Wednesday, June 23, 2010

How equipped are your church's front line supervisors?

If the job of a church is to get people plugged into the life giving hope that Jesus offers everyone, then it is incredibly important to make sure the church does this job well. And honestly, there are many areas in which we don't do this job we should try to do it better.

I always find it interesting to look at "mainstream" leadership tactics/experts/strategies etc and see how they would apply to a ministry setting. I know, I'm incredibly nerdy. One of these leadership experts that I'm becoming more and more a fan of is Tom Peters.

I heard about Tom Peters from Seth Godin's blog a while ago. Tom Peters is an author, speaker, leadership expert, management consultant, etc etc. Apparently he also invented the exclamation point.

Here's a quick clip from Tom Peters where he is talking about the importance of competent first line supervisors:

I dig this video because it equates directly to ministry applications in my mind. You can go a few directions with who the "first line supervisors" are in a church.

Who is a church's first line supervisor?

Maybe in some environments they would be small group leaders, project leaders during an outreach event, usher team leaders on the weekend, etc. Any direction you go, how often in our churches do we just fill these positions with less than ideal people because there is a hole to fill? How often are these positions plugged with people who do not have matching skill sets, are improperly trained, and are basically set up to fail?

If it's ever, it's too often.

In some ways, I'd even say that our church's "first line supervisor" isn't even a supervisory position. It's any volunteer.

Someone who hands out bulletins, parks cars, works a kiosk, helps people find seats, checks in kids, watches babies, directs visitors around the church, etc etc etc. The people in many ways we relate to the role of "worker" would probably be better viewed as a "first line supervisor."

Watch the video again

But this time superimpose someone in one of these volunteer positions in your mind where he says "first line supervisor." See if that doesn't make sense.

Wouldn't we want our door greeters & bulletin hander-outers (I don't have a better term) to be able to answer people's questions? Aren't our kiosk workers the first people that others come to when they need help? Don't the ushers who appear to be in charge need to be able to assist in any kind of issue that comes up? Even if it's not related to "their area?"

Or is it ok for these people to just be able to smile and hand out an item to someone?

Or a better question. 

Say you're visiting a church, you have an important question, problem, etc and you go to someone passing out bulletins, an usher, a kiosk worker, a door greeter, or someone else for help...and they don't know the answer. How many people are you going to ask (who also don't know they answer) before you get frustrated and give up?

Now you're focused on your frustration, instead of God. Instead of continuing your search for spirituality, instead of hearing of God's love for you, all you can think about is how difficult it is to get your question answered. We've now created a roadblock between people and God.

But what about the empty holes?

I feel getting the right people in these roles and properly trained is more than simply "filling holes that need to be filled." In fact, I'd say it's much better to leave a hole empty than it is to put someone in there who is unqualified and untrained to fill it. And we have the capabilities to train people! Volunteers don't need their hand held. They just need a little direction, a little empowerment, and the right information so that they don't feel helpless when confronted with a problem.

Your thoughts?