Placing Priority on Support Training: It Shows You Care

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By on October 1, 2007   /   Leave a comment

Blindsided. That’s the only word I can think of to describe my experience. It was supposed to just be a short workshop I was doing for the 25 or so staff from the local chapter of this international Christian ministry. But within seconds of my closing prayer I was mobbed by 10-15 crying and emotionally charged young men and women. It soon became obvious their frustration, stress, feelings of failure and guilt were not their fault—but thoughtlessly thrust upon them by their ministry leaders.

For years, the leaders of this ministry set incredibly high goals for their staff in the areas of trusting God, working hard, and living sacrificially. Normally, these are all excellent values to strive for, but these staff felt continually pressured to go, go, go and produce results—but without the necessary finances to sustain them. Ongoing unrealistic expectations combined with inadequate funding can gradually rip apart even the sturdiest missionary.

As I questioned these struggling staff, I was able to discover the root cause. The leaders of this organization appeared to care more about their outreach programs and numbers of converts than they did the well being and longevity of their own staff. A tragic but true evidence of these mixed up priorities? These staff had received virtually no meaningful training in HOW to raise solid, healthy personal support teams. Their motto of “living by faith” had given way to the tyranny of the urgent as these regional and country leaders were requiring their staff to make more and more bricks—but with no straw.

Excellent, thorough support training is essential, and just giving exhortation without explanation produces frustration. Sad to say, here are four pitiful examples of real-life horror stories of over-bearing, but undernourishing staff leaders and the extent of their supposed “training” of their staff:

1. One ministry just gave each staffer a book to read
2. Another just showed them examples of newsletters
3. A two hour orientation was all one group received
4. Another gave no training, but cheerfully said, “Give us an update each       quarter. We’ll pray for you!”

When an organization does not take the time and money to get their staff fully trained in how to put together a stable, long-term support team, it communicates they really don’t care about them. Deep down the leadership knows that lack of funds cause staff to experience personal and marital stress, a questioning of their calling, spiritual disillusion, and a premature exiting from ministry. Usually the ones adversely affected the most are the staff spouses and children who are forced to suffer in silence—all in the name of God.

What is the answer? Put a huge, upfront emphasis on getting every one of your rookies (and vets) fully trained and prepared to be successful in support raising. Set aside extensive time and money to do so BEFORE they are allowed to launch (or even move to!) their ministry assignment. If for some reason funding dips while the staffer is doing their ministry, be willing to pull that person back for a season of additional support raising in order to return them fully funded. Yes, it might put a temporary crimp in the ministry goals, but what does this kind of training, these kinds of policies and approaches communicate to your staff? Actions speak louder than words, and it will demonstrate you want the very best for their lives. It will show you really do care!

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