Entries with tag leadership .

What Domino's Pizza Taught Me About Church Leadership

A few years ago, the CEO of Domino's did something incredible: he admitted that their pizza was awful.

Let's back up a bit. The mission of Domino's is simple: to provide people with pizza. The problem was that no one wanted to eat it.

Over time, their pizza developed the reputation of being bland, unappetizing, even disgusting: because that's exactly what it was. Domino's one job was to make good pizza, and they were failing at that miserably.

When new CEO Patrick Doyle took office in 2010, he had a choice. He could decide to sidestep the problem with spin: maybe Domino's needed a new advertising campaign, to spend more dollars on media, to invest in a new website, or to come up with some new gimmicky sales strategy to cover up the terrible pizza. 

But he didn't. 

Instead, he admitted there was a problem. And he took steps to solve it.

Doyle did something remarkably brave and bold. He was at center of a daring advertising campaign which admitted that Domino's pizza, their flagship product, was a disaster

Doyle and his team didn't hide from an unpleasant reality. They met it head on.

This was no mere publicity stunt. And this was not a simple rebranding or repackaging of a failed product. Domino's admitted their failure, not because it would draw attention and new sales, but because they heard people’s complaints.

And they believed they were capable of more. Doyle and his team believed that they could offer a tasty pizza that people actually enjoyed. 

This was, in a sense, an act of repentance. They accepted the criticism, acknowledged the disaster, and unveiled a new recipe.

This courageous move paid off. Domino's new pizza was, in fact, much better than their old recipe. Sales immediately skyrocketed, and Doyle was named the CNBC Street Signs "CEO of the Year" in 2011

When Doyle took over as CEO in 2010, Domino's stock was trading at about $9 per share. Today, it's pushing $200.

Pizza is a particularly interesting image for us in the Church because it uses food to illustrate ministry. As Jesus said in John 21:17, "Feed my sheep."

And, just as Domino's was struggling to reach their customers, the numbers suggest that the Church has been struggling to feed the flock.

As the Barna group recently explained in You Lost Me, 60% of young Christians disengage from the church as they transition from youth to young adulthood.

The Orthodox Church is not immune. Though data specific to the Church is lacking, the following figures are provocative. 

In 2010, a study commissioned by the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops found that there were 799,400 Orthodox Christians in the United States. In the early part of the twentieth century, the Christian Herald newspaper used to commission similar studies. Their last such census, in 1947, found that there were 702,273 Orthodox Christians in the United States.

That translates to 14% growth over 63 years.

That might seem respectable until you remember that waves of immigrants from traditionally Orthodox countries entered the US during those six decades. And that a majority of Orthodox Christians now mary non-Orthodox, potentially growing the Church with every marriage. Yet even despite all that, our growth measured only 14% over 63 years.

Over the same period, the population of the United States more than doubled.

This indicates, at least for the Orthodox Church, that our ministry problem may run a lot deeper than the contemporary rise of the "nones." We may be looking at a sustained track record of missteps that stretches back multiple decades and multiple generations.

When Father Jason Roll (Director of what was then called the Youth Department of the Archdiocese) brought me on to join the team four years ago, we had a choice to make. We could look back at some of the old resources and initiatives of the past and try to rebrand them. We could devise new strategies to double down on what the Church had, for decades, been using to feed young Orthodox Christians.

But, under his brave and visionary leadership, we didn't. We decided that we needed to be honest. We decided that we needed to admit the mistakes of the past.

And, putting our trust in Christ, we were motivated by the confidence that we could do better.

So we rechristened the Youth Department as Y2AM, with a new ministry vision grounded in Christ and oriented towards His Kingdom. And we began this new adventure with a new project: a risky and untested video series known as Be the Bee.

As one fourth grader described in a letter, an episode of Be the Bee “made me reach my goal and made me achieve to pray every night because of you. So every night when I pray, I also pray for you because you taught me to pray.”

As a high school student recently wrote, “Your ministry has led my girlfriend and me to convert to the Eastern Orthodox Faith!” 

As another high schooler wrote, our YouTube channel “was probably the biggest thing that got me to go from being an atheist to an Orthodox Christian inquirer.”

As a young adult who is reengaging with the Church shared, “My wife converted to the Orthodox Church and your words and lessons have helped our journey to Christ.” 

As a mother recently explained to us, she sends our videos to her two children before dinner, “and discussing them at dinner has added so much to our family dinner conversations. My husband and I have learned right alongside them, what a blessing!”

Throwing out a recipe, especially after decades of use, can be a very scary thing. But, as Doyle would suggest, "playing it safe is the riskiest course of all."

So we all have to ask ourselves: are we going to stick with the terrible pizza we know, or offer the amazing pizza we know we’re capable of making? 

 

Steven Christoforou is the Director of Y2AM.

