One of my volunteer projects is Stephen Ministry: www.stephenministries.org. It is a favorite for several reasons.
- There are no committee politics
- You are one on one, usually with a person in some form of crisis or high stress
- Listening, without providing solutions is key to this relationship. All is done in a loving and caring way.
Stephen Ministers: the After People
We labor quietly. Because of confidentiality issues, it is difficult to get the word out about what the “After People” can do to help. I decided to take a stab at creating more awareness of what we do. Inspired by Dan Sullivan ( www.strategiccoach.com ) and a disciplined problem solving technique I use to address road blocks or challenges. Here is what our group did using the tools of the SIFT Coalition mentioned in part 1 of the Collaborating blog.
We named the project. Several alternatives were offered. Almost unanimously we agreed People Helping People described our goal best. There was emotional buy in – critical to any project.
Next, Goals- How do you know what you want to do, unless they are enumerated? After writing multiple suggestions on the board we established our top 3 for this year and one for next year. Again, consensus and emotional buy in.
Time frame- What are reasonable expectations for these goals? That generated the most emotional and time consuming portion.
Obstacles- Why or what , will hinder us from achieving our goals. This really peeled back the onion of honesty about the project. Here, it is vital to be non-judgmental! Allow people to express their fears and concerns. Just stating them helps shrink them. Avoid brushing them aside, or worst, ignoring- so they might fester.
Solutions- Allow people to take ownership of that which can stop them. There is a sign I keep hung outside my kitchen. It states, “Some people want it to happen, some WISH it would happen, others MAKE it happen.”
- To make things happen someone must step forward to be the responsible person for a chosen solution.
- Defining what success means to the responsible person gets the emotional commitment to follow through.
- “By Date” sets a future accountability point. If you accept the responsibility and define success, reporting progress by date is the final piece.
- Remarks allows for establishing reasonable boundaries and record others who agree to help.
At our church we have established goals that should be realized by Thanksgiving. It is after Independence Day that we make our plans. We believe that if this is part of God’s great plan, we will get the word out and truly be “a people helping people.”
You can apply this to any project. You can use this approach in any labor you do- be it professional or voluntary sharing of your gifts and talents.