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(Part 10) Rooted in Leadership

Building your Team

I received an invitation from an acquaintance to join a gathering of fellow foster moms in our church. Every month, we would meet at Panera Bread. Around that table, we would enjoy the "you pick two" meals with three other foster care mamas. From that humble setting, ministries that would profoundly impact hundreds, if not thousands, of children and foster care began to grow. The size of our meetings varied, but these three remarkable women were always present, never missing a single one.

When assembling your core team for the family advocacy ministry, these are the absolute rockstars you want at your table! They bring energy, show up with dedication, and have unwavering passion.

The Core Leaders Role

What are the initial expectations for leaders in your family advocacy ministry?

  • A leader must be committed to seeking God's heart for the ministry.

  • Champion the cause of vulnerable children and families.

  • Create awareness and opportunities for church members to serve others as Jesus modeled.

  • Dedicate 2-4 hours per week, (an estimate of the initial time investment).

  • Be a team player.

  • Lead, inspire, and disciple other believers.

Leaders should also model what it means to be an advocate through their actions: identifying community needs, and serving others. Additionally, they should be available to answer questions about the ministry, welcome new volunteers, and plan events.

Who are your experts?

While many foster care Ministry guides emphasize the importance of finding experts within the congregation, this aspect is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to leading a Family Advocacy Ministry. I have witnessed successful ministries guided by individuals who haven't personally experienced caring for vulnerable children. Therefore, when forming a team, it is crucial to evaluate two key areas: identifying the experts within your church congregation and individuals who possess the capacity and passion to serve struggling children and families.

Depending on the season, your experts may have passion but need more capacity. They may still be in a chapter where they should be served rather than serve. Other experts may be quietly experiencing compassion fatigue. With grueling caseloads and being underpaid, the last thing they can do is commit to doing more work in their spare time.

Continually assess who your experts are, respect the work they are already doing, and carve out a place of leadership that fits their talents and their capacities. This may or may not include being on the leadership team but a smaller investment of time as they continue in their own work in living this ministry. Your team of experts will influence your ministry's mission, vision, and values in ways no one else can.

Why start with your experts?

Your experts have lived experience that is a considerable asset as you begin to build this ministry. They may not be able to lead right now, but they have wisdom that serves this ministry well. Be sure to ask the following questions:

1. How would you describe your role or background in adoption and foster care?

2. How long have you been in this role?

3. Do you know others in the congregation with a foster care or adoption background?

4. What resources in the community have been a blessing to your family?

5. Are you interested in serving in our church's foster care ministry as a leader, volunteer, or mentor for others?

Seeking passionate people

During a meeting at a local church, a group of prospective leaders, a staff member from the church, and I gathered to discuss engaging with the child welfare system. The staff member questioned identifying other leaders, suggesting that years of experience might be the determining factor. At that moment, one of the prospective leaders exchanged a knowing smile with their friend, and then their gaze shifted towards me. It became evident to all of us that none of us would have met the qualifications if we had relied solely on those criteria.

"Passion is defined as an intense desire or enthusiasm for something." You know what? I think people are probably tired of me going on and on about foster care. But let me tell you, these are the people you definitely want by your side!

When seeking passionate people look for people who are:

· Highly relational

· Value commitment to their calling

· People with capacity and available time

· Leaders who have different skills and personalities than you

Focus on building a balanced core team with different talents and gifts. The blog “Church Fuel” explains it this way:

WOW people need HOW people.

"WOW people are the visionary leaders. It’s the guy with the great idea and the passion to make something happen. It’s the woman willing to take a risk because she believes something needs to change. WOW people are idealistic, inspirational and excited about the possibility. But WOW people rarely get things done on their own. They need HOW people. HOW people may not come up with the idea, but they know how to execute. They are implementers and executioners. They know how to take a big dream and break it down into steps. They love progress and process.”

Leadership is a team effort, and having the right group of people can make all the difference. Surrounding yourself with passionate, committed people will fuel your own strengths and help you reach your goals in ways that are beyond your capability on their own. So don’t settle for less-than-passionate leaders.

Don't Go at this Alone!

A family advocacy Ministry can be led by one person initially but should ideally be led by a small group or team. Jesus himself models working in ministry as he put together His team of disciples. If anyone could have "gone it alone," it would have been him! Throughout scripture, we see Jesus delegate and stretch the disciples, and an even more unthinkable concept for the Type A leader, give authority. If Jesus showed us ministry is best done with others, we could safely assume this is the best model for a family advocacy ministry.

As you take the first steps, remember that this isn't your ministry, this work reflects the love of Christ for children and families who are struggling within your community. It will be a largely unseen and often thankless position.

If you feel you are the best and only person to lead the ministry of your church, prayerfully consider 1 Peter 5:5- “Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."

It may be pressure from ourselves, or if we're under spiritual attack, bearing the weight of a Family Advocacy Ministry is a heavy one to carry. A good cop to your bad cop, a Mickey to your Rocky, a Lorelei to your Rory, two people co-leading this ministry with a few others is a great place to start.

When discussing with potential leaders in your congregation, it is crucial to consider the ideal team size for bringing the vision to life. Striking the right balance is key, as having too many individuals may lead to challenges stemming from an influx of opinions, while having too few may limit the team's potential. Initially, aiming for a team size that Goldilocks would describe as "just right" would fall within the range of two to four members. This allows for effective collaboration and diverse perspectives while maintaining a cohesive group dynamic.

What Gifts do you bring to the table?

I recently saw my talents and shortcomings while completing a spiritual gifts assessment. The test was scored, with 100 being the highest to zero. In four areas of strength, I scored well over ninety. In eight different other areas, I scored over a 70. For the area of "Administration," I scored a 3. It isn't meant to be a pass-fail, but you could say I have some work to do regarding admin. Although I could definitely work harder in this area, it will likely never be a strength for me.

My current co-leader in the work we do is an absolute rockstar when it comes to administrative tasks. However, she occasionally feels like she's falling short in ministry because she tends to be skeptical of others and doesn't consider herself highly relational. While I often leave feeling energized and inspired during meetings, she feels drained.

I have been so grateful to God for bringing us together over the past year! Having a clear picture of how each person contributes to the team is essential for effectiveness. Each team member has unique experiences and talents, and it's important that their strengths be identified and utilized. Whether developing strategies or strengthening relationships, every individual should have an appropriate role.

As your leadership team takes shape, consider the importance of developing a cadence for regularly scheduled meetings. You may want to consider outlining the expectations and roles of each team member. This will help ensure everyone is on the same page and accountable to their counterparts.

In the beginning, when your leaders first meet, it is crucial to invest time in team-building and getting to know one another.

Key items to know about your core team include:

  • What motivates and inspires them?

  • What type of communication do they prefer?

  • What are their spiritual gifts?

  • What are their unique strengths and weaknesses?

  • What kind of snacks do they prefer?

Whenever possible, strive to meet in person! I know we live in a Zoom world, but nothing beats personal connection. Creating a safe and positive culture for your team is important as you move forward. The right leader will be able to make sure everyone feels invested in the vision of the ministry and that each person's voice is heard.

Remember, effective leadership starts with knowing yourself first! So take time out of your busy schedule to reflect on who you are as a leader and what kind of leader you want to be.

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