The Undeniable Benefits Of Longevity In Ministry

Brian 1999

Me and my daughter, Ashton, in my office at church circa April 2000

Just a few days ago, October 31, 2017 – I celebrated the fact that 18 years ago my wife, Cherith, and I came to Arkansas to be the Kids Pastors at First NLR.  What a ride it has been!  We have been blessed to serve under two incredible pastors, Dr. Alton Garrison (the first 18 months) and Rod Loy (the past 16.5 years).  To serve on such an incredible team (many of whom have been along for MOST of the ride as well) is more of a blessing than I could describe.

There’s something to be said about longevity in ministry – especially longevity in ONE place.  It’s so incredible to look around at every Staff Meeting and see FOUR kids who grew up in my Kids Ministry and are now Kids Pastors, Student Pastors, Online Pastors on our team (and other campuses).  It’s such a joy to be able to be able to teach and hold the children OF the children I taught in SLAM long ago (I call them my GrandSLAMs and I am their “SLAMpa” haha).  I am so thankful to have been able to remain in one place for this long.  Sadly, this is not the norm.

Probably all of us in ministry have heard the stats, and they are troubling.  The average Children/Youth Minister only stays at his current church for about 18 – 24 months.  Some studies have stated that it may be more like 3 years, and others I have seen say it’s more like 9-11 months.  But suffice it to say, the tenure of the average Children/Youth Minister is way too short.

When you move on too quickly, you miss out on the incredible benefits of longevity in ministry:

  • Improved Perspective – the longer you stay in one place, the greater perspective you have.  You know the history of the ministry – what worked and what didn’t work.  You know the struggles and victories of the people in your ministry.  You are able to minister from an increased awareness of their needs.
  • Deeper Relationships – it takes time to get “beyond the surface” in relationships.  The longer you stay, the more highs and lows you experience with people.  The longer you stay, the more they trust you to “stick it out” and be there for the long haul.  When they trust you, relationships go deeper.
  • Increased Wisdom – the longer you stay, the more mistakes you will make.  Hopefully, you will learn from those mistakes and grow.  Then, you will gain wisdom and not make those same mistakes again.  In addition, it seems that around the 6th or 7th year of being at a place, suddenly people begin to see you as smarter.  You may not be that much smarter, but their perception of you begins to become more of a wise mentor than a “new pastor on staff.”
  • Sharper Skills – many people claim to have “ten years of Children’s Ministry experience” when in actuality they have “2 years of Children’s Ministry experience in five different churches.”  Too many leave a church and move to the next one once they have run out of ideas.  Then, they move to the next church and put the same two years worth of ideas into that church – and so on.  When you commit to be at the same spot for the long haul, it FORCES you to develop your skills beyond your comfort zone.  Your communication skills, leadership skills, and relational skills are stretched when you choose to stay beyond the “itch” for something new.  Don’t go looking for that “something new” elsewhere, develop that “something new” right where you are!
  • Unparalleled Fulfillment – there is nothing that compares to being able to watch the children you minister to grow up and become strong leaders in the church.  I now have had the privilege to perform marriages of kids who grew up in my Kids Ministry.  Our lead Kids Pastor here at First NLR was a 3rd Grader when I came to the church.  There is nothing more fulfilling than seeing your ministry come full-circle.

Longevity in ministry may be rare, but I believe that is slowly changing.  As Kids Ministry Leaders begin to recognize the benefits of longevity, this will begin to become the norm instead of the exception.  I am so thankful to God that I have had the opportunity to serve First NLR for the past 18 years, and I pray that I have another 18 (or more) left in me!

What about you?  What are some benefits to longevity that I may have missed?

Brain Science & The Bible: Are They Enemies?

Brain vs Bible

 

I will never forget sitting in the company of a preacher while I was in Bible College.  This preacher railed against Science and technology.  He viewed them as vehement enemies of the Kingdom of God.  He firmly believed that any sort of connection between Science and The Bible was a lie.

