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The One Question Every Leader Should Ask Their Volunteers

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.

Years ago, I (Reggie) read a story about a conductor of the Boston symphony orchestra who had become somewhat famous. You can imagine that being on a stage in front of a large gathering in a prominent city in front of some of the most elite people in the community—receiving standing ovations, invitations, and popularity—can fuel an ego that can become unhealthy. 

This particular symphony leader developed a reputation as a somewhat arrogant, self-centered, and impatient conductor. He actually drove his musicians to the edge and burned out several of his best players. But then, something happened. It’s not really clear why, but something led to a personal awakening in his life. One night as he bowed to the audience and turned around to face his musicians, he had a sobering thought:

“I am the only one on this platform not actually playing an instrument.”

During the event, he became increasingly aware of a simple idea. His success was linked to the success of everyone else. He was famous because they were gifted.

The only influence he had was to influence those who actually made the music.

At the next rehearsal, he did something no one expected. When his musicians showed up they saw that he had placed a blank piece of paper on each of their music stands. After everyone took their seats, he confessed something to the symphony.

He admitted, “Somewhere along the way I got lost and started believing I made the music. But I realized I was wrong. You make the music. It’s your talent and expertise that I get the privilege to influence. So, from now on when you arrive at rehearsal, there will always be a blank page on your music stand. I just need you to answer one question to help me grow as a conductor.”

“What can I do as a leader to help you win?”

Sometimes something needs to shift in a culture. Sometimes we need to clarify the question that really matters. And here’s what smart leaders who work with kids and teenagers know:

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.

It’s a subtle, but critical, shift in how you see ministry. That can be difficult because most of us went into ministry because we wanted to help and work with kids and teenagers. But if we’re going to influence a generation of kids and teenagers, we have to influence the adults who influence kids and teenagers.

So, your job is to ask the right question to those who are on the front lines of ministry: small group leaders, parents, grandparents, and guardians.  

Imagine giving them a blank page and asking them:

“What can I do to help you win?”

Check out some of the other resources we have that can help you win as a leader.

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