing culture, volunteers have all the support they need every step of the way, from the one-on-one orientation meeting to the final victory dance-and all the troubleshooting in between.
Most youth workers I know despise meetings. But for our ministries to be consistent, the unpredictable people who serve in our ministries need a predictable structure. When we assume that our volunteers will naturally do what we expect them to do, we delude ourselves. They will do only one thing predictably: be unpredictable.
Rosabeth Moss Kanter discovered in her fascinating study of winning streaks and losing streaks in business that:
The losing companies are twice as likely as the winning companies to have reduced the number of management meetings in the preceding two years. At the very time when communication is most needed, losers are more likely to stop talking. … Losers, compared with winners, are nearly four times as likely to keep information in the hands of a small group that operates in secrecy behind closed doors, shutting everyone else out.
In “winning” organizations, information flows freely; in “losing” organizations, a select few hold the information. Meetings are nowhere more important than in the delegation of responsibility to key volunteers. Three kinds of meetings are pivotal to developing this apprenticeship culture: orientation, check-in and celebration.
1. The Orientation
At this meeting, the ministry leader and the volunteer talk through the specific job description, the youth leader covenant, the overall mission of the youth ministry, and the unique scope and sequence of the work to be done. If we hope to give our volunteers load-bearing responsibility-the only kind that’s truly satisfying for a volunteer-this is essential.
During this orientation meeting, the leader might learn the specifics of building relationships with students, the general concept he or she agreed to initially. For example, a weekly volunteer might learn that he or she is responsible to:
• participate weekly in an assigned ministry setting (Sunday School, youth group or small-group Bible study)
• spend 30 minutes a week being in touch with his or her assigned students (for example, one week by phone, the next by e-mail, the next by letter, the next by attending a student’s game or going out for coffee)
• attend regular youth leader meetings
2. The Periodic Check-in
Why does Barry Bonds have a batting coach? Why does Tiger Woods have a swing coach? Because fundamentals break down, even if you’re the best in the league. Without a periodic check-in, we abandon our volunteers to their own memories, and we prevent them from part of the experience they thought they would get when they said yes: interacting with us.
No matter how much of a self-starter the volunteer is, he or she will need regular follow-up from you. We may imagine that the more competent the volunteer, the less we’ll need to check in with him or her. Surprisingly, the opposite is true. When we fail to give strong leaders clear direction, we give them permission to take the project in any direction they want, regardless of whether or not that direction fits with the mission and values of our
ministry. Taking time for a five-minute check-in can save countless hours and maximize the chances of our best volunteers being willing to serve again.
3. The Celebration
Too many volunteers complete their term of sacrificial service, and no one says a word. Whether the celebration takes the form of a 10-minute post-event “afterglow” with all the key players celebrating together or a thank-you dinner, effective volunteer teams always take time to celebrate.
When these volunteer development processes are clearly in place, momentum begins to take over. For the past 10 years or so, our church has sponsored an annual parenting seminar, followed by a youth workers seminar by a nationally known youth leader. At first, our results were
disappointing at best. But this past year, we experienced the power of momentum in full effect.
When we met with Justin and Maureen Milam, our incredible volunteer chairpeople, three or four months before the event, we outlined the responsibilities, built in a few systems for periodic check-ins and got out of the way. Because they had served as lead volunteers before, they knew exactly what they were getting into, and they handled this responsibility with even greater effectiveness than in previous roles. And each year they got better, we all got better.
Taken from Sustainable Youth Ministry: Why Most Youth Ministry Doesn’t Last and What Your Church Can Do About It by Mark DeVries. Copyright(c) 2008 by Mark DeVries. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, PO Box 1400 Downers Grove, IL 60515. http://www.ivpress.com/.