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Misfit or misplaced?

iphone-misfit-toysDid you miss the right fit? It happens to every equipping leader at some time or another. The best leaders find out early and have the opportunity to correct the problem. The key is to resist the urge to deny or ignore the problem!

My friend Mac was faced with just such a situation–a misfit volunteer. Jane was serving as a children’s Sunday school teacher. She began her ministry enthusiastically, but it wasn’t long before Mac began receiving complaints from frustrated parents whose children no longer wanted to attend Sunday school. Then the Sunday school team leader shared her concern that Jane no longer engaged with the team. She missed a few team meetings and wasn’t responding to inquiries about her absence. Mac realized that he had a problem that needed his immediate attention, so he arranged to meet with Jane.

Mac later told me how much he dreaded that conversation. He didn’t want to “fire” Jane. She was a nice woman and had seemed the perfect addition to the children’s ministry team. Her eagerness to help children come to know Jesus had been almost palpable during their initial conversation, but it was now obvious that something had gone awry.

When Jane walked into Mac’s office, her discomfort was obvious. Mac intentionally sat on the same side of his desk as Jane and began with light conversation. After a few minutes Jane began to relax, and only then did Mac ask how she was experiencing her ministry as Sunday school teacher. For a moment it seemed she was not going to answer, but then the frustration poured out along with her tears. She felt like a failure! She wanted to teach the children about Jesus, but they didn’t respond to her efforts to maintain order in the classroom. The parents were unhappy because their children cried when they were left in her class. And she felt like such a misfit when meeting with the other teachers because they enjoyed their classes as much as Jane dreaded hers. Mac listened carefully. It was apparent that Jane’s passion to share Jesus with the children was still there; it was equally apparent that being a teacher was not the best way for her to share that passion.

“Jane, if you could do anything in children’s ministry that you wanted, what would it be?” Mac asked. Jane thought for a moment, then said, “The supply closet is such a mess. I can never find what I need! The other teachers can’t either so they just go out and buy new supplies, which end up lost in the closet again. I would love to take charge of that closet and make sure the children and teachers have the resources they need for Sunday school each week.” Mac almost fell out of his chair! That closet was the bane of his existence and here was someone who wanted to take it on!

If you are an equipping leader struggling with a misfit, this may sound more like a fairy tale with its “happily ever after” ending. But I assure you it is a true story.  Here are some key takeaways:

  • Mac didn’t ignore the problem
  • Mac took the initiative to have a conversation with Jane–not a “come to Jesus meeting!”
  • Rather than making statements, Mac asked questions to gain a clear understanding
  • After listening carefully, Mac created space for Jane to create her ideal ministry serving the children she loved

Most “misfit volunteers” aren’t really misfits…they are simply misplaced. Commit yourself to doing whatever it takes to help them find their ideal serving role. Who knows? You might just find there is someone willing and eager to tackle the project you’ve been avoiding!

Want more? Click here to read an excellent article on redirecting volunteers from Church Volunteer Central.

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