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!

10 Common Mistakes Church Staff Members Make

staff-mistakes

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.

3 Reasons You Need To STOP Telling Everyone You Need Help!

HELP

Picture this:  It’s an average Sunday Morning in church in Anytown, USA.  The kids are bouncing off the walls, the crowd is buzzing, and the energy is palpable! Suddenly, the silence is broken with a booming voice echoing through the halls. It’s the voice of the Children’s Ministry Director.  She’s talking to a group of people whom she sees as possible volunteers.  Then, the words come out – “We need HELP!  We are overwhelmed!  We have so many kids and not enough workers!  HELP US!”

This is perhaps THE most ineffective way to recruit new team members.  There is nothing worse than a Children’s Ministry Director standing up in front of the congregation and saying, “We are so overwhelmed.  We HAVE to have help!  PLEASE HELP US!”

Here are three reasons why that tactic is generally ineffective:

  1. It sends the wrong message to the audience. – The audience doesn’t hear “Things are so hopping and amazing in Kids Ministry” when they hear you say, “We need help!”   They most likely hear, “We don’t have it together.  We are drowning.  We are desperate!”
  2. You are talking them out of helping before you ever even ask. – This type of approach makes the would-be recruit think, “There must be a reason they don’t have enough workers.  Obviously, no one wants to work with them.”
  3. Nobody wants to board a sinking ship. – When you recruit from a “need”, it does not inspire anyone to join your team.  It engenders fear in them and they want no part of it.

NEVER use the phrase, “No one wants to help!” OR “I can’t get anyone to help me!”  That’s a lot like my son, who when he has something he wants to ask me, will often begin his question by saying, “I know you are going to say NO, but…”  Guess what?  I immediately say, “No!”  I figure there must be a reason that he THINKS I am going to say NO.  So, I just beat him to the punch.

Rather than recruit from a NEED, recruit from an opportunity!  Explain to those would-be volunteers that, as a result of what God is doing in your Children’s Ministry, an opportunity has arisen.  Let them know you have been praying about who the person should be to serve in this area.  Tell them you felt led to talk to them because you feel that they have the right gift mix to be able to make a Kingdom difference in the lives of these kids.  Now, THAT is a recruitment strategy straight out of Matthew 9:37-38 —

Jesus said to his disciples,“The harvest is great, but the workers are few.   So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.”  

Do you ever catch yourself recruiting from a NEED and “asking for help?”  What is one thing you can do this week to change that?  Leave a comment and join the conversation!

Are You Stealing From Others For The Sake Of The Ministry?

A-bank-robber-in-traditio-004
It was a hot Summer afternoon in Dallas, Texas in 1993.  I had a flat tire – and no spare.  I locked my car, left it on the side of busy I-35E in the middle of rush hour traffic, and started running to the closest service station about 1 mile away.  I got there, bought a cheap spare tire, and rolled it back down the hill to my car.  I had only been gone approximately 20 minutes.

When I arrived, I found my back window broken with glass all in my back seat.  I looked inside to find that my brand new in-dash CD Player was GONE!  Twenty minutes – in broad daylight, on a busy highway, in plain sight – someone had stolen the most important thing in my car.  I was angry, to say the least.

Have you ever felt that way?  Ever had something stolen from you?  It hurts.  You feel violated.  You feel cheated.  It makes your heart sink.  You would never do anything like that to someone else…or would you?

Every week, almost daily, well-meaning Kidmin Leaders are stealing from others – all in the name of ministry.  They are stealing something that can not be replaced.  It’s not money.  It’s not possessions.  It IS opportunity.  The opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others and use their talents to build the Kingdom of God.

“Wait a second, Brian!  Those are harsh words!  How am I STEALING from others?”  Well, you steal from others when you insist on being “THE MAN” or “THE WOMAN” doing all the up-front ministry in Kids Ministry.  Too many Kidmin Leaders are on stage or up in front of the classroom nearly 100% of the service/class time while many capable volunteers are sitting in the room (sometimes in the back of the room) never being allowed to participate in leading.

