Wednesday, April 29, 2009

How Well Do You Communicate?

I have a friend in youth ministry who recently had a confrontation with his Pastor/boss (the adjective here is boss).  The pastor was cornered by a concerned parent who was feeling like most parents of a teenager... uniformed, confused, frustrated, lost, and looking for answers, any answers!  

The student ministry was preparing for a trip that this parents son registered for, put a deposit on and was in process of making final plans to attend when the mother found out through a letter in the mail. The letter informed her of "how excited" the church was that her son would be leaving in three days with other students and leaders for a five-day mission project.  
The mother was very upset and remembered talking about the trip with her son and even the youth pastor, but never consented to him going. I will now summarize to keep from boring you with a very lengthy story.

- The son asked the mother to attend the mission trip
- The mother said no because family was visiting from out of state
- The son became upset and talked to the youth pastor
- The youth pastor prayed with the student
- The youth pastor told the student he should do what God was leading him to do
- The son disobeyed his mother and you know the rest

The mother explained the situation to the pastor who then shared his conversation with the youth pastor.  The pastor explained some basic principles of communication and he felt the youth pastor feel short in these areas.  He asked to have a meeting with the parent, student and youth pastor to clear up the situation and to help prevent future occurrences.  The youth pastor refused, became very upset and ultimately was released from his position.

This story is very sad, true and happens more than we would like to admit.  I am happy to say that my friend has made restitution with the student, parent and Pastor.  He continues to serve in ministry and has chosen to lean and grow from his mistake.  He allowed me to post this in hopes that others would not follow the same simple mistake he made, a lack of communication.  Good communication to the student, parent and pastor could have saved a great deal of pain to the ministry  and families involved.

Good communication to the student would have directed him to honor and obey his parent and then encourage him to really share and express his passion to go on the mission trip.  If the parent still says no, support that decision.

Good communication to the parent would have not come in the mail three days before the departure date.  There would have been at least four letters/contacts:
  1. A "registration" letter to the parent with details about the trip.
  2. A "Congratulations" letter letting the parent and student know that they (the student) has meet all the requirements and is invited to be a part of the trip team.
  3. An "update" letter informing parents of how the trip preparation is progressing.
  4. A "per-trip check list" letter with what to bring, departure details, emergency contacts while on the trip and the remaining balance for the cost of the trip.
  5. A "post-trip" letter with details and a report of how the trip was.
Good communication to the pastor would have allowed the pastor to defend the youth pastor and address some of the concerns the parent had.  Even if the pastor doesn't recall the details he can at least assure the parent that he knows the trips progress is going well and he is not caught of guard.  If a pastor or executive is updated about the ministries of the church, they are usually comfortable in directing people to the ministry leader, adding their "vote of confidence" to those with concerns or questions.  Note: emails are the best way to keep your boss informed, don't bother them with daily twenty minute updates.

This is a very short post addressing a very big problem (in all ministry areas) that many churches struggle with weekly.  Don't let this area fall short in your ministry.  If you don't communicate, you may find yourself constantly behind while trying to earn the respect and trust of parents and leaders again and again.

1 comment:

Josh said...

I am going through a similar circumstance and was wondering if I could contact you. Thank you for your blog, I really enjoy reading and following.