Growing up in a Spirit-led church community, I often heard arguments against “those churches who plan and prepare their services.”  It was believed that those who use their human minds to plan Church services were “not allowing God’s Spirit to lead them.”  The assumption, of course, was that God is not interested in the human brain and any suggestion that God would speak ahead of time to lead a pastor as to what He wanted to do in a particular service was just not probable.

Although I am a FULL believer in the commands of God to have “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16) and to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2), I think to dismiss any value of our human brain which was created by God in all of its complexity – would be a huge mistake.  God created us with a brain for a reason.  It was not to rely on human wisdom alone.  But, it was to be led by the Spirit to use the brain and all of its catecholamines, action potentials, and neuroplasticity for HIS glory!

Throughout history, there have been incredible minds that have intersected the study of God’s creation with the study of the scriptures:

  • St. Thomas Aquinas and his work regarding Aristotle and the formulation of natural law
  • Francis Bacon, the founder of the scientific method
  • Albert Einstein (though not a Christian, stated, “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”

The fact is, “God gave us a brain not just because our body needed a command and control center to direct it but because God enjoys seeing us steward our brains for his glory.” (Dr. Charles Stone, Brain Savvy Leaders).

Why is understanding the human brain so important?

1.  What goes on in our minds can cause us to stumble.

“But he turned to Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan.  You are a stone that could make me stumble, for you are not thinking God’s thoughts but human thoughts.'”Matthew 16:23

2.  We are to love God with our minds.

“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind.” – Matthew 23:37

3.  Our spiritual battle largely occurs in our minds.

“But I see a different law at work in my body.  It wages a war against the law of my mind and takes me prisoner with the law of sin that is in my body.” – Romans 7:23

4.  Spirituality engages the mind.

“If I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind isn’t productive.  What should I do?  I’ll pray in the Spirit, but I’ll pray with my mind too; I’ll sing a psalm in the Spirit, but I’ll sing the psalm with my mind too.” – 1 Corinthians 14:14-15

5.  We’re to purposefully focus our minds’ attention on certain things, and attention is a core component of learning.  In other words, thinking affects behavior.

“Think about the things above and not the things on earth.” – Colossians 3:2

“From now on, brothers and sisters, if anything is excellent and if anything is admirable, focus your thoughts on these things:  all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely, and all that is worthy of praise.”  – Philippians 4:8

This is why I have enjoyed reading the book, “Brain Savvy Leaders:  The Science of Significant Ministry.”  Dr. Stone began his interest in the human brain when his daughter, Tiffany, developed a brain tumor.  As he began to see the human brain for what it is – a fantastic creation by our Heavenly Father that is to be used by human beings for His glory – he embarked on a journey of deeper understanding of what it means to be a good steward of this powerful human organ.

Here is what several leading voices are saying about this book:

“Brain Savvy Leaders is the best book I have read on the brain science of healthy thinking and effective leadership.  Dr. Stone has done an incredible job of balancing modern brain science with biblical truth, making complex ideas simple to understand, and providing practical tools to enhance mental performance.” – Dr. Timothy R. Jennings, President, Tennessee Psychiatric Association

“This book will help you with emotional regulation, personal productivity, team collaboration, and change management.  It’s a winner!” – Dan Reiland, Author of Amplified Leadership

“Brain Savvy Leaders shares helpful tips on how to master leadership in the church.  I needed this book.” – Ron Edmondson, Senior Pastor, Immanuel Baptist Church, Lexington, KY

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it for those who want to gain a better understanding between the Science of the human brain and its Divine purpose!

Purchase your copy of Brain Savvy Leaders by Dr. Charles Stone HERE!

Brain Savvy Leaders

 

T.H.I.N.K. Before You Post/Tweet

THINK Before Post

Rarely does a day go by when I don’t open Social Media and see tweets and posts from Christians that I read and wonder, “Did they even take a nanosecond to think what those who see or read this will think?”  Posts like:

“I’ve never met such a hateful & cold-hearted person in my life.”

“You know how to put me in the worst mood possible.”

“I’ve put up with this [stuff] for too long. I’m tired of it.”

“The more you talk, the more convinced I become that pushing you down a set of stairs would solve a lot of problems.”

“I swear I want to choke slam some [people] sometimes.”

