No matter how long you have been in Youth Ministry you will discover quickly that effective communication is absolutely key. Communication with God, your pastor, volunteers or teens—anyone connected to the mission—is a must. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you are communicating:
Most miscommunication is based on a lack of clarity. When instructions are not clear there is a good chance that tasks will not be accomplished properly. I realize that some of us are better than others at being clear. If you are not one of those naturally gifted clarity-blessed-individuals, I suggest the following:
Sit with it:
When I want to share information, goals, expectations I need to make sure I understand them first. I will quite literally sit with all of the information that I want to communicate and run it over in my head, or talk it out loud so that I can be certain it is clear to me, and therefore I can communicate it clearly to others.
You may hand out a task to a volunteer that involves calling 25 teens to personally invite them to an event. Your expectation is that this volunteer will have a conversation with each of those teens. However, if you didn’t communicate to your volunteer that a literal conversation is what you expect, leaving a voicemail and moving on to the next name on the call list will be considered ‘ok’ by your volunteer. See the subtlety here?
Put it in writing:
Unfortunately, we live in a society where memory is pretty much shot. Most people can’t even remember multiple phone numbers, let alone detailed instructions. Having a clear conversation with someone is great, but it isn’t enough. I am a big fan of having things in writing so that people can go back to something with clear instructions. Email, a print out, or a handwritten note will help folks succeed by having your instructions written down.
Let’s say you have done all of the above. Good for you. You are still not done. No matter how clear you are in communicating information you need to follow up with individuals to make sure that tasks are being accomplished.
Initial follow up:
Let’s say you meet with the above referenced volunteer to get them to call those 25 teens. You have a great conversation. You hand them a Word document with your detailed expectations. They leave eager to get the task done. Send them a follow up email a few days later thanking them for their help, and also include the Word document as a gentle reminder.
Check in call:
You will need to determine the length of time appropriate for this call. Essentially you are calling to check in and see how things are going thus far. If your volunteer hasn’t started making the calls, this gives you an opportunity to see why and possibly give them a way out so that you can get someone else to do this. If your volunteer is having issues reaching the teens you can possibly offer alternate numbers. You are not trying to micromanage, but you do want to make sure things are happening.
You are coming to the deadline for these calls to be completed, so you need to close the loop and make sure your volunteer is crossing the finish line. Depending on the best way to communicate with your volunteer an email, meeting, or phone call is appropriate. This is a simple reminder that this task is due and you want to see if they need anything from you to finish up.
Having clear expectations with great follow up will help you and your volunteers to thrive, and ultimately be a blessing to all those you serve.