Recently I was talking with a youth pastor friend of mine who was sharing the challenge of attending all of the high school graduations for kids in his youth ministry. It’s a real challenge to get to all of them, not to mention a real commitment of time. He was telling me that often he will show up just toward the end of the graduation. This allows for less time away from the family in the evening, but he can still show his support for the kids.
And that reminded me of something I’ve learned in leadership: the importance of being seen.
What do I mean by this? It is important that people in your ministry—kids, parents, volunteers and staff—actually “see” you often. Simply being seen can accomplish several things:
• It validates the importance of the event at which you are being seen.
We all want to believe that what we are involved with is important. Being seen at a kid’s soccer game helps to validate that what the child does apart from church is important to YOU … which translates to mean they are important to you.
Being seen at the church membership class communicates the value of those new to your church …which ministry are they going to feel valued by from attending that membership class?
Of course, being seen at any children’s or family ministry event communicates this, as well, and if something within your own department (and the people participating) isn’t valuable enough for you to be seen at, perhaps its necessity needs to be reconsidered.
• It provides the opportunity for followers to ask and inform.
I was talking with an executive pastor yesterday who was saying that his team has a weekly lunch out after staff meeting. He said that, while the time and expense of these sometimes feels burdensome, he wouldn’t think of not doing them because this is where the best conversations happen between he and his team.
The same happens when we simply make ourselves available. Kids, parents, volunteers and staff all have things they want to communicate with us, but there’s not always a good time. Simply being present—and often—allows them opportunity to ask their questions and inform us of their opinions.
• It promotes relationships.
Ministry happens best through relationships. We’ve said that over and over. Relationships don’t happen very well without presence. If you want to serve your people well, build and promote relationships. If you want to build and promote relationships well, be PRESENT.
• It opens the door for encouragement.
As leaders, we should be looking for any opportunity to encourage. A note saying “great job at the Fall festival” when you actually never showed up to it rings somewhat hollow. Telling your men’s pastor the pancake breakfast was fantastic when you never poured a drop of syrup because you weren’t there rings untrue.
• It opens the door for evaluation and accountability (for church-related activities).
We’ve talked often on this blog of the importance of evaluating your ministry. It’s almost impossible to evaluate when we haven’t actually experienced it—or at least seen it in action for ourselves.
Evaluation creates accountability for you and those engaged in whatever activity is happening.
• It opens the door for equipping.
We can offer our training classes, talk to our leaders over coffee and send out our training emails, but nothing compares to experiential equipping. By that, I mean catching and affirming people doing a great job. Or seeing and correcting people doing a poor job (appropriately and with love, of course).
The importance of being seen is something we all need to understand. But I can hear the wheels turning in your mind now: I can’t be at EVERYTHING!
Agreed! And you have to find a balance. Here’s a few guidelines I try to use:
- If it’s a church event directly promoted and/or sponsored by my department, I will make every effort to at least make an appearance. Of course, the vast majority of these events I must be at, but events like “Mommy’s Day Out” aren’t things that I’m actually part of running. But I still feel it’s important to make an appearance at it.
- If it’s an event where I can connect with people from my ministry—kids, parents, volunteers—then I will weigh its value against time away from family or other work investments. These also can be times of personal refreshment, such as the men’s ministry pancake breakfast!
- I identify outside-the-ministry opportunities (kids’ sports or school events, important life events, etc.) to engage with those who are part of the ministry and make an effort to consistently incorporate these into my schedule.
So what keeps us from being seen? There are several things:
As an introvert, sometimes shyness or fear keeps me from putting myself in the midst of people. I’ve had to overcome this by placing the value of being present over the fear of being present.
Other times, simple complacency has kept me from being present. “Not another preschool movie night!” But I have to remember I am placing the nature of the event over the potential impact by my presence. I am looking at the event through the lens of my own interest vs. the interest of those it’s intended for. That’s not a good trade-off.
Finally, sometimes I have found that I just don’t care. Simply put, ministry is hard and tiring and oftentimes discouraging. Sometimes I just don’t care if I encourage the parent, if I equip the leader or if I evaluate the success of the event. That’s when I know I need a break. So I try to take advantage of those things that refresh me … but that’s for another article at another time.