Let’s imagine for a moment that you are at an off-site event with a set of kids and volunteers. You are at a gas station filling up the 15-passenger van when an individual that you have never met before walks up to you. He boldly thrusts out his hand, shakes your hand vigorously, and says “My name is Bill. Will you give me the keys to that van?” You have been entrusted by parents with the lives of the kids in this van. Who in their right mind would surrender the keys to someone you don’t know and literally just met? The individual begins to get pushy. “Listen,” he says, “I don’t know why you’re hesitating. Look at my driver’s license. I have been a fantastic driver all of my life. Give me the keys to the van”. Though this sounds like an odd and nearly comical situation, this has happened to me in ministry on more than one occasion. Individuals with a very firm agenda have sought me out, with resume in hand, to tell me what they think we should do with the ministry I lead.
Individuals new to the church will abruptly introduce themselves and begin sharing what wonderful things they had done at their last church. They are eager to get involved and they have experiences that they can bring to the table. At first glance, this might seem like a wonderful thing if the individual simply wants to enhance the ministry culture at your church. Sometimes, though, the individual will introduce themselves in a less than appropriate and more assertive fashion, with an agenda in mind. They desire to implement their program in your Children’s Ministry. They have just met you. They do not know nor understand the ministry culture in your church, and yet they are asking for the keys to the car. This is a terrible idea!
Wouldn’t it be nice to have a super excited and eager volunteer assertively tell you they are willing to jump in? We are all in need of volunteers. You don’t, however, want to intersect and engage with someone who is demanding the keys to the car this early in the game. If the first time you meet someone they are pushy and forward and off-putting, you can only expect more of the same. Trust me, I speak from experience.
Put into place some simple boundaries and barriers. Avert massive leadership disaster by insisting on a season of “getting to know you.” Say to this individual, “We are so excited for this opportunity. We would love for you to get to know us, and for us to get to know you. The culture that we have created at our church is that we would like to serve you for the first six months of your time here. As you learn about the rhythm, momentum, and things that we are doing in our ministry, over time it would be a fantastic opportunity to find out where you could fit and make a contribution.”
Interestingly enough, on both occasions where I had an individual try to aggressively insert their agenda, these individuals left the church almost instantly. They said with their actions “if I cannot have it my way, I will not have it any way”. Disaster was averted because we had boundaries in place.
You have been given the charge of caring for and nurturing this ministry. Give people time to get acclimated to your church before inserting themselves in the ministry. Don’t give away the keys to the car.