Now, before you start in on “What’s wrong with teenagers these days…” EVERY one of those posts were taken from Christian ADULTS Facebook and Twitter feeds – not kids.  In fact, I even shudder sometimes when I read Facebook posts by PASTORS and Leaders.

I don’t know why it is this way – but, when something happens in life that irritates you or bothers you – you immediately take to Social Media and vent your frustration.  Years ago people would use a diary for that.  With a diary, you were able to write down your feelings, frustrations, and thoughts – but then you locked it and put it away where no one else would read.  Now, many people take ZERO time to think before they post.   Something happens, and they immediately pull out their phone and fire off their angry rant about their coworker, family member, or the government!

The sad thing is, I don’t think some Christians understand that when you post on social media – people form their perception of you (and often, their perception of Jesus Christ) from that post.  You may have two or three of your close friends in mind when you post that rude statement, but there are hundreds of people who see it.  Not only your friends, but friends of your friends who don’t know much about you – other than what you post.  Some people need to cancel their Social Media accounts and just go buy a diary.  

Here’s the sad truth – one of the biggest reasons the unchurched stay away from church is Christians who don’t talk (or post) like Christians – Christians whose faith hasn’t made it to their mouth – or their keyboard.  A follower of Jesus Christ should sound different from the person who has no relationship with Jesus.  If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you should sound different:

  • When you are angry
  • When you are disappointed
  • When you are treated unfairly
  • When someone makes a mistake
  • When someone sins or fails
  • When you are talking about others
  • When you respond to someone who is hurting

If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, others should hear it in your words in any situation.  If your relationship with Jesus Christ is genuine, it should affect your speech – and your posts.  You should put much more thought into every word you speak and every word you type.  Your words have power.  When you open your mouth before you engage your brain, it leads to disaster.  It can ruin your life – and the person who is the object of your words.

The Bible has a term for “Speaking Without Thinking.”  It’s called “Careless Words.”  Jesus addressed the subject of “careless words” in Matthew 12:36-37

Matt.12:36But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.  37For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Your words are not “just words.”  One day, you will stand before the Heavenly Father and give account for every word – even your careless words.  On that day, what will your words reveal?  Jesus said your words will either acquit you or condemn you.  Which will it be? 

James picked up where Jesus left off…

Jam.1:26 If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.

Your unfiltered, careless words invalidate your faith.  Those who listen to your unfiltered words and read what you post look at you and think, “Is that what it is to be a Christian? I don’t think so.”  If we really understood this, how differently would we approach the words we type into that space and hit “post.”

I want to share with you some questions to ask yourself before you speak.  It will serve as your filter for your words and help you to stop speaking before you THINK.  If you stop, think, and run everything you are about to say, tweet, or post through this grid BEFORE you do it – it could save you and others a lot of harm.  I must be honest with you.  These questions are hanging in just about every Elementary School in America.  There are posters to help your kids learn this concept.  The schools may not realize it, but every single aspect of this grid is rooted in scripture.  So, let’s use the word “T.H.I.N.K.” to help you install a filter on your words.

Here are several questions to ask before you post something on Social Media:

Is what I am about to post…

True?

  • If it isn’t true – don’t say it.
  • If it’s only partially true, but it’s embellished so as to make you look good or important – don’t say it.
  • If it is a technical truth, but the major portion of facts are left out so as not to incriminate you – don’t say it.

Helpful?

  • Is what you are planning to say helpful to the listener?  It may be true, but is it helpful?
  • Some people make excuses for their gossip simply because it is true. Just because something is true doesn’t mean it is helpful.

Inspiring?

  • Your words can either build up or tear down.
  • There are a lot of unfiltered words being spoken that are focused on tearing others down.  Followers of Jesus should thoughtfully speak words that inspire others and build them up according to their needs.
  • Imagine the perspectives you could change – the lives you could change – if you put more thought into the words you speak and tried to inspire those who would hear it.

Necessary?

  • This might just be the first question you need to ask.  Is it necessary?  If not, it most likely would be best left unsaid.Prov. 10:19 When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.
  • Ask, “Lord, do I need to keep quiet and not say anything?”  If you aren’t sure whether what you are about to say is necessary, don’t say anything.  Just be quiet.  Hold your tongue.  That makes you wise!

