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Specialization prevents burn-out

Is it possible to get more from staff and ministry leaders (and any volunteer, for that matter) without causing resentment or burn-out? Yes!

Specialization is the key. It not only prevents frustration, conflicts, and rapid turnover, but it also builds morale and job satisfaction while it increases retention and longevity.

We can learn a valuable lesson from the grape shearer in the vineyard. To produce the biggest, juiciest, and best tasting grapes, those who prune the vines know that they have to prune away many bunches of grapes. If all clusters are allowed to grow, none get very large. But if some are clipped off, the remaining clusters produce wonderful fruits. A wise grape shearer knows how to identify which bunches to cut and which to nourish for a good harvest.

When parish staff members and ministry volunteers are treated like grapes by a wise pastor, they flourish and the work of the parish produces an abundant harvest.

Here are a few tips on how to prune parish employees and volunteers:

  • Energy:
    Have them to identify what they do that gives them energy. And what drains them? Then find ways to get them more involved in the work that energizes them, and find ways to turn over what drains them to those who are energized by that sort of task.
     
  • Focus:
    Make sure they focus on one major bunch of grapes. Piling too many different clusters of grapes onto one person's desk (whether they do it to themselves because they don't want to say "no" to anything worthwhile or whether it's done unto them) results in lots of little grapes; none grow big and juicy. To get the best work from any employee or volunteer, they need to specialize. They need to concentrate more effort and time on one main cluster of responsibilities, and they need to be protected from spreading their energy thinly across a variety of ministries or disconnected tasks.
     
    For example, if the person in charge of developing small church communities is also responsible for organizing a parish nurse ministry, she will burn out before she can build an awesome ministry out of either. If she doesn't burn out, both works will remain mediocre, she will be seen by her authorities as doing an unsatisfactory job, and she will wonder why she's always feeling like she's never quite reaching the goal of what could be accomplished.
     
  • Time:
    Give them time to develop a pool of assistants who become leaders charged with developing other clusters of grapes. Auxiliary tasks and new ministries often sprout from the same vine where the main cluster is growing. Recruit assistants who focus on one of the new areas of growth or one of the subsidiary tasks; this becomes their main clusters to nourish and grow. And although it might seem like something needs to be done sooner than the assistants can be recruited, remember that God is really the one who's in charge. It's His vineyard. He is the Master Vinegrower. Somehow (and this is a very important to remember), His timing is always perfect.
     
  • Trust:
    Give them trust, not micromanagement. So what if a job isn't done the way you think it should be. Who's vineyard is this? The Holy Spirit will work in and through each person; trust the Holy Spirit in them. Give them tools that will sharpen their skills, given them instruction when they need it, and give them your understanding of what they should accomplish, but always also give them your trust. Your confidence in them will energize them. Micromanagement, on the other hand, burns them out because they feel like they will never be able to please you. No words of affirmation and thanks will undo the damage of micromanagement.
 † More Parish Strategies

© 2007 by Terry Modica. All rights reserved. Copying for distribution is illegal without permission.