Monday, November 25, 2013

Coaching for Life - A Movement on the Grow

The tall fellow in the bright yellow, fifth from the left, is Master Trainer, Nkosinathi Sixabayi. He is  standing with 25 High Level Coaches from the Johannesburg area of South Africa.

Coaching for Life - A Movement on the Grow

Each person in the photo above is holding a copy of Coaching For Life, a Gospel-based football (soccer) curriculum.   Coaching for Life is a publication I helped create as a member of the 2012 Ubabalo/One Hope writing team. The team met in Stellenbosch, South Africa to begin the project and went to press months later with the title "Coaching for Life".   

Today, the publication and many other sports ministry tools are available for free and utilized to share Jesus with children and youth in more locations than I can count in countries around the world.  It is a movement of Christ-followers and it is on the "grow". Check out Coaching for Life and other Gospel teaching and coaching tools through the links below: 

Whole Life Coaching Resources      


My limited mind still struggles to quantify the ministries and individuals involved, understand how it works and count how many find Jesus through sports.  The photos I receive, like the one above, of one day in one country help. They remind me training events like this are happening all over the globe sending coaches out into communities in every corner of the world.  

This January, Coaching for Life is on the "grow" again!  This time the Ubabalo/One Hope team will meet to begin writing a Coaching for Life curriculum for Cricket. 

I'm thrilled to be involved, but writing for Cricket to be a growing experience for me!  It is no surprise I don't know a wicket from a paddle, but I agreed to serve without question. It's a stretch, but I expect God will help me grow into it. 

I know less about Cricket than I do about football, (even the American version), so I'm trying to learn as much I can before we get started.  Thanks be to God, I met a few Cricket fans while at Kidmin 2013 who graciously and patiently quizzed me on the basics without laughing at my ignorance of this noble and complicated game.  Thanks to those interactions, I understand Cricket is one of the hardest games to master with fans as passionate about Cricket as I am about College Basketball. Thank God, the writing team includes Cricket coaches! 

Please pray with me for God's protection as team members travel to the writing workshop this January. Pray we will hear and faithfully follow God's will for this writing project. 

 If you want to know more, I blogged all about the 1st Ubabalo/One Hope adventure - see the 2011/2012 archives in the right margin. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Part 3 - Volunteer Burn-out - A healthy alternative.

In Part 3 of  Volunteer Burn-out,  Below I've listed tools and strategies to prevent and hopefully eliminate burn-out and maintain a healthy church with healthy volunteers. This list of suggestions
is intended to bring focus to volunteer burn-out prevention.

Establish a culture of healthy and balanced ministry service.

Set boundaries and guidelines for service and require all to abide by them. 
  • Provide written job descriptions for all volunteer/paid ministry positions. Review them annually to maintain up-to-date and accurate representations of the actual time required.
  • Expect Sabbath rest for all.  Qualify/quantify Sabbath rest in job descriptions. "Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy" Exodus 20:8
  • Expect all set aside time for spiritual development and worship. Be flexible, but make it clear service suffers without it. "Just as a branch separated from its supporting vine cannot live, let alone produce any fruit, so we are helpless when we are not connected to Jesus, the source of our hope and salvation." John 15:5 
  • Plan for, and encourage time away for play and recreation. Model it by offering a fun ministry team outing or gatherings where the agenda is relaxation and relationship building not business. 
  • Limit the number of nights one is expected to serve.  Two to three nights/week or ten to twelve/month encourages and protects family and personal time. 
  • Require staff persons to model healthy and balanced service by embracing the guidelines and boundaries along with the volunteers. Train staff to coach volunteers to do the same. 
  • Avoid asking a volunteer to take on a vacant staff position's responsibilities for more than a few weeks.  Employ a paid interim ASAP to fill in.  The interim could be a seasoned volunteer willing to set in to help out without pay, but do not abuse their gift of service by allow it for more than a short time.

Educate church body on healthy balanced service.

  • Use Biblical examples of healthy and unhealthy service to illustrate expectations.  Jonah ;-( Jesus ;-) Martha & Mary to illuminate what God wants and doesn't want from us.
  • Review the Beatitudes as a church body. God doesn't want us to be anxious or ambitious, but dependent upon Him to fulfill the needs of the church.  Meditating on Matthew 6 & 7 for illumination can help check actions, attitude and motivation. 
  • Share the church's boundaries and guidelines for healthy, balanced service regularly with the body in service team meetings, communication pieces and worship messages. 
  • Encourage all to honestly prayerfully evaluate their own service health and embrace the adopted boundaries and guidelines. 
  • Celebrate all who serve in special dedication and praise service. Avoid singling anyone out specifically to encourage servant-hearted service as Jesus modeled in John 13:1-7

Help people find a position to match their God-given gifts and talents. 

