There is nothing worse than trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. No matter how hard you push and pry it will not fit correctly. At this point there are two options: try to change the shape of the peg or put it in a different hole. Trying to change the shape of the peg, or person, can cause damage, disruption, and ultimately devalues the way they were created and the gifts that God gave them to use. Instead of reshaping the peg, there are moments when we must find a new hole for the peg to fit in, and this repositioning has to be done in a way that keeps the peg whole and the movement constructive for the person and the ministry.
Nothing says lovin’ like something from the oven. So use this opportunity to take this person out for donuts and coffee! While one-on-ones with teammates is a great ongoing practice instituting this when having difficult conversations is a great way to mitigate any awkwardness. Treating someone to the smallest treat is an explicit statement of care and friendship. If you are meeting with someone who gets nervous easily, food and beverage also provide an easy point of focus should the conversation become too awkward.
Take time during the one-on-one to discuss the current role that the person is in. This is a great space to master the art of asking prompting questions that require people to think and articulate. How do they feel in the role? What areas have they been successful? Are they having any challenges? Allow them to talk and respond to your questions fully and without interruptions. Most people know what is going well and what has gone awry. When a person is comfortable, and feels like the person they are speaking with is genuinely interested, it will be easier for them to talk about themselves. Preparing these questions ahead of time, and even anticipating or role playing out the possible answers, will keep the conversation flowing but as they are answering be careful to listen actively so as to address the positive comments and concerns adequately even if they are a mismatch to our predictions.
Finding a Better Fit
Before beginning any statements about repositioning this person in another role compliment them on what you have seen them do well. One of my mentors told me to always bookend difficult conversations with genuine compliments. Everyone does something well. Focus on that! Thank them for that contribution and give specific examples regarding how that has made a difference in the ministry.
Now comes the heavy lifting that can be lightened with a question rather than a command. After affirming the contributions of your teammate, express the need you have in another area. Make a direct ask that provides them the option to say yes. They may be ready for the change. After all, they are a volunteer. If they deny your request to move, gently remind them that you don’t think the current position is the best fit for their skill and personality and this opportunity will probably work better. Communicate specific ways their passion and skill will help fill the need and be an opportunity for them to work in an area where they will be successful and happy. Draw on the positives of the transition. Set a date to make the switch and thank them for their willingness to be flexible and help their mission fulfill its vision.
Change is hard. The work of kid and student ministry is difficult so we rarely find people serving in it who don’t want to do it. Somewhere in their heart they see the need for loving adults to walk beside families to disciple the next generation. It is important that we believe the best about the individuals we serve with and trust that they are doing it from a good place. If the placement is not quite right, a square peg in a round hole, that is easiest to fix when we first value the heart of the person. Care, conversation, and genuineness is like a spoon full of sugar that can help difficult medicine go down ultimately helping the person and the ministry move forward.
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