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Have you ever found yourself on an unhealthy, dysfunctional team in ministry?

Serve for very long, on staff or as a volunteer, and you’ll discover that your team greatly determines whether you’re going to have an energizing or wearisome experience.

WHEN A TEAM DOESN’T WORK

Teams can have a tricky dynamic. When everything works well, working on a team is so much fun. When things are not working well, it can make you wish you could hole up somewhere and pretend you don’t need a team to get your job done.

The dysfunction of broken teams isn’t always obvious. Dysfunction likes to lurk in the shadows. Like the spoiled lunchmeat in the back of the fridge, you’ll smell it long before you find it. But when you learn how to sniff it out, it becomes unmistakable . . .

Conversations laced with mistrust.
Veiled comments that leave a bad aftertaste.
Sideways glances that suggest far more than what’s verbalized.

TEAMWORK RISES AND FALLS ON LEADERSHIP

I served a season as a volunteer on my church’s elementary team. It was a pretty amazing group of people, but despite how invested everyone was, the team was deeply dysfunctional. After a few months, I noticed a pattern. Our monthly meetings, in which we were supposed to discuss challenges and navigate solutions, consistently morphed into “vent fests.”

John Maxwell is known for his statement, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.”

In this case, I was staring that truth in the face. Leadership (or the lack thereof) was the culprit. The leader of this team had an agenda that appeared to align with the vision and strategy of the church, but which didn’t fully. And the longer she led, the more the disparity surfaced.

After leading in ministry the past 17 years, I look back on this season and remember that time and truth are a leader’s friend. They bring clarity to the plans and intentions of others. They reveal what lies under the surface, damaging what’s above.

That’s exactly what happened in this circumstance. Over time this leader’s real motivations and postures surfaced. In response, her direct leadership in the church worked to guide her to a better place. I wish I could say she responded well. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. In an effort to solidify her position, she worked to create alliances among the volunteer team, causing them to question the leadership of the church. Because she possessed such a powerful personality, it was difficult for others to discern if her perspective was valid.

Navigating that situation was challenging. I’d love to tell you I remained above the fray. But that isn’t true. In fact, the entire situation made me sick. Every conversation began to feel like it was poisoning my soul. I didn’t want to abandon this leader and those who aligned with her. Yet I couldn’t deny what I saw God doing in and through the leadership of the church. All I knew was I no longer wanted to be sucked into that unhealthy vortex of drama.

I needed help. And I needed it fast.

THREE STEPS TO DEALING WITH DYSFUNCTIONAL TEAMS

I sat down with a mentor and spilled my guts. Over a bottomless cup of coffee (and a few doughnuts), this amazing woman equipped me with three steps I could take to help me respond in life-giving, equity-building ways.

Step 1: Look for the Fruit

When you find yourself in the midst of situations like these, it’s difficult to see things from the right perspective; you’re too close to it. It wasn’t until I confided in someone I trusted outside the situation that my perspective changed. My friend challenged me to look for the fruit. Specifically, the fruit of the Spirit.

Of all the people involved, who is displaying love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control? Who is speaking life into and through the situation?

This was an excellent starting point. These questions brought immediate clarity and relief. The angst over who was right and who was wrong diminished. It was replaced by a peace knowing that those who chose to be led by the Spirit would come to the right conclusions.

Step 2: Clarify Boundaries

Then I had to move forward by creating boundaries. Though step one allowed me to see the situation more clearly, I still couldn’t control the actions of others. I could only control my own actions and the situations I allowed myself to be in. I knew I had to have some hard conversations with my leader. So I mustered the courage to tell her I no longer wanted to be her confidant. If her thoughts were not to be shared with her direct leaders, then I didn’t want her to share them with me either. I expressed my value of her and honor for her position as my leader, but I simply wasn’t capable of being a “safe place” for her to express her frustration any longer.

The whole thing felt like I was choosing sides. And I guess I was. I was choosing the side that was fruitful. The conversation itself seemed like climbing Mt. Everest. But it was the best move I could have made.

To get there, I had to ask, “At what point does the conversation make me feel uncomfortable?” That line may differ for everyone. Everyone has their point at which they feel they are party to dishonoring conversations. You have to examine where that boundary is for you.