  • If God wants it to happen, He will send those needed. God covered the bases by intentionally giving individuals in the church body different gifts and talents. Build ministries to reflex this and create new ministries to match the needs and manpower as God provides. 
  • Help volunteers discover their service "sweet spot" by helping them discover their God-given gifts and talents. It can start with a Spiritual gifts class and/or a one-time opportunity to sample ministry opportunities. Follow up by assessing how they felt serving in the position, on the team and in that specific area of ministry. Adjust accordingly. For example - If interacting with preschoolers during the Advent celebration felt right, but helping with crafts was a disaster, forget crafts, but focus on finding a more suitable preschool position. Volunteers are less likely to become stressed and anxious and more likely to stay energized when in their service sweet spot.

Support, reinforce and maintain healthy ministry work habits for all.

  • Divide duties of large ministry leadership positions to establish Co-leadership positions.
  • When a position's responsibilities become unmanageable, split the role into two new positions.
  • Require orientation and training before serving. Prepare and protect volunteers by outlining  expectations and responsibilities. 
  • Make sure volunteers know whom to contact with questions or to find a substitute to fill in when they need to be away. When serving suddenly clashes with personal responsibilities and it will from time to time, grace volunteers with a stress reducing workable support system.
  • Encourage serving in pairs and on teams. Not only does it help volunteers build relationships and make lasting connections with others. They are less likely to burn-out when they have a ministry colleague to share the experience. In Children's Ministry,  two people are required when working directly with children. Create teams for administrative and supervisory positions as well. 
  • Provide direct and visible supervision and support during times of service. Make sure leadership checks in with volunteers individually for feedback and to listen for needs or challenges.
  • Rotate people through key leadership positions every two to three years. I call this the "No Dynasty Rule". Not only does this prevent burn-out, it brings fresh ideas and approaches to the ministry. It also prevents individuals from monopolizing the position and leadership cliques. (This topic as related to VBS deserves it's own post.) 
  • Look out for "Lone Ranger" behavior.  When a leader fails to delegate, remind them they are robbing others of the opportunity to serve. Encourage them to list tasks and responsibilities they could delegate to others. Coach them on team building and inviting others to serve. 
  • Grace those who've served on concentrated or intense ministry projects: such as mission trips, task forces or VBS week, by encouraging them to take time away after the job is complete, or schedule breaks within the project, to refresh and renew . 

    It is my prayer, churches no longer dismiss, cover up and whisper about volunteer burn-out like it is a dirty little secret. I'd rather we openly admit it exists, happens too often and negatively impacts families and ministries.  If, we bring it into the open, talk about it and honestly address it, we can end it.  

    Tuesday, November 12, 2013

    Part 2 : Volunteer Burn-out

    Part 2 - How to recognize, address and minister to volunteers in burn-out. 

    Because burn-out happens after doing a difficult job for a long time, volunteers slip and slide  instead of fall into a state of burn-out.   The gradual change from energized and enthusiastic service to burdened, anxious, detached and joyless service happens over an extended time.

    Therefore, be on the look out for volunteer burn-out in those who…

    •  Stay in a leadership position much longer than initially intended.  Why that happens is another blog entirely. Regardless of why it happens, the individual may agree to serve until a replacement is found but ends up feeling like they have to serve "until Jesus comes".
    • Temporarily take on a staff role in a volunteer capacity and serve an extended time waiting for the new hire. The intention is always to replace the staff member quickly, but when the search drags on and on, temporarily "helping out" becomes an imposition and burden. 
    • Take on a volunteer leadership role and fail to delegate or utilize team support.  Leadership roles requires followers.  Without teammates to follow the leader, it is a one-man band. One man bands are burn-outs in the making. 
    • Experience extended personal or family stress during their term of volunteer service. No one can anticipate these seasons and the additional time and energy they take. It just happens.
    Church leadership and/or staff persons can recognize volunteer burn-out by checking in with volunteers on a regular basis. It is imperative to observe the volunteer in action, during leadership meeting and in one on one conversations to get a true picture of volunteer health. Look for :

    • Negative or fatalistic talk: Expressions of extreme frustration and cynicism such as "I can't… they won't…." and "It will never…" 
    • Detachment and/or waning interest - such as unusual tardiness, continual absences, arriving unprepared, rush or distracted for service or leadership meetings. 
    • Agitation with others or the tasks at hand - display tension and irritation over normal  challenges or interruptions.
    • Emotional outbursts in inappropriate situations -  express anger or frustration with emotional  outbursts. May loose their temper, unload or cry while serving. 
    • A marked change in personality - usually upbeat and now pessimistic or usually quiet and now totally withdrawn and/or non-communicative. 
    • Gossip - others are talking about or asking others what's wrong with the volunteer and/or the volunteer is talking "about" instead of "to" people, this unhealthy breakdown in communication can signal the beginnings of dissatisfaction and eventual burn-out.  I know gossip is sinful, but it signals an unhealthy situation is brewing. Where there is smoke there just might be burn-out smoldering.
    Blessed are the volunteers who recognize a problem on their own for they will seek guidance and a healthy intervention.  I don't worry about them, but I have stolen many of my strategies from them! 

