I vividly remember the first time I heard it. I was in my early 20's and just started my first real Kids Ministry job. I was young, immature, not yet married, not yet a mother (which pause - not that you can't do Kid's Ministry when you aren't a parent, you just won't be nearly as good - unpause) and like most mere babies in ministry I honestly thought I was the first person to ever have this whole thing figured out. And, to top it off I couldn't really understand why everyone was acting like ministry was such a big deal, honestly it seemed pretty easy.
Oh the things current Jenny would tell 20 year old Jenny, but that is another post!
And while there are so many things I would have changed about myself in my first 5 years of ministry - the shear toxic level of pride would be the first one - this is the one time my pride actually served me well. Because I remember when I heard it thinking, "Well, that sounds stupid. I am not going to do that. Who would want to work like that?"
So what's the the best piece of leadership advice I ignored? Here it is:
Don't become friends with the people you work with, whether it be colleagues or those you supervise. That way when you have to have a corrective conversation, it makes it much easier.
And 30 year old Jenny has the same reaction, "Well, that sounds stupid. I am not going to do that. Who would want to work like that?"
Way to rock it at this one thing 20 year old Jenny, high five!
And, I was given this advice by 2 different pastors with a combined history of 50+ years in the ministry as well as a conference I attended. But there was something about it that just didn't seem right. Something that felt so cold, so dictator like, and well so ineffective. So, I didn't do it. I continued on doing the exact opposite and 10 years later here are 5 things I learned:
- People come because of the vision, they stay because of the community. I wish I could claim this as my own, but my friend Sue Miller said it before I did! But it is so true. If you adopt the mindset of not becoming friends with those on your team, you may be able to recruit some good people, heck even some great people, but they won't stay. Why? Because people stay for the community. Relationships change people, not job descriptions.
- The "hard" conversations aren't that hard when you are friends. Sure, they are still awkward. No one likes to be told they aren't doing something right, but the difference is you can openly address how awkward the situation is going to be. For instance, I normally just start off the conversation by bluntly saying, "Hey, I need to talk to you and it is probably going to be a little awkward, but I care about you enough to have this conversation." And because you both are friends, you aren't guessing the motive, body language or underlying tones, because you know the character, heart and intentions of the person not only as a boss but also as a friend.
- People work harder for those they love and trust. In a perfect Jesus loving world, we would all just work all the time as if we were doing it unto the Lord. And, maybe I am just not spiritual enough, but I know sometimes my job gets hard. And if I am being honest, there are times I consider quitting because it is so hard. But then I can't possibly think about what my days would look like without walking into an office and seeing the crazy crew I get to work with everyday. This crew that I have worked so hard to gain their respect and try to never disappoint. And, I can see it in the staff I oversee as well. Whenever morale is down or snappy attitudes arise, I can almost always attribute it to a really busy season that has shoved out anytime to really invest in each other personally. This is the time I normally stop what we are doing and schedule a fun day or just a simple visit to their office to talk about whats going on personally. And undoubtedly, the slump wears off and productivity goes through the roof. Why? Because when people know you are invested in them personally they are more likely to give a little more then normal, because they know you care! And when people are working hard, you don't have to have many corrective conversations. THE WHOLE REASON FOR THE ADVICE IN THE FIRST PLACE!
- The loneliness would have overtaken me. Ministry can be very lonely at times. This may be surprising to some of you. But many times we are faced with situations, needs, and decisions that we can't talk about outside our staff. Emotionally, those situations can sometimes weigh very heavy. And whether we like it or not and whether people mean to do it or not our families do live in a "fish bowl." Rarely, is there as much grace extended to us as we are expected to extend to others. All things we knew taking a job that we didn't have to take, but it doesn't take away from the fact that sometimes it gets really lonely, and I couldn't imagine trying to maneuver it without having a group of friends trying to maneuver it with me.
- I would have missed out on so many memories, most of which left my side hurting from all the laughter. Memories like these...