Step 3: Trust God

It sounds so cliché. But it’s true. I didn’t have all the information. There were major aspects about what was happening that I didn’t know. Things I didn’t need to know. I just needed to trust. Trust that the same God who’s at work in me is also at work in those around me. Trust that those who are yielded to Him will make wise decisions for everyone involved.

Trusting God isn’t dismissive abdication. It’s boldly choosing to leave the results in far more capable hands than your own.

Try this. In your time with God, invite Him to show you where you are worried. If you’re still chewing on it, then there’s some part of it you need to hand back to Him. Don’t ignore it. Take action. Write it out. Confess your trust in God’s direction. And “hit repeat” every time that sinking doubt tries to consume your thoughts again.

Operating within unhealthy circumstances on a team, particularly a team you don’t lead, is difficult. But learning to look for the fruit, clarify boundaries, and trust God can help you build equity with those around you, not lose it.

WANT MORE?

For more ideas on how you can build healthy volunteer teams, check out Don’t Quit. It’s a book about leading well, empowering others, and experiencing the best things in ministry over time. Plus, sign up for the FREE Don’t Quit Workshop Series, Thursdays, March 1–22, 2018. Visit DontQuitBook.com for more information and to register.

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Serving in numerous ministry capacities together, Geoff and Sherry Surratt have valuable lessons and observations to pass along to couples seeking to serve in ministry together. Following is an excerpt from their invaluable book: Together: A Guide for Couples in Ministry.

One of the biggest challenges for a family engaged in ministry is learning to balance church activities, marriage, kids, extended family, finances and all the needy people who seem to come along with the job. Leading a church, or just a ministry area can be a 24/7 endeavor.

Your volunteers can’t meet during the workday, crises almost always occur in the middle of the night, and weekends are sometimes the busiest time for someone in ministry. In the midst of the chaos are recitals, ball games, and graduations, along with all the other needs of a healthy family. Somewhere along the way you’re supposed to have family meals, date nights and vacations.

Balancing all this endless activity requires a spreadsheet, a calendar app and a daily to-do list. And no matter how hard you try, something always seems out of balance.

Sound familiar? Either ministry or family seems to always get shortchanged. How does anyone successfully balance all the demands of ministry, friends, and family?

Balance is a Myth

My husband Geoff and I have been in ministry together for 30+ years and here’s what I’m learning: balance is an impossible myth.

Even Jesus didn’t live a balanced life. He healed the sick, taught the disciples, preached to thousands and rebuked the Pharisees. All in one day. And then he said, “The Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (Luke 9:58). That just doesn’t sound like a balanced life.

Geoff and I are learning our goal can’t be balance, but it can be healthy rhythm.  In the midst of even the busiest ministry seasons, it is possible to have a healthy marriage, a healthy family and a healthy relationship with God. Here are a couple of ways we’re getting there.

We Tell the Truth

I’ve always been a ‘time optimist’ which is a kind way of saying I over-commit. I always think I’ll be able to get that meeting knocked out in an hour or finish up all those emails in 20 minutes. No way. Instead of saying ‘I just need a few more minutes’, I’m learning to say, ‘I under estimated how long this is going to take and I’m going to need some grace’.

When Geoff is prepping for a message, he’s honest when it’s going to take days instead of hours. It helps each of us to deal with especially busy seasons when we give the other a heads up and invite their help.

We Diffuse Emergencies

Everything in ministry can feel like an emergency. The sermon has to be ready for Sunday, a new children’s ministry volunteer has to be recruited by the weekend, and an attender’s marriage has to be fixed tonight.

All the good intentions of focusing on family go out the window when the phone rings and it’s time for all hands on deck to put out the fire. The little known secret of ministry however is many emergencies can be delayed, defused or dealt with in advance and we’re learning how to ‘sift’.

We ask ourselves, Did this crisis just arise or is it something that has been brewing for awhile? Is this a crisis we can solve tonight or will this be an ongoing challenge? Is there a compelling reason this crisis can’t be addressed during normal business hours?

Obviously, there are moments in ministry when you do drop everything to run and help. But creating a plan to sift those moments helps your family feel like it’s a bit more manageable.

