Four Words You Should NEVER Say

I hear it all the time from so many Kids Ministry leaders.  It’s the four words that should NEVER come out of your mouth…“I’m just not creative.”

Sometimes it comes in more subtle ways such as, “How do you guys do what you do?”“I could never do that!”  “I wish I could be more creative, but I don’t have it in me.”
“Why are some people creative and others aren’t?”

The truth is everyone has creative potential.  We sell ourselves short thinking that creativity is some mystical ability that few are blessed with.

A large part of the problem is that there is an air of mystery and mysticism around the creative process.  Because people assume and reinforce the idea that some have creative potential and others don’t.  They assume that “creative” people somehow have a super power that others just do not possess.

Think back to when you were a child.  You were able to be kept busy for hours simply by playing with cardboard box.  That box instantly became a house, a fort, a fire station, a cannon – whatever your mind could come up with.  When you were a child, EVERYTHING was a toy.  You were definitely creative!

Somehow, through the years, we lose our fascination with everyday things, begin to lose our confidence, and somehow begin to believe the lie that “creativity is a gift reserved for the few.”  It’s not.  It is, however, a skill that must be developed.  Like any other muscle, your “creative muscle” will atrophy if you don’t put it to work regularly.

This week, take 15 minutes on this creativity exercise.  Walk into a room, find a random object, and see if you can turn it into some sort of spiritual object lesson.  Don’t worry, nobody is watching.  When you have completed this, guess what – you just took a step closer to unleashing the creativity inside of you!

Stop selling yourself short!  You ARE creative!  Now, get out there and create something amazing to change the world for your kids!  You can do it!!!

Share your thoughts in the comment section.

How To Know When It Is Time To Leave

snoopy-goodbye

It’s one of the toughest decisions you will ever have to make:  Leaving a church you have been serving as a staff member.  It’s a decision that should NEVER be made cavalierly and never without much prayer and consideration.

I have seen many staff members leave too early and short circuit what God was wanting to do in them during a process of seasoning and learning.  But, I have also seen many staff members stay longer in a situation than they should have.  By doing so, they ended up hurting the church and their family in the process.

Certainly, you should leave if you have a DIRECT command from God that it is time for you to move on. Perhaps He has another place where He wants to use you.  Perhaps He has someone else who needs to fill your current position in order to fulfill His plan for that church.  If God says, “Leave,” then leave.  Outside of a direct command from God, here are a few ways you can know it might be time to resign the position you are serving in…

1)  When you no longer personally respect your pastor or team.

Whether it is your fault or theirs, if you have lost respect and cannot gain it back – you will do more harm than good by staying on the team.

2) When you can’t support and agree with them publicly

We will always have disagreements with our pastor or other staff.  It’s impossible to agree on everything.  But, we should always disagree in private!  When in a public setting, you MUST show agreement and solidarity.  If you are unable to do so despite your best prayer and effort, then you need to leave before you cause damage to the body of Christ.

3)  When you or your spouse become cynical or critical in your spirit

If you get to the point where you are cynical in your spirit and can’t seem to clear it out, then you should leave.  To continue to follow someone you don’t trust is damaging to them and to you.

4)  When you are no longer challenged to grow

When you get to the point where you have grown as far as you can at the current location, it might be time to consider moving on.

5)  When you don’t like being around your pastor or team

This doesn’t mean one person or another gets on your nerves one day.  However, if you find yourself consistently avoiding relational time with your staff or pastor, that is unhealthy.  If prayer and loving confrontation don’t solve it, then it is better to leave than poison the entire community.

6)  When you think you can do a better job than your pastor

Some staff pastors have the thought, “If I was in charge of this church, I would do a much better job than my pastor is doing.”  I have found that when a staff member has this feeling, MOST of the time it is the staff member’s fault – not the pastor’s.  However, if this feeling persists despite your best efforts to squelch it, then you can mark it down – you have lost all respect for your pastor.  No matter what the reason, you owe it to your pastor to resign and allow him to hire someone who respects him.

I am not one who advocates leaving on a whim.  I can’t stand the fact that the studies show the average length of stay for a church staff member is 18-24 months.  However, there are times that “sticking it out” can do more harm than good.  No matter what, never make the decision without bathing it in prayer and seeking wisdom from spiritual authority.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Share your thoughts in the comment section.

“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.

What Are You Afraid Of?

Fear is a reality in all of our lives.  If you say you don’t have any fear at all, either you’re a liar or a psychopath—neither of these is a good option!  Some of us can’t admit our fears because they’re so terrifying we can’t face them.  Denial, though, never leads to growth, peace, joy, love, and strength.

Fear is a barrier between us and the things God is calling us to do.  It keeps us still when God wants us to move, keeps us quiet when God wants us to speak, and causes us to shrink back when God wants us to reach out.  Strong, creative spiritual leadership isn’t satisfied with the status quo.  Leaders don’t focus on excuses for inaction; they look at possibilities for God to do amazing things.  But leaders often have to overcome their fears.

Abraham left everything he had known to follow God into a distant land.  Moses had been tending sheep so long that he lost confidence in his leadership abilities, but God still had a mission for him.  After his initial hesitations, he marched boldly into Pharaoh’s presence and demanded, “Let my people go!” Joshua and Caleb believed God to lead the people into the Promised Land and conquer giants even when others cowered in terror.  David put down Saul’s armor and faced the colossal giant Goliath with a sling and five stones.

Courage isn’t the absence of fear, but the willingness to take action in the face of fear.  Every leader has to face very real fears.  The key is facing your fears with the RIGHT ammunition and in the right SPIRIT!  Never forget:

“God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” – 2 Timothy 1:7

What is Paul saying?  Crippling fear doesn’t come from God.  Instead, God pours out the solution to fear: power, love, and a sound mind.  So, face your fears in prayer – and let God give you the power, love, and sound mind that He has promised!

(for more on this subject, check out my book, “I Blew It!” chapter 10)

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.