Your how is as important as your why.
There’s a story that goes, “One day on recess one of the big kids approached a group of younger kids and grabbed the first one he came to. The big kid said to the little kid, ‘Accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior right now, or I’ll punch you in the nose.'”
Of course the little kid “accepted Jesus.” But what a sad, un-Jesusy way to do ministry. Your how matters!
Two weeks ago Bernie Anderson helped with finding your why, today we are going to talk about one aspect of your how. This how applies to you no matter what culture you’re in.
You can have the greatest why on the planet, but if you cannot communicate, you are going to trip yourself, and others, up every time. Communication is a like a buffet . . . there’s so much it can be overwhelming where to start. Instead of focusing on all aspects of communication, join me over here by the bread, and we’ll just focus on one aspect of communication: communicating with teammates.
Now, your teammates might be small in number (your spouse and/or a few others), they might be in person or virtual, and working with them might involve big events or more daily tasks; regardless, one thing is true: they are not mind readers.
We have all worked with people who do not communicate well, and it is beyond frustrating. Here are three questions to ask both everyone on your team, and yourself personally, that should help mitigate your frustrations:
1—Does everyone know what they are to do and when it is due? (Do I know what I am to do and when it’s due?)
I’m on the board of a nonprofit that hired a new Executive Director this year. Part of our role as the board is to evaluate him, so I made a list of the seven big buckets in which we will evaluate him. Things like “donor relations, leading the ministry, and staff development.” Honestly, no one can do all seven well in their first year on the job. So, the board chose the top three priorities and told him to focus on them in the first year. We added three more in the second year, and by year three all seven will be a part of his evaluation.
Action step: Ask “Do I know my role and what I am to do?” If a team leader, “Do all teammates know what they are to do?” Do not assume. It’s better to say something twice than not at all. Email or discuss what everyone on the team is doing for a project, event, or season.
2—Do people know what you have been doing? What roadblocks or frustrations you have encountered? What successes or victories you have experienced? What additional information or any extra help you need? How is the timeline working for you?
People can work with almost anything…if they know! Of course you’re going to have last minute emergencies, but when you know, communicate. Several times one of the Global Trellis specialists has needed to take a quarter off from writing or miss a team meeting. That’s okay! I’m a reasonable person, and I understand that life happens. Thankfully, they are good at communicating when they need an extension to a writing deadline or if they aren’t sure how to do some techie thing in a blog post. None of us will be experts on everything, but we can all share with our teammates what’s going well, where we’re stumped, and how our progress is coming along.
Action step: Take time this week to update teammates on your progress and to ask about their progress.
3—Who do you need to communicate with today or this week?
As I thought about this post and even as I’ve been writing, several people and situations have come to mind where I have either dropped the ball or not invested as much time in communication as I needed. I have already texted one person and will email another as soon as I finish this post.
We don’t have to make this harder than it is! Send the text, write a short email, have a 30 minute zoom call with your team. I’ve heard a leader say that he’s told his team they cannot over communicate . . . and if they do, he’ll let them know. In decades of working with teammates, he has never needed to tell anyone they have communicated too much.
Action step: Write that email, make the phone call, send the text.
You’re probably doing a decent job of communicating. But I believe that communication is a key component to how you do your ministry. Referring back to the story at the beginning, your how matters. Threatening to punch people in the face might be an “effective” way for someone to do ministry if you just want the answer, “I believe!”
But no matter what type of work you are doing, you are not doing it alone. Effective communication needs to be a part of your how. If we are not communicating well with those we work with, our why and what will suffer.
Review these three groups of questions once a month. And remember the paradox of going slow to go fast. Communication is an area where the wise, in going slow, go farther.
Which action step do you need to take today?