When I was a new teacher, the main “to do” item was write and teach lesson plans. That’s what I was hired to do–fill a teaching position and teach. That was the problem that needed solving.
If you’ve been following this blog, then you know that in my four years there I did much more than teach. I discovered real problem was–or problems were–personal, social, emotional, and spiritual, not informational.
In the work I do now as an association executive, some of the problems that I’m supposed to solve include: acquiring and keeping new members, attracting registrants to our conference, collecting dues, implementing our strategic plan.
But those aren’t really “problems.” They’re tasks. They don’t focus on who the people or companies that I interact with really are and what they need.
One of the things we do is host a conference. We could have tried to replicate what had been done in the past or is now being done successfully elsewhere. But we didn’t. The conversation long ago started with the question, “What do ministry leaders in this area need and want?” With a little market research, we found out that they needed and wanted professional development opportunities in a context of a strong Catholic spiritual program.
Ministry programs are too often monoliths that exist because someone started them and no one is brave enough to question or end them. And so they continue with perhaps some success, but perhaps not what anyone really hopes for.
So, here are a few question to help you identify what the real problem is that your ministry can solve.
- When you look around at all of the options available to the people you minister with, what is the one thing that your people are seeking or trying to accomplish? Learning how to pray as a family? What are you doing and what aren’t you doing to make that possible?
- When you look at the overall picture of ministry in your community, where are the gaps where nothing is happening? Maybe that is an opportunity for you.
- Are people twisting themselves in knots trying to satisfy a need when you know of or have a way to make it easier? Is Saturday morning religious education always competing with soccer practice, so Moms have to choose one over the other? Can you give Moms and Dads multiple options?
- How does the ministry you offer meet a need beyond checking off the “religion” checkbox? What social and emotional needs does or can it meet?