Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Ministry Idea

Every now and then I get a bit of inspiration with some aspect of my youth ministry.  Working with a team of young adults that are all volunteers can sometimes be tricky particularly when it comes to defining their commitments.  I often wonder how I can continue to renew and strengthen their hearts for working with the youth. 

After reading the article below about Adam Grant, a Wharton professor, I was inspired to ask some of the more emotionally intelligent high school students to see if they would be willing to write a letter or a record a video that expresses what they observe the young adult volunteers do for them and what they have meant to them.  At our monthly staff meeting, I shared the letters and videos with the young adults and held a casual discussion about their reactions.  It was interesting to see that by default, Chinese American young adults don't always know how to receive affirmation.  However, after some probing, I could tell it meant a lot to them.

Organizational psychology has long concerned itself with how to design work so that people will enjoy it and want to keep doing it. Traditionally the thinking has been that employers should appeal to workers' more obvious forms of self-interest: financial incentives, yes, but also work that is inherently interesting or offers the possibility for career advancement...The greatest untapped source of motivation, he argues, is a sense of service to others; focusing on the contribution of our work to other peoples' lives has the potential to make us more productive than thinking about helping ourselves.

Call centers, even on college campuses, are notoriously unsatisfying places to work. The job is repetitive and can be emotionally taxing, as callers absorb verbal abuse while also facing rejection (the rejection rate at that call center was about 93 percent)...Now, at the call center, Grant proposed a simple, low-cost experiment: given that one of the center's primary purposes was funding scholarships, Grant brought in a student who had benefited from that fund-raising. The callers took a 10-minute break as the young man told them how much the scholarship had changed his life and how excited he now was to work as a teacher with Teach for America...The results were surprising even to Grant. A month after the testimonial, the workers were spending 142 percent more time on the phone and bringing in 171 percent more revenue, even though they were using the same script.

When Grant went back and talked to the callers about their improvement, many actively discounted the possibility that the brief encounter with a scholarship student helped...Eventually, having replicated the test five times, Grant was confident that he had eliminated other explanations. It was almost as if the good feelings had bypassed the callers' conscious cognitive processes and gone straight to a more subconscious source of motivation. They were more driven to succeed, even if they could not pinpoint the trigger for that drive.

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