Editors Note: This is John Rinaldo’s seventh blog in his series on Multi-Parish Youth Ministry:
1. Multi-Parish Youth Ministry: A Gift and a Challenge
2. Multi-Parish Identity: Healing the Change
3. 8 Principles for Multi-Parish YM, Principle 1
4. 8 Principles for Multi-Parish YM: Principles 2 and 3
5. 8 Principles for Multi-Parish YM: Principles 4 and 5
6. 8 Principles for Multi-Parish YM: Principles 6 and 7
Leading a multi-parish youth ministry effort, as you can see from previous blog postings, requires a lot of effective communication. In fact, effective communication is not a separate principle that is developed on its own. It is a principle that plays an important role as we work through all the principles to develop effective ministry to young people.
Principle 8: Effective Communication
Although there are many systems that could be used as a strategy for effective communication, I feel less compelled to share any systems that I have seen used. Most systems work well and it is a matter of picking a system that works best in the context of multi-parish youth ministry and implementing it. Instead, it is more important to examine our own communication patterns to determine areas that we are weak in and that need to be addressed. We have a tendency to put the blame on others for the lack of or ineffective communication. The problem is, we cannot control others. We can only control ourselves.
John C. Maxwell writes in The 17 Essential Qualities of a Team Player that communicative players do and act in specific ways that help the communication process. On the flip side, communicative players choose to avoid certain activities that cause ineffective communication. Below are five insights by John C. Maxwell with my own notes and insights.
1. Do not isolate themselves.
It is amazing how easy it is to hide in ministry. In a multi-parish youth ministry setting, one can easily avoid a certain parish on a regular basis creating an ineffective pattern of communication with the staff and parishioners. As a multi-parish ministry leader, we need to make sure that we are present to all people at every parish on a regular basis. It is not enough to sit in our office shooting off emails or text massages. The face-to-face time is absolutely essential to making multi-parish youth ministry work. If you find that you are spending a lot of time in the office and not out building relationships with staff and parishioners, then the ministry efforts are bound to fail.
2. Make it easy for teammates to communicate with them.
Do not make it a challenge to communicate with you. If people have a difficult time even getting in touch with you or having a conversation with you, they are less likely to come to you in the future. Ken Blanchard once stated that, “Real communication happens when people feel safe.” What steps do you take to make people feel welcome and safe to come and speak with you? Everything from attitude, to presence, to the way we listen, are all key factors. Assure people and make them feel good about coming to you, even if it is something negative that they have shared with you.
3. Follow the twenty-four hour rule
A current goal that I have set for myself is to follow up on all communications within twenty-four hours, unless it is my day off, am sick, or am on vacation. Having a call or email returned right away makes people feel important and valued, letting them know that what they have to say is important to you and the ministry. The twenty-four rule also means that if you have a difficulty or conflict with anyone in the ministry, do not let more than twenty-four hours go by without addressing it. If it is not addressed in that time frame, ill feelings are not resolved and they become underline to every communication that happens past that time. Do not ignore it. Deal with the conflict right away.
4. Give attention to potentially difficult relationships.
First of all, it is important to clarify which difficult relationships need to be given attention to. Determine if the person is integral to the success of the ministry. This could be key volunteers, parish staff, parents, or young people. If you know you have to work with certain individuals and you find that this might be a difficult relationship, do not ignore it. Give it the attention it needs to grow into a fruitful relational experience. Often times, people that seem the most difficult to work with just want to be heard and understood. For individuals like this, all it takes is an open and honest ear. Regardless of the situation, if this person is a key part of the ministry, work to understand them and to get them on board with the vision and the plan. This can save time and hassle in the future.
5. Follow up important communication in writing.
Did you make an important decision over the phone? Were some major ideas addressed in a meeting? Document these things. We are a visual people. Having important communication written down not only helps us to remember what has been discussed, but allows us to have a written record of our progress. Although this can sound untrustworthy and counter cultural to what we teach in church, verbal agreements and understandings often do not hold weight. If it is that important, write it in the minutes of the meeting or confirm the details of the conversation via an email. Vision, mission, values, and goals are all items that should be written down.
In effective communication, it is important to end with this: If it goes without saying, it should definitely be said. Too many miscommunications happen because of assumptions. Assuming that people already know or understand something can negatively affect the ministry work that is trying to be accomplished.
Becoming a communicative player is key to building effective multi-parish youth ministry. Work on yourself first, and you will find that as you model good communication, others will begin to emulate you.