I have an inherent bias against nature metaphors for ministry. First, they are pretty girly (sorry girls). Second, I have Nature Deficit Disorder (I do not know who coined this term, but it came up recently at the Children’s Spirituality Conference). Nature Deficit Disorder is an unfortunate condition digital kids have today. Kids spend so much time indoors and in virtual worlds that they have lost the wonder of the universe. Kids appreciate nature less than in days gone by. I’m not a kid, but I have Nature Deficit Disorder. I like air conditioning, Wal-Mart, and my iPhone way more than flowers, rainbows, or Ansel Adams photographs.
However, the reason why nature metaphors are used so often is because they are really applicable metaphors. I thought of one the other day as I was driving home. My entire life I have lived around farms (except during my four years in downtown Minneapolis at North Central University). One thing that I am used to seeing around this time of year is crops getting planted. I notice that each year farmer’s rotate the crops. Crop rotation allows plants to grow better and the soil to remain rich. Furthermore, my wife and I are getting ready to do some landscaping in our backyard. When we talked to the nursery attendant, he asked us all sorts of questions about the location where the plants would be rooted. Apparently certain plants can survive with less sunlight or poor irrigation. Each plant has unique characteristics that change its ability to grow. I’m sure you can already tell where I’m going with this.
I am spending my summer praying daily and specifically for my small group leaders in 2nd-5th grade. Our elementary small group team needs to grow to meet the needs of our children and families at Christ Community Church. This is a critical growth area for us. As I onboard new volunteers, I realize that where I place them will have incredible implications for their growth as a leader. They might need more direction and coaching, so placing them with a less experienced Captain would stunt their growth. They might need less coaching and greater energy, so placing them with a team of firecrackers will help them connect to their kids and to the team. I’m thinking about these dynamics because our team is also in need of a handful of leaders of leaders (what we call “Captains”). Some of our existing Captains have lots of experience, others just got going last year.
The context where you place a volunteer will dramatically effect their ability to grow as a leader in the same way that the soil conditions, irrigation, and sunlight affect the way a seedling will grow. The rules of real estate apply to volunteer placement: location, location, location!
Here’s my question:
Once a volunteer starts in your ministry, when is their role and fit evaluated? Do you reevaluate the placement of every volunteer as you head into the fall? What factors affect your decision? How much/how little do you involved the volunteer in the placement process?