We Ask Each Other For Help

We help each other notice what we’re not noticing. I give Geoff the permission to tell me when I’ve drifted into an unhealthy rhythm and he has given me the same. We’ve agreed we’ll gently call each other out when our time demands have gotten out of control and we’ve agreed we’ll stop, listen and change.

Here’s the bottom line: Ministry will never be a nine-to-five, Monday to Friday job, so creating a healthy rhythm for your family needs to be a lifelong endeavor. If you don’t set your priorities, everyone else will do it for you.

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Once you hear it, the Orange Strategy makes a lot of sense. However, if you’ve never heard of it before, it can be strange. Whether you are just starting to explore the Orange Strategy, or have been living Orange for years, the people on your team need to know what this is all about. Here are four tips for explaining Orange to your ministry volunteers.

(1) Keep it simple.

The Orange Strategy is easy to understand, but can be complex to live out. So, whether talking about it for the first time, or for what feels like the millionth time, keep it simple. Remember, the goal is for your church to partner with parents to have a greater impact in the lives of children than either can have on their own. It’s really that simple. You can talk about the specifics of how your church is going to do that after they’ve gotten ahold of this part.

(2) Make it visual.

If you’ve never been to The Orange conference, or Orange Tour, then first let me say you really need to do what you can to get there. If you have, then you’ve seen that Reggie Joiner is a master at making his messages visual. When we teach children, we often understand the value of teaching to visual learners. That’s why object lessons exist. But, when we teach adults we sometimes forget that those visual kids grow up. The result is that we often fail to teach to visual learning adults. Consider ways to make the message visual so that your visual learners can get it.

We teach children visually but when we teach adults we sometimes forget that those visual kids grow up. #ThinkOrange
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(3) Crank up the reps.

Reps are not just for those circuit training junkies. Repetition is also a powerful tool for vision casting. In fact, I’ve heard it said that when you’ve repeated the vision to the point that YOU are tired of hearing it that SOME of your people are starting to get it. Even then, you need to keep repeating it. If you believe that this strategy is going to help children come to know Jesus and grow in that relationship, then it is far too important to be lax in vision-casting. Keep saying it till it’s stuck in their heads like the music from the Small World ride at Disney . . . okay, maybe a little less annoying.

(4) Make it personal.

Perhaps the best way to help people understand and buy into the Orange Strategy is to make it personal. As you prepare to talk about it, consider kids that are already in your church. Mention them and their parents by name. Ask your volunteers to think of children that they know, maybe even their own, and to imagine what it would be like to partner with their parents or caregivers in order to have a greater impact on that child. Help your volunteers to envision what it would be like to do this by putting a name and a face to it.

Bottom line. If you are working with children in church, then your goal is obviously to have an impact on their lives. This being true, I’m sure that you want to have as much impact as possible. The Orange Strategy can help you do that.

READ MORE:

What Makes Orange Strategy Unique

Orange Strategy: A Primer On Where To Start

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How do you feel about secrets? In my experience, there are two views. One side views secrets as something special. This is something that you only tell a close, safe friend. They’re things that hold important content that isn’t suitable for just anyone. This side enjoys mystery books and movies like Goonies or Raiders of the Lost Ark in which secrets hold treasure and hidden artifacts.

The other camp views secrets as hurtful and divisive. Secrets are things that split friends and cause discourse in communities. If something is a secret then it can’t be very good. This side might point to the reason people were killed in those same mystery books and the bad guys chasing the person with the secret like Indiana Jones and the Goonies. They see openness as a virtue.

The truth is both views can be correct. Information is powerful. When we limit the flow of that information it can take the form of a secret. Secrets can play out in both good and bad ways. It reminds me of a rhyme we used to say as kids, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can crush my soul.” What? That’s not the way you sang it as a kid?

Okay, maybe I didn’t either, but I think it is the more accurate version.

