Awhile back, I started a file on my computer titled, “Things not to do with those I lead.” I hadn’t looked at it in a long time, so I decided to open it up and see what I had written. I laughed when I saw that I only had one item listed: do not devalue people in public. One is better than none, and I’ve learned my lesson on this topic.
A youth ministry friend of mine was telling me a story about a recent trip she took with her youth ministry teens and volunteers. It was time to head home and a few of the youth were not at the check-in area to load the cars. Unable to contact the teens on their cell phone because, they learned later, that the battery had died, they were concerned about what to do next. One of her volunteer drivers began to get mad at the youth ministry leader, saying that she was a bad leader because she could not keep track of all the teens. This volunteer, in an upset voice, said that the youth ministry leaders was irresponsible and not capable of leading a youth ministry program at the parish. The youth ministry leader had no idea what to do. She was being yelled at in front of the rest of the group of volunteers and teens and she did not appreciate it. Eventually, they found the two missing youth, who thought the check-in location was at a different spot. They drove home and ended their day.
Later, this youth ministry leader came to meet with me and talk about the situation. She was visabally upset, not so much about the volunteers comments, but about the way that the volunteer went about confronting her. She was publically devalued and was concerned about what the teens were thinking. We talked it out for a bit and came to the conclusion that when volunteers come on board to help in ministry, that they understand that they are welcome to bring constructive criticism to the youth ministry leader… in private. In turn, the youth ministry leader would do the same when her volunteers needed some coaching and guidance.
It is a tough balance to maintain, because, as leaders, we certainly want people to come to us to share their honest thoughts and opinions. We do not want to hinder their ability to do that, because those thoughts are very valuable and can contribute to a positive change in the ministry. But at the same time, there is a time and place to share those thoughts, and in the middle of a heated situation when you are trying to find your missing teens, is not the time.
When I have to confront people, I try my best to do it in private, and I expect the same in return. And when I do confront them, I make sure that they know they are still valued and an important part of the team.
How have you dealt with situations like this?