Lunch at the Blue Goose Mexican Cantina revolutionized our youth ministry. Three of us—two youth ministers (Dave and me) and our secretary (Linda)—got together for the sole purpose of talking about communication. Ours goals were simple: We wanted to find out how to:
- Better serve our students, parents, and volunteer leaders.
- Salvage our sanity by better managing our inboxes, flood of phone calls and money spent on postage.
Up until that point we communicated any updates in the following ways:
- The weekly worship guide/church bulletin.
- The weekly church-wide e-newsletter.
- Our youth ministry weekly e-newsletter.
- Individual grade-level e-mail blasts.
- Youth ministry-wide e-mail blasts.
- Church website.
- Youth ministry website.
- Various mailings (cards, calendars, snazzy brochures, etc.).
Somehow though, even with all that communication, all three of us would still get countless calls and e-mails about where to be, when. A major problem was that different staff members managed different communication pieces at different times, in different ways. Sometimes Linda would send out e-mail blasts; sometimes I would. Some days Dave would update our website; some days Linda would. It didn’t help that, as “program staff,” Dave and I didn’t have our eyes on the details. Our e-mail blast about the lock-in Friday night noted the time and place, but not the cost or time for pick up. Families would have to read communication pieces (oh, and they were wordy back then!) for the majority of information but go somewhere else to find complete details.
So at the Blue Goose that day, we talked about what worked or had the potential to work (church-wide pieces, our weekly e-news and our website) and what didn’t (all the rest). We decided then and there to keep and improve on what worked, and then let our ministry know that everything else was going away. We also formally assigned who was in charge of what. It turns out both Linda and I enjoyed different parts of communication, and Dave didn’t enjoy any of it. So? Dave stepped out, Linda and I divided and conquered.
Also huge that day was deciding to give all details (all of them) to our secretary and posting them on our online calendar… and only on our online calendar. Linda was the only one of us who consistently posted all the “need to knows” for our events, so why not empower her to manage them? From that day on, Dave and I planned details for events, handed them over to Linda, and never touched them again. “Check the calendar” became our mantra, and it trained our ministry to be self-sufficient in finding what they needed to plug into our programming. Those three words also cut our inbox totals by probably 50% and freed us to do much more life-giving work.
This worked for us, a youth ministry in a large church. It’s not perfect, and inevitably, it will change. (In fact, it’s already changed with the addition of more social media connections. Maybe in the future those will totally take over, but we’re not there yet.) Something similar might work for you, or if not, maybe just one or two of the concepts will.
Three keys we’ve found:
- Keeping our people informed.
- Empowering the right people to manage the work.
Of course it’s helpful that Linda and I naturally gravitate toward communication-type ministry. If this isn’t your story, be creative in who you empower. There are people in your church who’d enjoy doing this kind of work for you.
What are your thoughts? What pieces have you picked out of this story that might help your church or ministry area? I’d love to hear!