Q&A: What Advice Would You Give to Someone Just Starting Out?
What advice would you give to a 25 year old starting to develop people in guest services and in church work?
[Alex Valverde, Cross Pointe Church, Duluth, Georgia]
I am always a bit hesitant (okay, way hesitant) to answer questions like this. It infers that there is an age at which one arrives on the top of a misty mountain and is qualified to dole out advice. As a guy who can’t remember to renew his car tag until the week after it’s due, I’m not necessarily the one you want to ask about how to put yourself together.
Secondly, I realize that whatever I say as a (current) 45 year old will change by the time I’m 50. And likely change again by the time I’m 60. And by the time I’m 90 I’ll have forgotten what I said at 45 so maybe it’ll all be new again.
In short, I am not – in the words of Forrest Gump – a smart man.
But Alex was kind enough to ask an ancient fossil two decades ahead of him, so here is the somewhat knee-jerk, in-no-particular-order response. Come back in twenty minutes and I will have likely re-thought 80% of these answers:
1. Be a learner. Read like crazy, listen to podcasts, learn from other people. Here’s my recommended reading list.
2. Stand on the shoulders of the “old guard” who annoy you / seem to be standing in the way of your progress / disagree with you. They have plenty to teach you, and even though their ways may not be your ways, you can learn a lot from them. Take them to lunch, ask lots of questions, and shut up and start writing down their answers.
3. Help your church or volunteer team figure out who she is. Gather lots and lots of ideas from other churches, yes. But don’t become a mutt that just represents a mix of everything out there. Make their ideas your idea, and adapt it for your context.
4. Don’t be the only voice in the room. If other people don’t use their voice because of shyness or fear or whatever, help them find it and call it out of them.
5. If you’re a micromanager, knock it off. Let other people have great ideas. (I speak as a recovering micromanager.)
6. Don’t be afraid to make the “big ask” of your volunteers. Many are capable of much more than they’re currently doing, and you might insult them if you don’t. A bored volunteer is an at-risk volunteer.
7. Don’t keep going after the same people who tell you “yes.” You might burn them out, and you might frustrate the other people who would be willing to give a yes.
8. Love Jesus more than you love your job. A misplaced identity is a terrible taskmaster. You need to get centered in his word well before you get centered around your role.
9. If you’re a perfectionist, knock it off. Get it 85% of the way you want it and get it out the door. I speak as an even worse recovering perfectionist.
10. Put your family way ahead of your ministry. Second place is a horrible place to be. You don’t want your wife to feel like the church is the other woman, and you don’t want your kids growing up resenting the church who stole their daddy. Read Andy Stanley’s When Work and Family Collide right now. (I wish I would have read that at 25 instead of 35.)
(bonus) 11. Ask this same question to people in every decade of life from 30-90. Because they’ll all have a unique angle on the answer.
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