Showing posts with label Volunteer Care. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Volunteer Care. Show all posts

Monday, March 5, 2018

The Samuels Among Us: Joel Wilke

Camp Horizon Director, Joel Wilke and Fam.

During March, I will be interviewing four persons who entered into vocational ministry under the age of 25 and remained in that same position for at least 5 years.   

My prayer is that their stories will encourage you who are hearing the faint whispers of the Holy Spirit. And if you are currently in the tough trenches of ministerial work, know that The Call will sustain you--no matter what! You got this because God's got this! 💪✌❤

I want to thank Kelly Lindsley for naming this month's blog series. He is the husband of my favorite teacher, Catherine Lindsley. He is an amazing contemporary Christain artist, and his lyrics are nearly sacramental. (Can I say that?😆)

Camp Horizon Director, Joel Wilke, has served in this ministerial position for eight years. Joel is a rare breed of servant leader for he is both a dreamer and a doer. (Say what?!) I gleaned much from this interview and I hope you do as well, friend.

As one who entered into a full-time ministerial career at a young age, is there something about this profession that makes it weird? If not weird, what makes this type of work unique when compared to other professions? 

No, I wouldn’t say it is weird.  You have to get used to working with people your parent’s age, but that is the case in lots of professions when you are in your 20’s.  However, I did quickly learn in this profession that people perceive you differently when you tell them you work in ministry. My first year on the job as a youth minister, I had a friend of my wife’s come over to talk about her marriage with us because she basically considered me to be a “pastor” or at least “close enough to God” that I would know stuff.  When people hear I’m in ministry, it can elicit all sorts of feelings about people’s history (good and bad) regarding the Church because I somehow represent the entire church!  Funny things people do around me: 1) Apologize for cussing 2) Hesitate to have alcohol around 3)Awkwardly look at me to pray before any meal gathering.

What is one common misconception of those who serve in full-time ministry settings that you would like to correct? 

It’s a year-round gig!  Ministry never stops and sometimes people assume there are times of the year with not much going on, but in my experience, people working in ministry are always too busy.  Ministry is relational, and relationships are organic and take constant upkeep: funerals, weddings, hospital visits, people in crisis, people who need a listening ear...ministry plays a vital role in all of these settings, and they are not easily or consistently “penciled in” or added to schedules.

What was it about this ministerial “gig” that made you feel called to it? What parts were most in line with your gifts/talents? 

I’ve always felt called to serve children and youth. I love being outdoors, and I love the variety of tasks surrounding camp life.  On any given day I might spend the morning working on financial reports and the afternoon testing out slip n slides for summer camp! Camp is a form of ministry that changed my life and strengthened my faith, and it motivates me to keep this ministry strong for others.

By your 5th year, what percent of your job involved these pieces that brought you there in the first place? 

My role has not shifted much in the eight years I have been in my position.  The things that brought me to camp are still what I’m doing today.  However, this job has definitely matured me in profound ways.  I was always the funny risk-taker, but I quickly realized I had lives, jobs, and budgets at stake.  I still take risks, but they are calculated and well-planned with board member and conference approval, ha!  The nuts and bolts of running a nonprofit can sometimes overshadow the ministry components, and you have to find ways to keep a pulse on what brought you to the job in the first place and where the Spirit is moving.

During your first year on the job, who was your mentor? What made him/her a good mentor?

I had a whole group of mentors that helped me with the various aspects of running a camp.  What made them great was their support and trust in me, even at a young age.   I knew that I could be honest with them, and they created a safe space for me to ask questions without feeling dumb. Many of these mentors came from my site council; I had amazing board members who were invested in the camp and wanted to see both the camp and me thrive.  Also, my entire Wilke family… :)

What did your day of Sabbath (rest) look like during the first year? What does it look like now?  

It hasn’t changed much, I’ve always made it a priority to carve out time for rest and time with family.  The camp schedule changes a lot from week to week, so you have to be flexible to take your breaks in the middle of the week sometimes when you have a lot of groups coming on weekends and holidays.  Because I live on site, if I’m not careful I can go weeks without leaving camp and it starts to affect me, so I’ve learned I have to be intentional.  It doesn’t hurt that I have a beautiful disc golf course right outside my door!

Did you ever have a moment when you wanted to “throw in the towel” (quit)? Sharing as much as you feel comfortable--what all occurred?  

