I’m learning that most of my experiences of parenting a toddler are shared experiences with the many others who have parented through this stage. Toddlers are unique – they have limited ability to speak, which usually creates sweet moments and jumbled language. They also have no ability to reason – which has the ability to drive mom and dad crazy. There becomes a growing tension between our daughter’s limited language and her inability to reason – it is best highlighted when we are in the car.
Mid way through a drive our daughter will begin talking in the back seat asking for something. Maybe it is milk, food, a toy, a book…you name it. She asks for it and wants it right then. While I want to help my daughter out I also want to keep her safe which means focusing on the road. She is too young to reason and understand why dad isn’t helping – so her reaction is only natural…she starts crying. This scenario is playing itself out in hundreds of cars on the road today, and it highlights what is actually a ministry tension – the idea of being systematic or immediate when we connect volunteers. Hopefully as you tend to this tension you don’t have potential volunteers throwing a tantrum!
The tension of systematic connection vs. immediate connection deals with the gap between a potential volunteers expectations and reality, specifically when it comes to their ability to “jump on the team.” There is tension here because one is not more valid than the other. Systems and processes make it possible for those who lead volunteer teams to manage responsibilities. A good system helps ensure people do not fall through the cracks. People however aren’t looking to be processed through a system, they want the connection NOW.
One of the best examples of this is people who want to “help out” in Children’s Ministry at our church. These people have a heart to serve and just want someone to point frantically and say “Please! We need your help over here now!” While that might make the person feel good in the moment, it removes a lot of key steps along the way. A person should have some basic training on working with kids, they should be background checked to ensure kids are safe; they should be on the schedule so there is an ongoing plan of when they can serve.
Each of us leans towards one approach – be aware where you lean so you don’t overdo it. Have a plan to merge these two approaches. If you tend to lean more towards systems then ask yourself “where can I start to build more immediate connection opportunities onto my team?” If you lean more towards immediacy then ask yourself “how can I better leverage a process to help serve my team and those who want to start serving with me?”