We live in an information age, so this topic of whether or not to share information is an everyday, in-your-face issue. This is especially true with social media. How do we live lives that are real and authentic without that same information hurting or offending? How can I cultivate an environment of transparency with my kids while ensuring they don’t get their souls crushed? My family’s answer was to keep everything secret. There were no family stories because that would have required sharing information about the family. I wouldn’t recommend that approach. However, to convey every thought that enters your head is also not an approach I would recommend. In cultivating an appropriate presence of authenticity, I think there are two things that can help us navigate the varied terrain of the world we live in:

Boundaries

What I mean by boundaries is to have an intentional guideline to determine what is appropriate to share to different groups in different settings. It’s very easy to use social media as a shield for the pain that we’re personally feeling or conversely to broadcast that very same pain to the universe. It provides a removed layer that can create a pseudo-safety. That removed layer can make it easy to attack when we would never think of doing so face-to-face. It can make it easy to unburden our soul to all when, if asked, we would never want anyone to know those same details. However, on the flip side it can make it much easier to have sensitive discussions about topics that might be very difficult to talk about in person without becoming reactive. Transparency, therefore, can cause damage as we’ve all seen or to be an open window for honest discussions about things that are long overdue.  One way to do this is called the Intimacy Bullseye. Draw a bull’s-eye on your page taking up the whole page. Then insert the different levels with which boundaries will change depending on the appropriateness of those different levels. Starting in the middle and working out the different categories are:

1. You at the center
The center should have no boundaries. You should cultivate a sense of vulnerability and authenticity with yourself that takes a soul-searching look at every part of your life and every action you make. This is the only way to be truly authentic.

2. Couple – you and your spouse or significant other
If you’re single you’ll skip this one. If you’re not, this is going to be an essential area to cultivate so that you know how to be authentic and vulnerable in appropriate ways with others. Although it would be great if we could cultivate complete authenticity and vulnerability with our spouse, it’s just not physically possible since we have two different brains that value different things at different times. It’s one thing to want to be authentic internally and it’s quite another to express that in appropriate ways outwardly. Your spouse is going to be the safest, best place to do that. However, know that there is some variance here. For instance, one common topic is whether that vulnerability extends to using the bathroom in front of the other person. Some just see that as gross rather than a beautiful representation of authenticity.

3. Kids
Your kids don’t need to know everything. They’re developing and changing constantly. Their life isn’t on the same level as ours as adults. It’s important to make sure that you have boundaries on what you share with your kids. However, it’s also important to be authentic, real, and avoid shielding them from everything in your couplehood. Kids learn how to deal with opposition, victories, happiness, and struggle from the way they see you handle these things. Just like you respect the developmental stage of your children and avoid exposing to extreme, sometimes we can overcompensate on the side of protecting them from the reality of our life. In my opinion, this boundary is one of the toughest because it takes a careful balance between letting your kids know who you are (both the good and the bad) and not just vomiting out every thought in your head and thereby exposing them to things that they are not ready for. I think one good rule of thumb when dealing with kids is to try to PREPARE rather than to PROTECT. Protection indiscriminately shields while preparing allows sharing at a level that is helpful and useful.

4. Family/Friends
This is the area for your extended family—your mom, dad, etc. This is an especially important boundary to set up when you’re first married. When you walk down that aisle your immediate family instantly shifts to your extended family and your spouse becomes your new immediate family. Making sure that there are appropriate boundaries between you/your spouse and your parents/in-laws is essential for a healthy foundation of appropriate vulnerability and authenticity. That said, some families aren’t safe. Sometimes family members can be toxic or unsafe to share information. In these cases, some couples and individuals have friends that are surrogate family for them. In this section of your Intimacy Bullseye you may actually have friends in front of family.

5. Friends/Family
As we mentioned before, friends may actually be in the above section, but if instead your family is safe then this section is where your close friends will be. These are your forever friends that span life stages and moves and all the things that come between us and our connections. These are the friends that you feel comfortable sharing things that you may not be comfortable sharing with the rest of the world.

6. Situational friends
These are friends that may be very close in certain stages of your life, however they’re contingent on a specific situation. That situation may be where we live or a job we have or a stage in our life. We all have friends that were very close at one point but have drifted. Maybe we drifted because we had kids and they didn’t or we changed jobs.

7. Acquaintances
There can be many more layers than this, but this particular section is a catch-all for the other groups of people we come in contact with that may not be considered necessarily friends but are people we’re friendly with. You may want to have another level for general public if you would share more with these people than that of complete strangers.

In each of these layers determine what level of vulnerability and flow of information is appropriate. Each level should have distinctions that make them unique. Each level will involve a greater level of transparency and vulnerability the closer to the center they get. This will allow you to be more intentional about the things that are shared and to whom.

