Will your home education ministry succeed or fail? That depends on the people you select to staff it. For the purposes of this article, I will assume that you, the reader are the one who is heading the home school ministry at your church. This article will take you through the steps of staffing your church's home school ministry with people who will make it the successful, unique, and vibrant ministry that it can be.
Why You Need to Be Careful
Selecting the right staff is critical to the effectiveness of a homeschool ministry. You need to have committed, competent, conscientious people working with you -- all the more so when you consider the spiritual and legal consequences if your families fail in home schooling. Our desire to serve the Lord and see families succeed academically and spiritually should spur us to provide the highest level of quality and excellence in equipping parents to teach and train their children.
It is a privilege to serve the Lord. Unfortunately, some people take this privilege but use "volunteer" status to excuse mediocre effort. You will only want to work with those who are committed to excellence.
Remember that someone assisting in this effort carries far more responsibility than someone bringing juice and cookies to Sunday school class! For these reasons, and arguably many more, one should pursue staff selection with forethought and godly wisdom.
Don't Rush or Push
One of the great things about working through the local church is that God has placed people with a diversity of gifts there (I Cor. 12). Within this framework God will provide the right person to fill a particular need.
I shudder at the way many churches try to accomplish ministry. Getting people to fill "necessary" positions can often be likened to a cattle drive or a fox hunt. Leaders chase after people, arm-twisting them into positions with little regard for God's timing or God's gifting in the individual. The usual result is that only a few people end up doing all the work while most people sit around and watch!
If we simply slow down, take the time to focus on God's plan for a specific local church, and evaluate each other's gifts and seasons of life, we can accomplish exactly what God wants us to.
If you define a position but can't find anyone to fill it, you should consider whether you are trying to perform a service that God for some reason doesn't want at that time. God may give a vision but wait a period of time before He brings it to fruition. Doing God's work in man's power spells disaster. Patience is a virtue with which you will grow familiar!
Where to Look
When you select a person, please consider his gifts. Ask yourself, "Does this person have the gifts to do the job that needs to be done?" Also consider how he or she will grow and be strengthened by serving in this capacity.
Be open to the people that God provides to fill a specific staff position. This includes, children, grandparents, widows, widowers, and yes, even singles. Don't overlook singles! Singles are an untapped, underutilized, and largely unappreciated part of the body of Christ. This is a shame because in most cases singles have more time, flexibility, and other resources than do parents. Whether or not they hold key positions, working with parents in this type of ministry provides excellent training opportunities for singles to prepare for marriage.
Families are meant to serve as units in the ministry of the local church. One of the main considerations that I had for the two staff positions that I was trying to fill was that I wanted these positions to be viewed as family ministries done by the father, mother and children together.
Particularly in the case of the Resource Center manager, family ministry has worked well. Carol and Dan Matz work in the Resource Center equipping other parents while their children, Ben and Cortney, work with other children. This makes for very efficient management, not to mention the opportunities that Ben and Cortney get to learn by observing their parents in ministry.
Home schooling families are particularly equipped to offer an exciting example of how valuable the family unit can be to the ministry of the local church. Serving in traditional capacities involved in the meeting of the church,(e.g. teaching a Sunday school class) or in unique capacities outside the walls of the church (neighborhood evangelism and hospitality) families ministering as units are a forgotten element that the church would do well to rediscover.
Tell Them What You Want Them to Do
Few leaders actually take the time to write down what they want people to do. Write a one-page description of the staff position. This forces you to cement in your mind the importance of a position and exactly what kind of person you should be looking for to fill it. It gives you and that person an agreed-upon set of responsibilities that the person will be held to. Having a description of what you are specifically looking for will also alleviate the temptation for you to arm-twist a person into a position for which they are not equipped. The wrong person in the right position can spell disaster. When a person knows what is required of him, it lends respect to the task and gives him a boundary within which to operate and maximize his creativity.