Kind?

  • Is what I am about to say harsh? Or, is it gentle and kind?
  • Harsh, unfiltered words are always better left unsaid.

Listen, this is hard stuff.  I understand.  It’s been a life-long struggle for me.  On my own, I can’t do it.  On your own, you can’t do it.

Jam.3:7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, 8 but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

“No man can tame the tongue”.  Do you know what that means?  It means, “No man can tame the tongue.”  This is not easy.  You can’t do this by yourself.  This is not an “I’m going to make a New Year’s resolution and never speak negatively again” kind of thing.  This is not a “Pick up a tip from Dr. Phil or Oprah kind of thing.”

The Truth is: You need God’s help to filter your words – to help you THINK before you speak/post.

 My prayer is – that my words – and your words will reveal a follower of Jesus Christ – one that others would hear and say, “I want to be a part of that.”  This week, don’t let any unfiltered words come out of your mouth – or on your Facebook wall.  In fact, T.H.I.N.K. hard this week.  Use every conversation, every post, to “build others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

How To Lead A “Creative Team”

creative-team

Ten years ago, when I first began creating High Voltage Kids Ministry curriculum, I remember being scared to death.  I had never tried ANYTHING like this before and had put it off for many years already.  You see, I had felt God leading me in this direction but wasn’t willing to take the leap.  When I finally decided to jump, I assembled a team of 10 of my best leaders in a room, and we proceeded to craft the very first High Voltage release, “Got Questions?”  It was a wonderfully collaborative process, and the end product was amazing.

When it came time to work on the second series, “BUGS”, I took a radically different approach.  I sat down in front of a computer and tried coming up with everything on my own – start to finish.  I wrote the lessons, the games, the video scripts, etc.  It took 4 times as long, and it was an excruciatingly painful process.  I realized through that experience – creativity flows much easier when it is done in community.

Now, every time we set out to do a new curriculum series (which is about every 6-8 weeks at this point), I assemble a Creative Team to help with the process.  I thought I would share some of the lessons I have learned as I have worked with my Creative Teams for the past 10 years.

When Working With A “Creative Team”:

 1.  Choose a creative location

The environment bears a lot on the final result of the creative team.  Choose a place that inspires creativity.  Sterile atmospheres tend to “dull” a team.  Choose a place to meet that has personality and energy to it. It needs to be a place free from distractions, though.  Creative people are often EASILY distracted.

 2.  Set some ground rules

You want your meeting to be “free flowing” without becoming a “free-for-all.”  Let the team know that they can share ideas freely without fear of being shut down.  However, tell them that the entire team has to agree not to purposefully crack jokes or make remarks that do not inherently add to the discussion.  Let them know that you will serve as the mediator when things get off track.

3.  Work as the rudder, not the engine

During the process, you want your team to feel a sense of ownership of the ideas.  Don’t come into the meeting with a list of ideas that you are already committed to.  It’s OK to come prepared with ideas, but only share them as they become necessary.

Allow everyone to share their ideas openly, without criticism.  Tell them, “There is no such thing as a bad idea.”  Now, there is no way to implement EVERY idea.  But, exercise caution before you dismiss an idea.  You don’t want to do so too quickly.  Sometimes one suggestion sparks another that leads you to where you ultimately want to go.

As much as possible, allow the team to come up with the ideas. Help steer them in the right direction.

4.  Deliver your ideas in the form of questions.

Rather than say, “Here’s an idea…”  Instead, present your ideas in the form of a question, allowing the team to react to it.  I remember when we were working on our series called “Five 4 The Fight” which focused on five scriptures dealing with Spiritual Warfare.  I had an idea that we needed to do a “boxing theme” with this series.  Well, instead of  walking into the room and announcing,“We need to do a boxing theme.”  I said, “We’re talking about spiritual attacks.  It’s you against the devil.  What’s a modern, tangible way that we can illustrate that one-on-one fight for kids?”  The team naturally gravitated toward Boxing (although one guy wanted to go the direction of WWE Wrestling, but we quickly passed that up, LOL).