Men and women who have been gifted and called by God to join us in working with kids are all around us. When we demand to do it all ourselves, we deprive them of the joy of fulfilling their God-given potential.

I understand – you love what you do!  You feel called to preach to kids, to enlighten them on the things of God.  You love teaching, speaking, singing, doing characters/puppets – so you do all of that…yourself.  There are a lot of reasons why you do this.  None of them are because you want to STEAL the opportunity from others.

  • You think you’re to busy to train others to do the work
  • You’re convinced nobody can do it as well as you can
  • You think, “It’s faster if I just do it myself.”

I believe there are people in every church who are waiting for us to ask them to join us.  If we wait until they beg us to allow them to be up front, we may be waiting a long time.  People want to be personally invited to invest their time and talents.  Don’t assume people are reluctant.  Most people are eager to help, but they want you to ask them.  They want to use their gifts and talents, and they want to feel needed.  They’re just waiting on you to ask them, so man up and ask them!  Get your ego out of the way and share the spotlight!

Let’s be painfully honest: One of the main reasons kids’ ministry leaders insist on doing it all themselves is that their egos won’t let them share the spotlight. They enjoy the thrill of being on stage. They get an adrenaline rush from being “the man” or “the woman” who’s indispensable.

This can’t be you, can it? Maybe not. I denied it, too, until about 9 years ago.  Before I made some drastic changes, it was absolutely true for me.

Take an honest inventory of your heart and motives. Ask hard questions, and let God’s Spirit reveal your hidden desires. Is your ego keeping you from building a team?  Whatever the reason – repent and change.  Stop stealing the opportunity to make a difference from those God has called to work alongside you.  You are called to LEAD!  Start leading your team into new heights!  Bow out of the spotlight and let others SHINE!

How about you?  Do you have a tendency to be up-front the entire time while others sit in the back…waiting?  Have you been “stealing” from others without realizing it?  What is ONE thing you can do THIS WEEK to begin to change?  Share your thoughts in the comments section of this post.  Let’s help each other take a step up in this area!  Let’s help each other STOP STEALING!

What Your Kids Can Learn From Kevin Durant

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a HUGE Dallas Mavericks fan (yes, I am fully aware of how bad we lost in Game 7 to the Spurs, LOL)!  Two of our biggest rivals are the San Antonio Spurs and the Oklahoma City Thunder.  I have always admired Kevin Durant as a player, but his acceptance speech for winning the 2014 MVP of the NBA took my respect for him to a whole new level.

It’s not often you see someone at his level truly appreciate those who got him there.  I normally hate watching acceptance speeches because the “thank yous” always seem trite and obligatory.  Not so with this speech.  The way he honored his teammates, his fans, and his family (especially his Mom) was impressive.

Kids who watch this video and watch Kevin Durant will learn what humility, gratitude, and HEART is all about!  I think you will be inspired as you watch it!  WORD OF CAUTION:  have some tissue handy when he talks to his mom at the end!

What are your thoughts?  Share them in the comments section of this post!

What Do You Consider A “WIN” For Your Volunteers?

This past week, I was asked by a fellow Kids Pastor – “What do you consider a WIN for your volunteers?” I shared with him my thoughts and thought I would share them with you as well.

Kid-Connection – When a volunteer gets to the point where their main focus when they are in Kids Church (or other area of Kidmin) is to connect with the kids that are present, rather than the other adults that are present, then we have a WIN!  We push our team to engage every child they can, learn their name, and find out what their spiritual needs are.  When a volunteer does this on a regular basis, then I know we have moved them to the next level.

Faithfulness – When a volunteer exhibits consistent faithfulness in attendance, is on time (early), and gives their all to their ministry assignment, – that is a huge win!

Growing Skill Level – When a volunteer is consistent to our volunteer training events and is growing in their ministry skill – WIN!

Prayer Focus – When a volunteer prays regularly for the kids they influence and their fellow team members – BIG win!

Team-Builder – When a volunteer consistently tells others about what God is doing in Kidmin and is a monster-recruiter for the ministry, that is a HUGE win!