I have never considered quitting in the time I’ve been here.  However, times when I feel like I’ve reached my limit usually come after I have taken on too much.  At one point in time, we were trying to start new programming, trying to streamline office procedures, starting a capital campaign, working on major grounds/facilities improvements, and trying to attend several major conferences all at the same time.  I was running in too many directions and lost track of vision, clarity and purpose.  This is the moment when I have too many balls in the air.

What changed your mind and kept you in the game/ in line with your vocational calling? 

Whenever I get overwhelmed or stressed, I try to keep in perspective that in the big scheme of things, all I am asked to do is to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8. I’m not in this alone.  This isn’t the first crisis, and it won’t be the last.

Life and the camp will keep going without me.  At the end of the day, I’m just one little ministry, on one little planet, in one crazy vast universe.  And while I know God can do BIG things through us, I also know that all he asks of us is daily righteousness.  The big picture humbles me and restores me.

What lesson(s) did you learn from the experience above? 

Keep the main thing, the main thing.  In ministry, there are so many different ways to do our work, and the temptation is to try them all.  I am continually refocusing on what is at the core of our ministry and letting go of everything else.

For those youngsters out there who are feeling a Divine Nudge to enter into full-time ministry, what advice would you offer them? 

Take some leadership, business and communications courses – in whatever field you choose, a strong ability to work with others, write, speak and review financial reports will serve you well! You can have all the theological training in the world, but if you can’t work and communicate with teams of people, ministry is going to be rough!

Find a couple of great mentors - it can help to have someone who knows your world well, and it also helps to have someone completely separate from your world who can hear things with an unbiased filter.  Both have their importance.

Get out there and try things – God often opens doors through our relationships.  Internships and volunteering are great ways to meet people who can help connect you to ministry settings you are passionate about.

To know more about Joel's work with the formative ministry of Camp Horizon in Ark City, Kansas, click here

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Baby Dolls & Legos; Lessons on Nurturing & Refining Volunteer Teams

If not serving at the church I am most likely in my daughter’s playroom. As an imaginative two-year-old, she adores baby dolls and legos. She loves wrapping the doll in blankets, patting her back, and feeding her broccoli and tuna in a high chair. I join her and do all that I can to assure the utmost comfort for the little one.  This is quite difficult because she just got fed broccoli and tuna.

 After a while of this, the attention shifts to legos. Her standards of a successful Lego session are, “Taller! Taller! Taller!”. Once the structure is complete, my role is to assess the “building” for its stability. With her permission (of course) I spot the unbalanced/out of line sides and add or take away blocks. I know my work is done when the head contractor says, “Good Job, Ma!” and applies force to check my work. 

While juvenile, both of these contain helpful lessons on volunteer team leadership; and, man, do we ever need help! Too bad my daughter’s not a toy soldier fan because there are occasions in the trenches of ministry where that is a much more fitting metaphor.  Propelling a team towards progress sometimes feels like a battlefield; what with its miscommunications, personality clashes, misplaced priorities, and a lack of self-management skills within the squadron. 

I could see why some want to give up on the dream of a healthy team. They want to give up on the relational covenant (1 Corinthians 12:14) to which they have been called. They think their attempts at empathy, prayer,  and reading team dynamic books have all been in vain; and they resolve to simply show up for the remainder of their term.  They stop striving for an ‘A’. They settle for an average grade in the course.

But then I am reminded that Christ did not give up on us nor does he ever. It is for this reason that we should not give up on each other.  We need each other. It is only in Christian community that we discover our true identity (1 John 4:12). In order to become who God created us to be, we can not go at it alone. More importantly, our broken world desperately needs strong ministerial teams (Matthew 5:14-16). (Can I get an Amen?!)
adult, annoyed, blur
After years of searching (accompanied by the occasional day of crying and cursing) for the secrets to nurturing and refining a strong, Spirit-led volunteer team, I have come to the conclusion that I have most likely made it more difficult than is necessary. Could the route to a healthy volunteer team be as simple as intuitively nurturing your teammates (as one does with a Baby Doll) while also maintaining a critical, keen eye (as one does with Legos) as the “structure” of the team develops?