Now, if the team isn’t moving forward and you want to insert your idea, you can even be more direct in your questions if you need to.  “Would boxing be a good metaphor for a one-on-one spiritual fight with the devil?”  Then, when the team begins to talk about it, they will start to feel ownership of the idea.  The creativity will flow much smoother that way than if you dictated what the topic was going to be.

 5.  Don’t be afraid to “table” the discussion

We all have deadlines.  Sometimes, there can be a LOT of pressure to not walk away from the meeting without ALL the creative ideas fleshed out.  Although it can be helpful to “press on” at times, other times it is better to just walk away for a period.  Take a break.  Go for a walk together.  Come back tomorrow, if you can.  It is often better to walk away to “sharpen the saw” than to keep trying to cut down the tree with a dull blade.  Meeting a deadline no-matter-what can often result in a poor product.  Don’t let yourself make that mistake.  Walk away, get refreshed, then return to knock it out.

Well, those are just five principles I use when leading my Creative Team.  Do you work with a team to help you in the creative process?  What are some of the things you have learned that you could share with this community?  Please LEAVE A COMMENT and share with us!

3 Reasons Your Lead Pastor Just Doesn’t Get It

Lead Pastor Get It

I hear one statement a LOT as I travel and speak to Kids Ministry Leaders all over the country: “My Lead Pastor just doesn’t get it!”  In some churches, there seems to be a real divide between the senior leadership and the Kids Ministry Pastor/Director.

Most Kidmin Leaders I talk to feel that the reason for the strain on this relationship is almost entirely the fault of the Lead Pastor. They forget that every relationship is a two-way street and haven’t considered the following three reasons why the Lead Pastor doesn’t “get” Kids Ministry.

1.  He doesn’t know what’s going on in Kids Ministry.

Often, the Lead Pastor is not aware of all the great things happening in Kids Ministry. He doesn’t know about the salvations that are taking place every Sunday. He doesn’t know about how God is using the children at their schools to start Bible Clubs and reach their friends for Jesus Christ.

Why doesn’t he know? The reason he doesn’t know is usually because the Kids Ministry Leader isn’t communicating with him.   They don’t tell him about everything going on. They are WAITING for him to ask.

I have news for you. Your pastor has an entire church to lead and keep track of. It is not his responsibility alone to probe and ask about everything going on in every area of Ministry. It is YOUR job to keep him informed. Believe me, he WANTS to know.

So, instead of assuming, “He doesn’t care.” Instead of thinking, “I don’t want to bother him with all the details.” TELL him when something great happens. Email him when a child is saved. Leave him a note about what God is doing in the lives of the kids.

I send my pastor email updates on meetings I have, the first time I hear of an issue or problem he needs to be aware of, and the moment I know of a possible hitch in his plans. He doesn’t have to respond, but he wants to be informed. The last thing he needs is to be blindsided by a situation he SHOULD have known about. Don’t say, “I didn’t want to bother you.” Let HIM decide what “bothers him.” The worst thing that could happen is he hits delete.

Communicate with your pastor, then watch how much he starts to “get it.” He can’t “get” what you aren’t making him aware of.

2.  He’s not in your “Kids Ministry World.”

It’s a simple fact. The Lead Pastor is in the Sanctuary and the Kids Ministry takes place elsewhere. But, much of the time, that is not the reason the Lead Pastor is not in your “Kids Ministry World.”

Kids Ministry Leaders are sometimes guilty of creating their own “world” unto themselves. They are passionate about their ministry (and rightly so), but they allow that passion to lead to a single-focus. They get so wrapped up in their own ministry area, they begin to isolate themselves from the other staff and ministries.

This is what I call “Kidmin Tunnel Vision”, and I write about it more extensively in this post. Don’t create a ministry silo. A silo occurs when each part of an organization becomes self-contained, is independent from the others, and fails to coordinate vision, philosophy, and practices. It can happen in divisions of companies, and it can happen in churches—especially in kids’ ministries.

Instead of creating a “world” of Kids Ministry, look for ways to stay connected to your pastor’s vision, relationships with other staff, and what God is doing in the church as a whole.