These are ALL areas we consistently work on and are seeking to move each volunteer forward in each area.

What about you?  What are some WINS that you are consistently shooting for with your volunteer team?  Leave a comment below…

Lessons I Learned From My Marathon (pt. 1)

Marathon 2013

On November 2, 2013, I completed my first marathon – at the ripe old age of 40.  I definitely would not encourage anyone to wait until they are 40 to run their first, but I wouldn’t take anything away from my experience.  It was an experience that changed my life – both the race and the training I went through to get there.  I learned a lot of lessons through this marathon.

Over the next several blog posts, I would like to share with you some of those lessons.  I don’t expect most of you to ever actually run a marathon (although many of you probably have).  The lessons I learned are less about running – and more about life and leadership.  I hope to be able to share them with you in a way that helps you and inspires you.

LESSON #1 – Everything Is Better In Teams (never run alone)

When I decided that this marathon was something I really wanted to pursue, I was 39 years old.  I had always wanted to “run a marathon before I am 40.”  The problem was – I had never run more than a mile in my life.  In fact, I had never really exercised or worked out with any consistency in my entire life.  I was going to attempt something that was CRAZY!  To go from ZERO to 26.2 miles in less than 6 months.

I decided I wasn’t going to tell anyone that I was training.  I didn’t mention it to a soul (other than my wife).  There were several reasons why I made this decision, but the biggest reason was…

I have a few people in my life (I am sure you have them, too) who I knew would immediately begin to make fun and patronize me as soon as they found out.  They don’t mean to hurt, but they just have a natural tendency to pounce and say things like, “YOU?  A RUNNER? HA!”  They then proceed to remind you of all the things you have ever said or done that are the opposite of the big decision you have just made.  Not very motivating, is it?

I decided I didn’t want to give those folks any opportunity, so I kept my training to myself.  It was boring.  No one to celebrate with.  No one to collaborate with.  Boring and difficult.

After I ran my first 5K I decided I would “come out of the closet” as a “runner in training.”  Guess what?  The “naysayers” didn’t disappoint.  They had plenty to say, but I ignored them.  Instead, I connected with those who had climbed this mountain before.  I got in a group of guys who were excited about running and started training with them.  All the way through the difficult training process, we ran together, texted each other, encouraged each other, and several of us even ran in the same race together (see their pic below).

Marathon-Crew-small

I realize what a stupid mistake I made in the beginning.  I tried to handle this huge challenge on my own.  I didn’t want to hear from those who might make fun of my wanting to attempt something so huge, so I let that keep me from reaching out to those who WANTED to celebrate with me and help me.  There was nothing that could have compared to the feeling I had when I crossed the finish line with my family and friends cheering me on.

Often we make the same mistake in ministry.  We try to “go it alone.”  Sometimes it is to prove we can do it on our own.  Other times we try to do ministry alone because we don’t want to share the spotlight.  Whatever the reason we make the mistake – it is still a mistake.  God created us for relationship.  He created us to “run the race” together.  If you find yourself “running” in isolation, it’s time to tear down the pride, buck up, and connect with others.

There are many that God has called and equipped to be on your ministry team.  They are waiting for you to connect with them, invite them to come alongside you, and run the race with you.  So, what are you waiting for?  Don’t run alone.  Everything is better in teams!

Related posts:

Lessons From My Marathon Pt. 2

Lessons From My Marathon Pt. 3

Lessons From My Marathon Pt. 4

Lesson From My Marathon Pt. 5

Are You A “Self-Aware” Leader?

“What you can’t see, you won’t change!  What you won’t change will become a habit!  Your habits will become a lifestyle!”

Ever seen a situation like this:  A Children’s Ministry Leader is convinced they have it going on and that their entire team respects them.  However, when you listen to their team and watch how they interact with them, it is obvious that their team has no respect for them.  The Children’s Ministry Leader is convinced things couldn’t be better.  The team is convinced things couldn’t be worse.

Leadership is hard.  If it were easy, everyone would be a stunning leader.  If God has called you to lead others, there is one thing you must be aware of…YOU!  This is called being “self-aware.”