The Baby Doll Approach: Intuitively Nurturing 
  • Make it a priority to know their stories. This may occasionally mean a late night text with a prayer concern or a spontaneous chat at your office. Come out from behind your computer and be fully present with them in the conversation. If this calls for hot tea, an impromptu prayer, or a church-appropriate-off-to-the-side hug you don’t want to miss these cues. BE FULLY PRESENT WITH THEM! :) 
  • Create a space of servitude that honors their gifts, personalities, and limitations. While it would be ideal if all of your teammates were emotionally healthy/ self-aware persons, this is not always the case. Some of your teammates might be completely oblivious to their limitations/vices, and God can use you to lovingly guide them towards this awareness (more to come on this in the Lego approach). All this to say, if a volunteer on your team fails, and you did not do everything in your power to set them up for success by honoring all of the above, you are partially to blame. #hardtruth 
  • Establish a position for them that is not only rewarding but enjoyable as well.  Go the extra mile and give them a partner with whom they have good working chemistry. Grant them their preferred days and times to serve. Offer them as little or as much say in their area of leadership as they so desire.
apple, bag, client
  • Memorize how they take their coffee or Sonic.  This seems menial, but this small gesture shows they are more than a “bucket-o-talent” to you. They are people with preferences, and you care about those preferences. 
  • While meeting over these drinks, come prepared with some intentional (yet, informal) talking points. These will not only enhance your professional bond with them as valued teammates, but it will also enhance the overall ministry because you are allowing the Holy Spirit to guide the conversation. These questions can be as simple as, “What has God revealed to you about yourself this semester of serving? Are there any talents/gifts from which you enjoy serving that are not being utilized? What parts of your position bring you the most joy? What supportive steps can I take to make this a more enjoyable role for you?” Volunteers are (most likely) over-committed people. If they pressed pause on their lives to meet with you over a latte, make it worth their while.
The Lego Approach: Strategizing Keenly & Critically  
(Now before you go running for the hills with discomfort, hang with me. :) The Lego approach will be much easier if it is preceded by the Baby Doll approach. They work interchangeably, but the Baby Doll approach should be the foundation to create a healthy team dynamic.)
  • A volunteer’s vices must not upstage her talents; if so this is a liability to your team and the reputation of your program. A high maintenance teammate can be a huge distraction from the ministry to which God is calling you. Plus, your other teammates will suffer if the majority of your attention is used on damage control for this one volunteer.  After the second or third apology to parents, you might need to ask yourself, “Is this simply a rough edge of this volunteer who is serving out of her gifts and has loads of potential?” or “Is this is a red flag that this teammate is either A) not emotionally/spiritually healthy at the moment to fulfill this role or B) not serving out of her gifts?” Either case calls for an honest conversation. The latter calls for a potential break from serving or some grace-filled redirection towards a different position.
  • Whether your team is experiencing growing pains or abusive pains,  it is your job to address them. While you, “cannot fix [the teammates described above], it is your job to control them and in some cases protect others on your team from them.” teaches Todd Whittaker.  In his fantastic book, Shifting the Monkey; The Art of Protecting Good People from Liars, Criers and other Slackers,  he equips you to handle the most difficult personalities on your team in a strategic (non-manipulative)  kind of fashion. I seriously cannot brag enough about this book! Click on the above link to read the description and prepare to have your mind blown and your ministry improved. 
  • Communicate the “right” way. Varying levels of personalities, life stages, and situations call for different types of communication outlets. Keenly discern the best one. Does the topic at hand call for a text, email, phone call, face to face in your office, or a walk around the park? Each of these has their perks and drawbacks, and choosing correctly will prevent fallout from potentially sensitive subjects. ‘Typing’ from experience, many a bad day will be prevented if the right communication route is chosen.
can, chat, chatting
  • “No” now does not mean “No” forever. Think critically of the ideal timing of recruiting based on a person’s life.  If the Holy Spirit has led you to call this person, don’t give up on ‘em. Now, this is not synonymous to pestering. If seamstress Sandy says sewing (complementary tongue twister) for the Christmas play is too much with her teaching schedule, then make a note in your calendar to call her in June for the VBS costumes. You know as well as I that their hearts are hungry to serve, they are simply awaiting direction. 
  • Maintain professional boundaries. This can mean different things. To me, it means that I do not talk about volunteer needs when I am off-the-clock unless the person brings it up to me first. I don’t want others to run away when they see me in the bread aisle for fear I might hound them for their time or talent. I also keep healthy boundaries by only speaking on issues that I am “over” (#busychurch) and delegating the rest to the right personnel. This naturally builds up the rest of our team and eliminates some potential miscommunications.  
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