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Changing Your Ministry so Parents and Volunteers Win

An effective ministry has less to do with how you influence kids and teenagers, and more to do with how you influence those who influence kids and teenagers.

Chances are you signed up to be in ministry because you wanted to help kids and teenagers. Maybe you didn’t even like adults, but at some point, you realized that in order to actually influence a generation of kids and teenagers, you had to influence the adults who influence kids and teenagers.

Because here’s what we know to be true:

An effective ministry has less to do with how you influence kids and teenagers, and more to do with how you influence those who influence kids and teenagers.

So, our job as ministry leaders is to ask those on the front lines of ministry—small group leaders, volunteers, parents, grandparents, and guardians—a question. And it’s this:

“What can I do to help you win?”

This is a critical shift in how we see and relate to the volunteers, parents, and guardians in our ministries. Here are a few ideas that are essential to making this shift.

1. Change the way you define the win.

Changing the way we define the win for parents and leaders means we don’t make assumptions. Sometimes we make assumptions about what the win is for our parents and volunteers. We know how to measure success as a ministry leader. We’re held responsible for numbers and attendance. Sometimes it’s just easy to forget that our win for our role as a ministry leader isn’t the same win that a parent or volunteer has. 

We can begin to assume that the win for parents is for them to attend our services so we can win as a leader. This is an opportunity to turn that on its head and remind ourselves that maybe the win for a parent isn’t to help our ministry win, but to win at life and parenting at home. When a parent wins at life, at home, and personally, then they’re better able to help their kids win. 

We can’t expect parents and leaders to help us win inside of our ministry if we aren’t helping them win outside of our ministry.

2. Change the way we see parents and leaders.

Sometimes, I think we forget they’re human. We forget that parents and leaders have spouses, jobs, stress, diets, playlists, pets, debt, degrees, vacations, heartbreaks, rent, and doubts. We have to understand that they’re very real people with real lives outside of our ministry. They know things we don’t and have very important responsibilities outside of our ministries.

So, don’t expect your ministry to matter to them if their everyday faith and everyday life doesn’t matter to you.

3. Change the way they see each other.

Chances are your parents see the leaders and volunteers in your church a certain way, and the leaders and volunteers in your church see parents a certain way. Part of our job as ministry leaders is to lean in and shift the way a parent sees a small group leader and how a small group leader sees a parent. That’s because there are two ideas that make Orange, uniquely Orange. The heart of the family and the light of the church combine to make a larger impact, because no one has the potential to influence a kid like a parent, and that parent is not the only influence a kid needs.

This is especially important in a moment when it’s easy to lose trust with each other. Sometimes we like to elevate differences and disqualify each other. Now is an opportunity to train volunteers and parents that it matters how we trust and respect each other for the sake of the kids and teenagers we’re influencing.

4. Change the way you show up for parents and leaders.

Before the pandemic, we had all of these old measurements for success that have been shaken to their core. We liked to measure our success by who showed up in our buildings and at our programs. But this season has been a reminder of what’s true. Our success isn’t really measured by who shows up in our buildings. Success is really measured by how we show up for each other and how we show up for parents and leaders. We got into ministry because we felt called to serve others, so when we live out a life of service to volunteers and parents, it fuels us and reminds us why we got into ministry to begin with.

5. Change how you do events for parents and leaders.

Sometimes we think the event is the goal, when actually the event should be leveraged as a catalyst to do something more important than the event—to create a step into a relationship. When we remember that the event is only ever a step to a relationship, then we’re reminded that we can always try new things as long as they continue to deepen relationships.

6. Change the way you communicate to parents and leaders.

As we communicate with parents and leaders, it’s important to pay attention to our posture. Our posture is how we learn from and listen to parents and leaders. Our posture is important because parents and leaders use it to get a sense of how important they really are to us. That may mean we need to change our motive when interacting with parents and volunteers. When we remember why we’re influencing volunteers and parents to begin with, our language and postures will change, and they will feel that difference.

7. Change the way you train parents and leaders.

In the context of ministry, we have a strategic opportunity as a church to be a light for people in the community to help them win. So, as it relates to parents and leaders, it’s important that we train them to not just help our ministries win, but also to train them to win at life and in their own personal space. That also means that our training plans need to shift and we need to think about the platforms we use to train parents and volunteers. 

The best plan to train volunteers may not be one, three-hour training event for the year. When we think about how people are motivated, how people learn, and how people are inspired, it often happens in small segments consistently over time. So, the way you communicate, the platforms you use, and the consistency of messaging matters in how you train volunteers and parents.

What would it look like if you gave your volunteers and parents a blank piece of paper and got in the habit of asking:

“What can I do to help you win?”

Because it’s the volunteers in our ministries and parents who are the ones showing up for kids and teenagers on the front lines and in their homes. So, we need to help them win, not simply in those spaces, but in their personal lives. This also serves as an important reminder for you to check your motive and remind yourself of a simple idea:

If you want parents and volunteers to help you win inside your ministry, you’ve got to help them win outside your ministry.

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