I began work at Hillside Church almost 3 years ago. When I started, I knew very little about how to conduct myself on a professional level or use my time.
I can remember jumping into my first weeks headfirst, working more than 80+ hours for at least the first 6-8 weeks. I met with folks, studied, set up my administrative tasks.
And I loved it!
But I almost burnt myself out from ministry altogether within the first couple of months of my new job. Additionally, I spent the next couple of months trying to catch up on the very things that I neglected due to misplaced priorities and poor direction.
Upon reflection over the recent years, I want to offer 5 healthy professional habits to begin doing during your first month on the job. Each of these habits instills a foundation on which to build over the next season at your current position, as well as the duration of your ministry.
1. Make contact with every student and family within the church student ministry. Do this before you begin to even think about making one singe change or addition to the current student ministry - even if nothing currently exists - even if you get pressure from others and the staff. Hold the line to this ideal, if at all possible, for understanding the issues of your teens and families will ultimately shape what you do... and how you do it!
2. Invest into your workspace. This habit and ideal obviously depends upon the resources available to you, but one trust still remains, your office space needs to a place that promotes comfort, creativity, peace, productivity, passion, and devotion. I spend a significant portion of time in my office, and 95% of my produced content comes from my office (I enjoy working in my office more so than a coffee shop or any other place because I've chosen to invest into my space.)
I've incorporated 6 elements that promotes all of the attributes that I listed above: a. an ergonomically designed chair, a large LED screen to accompany my laptop, lots of light, a stand up desk to stretch my legs and burn calories, enough shelving to hold all of my books, and a small corner designed specifically for reading. How would you design your office?
3. Clarify your supervisor's expectations for you. Take your direct report supervisor out to coffee, and schedule a regular meeting time to address and outline your job expectations. During this meeting, you should address accountability and how to communicate both affirmation and dissension in such a way that promotes trust and transparency. Before you create one goal, you must ensure that your supervisors and direct reports understand their expectations for you, and yours for them - or you may be stuck with vain goals and a frustrated start to your job.
4. Reach out to other colleagues for support and direction. Make contact with either a network or individual youth pastor who can orient you to the issues of youth ministry within your context. I did this within my second week on the job, and I am convinced that this one act put me months - if not years - ahead of when I would be without my fellow colleagues in the field. Not to mention the friendship and camaraderie that inherently follows collegial support.
5. Schedule a parent meeting. As soon as you can, get all of the parents in the same room for a simple meet and greet about yourself with a question and answer period to follow about your experience. This is a HUGE WIN for building parent partnerships and bridges. Introduce yourself, ask lots of questions, and listen. Don't promise anything or offer vision. Simply engage parents with humility and a spirit of learning. Seek to earn their trust before you commit to do anything.
Doing these 5 habits within your first month on the job will not guarantee success in your placement. But you will give yourself, your church, and your people the best shot possible for faithful success and fruitful, long-term ministry.
QUESTION: Of these 5 habits, which one do you need to improve upon? Which one do you excel at doing? What would you add? What did you do that worked well for you during your first month at your job?