My congregation is led by a team of lay-leaders called our Congregational Council, a group similar in function to a board of elders. When I was first hired nearly nine years ago, I was asked to write a monthly report to keep the council informed about what I was doing and what my ministry’s needs were. I viewed this as a way of accounting for my time each month. Although I never dreaded it, I certainly never looked forward to this task.
Nevertheless, for my first council update, I wrote out a detailed report nearly two pages in length. Each month that followed, I kept the same basic format but modified my report to reflect what I was currently working on. For eight years and four different council presidents, my council report basically looked and felt the same.
Month after month, I’d submit my report without ever hearing anything in response.
I figured no news was good news so I carried on.
Until, that is, just a few months ago, I met with my council representative. He admitted that while detailed, my council reports weren’t helpful. They were too long, too repetitive, and easily forgettable.
Intrigued, I asked him to tell me more.
He reminded me that whatever I prepared for council was going to business people, not church workers, and encouraged me to give them easily digest-able and repeatable talking points.
With that in mind, when I sat down to write my next council report, I radically altered its format. Instead of focusing on what I’d done during the previous month, I created a list of what I wanted council members to know. I came up with key talking points and then added a short paragraph of salient details for each. I titled my report “10 things every council member should know about our high school ministry” and sent it off to council members.
The result was immediate.
For the first time in my tenure at my congregation, I heard from council members: “Thanks for the new format! It’s so easy to read!”
Even better, council members also responded with questions, wanting to know more about specific talking points.
To be sure, my new report format takes more time to write. It’s harder to think in terms of talking points than it is to simply chronicle what I’ve spent my time doing.
Yet, if I truly value my church leadership as partners in ministry, then it’s my job to communicate in a way that’s heard.
For the first time, this new report format does that. Council members are asking questions. They’re using the talking points to share what they’re learning about our youth ministry with others in our congregation. In the process, church council members have truly become my ministry’s advocates – people who regardless of their age or direct involvement in our youth ministry, are its champions.
Having seen this, I’ve realized that communicating with my congregation’s leaders was NEVER about accounting for my time. It’s always been about creating ministry champions.
It just took me a while to realize that.