3.  He has the wrong motives.

Or at least, that is what we choose to believe. When we disagree with a pastor’s decisions, it’s easy to ascribe sinister motives to him. We think he’s stupid, or selfish, or manipulative. We see signs of pride or fear. Sometimes, we’re assigning our own hidden motives to him. Psychologists call it projection.

We need to nix that. Our pastors are doing their very best. Certainly, they make bad choices from time to time, but we can assume they’re doing all they can to honor God and lead with integrity. If we’re going to make assumptions, let’s assume our pastor has the very best motives.

Is your relationship with your Lead Pastor strained at the moment? Perhaps you need to stop pointing the finger at him – and turn it on yourself. Be open and honest with yourself…are you guilty of the three situations I have listed here? If so, it’s not too late to change.

Spend some time praying for your relationship with your pastor this week. Pray that God will help YOU do what is necessary to have a vibrant, growing relationship with your Lead Pastor. Watch how God changes you and your relationship. It’s amazing when Kids Pastors and Lead Pastors can work together in a thriving, growing way!

How To Kill An Invisible Gorilla

gorilla

OK, now before the folks at PETA start picketing my blog – let me explain.

Ever heard the expression “monkey on my back”?  It refers to a problem or irritation that just won’t seem to go away.  A looming deadline, a staffing issue, a recurring problem.  These “monkeys” can be irritating.

However, I am not talking about those little “monkeys” in this blog.  Have you ever woke up with such heaviness, such a weight bearing down on you it’s like a 900 lb gorilla sitting on your chest?  You know that you have something huge to face today – a huge interview, a confrontational conversation, a major report or writing project.  It is such a BIG DEAL that you almost have to give yourself a pep talk just to get out of bed and face the day.

Those “invisible gorillas” can steal your joy, distract your thinking, and zap your motivation.  The obvious answer to kill this gorilla is prayer.  When I hit my knees and “cast my cares upon Him” (Psalm 55:22), I feel that load lift.  God will take the weight of that “invisible gorilla” and replace it with His comfort and peace.  After all, Jesus promised us “my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30).

Another secret weapon I have for killing those “invisible gorillas” is music.  There’s something liberating and joyous about music that gets me fired up.  I have one song in particular that has been a “gorilla killer” for many years.  It is Donnie McClurkin’s “Just A Little Talk With Jesus” (click on the link to find it i-Tunes).  Although I am definitely a ROCKER at heart, this black gospel song just gets me revved up – and the invisible gorilla just disappears as I remember that God is in control!!!

What about you?  What do you do to kill the invisible 900 lb gorilla sitting on your chest?  What song do you play that just instantly changes the mood and gets you motivated to slay the gorilla?  Share your comments below.

The Most Rewarding Ministry Program I Have Ever Started

CIA 2001

I was looking through some old photos this weekend and came across the picture above.  It’s a shot from thirteen years ago that features our 2001 C.I.A. team.  C.I.A. stands for “Christians In Action.”  C.I.A. is our Summer Discipleship/Leadership Program for 4th & 5th graders.  As I looked at it, I realized that two of the eight members of that team are on our Pastoral Staff here at First NLR.

C.I.A. has been one of the most effective programs I have ever started in my 23 years of Kids Ministry!  We just celebrated our 15th graduating class.  The graduates of CIA go on to be some of the TOP leaders in the Youth Ministry. In fact, we have THREE pastors on our staff currently who are graduates of our CIA program.  We also just launched a full-time Missionary to East Africa who was a graduate of our very FIRST C.I.A. class at my current church.

“So, what does the C.I.A. program consist of?”  It’s a hand-chosen team of 4th & 5th graders who have shown an aptitude for leadership.  There is a stringent application process.  They meet every Thursday for 6 weeks during the Summer.   They commit to spending time with God in prayer and Bible study EVERY DAY for the six weeks.  They fast something each week (candy, desserts, cokes, video games, secular music, etc.)  On the Thursday meeting days, they pray for one hour, study/memorize God’s Word for one hour (tested on 2 memorized scriptures per week), learn a leadership lesson from one of our pastoral staff, and then spend the afternoon doing “ministry projects.”  These projects vary from working with the homeless, stuffing the church bulletins, cleaning the church vehicles, visiting and praying with shut-ins and Nursing Homes, etc.

