Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Lessons From a Clematis

I gaze out my back picture window and there stands my President Clematis in full bloom and in full glory. It's abundant, large purple flowers stand tall and gaze heavenward. Now that's the way a plant is supposed to look! But it didn't get that way overnight. No, my clematis took a few years, six to be exact, before I saw such beauty.

I first purchased my clematis as a seed at Home Depot. I planted it too late that year and so saw nothing the first season.

The following spring one small shoot came out of the ground. When it reached the hefty height of about 10 inches, it's life was abruptly cut off by one of the pesky critters in my yard (squirrels, rabbits and chipmunks). Not realizing my clematis would make a tasty breakfast, I had not protected it. The decapitation was too much for the newbie. Blooms would have to wait.

The third season, I protectively put a small wire fence around the vine as it emerged from the ground in the spring. It worked hard that year and grew considerably but blooms were scarce.

The fourth season would have been great if I had done my homework and read up on how to care for this particular kind of clematis. Without thinking and because I had seen other gardeners pruning their clematis, I got out my shears and began hacking away at the previous year's growth. Just as soon as I had snipped off a significant number of vines, I saw the tiny growth of new leaves and the now lifeless branches. Yikes! I had destroyed half of the potential vines I could have had that year. I had to be satisfied with the new shoots (and blooms) that sprang up from the earth.

So, the fifth season of my clematis' life, I left it alone, bought a larger frame for it to ascend and watched it take off for the first time. New shoots as well as new growth on old vines wound round my clothes line and up over the top. Buds began to form. I waited for the purple flowers to emerge only to discover something (or someone) was snapping off the buds before they could bloom. After dousing the vine with bug spray, I was rewarded with a breathtaking display of purple splendor.

And so it is again this year. Even more growth and more blooms. I am enjoying the fruits of waiting. Waiting for natural growth, and waiting to correct my blunders as a caretaker of this beautiful creation.

So why am I telling you this story of my clematis? As I gaze at it this morning, I am reminded again of my own spiritual growth and that of those I love. It takes time! We have to wait for so many things - for the right timing and for good growing conditions. We have to protect new life from critters and bugs - the cares of life, the worries of the world, the lies of the enemy. We have to read the instruction manual - the Bible - and figure out how to care for our growth. We can't just look at other believers and copy them without first checking to see if the manual agrees. And we have to wait for God to cause the growth.

But the beauty will come! With time, proper attention, nutrition and care, our lives will bloom! So I look at my clematis and rejoice that no matter the stage of the journey, I will see growth in my life and in those I love. I am confident that God will complete the good work that He has begun in us (Phil 1:6).

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Would You Please Consider...?

We have all heard the old adage that 20% of the congregation does 80% of the work. Why do we have a shortage of volunteers in our churches? There are many reasons. I think some are lack of time and lack of confidence. Families, jobs, sports, and other charities compete for the time and energy of our members. People are also unaware of their gifts or not willing to use them. Some have been burned in the past, unappreciated, untrained, or think that the paid staff can do a better job.

But as important as these reasons are, I believe an even more common reason is that we just don't know how to recruit. Our teams are poorly organized, we lack clear guidance as to what the task actually is, we don't ask the right people and we don't know how to present the task in such as way as to invite participation. In our eagerness to fill the position, we don't get the right person for the job. We do not need volunteers enough to pressure them into guilty acceptance because no one else will do it.

So how does a leader go about recruiting a volunteer?
Building the church is the Holy Spirit's job so ask for his guidance.

Determine true needs
You cannot recruit unless you know what you are recruiting for. Don't just look for someone to fill the same job the last person did. Consider changes that need to be made or consolidate two jobs or make up for anything lacking in the past.

Determine qualifications needed
Qualifications should meet Biblical as well as church standards. Look for people who are growing in their faith, not people who have "arrived". Also consider what spiritual gifts and natural talents are needed for the position.

Write brief job descriptions for the position
Include job title, who the person is responsible to, what their responsibilities are, time required each week, training required and qualifications needed. 

Identify potential volunteers
Look through your church directory and match spiritual gifts and skills with the needs. Try to also determine their passion, interests and availability. Choose the best person for the job, don't just fill the job. Don't be afraid to identify people with potential and encourage them to try something new. Beware too of people who say yes just to please you or because they feel guilty.

Determine plan of recruitment
There are so many ways to communicate these days. Initial contacts may be made by phone, email, Facebook  text or in person. However, if even a little interest is there, a face to face appointment should be made.

Talk to prospective volunteer
Before you meet, pray about your time together. Present the importance of the position and indicate that they have been prayerfully selected. Present the job description, making sure you describe any curriculum or resources that will be used. Explain what training is required as well as what supervision is available. Answer their questions and quell their fears. Show them that you believe in them and encourage them to consider taking the position but do not pressure them. Then give time to pray about it. The volunteer should come away feeling honored to be asked and excited about the possibility of serving.

Follow Up
Contact them in about a week to answer any questions and encourage them. Express appreciation and understanding if they decline the position. Discuss immediate steps if they accept. 

Recruiting takes time and energy and cannot be done by simply making an announcement of need from the pulpit. As with most things, the more you put into it, the better the results.