Identity

It’s important to see what things transcend all the different layers of the Intimacy Bullseye. What things represent you and who you are no matter who you’re with or where you are? In other words, who are you everywhere?

What are your defining features? This will guide your ability to be authentic and vulnerable in safe and appropriate ways no matter where you are on the Intimacy Bullseye. Often when we’re on a level where it is not appropriate to share something we can feel like we are being fake. We can feel like we’re being deceptive or lying to people. There’s a very big difference between outwardly lying to someone and not sharing something that isn’t theirs to know. Being able to be real with everyone along this thread of who you are can allow you to feel real rather than fake when something isn’t appropriate to share. It also gives you an added sense of confidence since you know who you are despite what people in the various levels may say about you.

Once you have a sense of who you are and what is appropriate to share it’s much easier to cultivate an environment of authenticity and safe vulnerability. It’s important to make sure the things we share and/or post online authentically represent who we are. It’s important to make sure the things we share and/or post online are appropriate to the level of relationship we’re in. Our lives can be a beacon for growth and connection. Practicing authenticity in our relationships whether live or through social media can be a marvelous way to live a life of connection, of open discussion, and of growth when it’s intentional and boundary-filled. Otherwise, we can find ourselves living a life of hiding, of attack, of unintentional (or intentional) hurt, and of living behind a mask of what we want to be rather than who we are.

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In other words, do you want to be a church of small groups or a church with small groups? This is one of the most important questions you can ask. And understanding the differences will help you decide what type of church you want to be.

A church of small groups will typically look to the small group unit as the primary way in which people get connected, grow, and receive care. For these churches, life in the body happens through a small group.

A church with small groups will see small groups as an avenue to help people connect, grow, and receive care, but not the only way for this to happen. These churches typically create other systems to make sure the body is cared for. Growth opportunities might happen in short term classes or mentoring relationships as well as small groups.

Here are three advantages for a church of small groups:

1. Next steps are more clearly defined. Everyone should know that being involved in your church means being in a small group. All communication somehow ties back to what is happening with the small groups in your church.

2. When the expectation is for everyone to be in a small group, it is easier to care for those who have needs. For example, when someone is in the hospital, the small group is expected to provide meals and attend to the needs of that family. It empowers the body to serve one another and provides better care than a pastoral staff could.

3. A church of small groups has a unique perspective to see and meet needs in your community. When everything happens through small groups, this alleviates the need for additional teams of people. Foster care is one example; a foster family engaged with a small group can receive support and encouragement from their group. In some cases, the group helps financially, with respite care, with clothing, or with other needs. The point is that the system to meet the needs is already in place.

At a church of small groups, it is more common to hear statements such as, “My church felt a lot smaller once we connected into a small group,” or “I’m not sure how my family would have survived without our small group.”

Here are three advantages for a church with small groups:

1. This approach allows you to have a variety of ways to connect people, and allows people to choose their level of involvement and commitment. Short and long-term classes, mentoring relationships, as well as small groups all create opportunities for people to connect and grow.

2. The staff is usually very connected and very involved in helping know and meet the needs of the congregation. This doesn’t mean they do all of the care, but will recruit teams to help with hospital visits, providing meals, and general pastoral duties.

3. Specialized growth tracks, in addition to general small groups, can meet people where they are in their faith journey. Some churches have invested in and grown their mentorship program enabling them to connect people at a very personal level to help them grow in very specific areas. You might offer a general spiritual growth track, or perhaps financial or parenting tracks. Because of the variety, they were able to customize the experience for the individual.

At a church with small groups, it is more common to hear statements like, “I’m not sure my family would have survived that hardship without the support of our pastor,” or “I love the variety in options that my church gives me to grow; it allows me to have more flexibility in my schedule.”

As you look to organize your groups, it’s critical to know which approach you want to take as a church.

Our friends at Live A Better Story wrote this post. Live A Better Story provides a strategy for effective adult small group ministry. Try it for free for a limited time! Download the 6-week “Story of My Life” study here.

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It’s a week full of love here at Orange! We are so honored to have some wonderful family ministry bloggers as our partners and friends! This week, Orange bloggers are sharing some Orange love, so check out what they have to say!

