Hands on help: Lifeskills

Hands on help: Lifeskills

Woodruff, Mike

COMMUNICATION

how to spell ‘no’

Learn to say this word-and say it often, especially to yourself. If you find that you’re not saying it often enough to other people, try these tricks:

* Don’t say “yes.” Instead say, “Let me think about it.”

* Ask, “May I have your permission to say ‘no’? I’m simply running too thin right now.”

* Hand them the phone and say, “You call my family and tell them I’m signing up for something else. I don’t have the guts.”

bottom line FINANCES

Without intending to embarrass anyone, I’d like to set the record straight. In the eyes of the state, being a nonprofit institution doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed make a profit on an event such as a ski weekend or missions trip.

It doesn’t imply that you should lose money on fundraisers or keep a zero balance in your checking account. It doesn’t prohibit you from selling T-shirts for more than they cost you to make or buy, nor does it threaten you with jail time if you have more money at the end of the year than you had at the beginning. Being nonprofit means that…

* no investors are making money from your work-you don’t sell shares in your youth group as Microsoft does on the NASDAQ; and

* you’re subject to certain restrictions on what types of salaries can be paid (trust me, you’re well below the danger level).

I’m convinced that many people who thrive in ministry could make boatloads of money in business. However, an equal number would be bankrupt by noon. The love of money is the root of all sorts of evil. Having a positive cash flow for your ministry is not.

knocking the nose off the sphinx

We’ve all seen pictures of the Great Sphinx of Giza, that wonderful Egyptian monument parked next to the pyramids. It has the body of a 240-foot lion, the head of a man, and a panoramic view of the surrounding desert. What it doesn’t have, though, is a nose. Why? Because someone knocked it off. Sphinxes were made in the images of kings, but many are without noses because the succeeding kings ordered the statues defaced.

Five thousand years later, we see the vandals as self-centered bureaucrats, not legendary leaders. Yet most of us knock off a few noses ourselves. How? By bad-mouthing our predecessors, by listening to others do the same, or by unnecessarily dismantling our predecessors’ work.

* Speaking ill of others. Unless you’re forwarding your predecessors’ mail to the state prison (and even then it’s best to keep quiet), you shouldn’t say anything bad about them. You gain nothing by tearing down their memory; those who disliked them are unlikely to dislike them more, and those who esteem them will only think less of you.

* Listening to others talk trash. Under the cover of “There are a few things I think you should know… ” or “I really like what you’re doing because it’s so much more helpful than… ” well-intentioned people-and a few ill– intentioned as well-will try to talk ill of your predecessors. Don’t go there. If you sense they have a legitimate need to talk about their disappointments with the past, ask them to tell you about their needs that weren’t met. After listening carefully, you’ve won the right to say, “I believe my predecessors, even though they weren’t perfect, were God’s choice for this job back then. I’m not in a position to know about what did or didn’t happen, but let me tell you what I hope to do.”

* Dismantling their work. I’m on record as an advocate of change, but let me be clear: Good change isn’t change for change’s sake and certainly isn’t change to discredit your predecessors. Celebrate their successes. When you find it necessary to deep-six one of their programs, do so with class. Explain that the program was great during its time but is no longer the best option. Or instead of dropping the program, launch a new venture alongside it. That may provide a graceful transition from the old program to the new and may keep you from making enemies of those not quite ready to part with the past.

Mike Woodruff divides his time between directing the Ivy Jungle Network-a loose association of men and women who minister to collegians-and serving as an associate pastor in Illinois. The above articles are adapted from his book Managing Youth Ministry Chaos (Group Publishing, Inc.).

Copyright Group Publishing, Inc. Jan/Feb 2003

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