Q&A: How Can We Avoid the Drift?
I’m looking for tips on how to navigate the ever-present drift towards selfishness on our volunteer teams. Our volunteers (and sometimes team leaders) push back against strategic changes that infringe upon personal preferences. We’re already giving the “why” behind the change and providing evidence of success. What else can we do?
[from the 2020 Blog Survey]
Since you’ve given the caveat of what you’re already doing (well done, by the way), I’ll approach this from a different angle. (And if you want my typical angle, this post on seven ways to help your volunteers navigate what’s next may be helpful.)
But beyond vision casting, statistical and anecdotal evidence, and giving volunteers a long runway to prepare for what’s coming, I think there’s a bigger issue at stake:
Me > Them
In Deep and Wide, Andy Stanley says that the gravitational pull of the church is towards insiders. In other words, we naturally drift towards systems and structures that are familiar, comfortable, and ours.
Take a typical weekend worship service, for example, and think of the way that you would design the ideal experience if you were the only one in charge: there’s likely a specific place you’d want to sit, a specific level you’d want the music volume, a specific sermon topic that’s convicting but not too convicting, and a specific worship set that warms the ventricles of your specific heart. What’s helpful / preferred / desired by others doesn’t matter as much as what’s helpful / preferred / desired by you.
Unless we’re on guard, it’s easy for me to win out over them.
Getting our volunteers to see beyond me and look towards them is the goal, but it’s often a significant jump to get there. That’s why I recommend a me-centered question with they-centered qualifiers:
If I were new, what would I need?
That question forces a person to think about a guest’s experience and not their own. But here’s the rub: the knee-jerk reaction is a circular descent into madness. If me > they, then the initial (honest) answer will yield the exact same results you’re trying to change.
The goal is not to get your friend to answer what they’d need now, but what they’d need if they’re new. And that answer involves some deconstruction of their relationship with the church: take away the friendships you currently have. Ditch your familiarity with the building. Scuttle your familiarity with faith and the Bible and an evangelical worship service. If you were brand new to this congregation, brand new to this city, and brand new to the concept of Christianity, what would you need? What would make you the most comfortable? What would bring you the greatest discomfort? What would alleviate your anxiety? What would nudge you closer to Jesus?
Those questions may produce some ouch moments. And they may take some gentle guidance and even more probing follow up questions. But the end goal is an others-centric focus.
Romans 15:7 reminds us to “welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” Jesus met us where we were, in our deepest brokenness and our greatest need. He didn’t require us to make our way to him; he came to us. When we take that same posture of humility and offer an outstretched hand to our guests, it makes us look a little more like Jesus. And it might just help our guests see him a little bit more clearly.