“The Eric Trap” Book Review

Eric Trap

I am very pleased to be able to talk about The Eric Trap, a new book written by Jim Wideman, Sam Luce, Kenny Conley, and several others.  I received a copy a week or so ago and immediately began diving into it.  I have to say, I was blown away by it.

Here are the things I LOVED about The Eric Trap:

1)  It is written as a leadership fable. If you are not familiar with this style of writing (a la Patrick Lencioni, Ken Blanchard, and others), it is told as a fictional story of Eric Newman.  Eric is a regular guy who finds himself reeling from the demands and expectations of Kids Ministry.  It’s easy to read.  You learn as Eric learns.

2)  The main character is easy to relate to.  Eric is you.  Eric is me.  Eric is the Kidmin Leader we all have been at some point in our journey.  I felt a connection to Eric within the first couple of paragraphs.  I found myself truly caring about Eric and the pain he was going through.  That is what good writing does.  This book is well-written and compelling.

3)  The lessons are impacting.  The book deals with “five things every leader has to get right.”  Each of these lessons are learned by Eric along the way.  From learning how to balance ministry and family to serving under a Lead Pastor and carrying his/her vision, these lessons ARE things that every Kidmin Leader must get right if they want to accomplish God’s best in their ministry.

The only thing I wish was different with the book is that it is not COMPLETELY a leadership fable.  Periodically, the story of Eric is broken up with select lessons from successful Kidmin Leaders.  Don’t get me wrong – these lessons are phenomenally written and are very helpful.  I just wish the content could have been worked more into the story rather than having to continually pop out of the story in order to do practical teaching.

Bottom line – The Eric Trap is a well-written book that will appeal to much more than just Kidmin Leaders.  It serves as a guidebook for every new staff pastor getting into ministry.  Male or female.  Long-term or short-term.  Kids Ministry or Student Ministry.  Everyone can learn from Eric Newman and help themselves NEVER to fall into the “Eric Traps.”

* The official release date of the book is APRIL 25th.  For more info check out the official website.

Computer Brains

I have to admit – as a Christian kid growing up in the 80s I was a big Petra fan.  The other day, the song “Computer Brains” from Petra’s “Beat The System” album came on my iPod.  I started thinking about the truth of that song.  It was powerful.

Here’s the truth:  our minds are like a computer.  Remember the old computer acronym, “GIGO” (Garbage In, Garbage Out)?  You have to be very careful when you program a computer.  Even the smallest error will produce flawed results.  In other words, the results produced by the computer will be no better than the quality of the programming.

People are the same way.  What goes in is what comes out.  Psychologists say that we tend to become what we think about most.  Proverbs 23:7 says it this way, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.”

My question for you is:  What kind of input are you receiving?  The quality of your input determines the quality of your output.

If you want a positive attitude to come out, put positive information in.  Hang around positive people, not complainers.  If you want thoughtful, courteous, helpful words to come out, you better make sure the input you are receiving matches that desired output.

What kind of books/blogs do you read?  What kind of music do you listen to?   What kind of people do you go to lunch with?  What kind of conversations do you have on break?  Do all of these INPUTS help you grow and become a better person/leader?  If not, it’s time for a change!

Remember, your brain is like a computer – only much more complex.  Control your input, and your output will take care of itself.

Winners of the “I Blew It!” giveaway!

Thanks to all of you who participated in our big giveaway that ended March 31st.  Many of you helped get the word out and many new subscribers were added to the BLOG.  Welcome to everyone!  Here are your winners:

Joe Hegedus of New Jersey

Nancy Freiling of Virginia

Pamela Bartley of Kentucky

Neil Hancock of Georgia

Lisa Grace

Each of them are receiving a FREE copy of my book, “I Blew It!”   If you would like more info about the book, click HERE!  Keep your eyes open for more winning opportunities.

