Post written by Allison Williams

As I was standing in my kitchen a few days ago, I had my iPad perched in the window sill so I could watch tv while I cooked.  I had the latest episode of Shark Tank streaming.  Shark Tank is usually a safe bet when cooking because you don’t have to give it 100% of your attention and you can still keep up with what’s going on.

Every time I watch Shark Tank, I daydream about great inventions that I could create to be the next big entrepreneur (but in the way that’s kind of akin to eating mini chocolate doughnuts while daydreaming about Olympic glory).

If you watch the show, Mr. Wonderful can be the sharkiest shark.  He tries to work deals that mess the hopeful entrepreneur up or completely steal their margin and longterm revenue.  The oddest thing about watching him is that he doesn’t appear to understand how manipulating and harsh he is to people.  These entrepreneurs have given their all to whatever invention they are presenting.  They have likely invested not only money, but time away from their family and careers in hopes of their idea flourishing.

Then it hit me (full disclosure: I was so distracted by this realization, I actually burned some veggies!), I’m sometimes the Mr. Wonderful in my youth ministry.  Volunteers — who like the Shark Tank entrepreneurs often are serving in the youth ministry while sacrificing time and money — come to me with their ideas constantly.  Very rarely do I just lean in and let the vision play out without countering the deal somehow:

  • Maybe I hate the idea and I’m looking for a way to just kill it. The Sharks often do this by saying, “This doesn’t fit my brand.”
  • Sometimes, I try to use their passion to piggyback one of my ideas that I need a volunteer to get fired up about. The Sharks do this when they completely flip a product to do something that will propel energy into a different start up in their portfolio.
  • And more often than I care to admit, over time I accidentally take their incredible idea and strip it from the volunteer that presented it to me and let someone else run with it. This is like when the sharks ask for a controlling share of a company’s equity.

Don’t get me wrong, every idea isn’t a winner and we are there to help direct and guide our ministries.  But a main reason we create teams is to bring different ideas and perspectives to the table.  Our volunteers often excel where we are weak.  Ideas that scare me shouldn’t be viewed as threats but as gifts.  Servant hearts that are passionate should be supported and coached, not squashed or discouraged.  Every ministry is not the launching pad for every idea, but I really want to start saying things like, “Yes!” and “How can I support you?” more often and sharking leaders’ ideas less.

Allison has been in full-time ministry for 13 years. She loves the pastoral care aspect of ministry and seeks out ways to shepherd and encourage students and youth workers. Her current ministry is crib-to-college. In her free time, Allison loves reading, taking barre classes, and cooking. Connect with her on twitter: @allisoneliza