What is Orange Blogger Week? It’s when a great team of Blogger friends from all over the country serving in different ministries share about their experiences with Orange. All week long, they will be sharing about their past experiences with Orange and the conference and what they’re most looking forward to coming up at Orange Conference 2018.

Follow These Bloggers!
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In the article, “Your Mission Begins with Boundaries,“ we discussed the necessity of healthy boundaries. Boundaries are a tangible way that we show our faith in God to handle the aspects of our work that we cannot control. Instilling boundaries in our lives affects us physically and spiritually as we walk out our vocation and volunteer where we expend a large amount of time and emotional energy. Boundaries are a spiritual discipline that allows us to care for ourselves well, and the growth and maturity of the people we are blessed to serve. Boundaries also allow us to care for our families and personal lives well which is our first responsibility.

Here are four practical tips for putting boundaries in place:

(1) Organize and be willing to delegate. Organize your work to do only what you can to do. Enlist volunteers to prepare materials, make copies, sort snacks, and do pre-cutting. That is one of the benefits of being an Orange curriculum user. The curriculum frees up ministry leaders to cultivate relationships and develop kids, students, volunteers, and partner with parents.

Take time to evaluate how much time is spent on each task. Are there meetings that you are attending and leading that someone else can do just as effectively? Ask yourself: “Is this task something I have to do or can I delegate it?” Before adding a task to your to-do list, ask yourself, “Is this something I must do?” If it’s not, delegate it!

(2) Use the calendar and set time limits. Place time limits on tasks. This includes phone calls, discussions, meetings, emails, report analysis, EVERYTHING! This is especially important if you’re like me and tend to obsess over analytics and details. Setting time limits before beginning a task prevents us from becoming engrossed in one of the day’s objectives. Calendaring those items also assist with being able to visually see what you realistically have time to complete. It is tempting to only calendar things that directly impact other people’s schedules. However, even the work you are doing alone is still impacting somebody, even if that somebody is only you.

Put all your tasks on a time schedule and you can analyze where your time is actually going. Knowing where your time is going informs where you might need more staff or volunteer assistance.

(3) Stop working when it’s time. When you’ve delegated all you can, know when to cut the work clock off! Set your text messages to “do not disturb.” When you get a chance, you can check them and respond if necessary. Put on your auto-reply on your work email. Include in your auto-reply a date that is a few days out from your return to respond to all emails. This will ensure you do not spend your first few days back in the office answering emails. Have a second contact for individuals who might have a question while you’re out, and those issues might be resolved when you return. Pause or even uninstall your social media from your personal smart device. Boundaries require us to unplug from the noise of life that pulls for our attention so that we can refocus on the things that are most important.

Boundaries require us to unplug from the noise of life that pulls for our attention so that we can refocus on the things that are most important.
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(4) God’s grace is sufficient and readily available. Realizing that God’s grace extends beyond our capabilities and time constraints help us install boundaries without guilt. Boundaries require us rewiring the sentiment, “If you want something done right then do it yourself.” It requires us to trust other people to complete tasks that we really want to oversee. It requires us giving God time to work out the emergency in another person’s life by using someone else who is available and willing to help. It frees us from having to rescue things that are out of our control.

The realization of God’s grace allows us to implement boundaries because we eliminate our need to be everywhere for everyone. Never using God’s grace as an excuse for complacency or bad planning, but we grow to recognize our limitations, and when we’ve reached it we are comfortable with allowing God to fill in the gaps. Then we can better balance work and family, putting things in their proper placement and allowing adequate time for both.

Read More Like This:

Is it Possible to Find Balance Between Your Job and Your Personal Life?

The Key To Leaving Work At Work

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Have you ever felt nervous before a meeting or event?

Have you ever worried over that upcoming social occasion and secretly wanted to just stay home?

Have you ever secretly felt unqualified to lead?

When I feel worried or nervous about a situation, I use this little Fierce Faith mantra to keep me on track.

Show up.
Be real.
Love others.
Don’t quit.

I developed this mantra because when I feel fear getting the best of me, I tend to want to run and hide, put on my mask, bite the heads off of the people I love, and sometimes just flat-out quit. Let me explain.