Self-awareness (noun) – conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives, and desires.

As a leader, if you are not aware of what you are doing and how others are receiving it, you can’t learn self-awareness.  Try asking yourself a few key questions:

1.  What habits or tendencies do I fight consistently?
2.  How do people perceive me?
3.  Am I currently growing?
4.  When I make a mistake, what most often causes it?  (you might make different
mistakes, but they might be caused by the same stimulus)
5.  What kind of people/personalities do I most often struggle with?

There is no greater sabotage that a leader can cause for herself than being simply “unaware” of weaknesses and flaws.  That doesn’t mean that to be a great leader you must be without flaws and weaknesses.  It simply means you MUST be aware of them and have a plan for tackling them.

My pastor taught me this:

“What you can’t see, you won’t change!  What you won’t change will become a habit!  Your habits will become a lifestyle!”

Every leader must be self-aware!  Are you?

Raising The Bar: Expecting MORE From Your Team

“I can’t get my team to come to meetings, so I just don’t schedule them.”   ”I wish my team were more committed.”  ”I want to raise the level of my team, but I am afraid of losing good people.”

I hear statements like these from Kidmin Leaders all the time.  They want to take their team to the next level of commitment so they can accomplish more for the Kingdom, but they are afraid that if they expect more, they will lose people off of their team.  And, they are probably right.

Anytime we raise the standard and expect more of those serving in ministry, there are those who decide they just can’t make the commitment.  They may quit.  Although that is hard to deal with and NEVER something you want to see, I have always observed that it ends up being a healthy thing for the rest of team.

Keep in mind that your team wants to succeed as individuals as well as collectively.  A weak link will demoralize the collective culture and allow for rapid deterioration within the spirit of the team.  That is not good for the team or the ministry.

People want to be a part of something BIG, something exciting, something that is making a difference.  Challenge your team to be committed to growth and excellence.  Some will self-eject, but those who stay and answer the call will be more committed, more empowered, and more effective.

Still skeptical?  Jesus was the Master at raising the bar.  He was constantly calling His followers to a higher level of commitment.  He went from “Follow me” to “You have heard it said…well I say…” all the way to “Deny yourself and take up your cross…”  He NEVER let His followers off easy.  Not because he wanted to make it difficult for them, but because He knew what was at stake – souls in Eternity.  He knew that half-hearted commitments would never get the job done.

“The Status Quo never inspired ANYONE!”

The Status Quo never inspired anyone!  Resist the desire to “make it easy” on your team.  Expect the best from them, and then watch them deliver!  You’ll be glad you did!

Ten Rules For Dealing With Others


I am sure most of you have heard of Dr. Norman Vincent Peale.  He is one of the more famous authors and motivational speakers of the 20th Century.  He had “10 Rules” that he operated under when dealing with others.  I thought it would be interesting to see how many of these you are practicing on a daily basis in ministry:

1.  Learn to remember people’s names.  People’s names are important to them.  Forgetting a person’s nameis often taken as a sign you are not interested in them.

2.  Relax and be a comfortable person to be with.  Make sure it is not a tense situation being around you.  No one enjoys being around uptight people.

3.  Learn to be an easy-going person.  Take things in stride.  Don’t let little things bother you.

4.  Don’t be egotistical or give the impression you know everything.  Work at learning from those around you.  Learn to respect other people’s opinions.

5.  Be an interesting person.  Be open to new things.  Take on new challenges.

6.  Smooth our your rough spots.  Learn to be gracious, polite, and tactful.

7.  Be a peacemaker.  Forgive.  Honestly try to correct every misunderstanding you are involved in.

8.  Overlook people’s faults.  Work at choosing to like others until you learn to do it naturally.

9.  Boost other people.  Encourage them, support them, congratulate them, and tell them WHY you appreciate them.

10.  Develop spiritual depth so you have something to pass on to others.  Learn to share this strength with people you meet.

So, how are you doing with Dr. Peale’s “Ten Rules”?  How many have you mastered?  Which don’t come naturally for you?