Do you report to someone higher up? Have you ever walked out of a meeting saying to yourself, “I wish that could have gone better?” Grab a cup of coffee and join me as we engage the skills and attitudes needed to make the most of your position—working with volunteers and also senior leadership.
Having experienced many perspectives (volunteer children’s ministry leader, a staff director for 15 years, and a president of the executive board of a church,) the mindset I want you to adopt is, “we all are on the same team working toward the same goal.”
My vantage point from past experiences has convinced me that having a strong relationship among staff, leaders, and congregants is vital for a ministry to thrive. No matter a person’s position, we all are supporting the vision and objectives of the church.
On the Same Team
Thinking back to my first council/staff retreat, each director had to present the successes, challenges, and goals of their ministry. This caused me a tremendous amount of undue angst. My nerves were getting the best of me as I felt people would be judging and evaluating my performance.
Now on the other end of that experience as a council president, I could see the attitude shift I needed. They were not there to judge me, and I certainly should not have considered it a performance review!
Senior leaders and boards desire a clear understanding of ministry areas to be able to fund and make decisions for the church. We need to be confident in communicating with leadership because recognizing the contribution we make increases our value.
How might you respond differently to people if you consider them to be teammates instead of bosses?
Teammates need each other, share common goals, care about relationships, and invest in each other. You are all on the same team working to make a kingdom difference.
Digging into the Polity that Drives Your Church
Hope your coffee is still hot as I am about to encourage some exciting reading … get your hands on your church constitution and by-laws to understand the rules and regulations by which it abides. It may be dry reading, but the thing I know about Children’s Ministry leaders is you are passionate about moving your ministry forward.
Following the established policies and procedures will help you get that done. Your supervisor may be the one who interacts with the board/elders, but it is beneficial to understand the framework they use to govern.
Churches have different ways to handle their governance or polity. Polity covers who has the authority to exercise power in the church. Three of the major forms of governance are episcopal which is hierarchical, presbyterian which is federal, and congregational which gives power to the congregation to guide the church affairs.
Sharing Common Goals
Getting to know your board members is valuable in helping you feel like they are teammates. It would be a welcome surprise to a board member to get a note sharing you are praying for them and appreciate all they do to guide the church and be guided by God.
Invest in a healthy culture, shared vision, and healthy inner life for success. Your culture tells the story of who you strive to be every day. Our council’s cultural values are respect, collaboration, authenticity, and humility. As decisions are being made, we frequently refer to these values.
As conversations became spirited with varying points of view, someone would gently remind the team of our culture of respect. When we were determining how and where to communicate with the congregation, one member said, “Remember we value authenticity.” Based on that, we created many forms of engagement in order to ensure clarity. How would you describe your church culture?
Vision and Purpose
When a shared vision for the church is well defined and well-articulated, people at all levels can relate to it. They can recognize how their contribution is aligned with that vision.
Do your volunteers know the vision and purpose of your ministry? Could a conversation with your supervisor bring clarity? Be creative and enthusiastic in how you communicate the vision to those you influence and lead.
A church council makes decisions that impact your ministry. It is invaluable that they know how your goals align with the greater vision of the church. Communicate how your ministry goals impact the greater church vision. To be supportive, senior leadership needs to know about your successes and challenges.
Invest in Yourself
Another common goal you share with leadership is the desire to hear from God and have your ministry directed by Him. An investment in your inner spiritual life will deeply transform your church, team, and the world.
Take a swig of that coffee and ponder this for a moment. Does it feel like you are doing more for God than being with God? God is inviting you into deeper spiritual practices, and I guarantee this will take your ministry to another level.
Invest in Healthy Relationships
We must desire and invest in healthy relationships in all directions—across, up, and down. Touching base with the people you are working with is a positive investment. Stay clear of silos where you operate independently and fail to communicate with other ministry departments.
Adopt the attitude of serving your colleagues and watch the relationships improve and the success of your goals and the church increase. Imagine the outcome when all departments begin asking, “How can I help you?” You can be the example of first offering to help and promote a collaborative culture.
Tips for Success
These tips for investing in relationships with senior leaders and the executive board may strengthen your ministry.
Trust and show faith in senior leadership’s decisions.
- Show your team that you believe in the senior leadership and the direction of the church. Coaching your team to do the same can be inspiring and empowering.
- When you don’t fully understand a change, it can be difficult to embrace. Senior leaders may have more insight and information they cannot share. Trust their judgment and catch yourself if you begin to question the new direction.
- Steer clear of language that communicates “They said we need to” or “Their idea is.” Those sentiments divide the team into “us” and “them.” Instead find ways to support your leadership when fielding complaints.
Understand the lines of communication.
Don’t shy away from asking clarifying questions or sharing your viewpoint but once the direction has been communicated, leave the meeting determined to support the new direction.
Be transparent with the challenges you are experiencing.
Respect their schedules.
It will be worth your time to work ahead. I learned this the hard way when working with two senior pastors—one was off on Thursdays and the other on Fridays. If I was not prepared on Wednesday with my question, I would have to wait until Monday to catch them together.
Ensure effective communication with varying personality styles.
Take time to know one another’s work styles to be a productive team.
- If you know the person is analytical, prepare detailed information and questions.
- For people who are quick decision-makers, keep your communication short and to the point.
- If she is people-oriented, come with a story about how your proposal would benefit people.
- Observers avoid making quick decisions as they rely on factual data. The observer may come back later with a clarifying question.
- When working with an enthusiast, be especially aware of using destructive criticism or unnecessary conflict.
Be direct and honest when you talk with your supervisor.
The role of the old-style boss being command and control is no longer working with Millennials and Generation Z who value being coached and developed. If you are not receiving coaching from your supervisor, share that you desire to build your strengths to contribute at the highest level and can’t do it without their help. Do the same for people you engage with by investing and coaching them and instilling the belief that feedback is a gift. There are lots of great articles and books on how to coach to increase relationships and contribution.
Believe they are thrilled you are on the team and value your contribution.
Now that your coffee is cold or your cup is empty, why not go give a quick word of encouragement to one of your teammates—maybe even share an idea that grabbed your attention. Cheering you on, team!