Show up

Don’t let the fear of failure keep you from showing up.

When we struggle with the fear of failure, the idea of hiding at home under the covers can sound really good. Sometimes half the battle really is simply showing up.

Be real

Don’t let your fear of failure keep you from being who you are.

My defense mechanism when I feel nervous around others has always been to look around, see what everyone else is doing, and make like a chameleon to fit in. If I feel certain I am going to fail as my true self, my logic has always been, why not be someone else, or worse yet, everyone else.

We need to live in the confidence that we are fearfully, wonderfully, and purposefully made just as we are.

To this day, though, when I feel tempted to try to make myself more like someone else to avoid that fear of failure, I tell myself, Be real, Alli. Be real.

Love others

Don’t let the fear of failure cause you to treat others badly.

For me this is a reminder not to let my own fear or worry cause me to be short-tempered with others. My goal is to love and lead others well, even when I’m a mess inside.

When I’m tempted to treat others badly, I quietly repeat my battle-plan mantra: “Show up, be real, love others, don’t quit.”

Don’t quit

Don’t let the fear of failure, or anything else for that matter, cause you to quit. We can only truly fail when we quit trying.

I find the temptation to quit occurs most often when I am in the middle of a project or job, fearing I will fail, and I decide that quitting (and being labeled a quitter) is so much better than failing (and being labeled a failure).

Like I said, fear is not rational and does not cause us to think clearly.

Have you ever said to yourself:
  • I didn’t know it was going to be this hard.
  • I can’t do this anymore.
  • I’m not good enough.
  • What was I thinking when I thought I could do this?

You are in pretty good company. It’s all normal. We all struggle with the same thoughts as leaders. The secret is to strengthen yourself not to quit.

When we remember to show up, be real, love others, and not quit, we don’t have to control anyone else or the outcome of what we do. We get to bring our best to any situation with courage and love.

The results are up to God; he just asks us to be who he called us to be, love others, and do our best. That is how we lead with confidence.

Download the first chapter of Alli’s new book Fierce Faith for free here!

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We did it and it was a huge success! We planned and executed the event so well, from the littlest details to the biggest surprises. The feedback was incredibly refreshing. We put so much work into it, so hearing all of the great comments made it all worth it. Then, we realized it would have been so much better and so much easier on us if someone else had organized it.

Sure, we hit a home run. But they would have knocked it out of the park. They always do.

So we have heard the word, right? Delegate. And we know what it means—basically handing responsibility over to someone else. But do we get the point? Do we really know the objective? Well, it depends.

Sometimes more responsibility is given to us, so we need to offload other responsibilities to ensure we can handle the additions. But that becomes a cycle because we continue to take on more and more.

Other times we have filled our figurative plates to the point of overflowing, so we eventually delegate to stay afloat. But eventually we find something else to take its place because we have become obsessed with busyness.

We may also delegate because we don’t want to do the hard work. We only want to take the easy tasks, either to be stress-free or lazy.

Finally, sometimes we delegate because we are used to it. From the moment we heard that great leaders delegate, we do it to be “great leaders.”

So, yes. The general idea of delegation is to give away responsibility—entrusting it into capable hands—in order to focus more intently on our main objectives.

Let’s zero in on the word focus. Proper delegation should provide focus. We are not looking to get some things off of our plates for the fun of it. We are answering a question. What are some things we need to let go of so we can focus on something only we can do?

We are all uniquely wired. We are all fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God, yet we are all distinctly unique. No one does this like you, and no one does that like they do. We have unique skills and niches for a reason. However, sometimes we end up doing everything but that thing. So the challenge is this . . . ask yourself:

What do I need to delegate, so I can focus on what only I can do?

If our plates are filled with what others can do, who is doing what we should be doing?

Take a moment to think about that. Now really take some time determining what you need to let go of. As ministry leaders, this will not be easy. We want to do as much as possible to make the biggest impacts on our communities. Our heart simply bends that way.

But let us not forget that we are one body with many members. We cannot be the leg and the arm. We are made to be one part that helps the whole body. What is your part?

As usual, I recommend we enlist the voices of wisdom here. Let’s try not to figure this out on your own. Those closest to us know pretty well what we are fantastic at, and they also know what we might should delegate.