    As for those who never see it coming, proactive ministry is recommended and highly effective.  
    Waiting until burn-out is full blown is the alternative and is destructive to both the individual and the church body. I'll talk more about prevention in Part 3

    When bathed in prayer and done in love, proactive ministry can stop burn-out in its tracks.
    • Prayer - It should be happening already, but taking extra time to pray with the hurting volunteer is the best place to start. Bathe the entire process in prayer; for and with the volunteer. 
    • Listen- Meet for coffee, lunch or another activity.  Resist "fixing" things for them by being a supportive listener.  Reflect back what you hear them saying and let the Spirit lead them to discover and problem-solve for themselves. I'm amazed how often self-discovery of a solution happens when someone simply listens. 
    • Suggest and support setting new boundaries. If self-discovery doesn't illuminate a solution  and even if it does, help them set new boundaries between ministry and personal time for worship, adult Bible study, leisure and family without the worry of ministry responsibilities.
    • Protect and reinforce the new boundaries by respecting their time away and encouraging others to do the same. Also, check-in with them to be sure it's working for them. 
    • Invite the volunteer the opportunity for a short sabbatical.  Gifting the volunteer with a week or two of time to get away and refresh is a great start to restoration. Sometimes being away from church and the related responsibilities all together is helpful. A short absence from ministry responsibilities can make the heart grow fonder for it. 
    • Reassess the position and responsibilities. The job might be unrealistic in scope and time required. Reassess, and if possible, split the role into two positions or create a new support position. Added support and a lighter load will go a long way to restoration and will strengthen both the individual and the ministry.
    • Offer them "an out". Sometimes life's responsibilities and challenges just get in the way of ministry. Offering the individual the option to step down to dedicate time and energy to season of personal stress or family needs is a God-send. Affirm their good works by telling them they are welcome to return at anytime and will be eligible for the position if still available, or the next time it becomes available. In Children's Ministry, there is ALWAYS a position waiting to be filled!
    Usually with helps, intervention, support, encouragement and prayer offered in love, the volunteer can return to service in the same or modified position with a renewed joy. 

    If Restoration doesn't happen, remember "failure" is not an option, it's just a tool. 
    • Do NOT "fire" them.  They've already felt the heat, crashed and burned-out. Why fuel the burn-out by adding shame and blame? Remember, failure is not an option, it's just a tool. 
    • If you must let them go, blame the position not the individual. If the volunteer and the position were a bad fit, be truthful. Acknowledge it as a miss and encourage them to use what they learned to improve their aim as they choose another position of service. 
    • Thank them for their service! Invite others to join you. Express your appreciation in emails and notes of encouragement. It means more than words in passing to put your thoughts in writing. 
    • Affirm, Assess and Retool - Meet again to intentionally retool for future ministry. Together, assess and celebrate what was discovered about their gifts and talents while in the position. 
    • Follow-up and Reaffirm - A few weeks later, make a follow-up call to thank them again for their service with them about how God will use the experience to help them find a good ministry fit. 

    Friday, November 8, 2013

    Part 1 - Volunteer burn-out - a dirty little secret

    It is time to talk about a dirty little secret - volunteer burn-out.  

    Webster's Dictionary defines burn-out as: the condition of someone who has become very physically and emotionally tired after doing a difficult job for a long time. 

    Burn-out and the church's lack of response is a complicated and sensitive issue. Instead of blasting you with a really long post, I'm going to allow time for reflection by presenting my thoughts in three separate posts.

    In Part 1 -  I will describe my thoughts on why burn-out happens in Children's Ministry as well as why it is a dirty little secret. 

    In Part 2, I will explore ways to recognize, address and minister to volunteers in burn-out. 

    In Part 3,  I will share tools and strategies to prevent and hopefully eliminate burn-out and maintain a healthy church with healthy volunteers. 

    Part 1 - Why burn-out happens.

    Burn-out can happen to the most dedicated and passionate ministry workers. Swept up in the joy of serving others in Jesus' name, many healthy, good hearted and hardworking saints over serve. Many times, encouraged or guilted to over serve by church leadership, our once engaged and motivated workers become cynical, unhealthy, overburdened, overcommitted and exhausted shadows of themselves.  Over serving sanctioned by church leadership and innocently disguised as calls to "sacrificial service" is insidious, manipulative and destructive. The results are devastating to the individual, their family and friends. The fall out from volunteer burnout is the dirty little secret few churches are willing to admit or address. 