Some people would say that this approach is too complicated for groups that run essentially on volunteer energy. But the fact that you're working with volunteers gives all the more reason to do this. Volunteers must have a clear, organized, understanding of what they are supposed to do and how what they do fits into the larger picture.
Because volunteers' time is valuable, it must not be wasted by a lack of purpose or clear direction. Be careful not to treat volunteers like a tool. If they think of their task as simply plugging a hole in the dike they could grow resentful. A written description presented in a prayerful, planned fashion communicates to them a respect for their time.
Taking the time to do this can really pay off. I wrote a description for the Resource Center manager and newsletter editor, two exceedingly critical positions on the HTS Staff, and then presented them to people who I thought would be best equipped to perform the tasks. These descriptions included information such as specific tasks, time and skills required, accountability, and the boundaries of freedom that a person had to individually develop the work. As a result of using this approach, I have never had to go back to these volunteers and remind them about any specific part of their task. Their outstanding initiative and productivity have been key to the growth of the HTS ministry.
Interview and Try Out Potential Staffers
Now that you have defined the position and written and distributed descriptions to pre-determined people, you need to choose the specific person or family to take the staff position. I would recommend that you actually take the time to have an interview with the person you are considering. In my case, I wanted to be sure that these people understood and were committed to the purposes of HTS. HTS had to be a top priority for them and I made no bones about that! Too often, people accept responsibilities without counting the costs. As a result, you get people so overcommitted that they can't do any one thing with excellence. (I also make it a habit to inform other ministry leaders in the church that a particular individual or family is involved with HTS on a key level and to use discretion when asking them to pursue other commitments.)
Explain you will need to be able to confront each other about attitudes, activities, and decisions that are made about the ministry. Generally, people are not comfortable with this approach but it is necessary because we are in spiritual warfare. Satan will turn the smallest communication glitches, offenses, or perceived offenses into a root of bitterness that will bring about discord. Many ministers and ministries have come to ruin because of an unwillingness to maintain open channels of communication.
A staff person should be someone you can trust with the authority to carry out the responsibilities that his position entails. Delegating authority does not mean that you allow him to become autonomous, doing whatever he so desires. Give him limits and let him operate freely within those limits. This also means giving him the opportunity to fail. If you give someone a responsibility, then let him see it through. Don't keep pestering him, looking over his shoulder, dotting the "i's" and crossing the "t's". Continually looking over his shoulder in fear that an error might be made convey an attitude of mistrust. He will grow frustrated, his creativity will be stifled because he will do everything to please you, and he will eventually quit. If you don't feel that a specific person can perform conscientiously, you probably shouldn't consider him for the position.
If you have someone that you are considering but unsure about, try giving him a trial period in the position. In Matthew 25:21 Jesus presents the principle of proving faithful in a "little" before being put in charge of much. By giving a test period with a defined start and finish date, you give the person a chance to prove himself faithful. If they prove unfaithful or determine that the position is not what they are able to do, it gives him an opportunity to get out without suffering hurt feelings or bruises from the lynch mob!
STRENGTHENING STAFF RELATIONS
As a final note, once you have selected your key people, meet with them regularly. Form a bond with them. Use your work together as an opportunity for discipleship.
I meet once every two weeks with the Matzes. These visits offer regular, candid opportunities to plan, refine, study and pray together. I often ask questions about problems they might be facing in their work at the Resource Center.
It is so important that the leader be sensitive to the possibility of overburdening his people, especially when they are a home school family. When this happens, as leader, you should pull back on the load. Family must come first!
We also fast together for our families and the entire HTS ministry. God honors fasting in measurable ways. We encourage you to do this too.
Overall, our times together are rich with encouragement, hilarity and growth for me and the Matzes. The frequent addition of Carol's world-class lasagna makes our meetings that much more fulfilling!
Watch This Space!
Over the past several months I have been receiving many exciting phone calls from Florida to Alaska in response to these articles. In the next issue, I will summarize my notes and share reports from people who are developing home education ministries through their local churches!