It is a powerful ministry experience and leadership training! It has been THE most strategic and beneficial ministry I have ever started in Children’s Ministry.

What about you?  Do you have a Discipleship Ministry like C.I.A.?  Are you raising up the next generation of leaders?  Share some of your ideas in the comments section!

4 Proven Ways To Get On Your Boss’ Good Side

worlds-best-boss

Everybody wants to be “in” with the boss.  Nobody wants to be on the outside looking into the boss’ inner-circle.  You want to be someone he trusts.  You want to be someone your boss will call on when he needs feedback, when he has a new initiative he wants to start, or when he wants to bounce off a new idea.

As a Children’s Pastor, it is so important to me that I have a strong personal relationship with my boss – my Senior Pastor.  I think that is something that every staff pastor would want.  The problem is, we often behave as if it is “the boss’ job” to make sure our relationship is strong and healthy.  We don’t always look at what WE need to do in order to make that happen.  For years, I depended on my pastor to be the one to initiate contact and to feed our working and personal relationship.  That was a huge mistake.

As I travel around the country, speaking to kids’ pastors and volunteers, I hear some of them say, “My senior pastor doesn’t get me,” “I’d love to do some big things for our kids’ ministry, but my pastor doesn’t share my vision,” or “If it weren’t for my senior pastor, I’d love serving at my church.” These statements concern me and break my heart, but they also make me wonder if these kids’ ministry leaders are making the same mistake I made.

Senior Pastors don’t come in “one size fits all.”  They have different life experiences, different gifts, different personalities, and different visions for their churches.  But in regards to their relationships with kids’ ministry leaders, some principles apply in virtually all cases.  Here are some commitments I’ve made, and I recommend every kids’ leader make them in this important relationship:

1)  LOOK for opportunities to serve

It’s a mistake to sit on the sidelines and demand that your pastor take the initiative to get you involved in other aspects of church life.  If your pastor is anything like mine, he’ll seldom ask for your help because he doesn’t want to burden you.  There are, however, plenty of needs in the church that could use your expertise and help.  He would appreciate you volunteering to help, especially if it’s in an area that has nothing to do with kids’ ministry.

When I travel with my pastor, I listen and watch to see if I can help in any way.  I can carry some of his bags, make a quick call to check on our next meeting, or help with travel arrangements.  I’m not “brown-nosing” to earn points.  I do these things so that he can focus on more important things.

2)  OFFER accountability instead of forcing him 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 Pastor Rod, I was determined to offer accountability instead of forcing him to demand it from me.

When I came to First Assembly, Pastor Rod 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 CSI.  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.

3)  Disagree in private, but never in public

In any working relationship, people have different opinions and plans.  It’s happened plenty of times in my relationship with Pastor Rod.  At one point, we talked about a problem in our Girls Club Ministry.  I believed we needed to do one thing, but he saw it a different way.  He patiently listened to my point of view, but it was his decision, and he didn’t pick my solution.  When I walked out the door and into the meeting with the Girls Club Coordinator, I didn’t say, “Hey, here’s the decision, but it’s Pastor Rod’s, not mine.  Actually, I was on your side.  I wanted to help you, but Pastor Rod insisted we do it his way.” Instead, I represented the decision as ours.  I said, “This is what we decided is the best course of action.”  

Don’t throw your senior pastor under the bus just to earn points with others.

4)  Express heartfelt appreciation

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?”  For some, it’s very recent, but others admit it’s been a long time.

Don’t just be 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 Pastor Rod 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, and these things help keep our relationship strong.

How about you?  Which of these four practices do you need to do better?  Which do you do really well?  Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section of this post.

10 Common Mistakes Church Staff Members Make

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If you work (or have worked) on a multiple member staff at a local church, you know that it is not always easy to maintain unity and cohesion among the team.  Much of the reason for that are some of these common mistakes made by church staff members.  Browse the list and give yourself a check-up…

1)  Competing with other staff members.