In the meantime, help me spread the word about the BLOG.  We are still young – not even a year old.  We depend on you to help get the word out so we can connect and be a blessing to as many Kids Ministry leaders as possible.  Help us by posting something on Twitter or Facebook with a link to www.briandollar.com – share how the blog has been a blessing to you.  Thanks everyone!

Setting Ministry Goals

goals

We all want to grow.  We all want to get better at our job, our ministry, our calling.  Although the desire to grow is common, actual growth is not so common.  I think one of the main reasons we fail to move from intention to actual growth is because we don’t set clear, definable goals.

Vague intentions almost never take us to a desired destination.  It’s not enough to identify an area that needs attention.  We then need to ask God for a vision of what it will be like to achieve the desired growth in this area.  When you define the goal, write it down, describe the benefits, and trust God to take you there.

Many people struggle with the description of the goal because they’re afraid the price they’ll have to pay isn’t worth it.  It is worth it!  The best encouragement to move forward is a clear picture of the finish line.  Go into detail.  How will your ministry look? How will your family relationships benefit?  How will you experience financial peace and freedom?  How will you take advantage of new opportunities?

If you can define and describe your goal in writing, you’re well on your way to achieving it.  A good plan is essential.  Solomon wrote, “A wise man thinks ahead; a fool doesn’t, and even brags about it” (Proverbs 13:16 NLT).

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” – Antoine De Saint-Exupery

Once you set the goal and write it down.  Then, define manageable steps toward your goal.  Some of us quit because the task seems too big, too challenging, and too hard.  If we break it into reachable steps, we can make remarkable progress.  We can be naïve about what it takes to change.

Enthusiasm is a good beginning, but it won’t take us very far on its own.  I know.  I’ve tried.  If I had tried to get up early each morning, start a workout routine, read a hundred books a year, read the Bible through every month, and pray two hours a day, I’d have gotten pretty discouraged!   We need to have big goals but manageable steps toward those goals.

The Power Of Praise

As a Kids Ministry Leader, you are in the business of being a PEOPLE BUILDER.  Your goal is to help others reach their full potential of who God wants them to be.

Every person we meet, we either give life to or we take life from.  You know what I’m talking about, don’t you?  There are people who encourage you and when you are done being with them you feel built up.  Then, there are others who you feel torn down by.

Successful leaders are people who have mastered the art of building others up. There are few ways to build others up that are more effective than PRAISING THEM.

There is power in praising people!  Something begins to happen in them, in you, and in your relationship when you praise someone.

Praise Your Kids! – Make a point to speak life into the kids in your ministry.  Don’t allow yourself to speak negativity into their lives.  They hear that enough at school, on the playground, and sometimes even at home.

Even when you are correcting their behavior – avoid saying, “This behavior is ridiculous.  Can’t you just do the right thing?”  Instead, say things like, “You are such an amazing kid.  I see so much potential in you to do great things for God.  These choices you are making are not helping you become all that God has planned for you.  How can we change these choices so that they better reflect the amazing kid that you really are?”

Praise Your Volunteers! – Look for things your volunteers are doing well and speak up!  Tell them how much you appreciate their effort and sacrifice to help build the Kingdom of God.  Make a point to send a thank you note to at least five people every week (that’s ONE note per day in the office).  You can do it!  It will make such a difference.

Praise God! – In your daily prayer, praise God for what He is doing in your ministry.   Rather than just come to Him with a list of needs for your ministry, praise Him for what He has already done!

Praising others is important and comes with some amazing benefits – not only for them, but for you.  When you praise others…

1)  Your relationships grow –  Life is all about relationships.  When you praise others, it deepens their appreciation for you and serves to build your relationship with them.

2)  Your leadership and influence grow – Who has a greater leadership and influence capacity in your own life:  the one who tears you down or the one who builds you up?  It works the same for those you lead.  Build them up, and your influence with them will grow.

3)  Team loyalty grows –  When the volunteers on your team are appreciated and praised, they become fiercely loyal.  When people know that you care for them, love them, and appreciate them – they will go to great lengths for you!

