Q. In your many years of ministry, I imagine you have seen many people fall in ministry. What are your first thoughts or reactions to this?

 A. Unfortunately, I have seen it in YFC and in church ministry in our area.  What’s always interesting is that I don’t think people ever understand the ripple effects that their decisions have on others. I am always amazed at the collateral damage. When someone is taken down by sin or bad decisions, it’s not just your staff that’s affected, it’s your kids, schools, partnerships. The fall usually has to do with just one person’s sin, but it affects way more than just one.

Q. How should an executive director handle a take-down situation that arises suddenly?

A. First of all, you HAVE to have a plan in place. Expect the unexpected. I know the immediate first three people I call are my board chair, legal council, and a marketing firm. No executive director should make any decision on his own. You need to protect yourself so you have got to get people in the loop very quickly.

While you do want to react quickly, you need to handle it appropriately and within good legal boundaries. There is a fine line between ignoring it and making statements too quickly. Every executive director should have a script and should follow the script. We didn’t shy away from the media in our most recent situation, but we did repeat our scripted statements over and over. Also, you don’t want any executive director to go through this alone.  The day we had our crisis, and it felt like a media circus, the very next day a NFD, Tim Skrivan, was in our city walking through this with our director. Tim’s presence a very valuable resource provided by the national office.

I am surprised that most people do not have a plan. I’m glad that now the national office does have a plan in place because when this happens, and hopefully it doesn’t for a long time in your chapter, you got to be ready.

Q. How do we know when to offer grace or truth when a staff  life issue comes up?

A. I don’t look at this as grace OR truth. I look at it as grace AND truth. Several years ago, I had a young, part-time guy who struggled with pornography. I appreciated his courage in sharing his struggle. I immediately offered grace because we all live in sin.  Grace is the place to start. Then, the truth kicked in because it was a problem that needed to be dealt with so he was immediately put on suspension. But we worked out a long-term plan for his healing and growth, and as long as he was willing to follow that plan, he could stay on with us. After three years he was in full-time in ministry and doing well.

Q. How can we avoid take-downs?

A. A lot of mistakes are made before a person falls to a take-down. I think one of the biggest mistakes is our own lack of due diligence in hiring or putting a new hire in the wrong position. It is hard to make up in training what you blow in recruitment.

We use a very thorough interview process. Other mistakes are lack of a leadership development plan, lack of accountability, lack of honest conversations. Sometimes getting pulled out of ministry is because of mistakes made early on.

 After a good hire, we have to provide good accountability. Everybody has a direct supervisor. The majority of our staff are meeting twice a month with his supervisor. We do quarterly evaluations to discuss goals, objectives, and priorities. One of the biggest things that needs to be done is observation so we now visit clubs, parent meetings, student leadership, etc. We have created a system that gets our supervisors in our leaders’ worlds more. Also, we work hard with the leadership development blueprint.  Our staff meetings are very intentional about leadership development. We do a couple of retreats every year.  We are very intentional about putting our staff in a world where they can develop themselves.

Q. What red flags/warning signs should we be watching for?

A. Here are a few red flags I have seen:

•         Self-Development – Someone who doesn’t show any interest in self development or growth, that is a big red flag for us.

•         Unbalanced Life – If ministry is all a staff member has, and there are no other outlets for them, it’s not good.

•         Church Involvement — Going to church is one thing, but not participating in a Sunday School class, accountability group, Bible study, those all show that there is a lack of deep spiritual connection.

•         Lack of Relationships with Other Staff – We tend to be friends on staff, but I have seen issues when there is a lack of depth within our staff.

•         Ministry Depth – There can be a large scale ministry happening, but if there is no depth with students, watch out.

•         Participation – Even something as simple as a team member who is not participating in discussions at staff meetings and retreats has been a red flag to us.

You may think that by itself, none of these are a big deal, but multiple together should be a major red flag to us. I think it basically comes down to when people are detached, you may have an issue on your hand.

 Larry Lance is the Executive Directorat YFC Northern Indiana. He has been with YFC for 38 years: 30 of those in Fort Wayne.

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