Rocking chairs. Old-fashioned candy. Checkers. Chicken and dumplings. These are just some of the reasons I love Cracker Barrel. In fact, it’s one of my favorite chain restaurants. Typically, it serves as the go-to place for me whenever I can’t decide on a place to eat. I’ve shared many a meal with my family gathered around those lantern-topped tables. I’ve failed to leave just one tee on that triangular block of wood for 35 years and counting. I even had a job interview at a Cracker Barrel once–and it was for a church position, not the restaurant. (I got the job, BTW). I can remember one time eating in a Cracker Barrel across the aisle from “Mr. Cracker Barrel” himself. While it was self-proclaimed I’m sure, he was mighty proud of the jacket, hat, belt buckle and car window decal he had promoting his title. Folks just seem to love that place.
I’ve eaten at so many different Cracker Barrels I’ve lost count. From Florida, to Georgia, on into the Carolinas, to the Tennessee hills and the Kentucky bluegrass, you pick a Cracker Barrel and, chances are, I’ve been there once or twice in my travels across the great southeastern United States. I can attest that Uncle Herschel’s breakfast tastes just the same in Jacksonville, FL as it does in Chattanooga, TN. The fried okra and macaroni and cheese in Canton, GA is just as delicious and comforting as it is in Lexington, KY. And that’s really the reason I love it so much. With Cracker Barrel, there’s no surprises. If you’ve been to one, you’ve been to them all. And it’s the consistency that makes it so great.
In fact, those of us who serve in KidMin could learn a thing or two from Cracker Barrel when it comes to consistency. It’s been my experience that children thrive upon ritual and routine. For that reason, I believe consistency is one of the key factors when it comes to success in KidMin, but it’s also often one of the most elusive of accomplishments. If you’re anything like me, you manage multiple teams of volunteers serving in different services at different times or on different weeks. These volunteers, each bringing a different personality and skill set to the table, are as unique as the individuals comprising the groups of children that they serve. And therein lies the difficulty: how can you take all of those differences and still provide a similar experience for each child in different services across the board and perpetuate it from week to week?
While I certainly don’t have all the answers on this subject, here are a few of the things that have given me success in this area in the past:
- Clearly communicate your expectations. When you clearly and specifically communicate exactly what you are looking for from a volunteer, it becomes easier for them to understand the vision and helps them to achieve the desired result. I’ve found that it’s difficult to over-communicate, and the majority of your volunteers will appreciate being given clear direction from their leader.
- Model your expectations. It’s one thing to tell a volunteer what to do; it’s an entirely different thing to show them. Don’t hesitate to set the standard for a volunteer by modeling in front of them the specific behavior or approach you are looking for. Follow this model for maximum results: You do it while they watch, you do it with them, they do it while you watch, they do it and you move on.
- Evaluate and adjust. You should constantly measure what is happening in your ministry against the expectations that have been communicated. If something isn’t going according to what’s been communicated, perhaps it hasn’t been communicated clearly enough. When you evaluate, it gives you the opportunity to make adjustments in how or what you are communicating and opens the door for you to provide “on-the-job” training to help your volunteers do what they do even better. And when our evaluations reveal that your volunteers are getting it right, CELEBRATE IT! What gets celebrated gets replicated, so never miss an opportunity to positively reinforce your volunteers when they succeed.
- Get everyone in the right seat on the bus. If one of your volunteers continues to fall short of your clearly communicated expectations, it’s possible that they may need to be moved to a different seat on the bus. Perhaps their personality and skill set doesn’t align with the task or role that you’ve given them. This is where the aforementioned evaluation process comes in handy. If you can align your volunteers with tasks and roles that match up with their skill set and personality, the
ceiling is the roofsky will be the limit for both that volunteer and that particular area of your ministry. The more you can connect different volunteers with a role that has them operating in their sweet spot, the healthier and more successful your team and ministry will be.
- Remember that these things take time. Cracker Barrel was established in 1969, so they’ve been at it for a while. I’d dare to venture that things have changed a bit over the years, which is what has made them so successful. You won’t accomplish these things in your ministry overnight–in some cases it may take years. So be encouraged and trust that your consistency in the above areas will pay off in the long run. It sure did for Cracker Barrel.
So how about you? For those of you that lead in some capacity, what are some of the things you’ve had success with in bringing about consistency in your ministry?