So, take a moment today – praise someone!  Send a note, send a text, make a call.  Praise your team!  Praise your kids!  Praise God!  They all deserve it!!!

Don’t Just Feel It, Express It! (Gratitude)

Gratitude

Gratitude is an important component of any leader’s life.  Gratitude keeps you grounded, realizing that the world does not revolve around you.  Gratitude helps you avoid the dreaded “entitlement mentality” – the idea that you deserve all the good that comes your way simply because you are so cute and special.

Gratitude is important for relationships.  People WANT to be around others who are grateful.  Most people avoid those who are ungrateful or selfish.

Gratitude is important for your own mental and physical health.  Did you know:

“A large body of recent work has suggested that people who are more grateful have higher levels of well-being. Grateful people are happier, less depressed, less stressed, and more satisfied with their lives and social relationships Grateful people also have higher levels of control of their environments, personal growth, purpose in life, and self acceptance.” [The grateful disposition: A conceptual and empirical topography. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82, 112-127.]

Some kids’ ministry leaders tell me they really enjoy working in their church with their pastor.  I ask, “When was the last time you told him?”  Sometimes, it’s very recent, but others admit it’s been a long time.

Don’t just feel thankful—express it in a way that communicates your heart.

For appreciation to be received, it must be sincere.  Don’t just go through the motions and hope it works out okay.  If you’re not feeling thankful, take time to pray.  Ask God for eyes to see what He sees so you can overlook some of the difficulties and really appreciate the phenomenal opportunity to reach kids for Christ in your church.

In the past few years, I’ve tried to make gratitude a normal part of my communication.  I send my pastor thank you notes for all kinds of things, and even more, for being a terrific leader and friend.  Sometimes, I give him small gifts to show my appreciation. I want him to know that I don’t take him for granted.  Notes, words, and gifts let him know I’m very thankful for him as my leader and the blessings that come from serving in this church.

How about you?  Do you have an entitlement mentality or an attitude of gratitude?  Do you merely FEEL gratitude or do you express it?  When was the last time you wrote a note, sent an email, or verbally thanked your pastor?  He gets enough negative letters and emails.  Take the time now to send something positive.  Express your gratitude.

Offering Accountability

Accountability is something we often want from others, but we rarely want to give to others.

On a ministry team, accountability is crucial for things to run smoothly.

We understand this when it comes to those who are under us in the organization, but we don’t always treat it with the same respect when it comes to our OWN accountability.

I made a decision long ago to have a habit of offering accountability instead of forcing my pastor to require it. I don’t know of any senior pastor who enjoys tracking down any member of his staff to check on him or confront him when there’s a problem. In my relationship with my pastor, I am determined to offer accountability instead of forcing him to demand it from me.

When I came to my church, my pastor asked me to email him any time I had a problem of any kind that needed his attention.  In my pride and self-protection, I didn’t want to admit that I had any problems (at all), so I didn’t send him any emails about needs or difficulties. One day, he found out about an incident in the Kids Ministry.  He was perplexed to hear about it from someone besides me.  When he called me into his office, he had to be an investigator trying to find out what happened instead of a partner helping to resolve it.  My silence had forced him into this role.

Don’t make your pastor play NCIS.  Take the initiative to tell him anytime there’s a problem he needs to know about.  When you’re going to be late, call.  When something goes wrong, tell him.  When there’s a problem that’s going to affect other ministries, give him a heads up.

Drop The Excuses

We all have our favorite excuses why we haven’t done the things we know we should do.  Taking risks, expanding our horizons, making significant life and habit changes – all of these things are held back by our favorite excuses:

*  I’m comfortable with the way things are, so I don’t really need to change.

*  I’ll probably fail, so why even try?

*  It’ll take too long to change.

*  People will criticize me if I try this.

As I write in my book, I Blew It!, excuses are perpetual blinders.  With them, we can stay stuck for a lifetime.  When we find the courage to open our eyes to the truth, amazing things can happen.  To make real change a reality in our lives, we have to be willing to get rid of every excuse we’ve used in the past.

