We had just gone multisite. It was exciting but there was a group of people we missed. We used to get to see them on a regular basis but now that they were in the city next door, we wanted to be together. We wanted to make sure what we stayed on the same page as a church no matter which campus we attended, so we started an event to bring our all of our volunteers together. It was fantastic. We got to see friends we hadn’t seen in a while and at the same time were able to cast vision about where we were going next as an entire church.
It was great, but as time passed it started to run its course.
We decided to redesign it and inject some new life into the event. We shifted from a volunteer appreciation gathering to conference style event which included a number of different workshops designed to help our church grow in their spiritual journey. It worked, that was until we recognized one big clue we had failed to pay attention to.
You see, from a leadership standpoint, we had recognized a problem. We needed to offer practical skill-building workshops to help our church grow in their individual spiritual journeys. It was a valid problem that needed to be addressed.
We were solving a problem, filling a need and it even worked for a while…until we told staff that the event was mandatory to attend.
Maybe you’ve experienced this. You put a bunch of time, effort and money into a training event for you volunteers, but no-one shows. Or maybe you start a ministry but no one attends. From the leadership side of the equation, everything looks good. The content is top notch, the issues are important ones to address, but you can’t seem to get people excited, and the only way to get people there is to make it mandatory.
The moment you make something mandatory…it’s time to pay attention.
In some fields, mandatory makes sense. If you are regulated or have to ensure that every staff member MUST complete a training it may make sense. But in the church world that list is very short.
More often, needing to make a meeting mandatory means we haven’t done the work to help our staff understand why a meeting is important and valuable to the effectiveness of their ministry.
The moment we called our workshop event mandatory for all staff to attend, we realized that they didn’t see the value, and if they didn’t see the value, how would anyone else in our church. Slowly but surely, egistration numbers fell season after season.
So what do you do if you’ve got a mandatory meeting for staff?
First, write down why you started having this meeting in the first place. Is that reasoning still valid?
Second, write down every staff member's name. Next, to each name write down what value they would miss out on if they didn’t attend. Think of each member’s specific situation. What challenges are they experiencing right now? How is this meeting helping them solve the pressing needs of their department or team? My assumption is that they are working hard, and if your meeting isn’t helping them move closer to your common goal, it’s probably hurting.
Next, decide whether or not the meeting needs to be retooled or canceled moving forward.
What do you do if a ministry event has become mandatory?
Kill it and start over. It’s one thing when you tell people you pay that they must attend something. It’s a whole other thing when you are telling your community it’s mandatory. Even if you recognize the value of the event, it’s very likely your audience does not.
Start over and re-evaluate why you started the event in the first place (seeing a theme here?). While you may be right in seeing the need for a particular event or ministry, you many not be approaching it in an accessible way. Your people need to buy in. They need to see the need before you tell them about what you have planned.
We need to lead people to heights they may have not seen before, be we can’t just put on the leash and start pulling.
Question of the day: What mandatory ministry or event do you need to cancel or retool? Why haven’t you done it yet?