So, let’s go for it! Delegate away! But delegate to those who are gifted in the needed areas. This will allow them to thrive and leave room for us to flourish in our wheelhouses. Imagine how much more we can do in our sweet-spots!

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You want your small group leaders to have an internal compass that leads them to saying yes to:

  • Impromptu opportunities to serve with their few.
  • Participation in organized opportunities to serve with your church or community.
  • Being creative when it comes to serving families of the students they know.

You want them to be as passionate about serving goals as you are. At the same time, you have empathy looking into their worlds and you understand the complexities of volunteer leader life. You feel it, because you’re living it too.

We all have big hearts—and big hopes too—but we find gaps between what we see and where we’d like our volunteer teams to be. Lately, I have seen and felt the gaps more closely, because for the first time in nearly two decades I’m currently a full-time volunteer.

How do we motivate volunteer leaders to practice serving with their group?
How do we bridge the gap between sitting in circles to serving together?

I want serving others to be a guiding priority. But I feel the tension here, because it takes extra effort and motivation to make it happen. It often requires an “AND” to everyone’s “YES,” including mine.

A small group leader’s commitment could be communicated in a couple of ways:

“Yes, I’ll lead a small group and show up weekly.”

Or, we could motivate our leaders to add a very important three-letter word to their “YES.”

“Yes, I’ll lead a small group weekly . . . AND, I’ll serve with them when I see needs, I’ll be the first one to ask how we can love our neighbors better.”

Here are three steps I’m currently refining to motivate (myself) and my SGLs to serve.

Help Small Group Leaders Feel Something

Feelings are powerful motivators. We can’t underestimate how they work to move us to do important things. I rarely do anything that I don’t feel first. And for me, it’s super hard to resist things I do feel. So, think about how that works in your specific context. What is so important to your community? Where is there brokenness that you can’t unsee, or where is there loss? Where is a place where all of us weep for change? Find that and help each other feel it—you will do something about it.

In the book Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, Chip and Dan Heath help leaders see the importance of emotions. Their research lands with an interesting thought: that knowing something isn’t enough to cause change.

What does that mean for us? It means giving ourselves an invitation to feel and encouraging our leaders to do the same.

Consistently Celebrate Smaller Successes

Church planting has solidified this step as a best practice for us in our new ministries. Consistently allowing small wins to ignite motivation has helped our volunteer leaders find joy and passion. It’s even helped with our sense of humor. We love to go nuts about how our team got things done with little to no resources. We like to put a spotlight on a leader who went out of the way to do a small act of kindness. There will be big wins (occasionally) but it feels more motivating to hear about the smaller successes every week. Take some time weekly to celebrate how groups and group leaders are not only showing up, but also looking outward to serve in significant ways. Resource small group leaders who take small steps with their groups to serve others. Give them materials to keep going!

Tell Better Stories

There’s nothing better for shaping culture, creating morale, or calling people to action, than telling great stories. Take a look at how you tell the stories that help leaders feel compelled to serve. If it’s true that people are engaged and motivated more by why we do things than they are engaged by what we do—then most youth ministry small group leaders and volunteers would benefit by hearing more of your “whys.” Why do you show up weekly to serve? Why does it matter so much to you? Why is it important to be an advocate for a certain need in your community? Encourage your SGLs to share their whys often too! The collective whys will not only engage other leaders to serve but it will often inspire new leaders to join your team! Whys are contagious.

Be Passionately Redundant

There’s a difference between throwing out a nagging request and providing a clarion call. Nagging tends to be born out of desperation. A clarion call, or a repeated narrative and history is born out of vision and determination. Know what you are about and why serving matters to you. If it’s your goal to be “for your community,” then make it something you say and repeat more often. Find a concise way to call your small group leaders to action that reminds them of their “why.” At SOMOS Church, our vision is to add value to every person possible. So, I ask our small group leaders about how their group is adding value to the people connected to their group. Don’t undersell your priorities by leaving them in a Google document that no one but you can see. Make it visible. Write it on the wall, talk about why it’s what you’re about and you’ll see participation increase as your voice does!

I’m cheering for you as you champion serving from a creative and consistent perspective. I’m right there with you as we develop incredible cultures of serving through small group ministry.

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