Excuses aren’t unique to people today.  When God called Moses, he had all kinds of reasons he couldn’t step up and be the leader of God’s people.  God told Moses he was the one who would lead the Israelites out of captivity in Egypt to the Promised Land.

It’s time to eliminate your excuses and your rationalizations.  Make a declaration: I’m not going to live by my excuses any longer!  After Moses had given God multiple reasons why he couldn’t lead Israel out of slavery, Moses said, “O Lord, please send someone else to do it” (Exodus 4:13).  As it turns out, all of his excuses were only smoke screens.  The real issue was that Moses flat out did not want to do what God had called him to do.

Is that you?  Have you been making excuses to cover up the fact that you’re unwilling to do what God has called you to do?  It’s time to be honest.  Be honest and trust God to change your life.

Book Review: “Jumping The Track” by Roger Fields

jumping the track

When I first began seeing Roger tweet about the book he was writing, he was billing it as “The Kidz Blitz Story.”  That is a major understatement!  While this book does chronicle the story of how the Kidmin phenomenon KIDZ BLITZ got started, it is so much more than that!

“Jumping The Track” is Roger’s story.  It’s the story of a man who refused to follow the mold set by others in ministry.  It’s the story of a man’s struggle with his own overwhelmingly shy personality to become a mesmerizing stage host and people-person.  It’s the story of a man who broke through tradition into a dynamic faith experience.  It’s all that and much more!

Roger is a gifted storyteller.  After reading the book, I feel like I was right there with him, Tammie, Terra, Shannon, Mica, and Morgan for the whole journey.  I literally laughed out loud as Roger shared some of his early ministry mistakes.  I was truly challenged as I read about his leaps of faith to start Kidz Blitz.

“Jumping The Track” refers to being willing to abruptly change directions in life at the Lord’s command.  Rather than follow a pre-set strategy and list of long-term goals, Roger suggests that each of us should “hold on loosely” to the trajectory of our lives and be open to the voice of God.  He may call each of us to “Jump The Track.”  If so, will we be so tightly clinging to our long-term goals and human vision that we miss out on His plan?

I encourage each of you to purchase this book.  It will challenge you to think differently about life, ministry, and faith – in a good way!

You Got Served!

I was privileged to spend some time at INCM’s Children’s Pastors Conference in Orlando last week.  It was an incredible conference!  If you have an opportunity to go in the future (there’s another one happening in San Diego in February) I encourage you to make it happen!

One thing that struck me the entire week was the level of service I received from the INCM staff as well as the Disney Resort staff where the conference was held.  While setting up our booth in the Exhibit Hall, we were approached multiple times by a member of the INCM staff asking, “How can I serve you?”  As I walked through the hallway of the Conference Center at Disney’s Coronado Springs I was stopped and asked “Is there any way I can serve you?”

Even after I returned home, I received emails and messages asking me “How can we serve you better next time?”  I was impressed at the level of concern that both INCM and Disney Resorts had for making sure my needs were met and that I was able to concentrate on having an incredible experience at the conference without having to worry about any details.

I began to think:  do I give this same attention to service and detail every week at my church?  Do I try to make sure every detail is handled and that there are no needs or distractions so that the kids and parents can relax and experience everything God has in store for them while they are there?  I have to admit, I was a little convicted.  Disney cared more about details and customer service than I did – and they represent a cartoon mouse.  I represent Jesus Christ.  It was humbling.

How about you?  How is your Kids Ministry doing on serving the parents and kids you are entrusted with?  Do you give enough attention to detail?  Do the parents have to beg you for information or do you freely offer it?  Do the kids feel like you are there to SERVE them or do they feel you are there only to TEACH them?

Jesus said it best, “But among you, those who are the greatest should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant.” (Luke 22:26)  Let’s commit to serving our parents and kids.  It’s not just “good business”, it’s our assignment from Christ.