In staff meeting, they look for opportunities to shoot each other down.  They make the mistake of thinking that to make yourself look good, you have to make them look bad.  That’s not a team.

2)  Using “cut-down” humor – in a public setting

Even when it’s truly a joke between staff members, cut-down humor has no place in a public setting.  Those you lead are watching you.  If you don’t honor each other, they won’t honor you either.  Model the behavior you want them to follow.

3)  Using E-mail for conflict resolution

Bad idea.  E-mail doesn’t communicate emotion well (that’s why they invented those stupid emoticons).  When you may have been trying to say something one way, it can come across totally differently.  The best way to apologize or confront an issue is “Face to Face”; then, you can clear up a misunderstanding quickly without losing friendship

4)  Assuming motives of others

Staff members should always give each other the benefit of the doubt.  When someone wrongs you, assume it was an accident unless proven otherwise.  If you are going to assume a motive, assume the BEST motive.  When the youth pastor takes the van when you had it reserved for your event, don’t immediately assume he “didn’t care about my event or think it was important.”  Assume he just forgot to check the calendar.

5)  Being Defensive

Often we are not very receptive to correction or input from other staff members.

6)  Seeing a weakness and not telling them

If done in the spirit of love and teamwork, it’s not “mean” to help other team members succeed by helping them see their weaknesses.  It is actually CRUEL to allow them to continue to sink in leadership because of a glaring weakness you see but refuse to point out.

7)  Not using the strengths of other staff members

When you are weak in an area, ask for help from a fellow staff member who is strong in that area.  The worst thing you could do is try to fix it yourself simply because you are too proud to admit you need help.

8)  Taking another staff member’s side against the senior pastor or other staff members

9)  Over-promising and under-delivering instead of under-promising and over-delivering

It’s great to be willing to help your fellow team members, but promising to do something and not coming through is worse than not being available in the first place

10)  Not taking the cues that it’s the right time to leave

It’s a tough truth, but chances are you won’t serve the church you are currently serving for the rest of your ministry life.  Often one of the biggest mistakes staff members make is staying beyond the time that they should.  How do you know when it is time?  That’s another post altogether (find it right here).

How’d you do?  Have you made some of these mistakes lately?  It’s time to fix it.  Are there other common mistakes that I missed?  Share your thoughts in the comment section.

10 Children’s Pastors I Don’t Follow Anymore

This week, I am away at Kids Camp.  So, I have invited a couple of my good friends in Kids Ministry to share some guest posts on my blog.  This a guest post from my great friend, Ryan Frank, who is the CEO of KidzMatter and a Vice President at Awana Clubs International.  He blogs over at RyanFrank.com.  But, most importantly, Ryan is a leader’s leader.  Ryan is giving away  some great video training at RyanFrank.com.  I encourage you to go sign up so you start receiving them.  They are inspiring, informative, and transformational.  

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I love children’s pastors. I have given much of my life to equipping them and cheering them on.  I also love following children’s pastors and learning from them.  (My favorite places to do this are on Twitter and Instagram.)
However, there are ten children’s pastors that I don’t care to follow.  They are:
1.  The children’s pastor who is happy with a mediocre ministry.
2.  The children’s pastor who has no vision for his/her ministry.
3.  The children’s pastor who talks behind leadership’s back.
4.  The children’s pastor who won’t collaborate.
5.  The children’s pastor who won’t walk the talk.
6.  The children’s pastor who resists new ideas.
7.  The children’s pastor who lacks good people skills.
8.  The children’s pastor who refuses to develop others.
9.  The children’s pastor who loves big strategies but can’t implement.
10.  The children’s pastor who can’t manage him or herself. (If you can’t manage yourself, how can you manage others?)
These poor leadership traits pop up more frequently than not.  Avoid them.  If you find any of these surfacing in your life, please create a strategy to deal with them! (And carefully choose to follow people who model excellence in leadership.)
Ryan and his wife, Beth, are also the publishers of KidzMatter Magazine.  He is the author of 9 Things They Didn’t Teach Me in College About Children’s Ministry (Standard) and Give Me Jesus (Baker Publishing).