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Two Reminders about Youth Safety Training

If you’ve ever been a camp counselor, you know the pains of some of the youth ministry training process. Of course, I don’t mean the time you took classes on learning icebreakers or how to be a good listener or how to best speak about our faith. I mean the online training, learning all of the things you shouldn’t do and having to learn the ins and outs of the Youth Protection Manual.

 

(By the way, the Archdiocese is preparing new Policies for the Safety of Youth and Children.  So these basic youth safety principles will soon apply to all youth work.  Stay tuned!)

 

Now, I’m sure you know that all of this is important. But when you’re an experienced counselor, it’s easy for this to feel like just another task you have to check off your to-do list. It’s easy to lose sight of what it’s all really about.

 

Those in youth ministry have an incredibly important role in the spiritual lives of the youth with whom they work. Though you may only be with these young people for a retreat or for a week-long camp session, your impression matters, and the parents trust that their children are in safe hands with you.

 

So what are two things that everyone can keep in mind, as a background for all of the rules and regulations? What I’ve found helpful is to remember that boundaries matter, and that we as leaders in the Church serve as icons of God.

 

1. Boundaries matter

 

Boundaries are at the core of many youth safety regulations. We talk so much about how far apart to be from the youth, about how much physical contact is culturally appropriate, about contact online and on the phone. But common to all of these rules is the concept that our boundaries and the boundaries of our youth truly matter.

 

One common mistake that youth workers can make is to not properly set up boundaries for themselves. They want to be open and helpful, they want to be always available to lend a helpful hand or a listening ear. Youth workers want to be there for their youth, but sometimes that Johnny-on-the-spot availability can be at the detriment of their own physical and spiritual health. We can’t give what we don’t have.

 

While our boundaries matter, so too do the boundaries of our youth. There is the obvious need for physical boundaries to be respected. But there’s also the need to have clear emotional boundaries with those we serve. I remember early on in my youth work a time when I found myself getting too emotionally worked up about a young person’s struggles. I wanted to be able to help him, to make sure he was alright. But I had to see that I was trying to fix him instead of letting God do the work. I had to stop seeing him as a problem to be solved, and instead as a person to be loved and prayed for. I needed to commit him to God, and to trust that Christ could work in his life.

 

2. Religious leaders are icons of God

 

Whether we like it or not, we who work in ministry are – in a very real and particular way – icons of God for those we serve. How we act and live our lives reflects Christ whose ministry we share. How we speak to young people guides and molds how they perceive and understand God.

 

This may be a rather heavy realization to have, but it’s an important thing to keep in mind. Though we know that we are imperfect people ourselves – and perhaps because of an awareness of our imperfections we are personally aware of the power and grace of God – we must remember that our youth do not expect us to be quite so imperfect. How we show love, how we demonstrate the grace of God by how we show grace to young people we serve, all impacts how they are able to relate to and encounter the Holy Trinity.

 

Another temptation, intertwined with the importance of boundaries, is sharing too much of our own story too soon and in the wrong context. We may want to show that we can truly empathize with the challenges our youth face – because, let’s be honest, we have oftentimes been in the same boat they’re in now. But we have to remember that we represent the straight and narrow path; we represent Christ. When we share with teens, for example, that we faced a challenge they are now facing, we need to favor being vague over specific. Because not only could a discussion of specifics end up crossing a boundary, it can also send the wrong message and lead to temptation rather than a helpful lesson. How specific we become, and the examples we share, can only be properly discerned over a period of time as we build as relationship with the person before us. And when it comes to youth, we need to be extra careful in what we say.

 

We don’t have to be perfect, but we do have to work not to scandalize those in our care (1 Corinthians 8:13).

 

Icons made of wood or plaster bring us to an encounter with the one depicted. Through created matter, we come to know Jesus Christ, His mother, and the other saints. And in us – those who work with youth – others come to see living icons of our Lord. Imperfect though we may be, young people encounter Jesus Christ in and through us.

 

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When Youth Safety is seen as a task to accomplish, or as a set of rules to follow, we forget that we are preparing to serve the Body of Christ. Youth ministry is Christ’s ministry and we are His hands and His feet serving His people. But we need to rediscover the importance of keeping proper boundaries, both for our sake and for the sake of the youth. And we should keep in mind that ultimately we represent our Lord to those we serve.

 

How have you struggled with boundaries in youth ministry? Have you ever encountered a time when you felt a young person placed you on too high of a pedestal?

 

Want more from Y2AM? Subscribe to our email list and get weekly tips for your spiritual life every Monday! And you can support Y2AM even more by becoming a monthly Patreon supporter. As little as $1 a month can help us continue the work we’re doing.

 

Sam is the Pastoral Assistant at Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He grew up in Powhatan, Virginia and studied International Affairs and Spanish at James Madison University. Sam received his MDiv from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in 2013. He loves food, languages, genealogy, and good coffee.

Photo Credit: depositphotos

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