    Since I am a Children's Minister, I'm acutely aware volunteer burn-out within Children's Ministry leadership. Burn-out exists in other areas of the church, but the constant demands and needs of children's ministry require more people and more responsibility than any other church ministry.   Over the past few decades, Children's ministries have improved safety standards requiring even more people and background screening for all volunteers.  These changes are a good thing, but created a huge challenge because the pool of potential workers for Children's Ministry decreased while the required number of workers increased.  Many churches only allow adult workers further limiting the pool of potential volunteers.

    Hands down, Children's ministry requires the largest number of workers each week.  It takes, on  average, a ratio of one adult to three children to provide administration, supervision and fully staffed classrooms/groups for a safe and effective children's program.  Add to that, multiple weekly programs/sessions and a church with 120 children requires 40 workers for Sunday and 40 for one  additional program. In this case, 80 workers per week for 120 children brings the weekly ratio to less than one adult for every two children. 

    Unless the ministry limits the number of sessions to match the available pool of personnel, the need for workers consistently exceeds the number of volunteers available so qualified workers feel obligated to serve in multiple leadership roles.  The well-meaning saints bound for burn-out give up their worship hour, Bible study group, fellowship time and/or family time to serve extra sessions and provide added hours of leadership.  When they make a habit of skipping worship or Bible study to serve, they miss the important spiritual recharge and renewal essential for service. When they make a habit of short-cutting family time, their personal lives and relationships suffer.

    Soon, they find themselves running on personal and spiritual empty. It is a slippery slope to decreased joyful spirit-filled service. Left unchecked, running on empty eventually leads to volunteer burn-out in which the once energized and enthusiastic individual presents as burdened, anxious, detached and joyless and bottom out as angry, resentful and cynical. 

    The individual's reaction to burn-out varies from healthy and helpful to unhealthy and harmful.  People might….
    • Ask for a break from their service or reduction in responsibilities to renew and refresh, then  return to serve, but never over-serve again. 
    • Seek out a spiritual mentor to provide counsel, pray with and for them.  
    • Resign and find another area of ministry where they can limit their service OR worse, repeat the same mistakes in the new area only to burn out again.
    • Become physically rundown suffering viruses, colds and malaise. 
    • Project their negative feelings on others; blame or create conflict with others around them. 
    • Ignore or deny burn-out until depression or detachment creates marital and other relationship problems.
    • Act out with angry outbursts of frustration. 
    • Leave the church. Some leave quietly and find another church and some leave the church altogether. 
    Unfortunately, many volunteers in Children's ministry sliding down the slippery slope toward burn-out live in total denial or suffer in silence fearful to admit their struggles until it is too late. It's a dirty little secret, they keep to themselves until it is too late.

    Personal reasons for denial and silence are reinforced by church practices. The church shares in the dirty little secret from the beginning. Whether intentionally or not, these examples of common church practices set volunteers up for burn-out and punishes them when it happens.
    • Ask the same few "Yes" people to fill in or lead and do it over and over again. It is much easier to use them than rotate through the large list until you get a Yes!
    • Recruit an inspired new believer to take on multiple ministry leadership roles. New to the church, John's  great joy teaching kindergarten is noticed by church leadership and suddenly he's asked to lead the men's ministry, join the Preschool board AND continue to teach.  
    • Allow church staff to model unhealthy church/home boundaries.  Church staff is required or encouraged to always be at church or available setting up expectations of over serving.  
    • Add programs before there are enough people to run them. Add programs without assessing feasibility in effort to attract more young families or provide "childcare" during Adult offerings. 
    • Minimize the time commitment and responsibilities of a leadership role. The idea is people  don't want to know, already know or will not volunteer if they know all the details. 
    • Celebrate and single out volunteers who over serve with awards or excessive praise.  Base incentives to serve on external rewards or awards for high profile positions with long hours.  
    • Use Pastor's influence to get a volunteer to take on a huge ministry commitment.   Most people find it hard to say no to the Senior Pastor, so send him in to close the deal. 
    • Fail to minister to and/or punish volunteers who burn-out.  Failure is not acceptable and usually addressed by dismissing or asking the volunteer to resign.  Reasons for dismissal or resignation are reported as spiritual issues, illness, family problems, personality conflicts, etc. 
    • Let burned out volunteers leave the church "unnoticed". Let people leave quietly and without follow up to avoid embarrassment or minimize church conflict. 
    I believe churches mean well and their motive is to spread the gospel, NOT to do harm.  Hopefully, by openly talking about burn-out and admitting it exists, we can bring the dirty little secret into the light…

      To be continued in Parts 2 & 3.  

    Go Ahead - Google it!