How NOT to Build a Family-Friendly Ministry

Who wants more great people on their team?

Obviously, look we’re all about that! Last post we talked about the first 3 ways to boost the pipeline and engage more people in serving: (1) Switch Roles – see yourself as the asset manager of your organization, online with the assets being the people. Stop being the hole filler in your ministry. (2) Narrow the Focus – consider the possibility that you’re doing too much and that eliminating some activity could increase the available manpower for what matters most. (3) Provide support – make sure that those who are giving their time are clear on what’s expected and resourced to achieve the targets.

Now here are ways 4, sale 5, and 6…

4. Acknowledge Achievements.

Peter Drucker popularized the phrase, “what gets rewarded gets repeated.” In fact, he called it the most important management principle in the world. Everybody likes to know when they’ve scored a point. And once the target is clearly defined, we can celebrate every time somebody hits it.

Practically speaking, there are lots of ways to do this. Gary Chapman’s book, “The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace” is a great place to start. One way we use on our team for determining how people like to be recognized is…ask them! We make a list and ask people to circle the way that’s most meaningful to them. Then we at least know what kind of acknowledgment will be meaningful.

5. Create Mobility. 

Serving in ministry is great. And some people are wired to stick with a particular role or task for the long haul. But others are going to need a very clear path toward more responsibility and variety. For those people, the question that is already circling around in their minds & hearts is, “What’s my next step?” And that’s a good question for leaders to consider. It’s our responsibility to think that through, to create next steps for those who are inclined to “move up the ladder.”

Here are a few things I’ve learned about building organizational “ladders” in a church setting:

  • Make it simple – if you’re leading a volunteer effort, don’t make it another job for people
  • Make it clear – map out exactly what’s expected to move up the ladder
  • Like a ladder, create 2 rails (1) Requirements and (2) Responsibilities
  • Focus on the right stuff – not popularity, but character and effectiveness
  • Be sure that the bottom rung of every ladder has room for those exploring faith, and that the top rung is a serious leadership position in your church or organization

6. Make Recruiting Everybody’s Job.

The teams I see thrive best are those where everybody is onboarding new people. When recruiting is bottlenecked with the team leader, that team always stalls out. Give people on each team permission and responsibility for filling positions on the team. Help them by spelling out what you’re looking for. The more clear this is, the faster the team will fill to capacity and beyond. If existing team members are having a good experience and doing meaningful work, it will be contagious. They’ll get friends and family members involved as quickly as you will allow them to.

At our church we’ve found Dave & Jon Ferguson’s book “Exponential” extremely helpful with this piece. They spell out a 5-step process for apprenticing new people in ministry:

(1) I do, you watch, we talk

(2) I do, you help, we talk

(3) You do, I help, we talk

(4) You do, I watch, we talk

(5) You do, someone else watches

Once people get this framework in their minds, it can become part of the team’s culture to invite others to watch, then help, then take ownership of the process.


How about you – what tips do you have for helping others get involved? I’d love to hear your feedback and suggestions, feel free to comment and share!

The last thing any church leader would want to do is build a ministry that hurts families. I’ve never met a single leader who has tried to do that. But I’ve seen plenty of ministry environments that are having that effect.


By being too nice.

You might wonder how in the world being nice could hurt families. What I’m referring to is when leaders say “Yes” to everything. And the place where this really shows up is the calendar.

Question: What would it look like if the average family in your church was fully engaged in the programs you offer? Would there be time for anything else in their schedule? Dinners around the table? Time to chat with neighbors? Meaningful activities & enrichment? Unhurried family nights?

That’s why at our church we’ve decided to take a more “lean & mean” approach to church programming. Not that we’re trying to be mean:) But we are trying to be ruthless about protecting a family’s margin. In this insanely busy world, web
it may be the most important asset a family has. We see ourselves not as a “one-stop shop” or a buffet of activities for families. We see ourselves as partners to equip families to fully experience faith and live it out in their daily lives.

What about you? What are your thoughts about how the church can best serve families?

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