By Bob D’Ambrosio
The meeting started at 7:00 p.m., but in strolls Linda at her usual time—7:20 p.m. As she slides into her chair, she quietly tries to apologize, muttering something about traffic, getting dinner started late, and promising that it won’t happen again. You know the truth—Linda’s tardiness is chronic. But what can you do? She’s been on the team for years.
As you lead staff and volunteers, what options do you have when it comes to problematic issues such as attitude, being on time, using appropriate language, attending meetings, and other concerns that take away the joy of doing ministry? Instead of thinking of these issues as problems, view them as possibilities for developing a stronger team.
Use the following ideas to move ministry forward:
Enlist the help of the group. Get the team involved. Not to police each other, but to support one another and live as a faith community to achieve ministry goals.
Create a covenant. To increase ownership, ask your team to brainstorm a list of guidelines for doing ministry together. Make sure the expectations match the overall mission and goals of the church. Create a written covenant (agreement) for the team. Most people are willing to follow rules they help establish.
Use direct communication. When a problem does occur, start by prayerfully going to the person who may have committed the offense. Don’t discuss it with others. If you’re concerned about being misunderstood, ask a neutral party to accompany you to the meeting with the individual.
Clarify the expectations. Give the person a chance to explain what he or she thought the expectations were and talk about what went wrong or right. Perhaps you’ll discover there’s confusion regarding responsibilities or more training is needed.
Demonstrate forgiveness. Forgive the person and ask God to help you see that person as God sees you after he offers you mercy and establishes a clean slate. Don’t expect similar problems to happen again, but if they do, deal with them in the same manner.
Offer reconciliation. If the offense is serious but the individual expresses sincere sorrow, offer reconciliation and leave the door open to returning after a time of healing and repentance.
Redirect if needed. In less serious situations, if all else fails, ask the person to consider a different role or to take a break. Sometimes, volunteers may be burned out from too many responsibilities or pressures in other areas of life. Leave the door open for a return to the ministry after a break.
These best practices demonstrate a relational leadership approach to ministry. They help you empower others and increase ministry impact and effectiveness. To learn more about this leadership style, visit Group U and preview the online course: The Power of Relational Ministry Leadership.