Reach Out And Touch Someone

There is power in TOUCH.  We are born with the need to be touched.  Studies show that if we are not cuddled as babies or children, we do not develop as well.

One author says, “Touch is a sense with unique functions and qualities … Touch affects the whole organism.”  She says, “Touch is ten times stronger than verbal or emotional contact, and it affects nearly everything we do.  No other sense can affect you like touch.”

I’ve seen bumper stickers that ask, “Did you hug your tree today?”  I’d like to see a bumper sticker which reminds us to hug kids more than we would a tree.  Trees don’t respond the way people do.

Our sense of self is related to our sense of touch; with how we feel.  We stroke our forearms; we run our fingers through our hair to relieve stress.  And kids need more assurance that they are loved.

Now, obviously we must be wise in the way we go about this.  APPROPRIATE TOUCHING consists of:

  • touch on the shoulder when you talk to them
  • pat on the head
  • high fives
  • side hugs
  • fist bump

I challenge you to try to physically touch every child in your class or Children’s Ministry this coming week.  You will be surprised how well they respond.

Stop Being So Defensive!

Defensiveness is an issue that causes a lot of harm in mentoring relationships – or any relationship for that matter.  When we are challenged, confronted, or questioned as Kidmin leaders – sadly we often respond with a knee-jerk, reflex response that does more harm than good.

For years, my insecurity caused me to struggle with being defensive.  Under the hurt feelings and protests is a deep sense that I’m not adequate, personally or professionally—or both.  No one is above correction, and we can all learn to handle it with grace.  Sometimes, I do a pretty good job of controlling my outward appearance when someone criticizes me, but I’m dying inside.  When this happens with my pastor, his perception kicks in.  He tells me, “You’re doing a great job in controlling the tone of your voice and looking relaxed while you’re still being defensive.”

He nailed me.  When I bristle from correction, I need to look into my heart to see what I’m trusting in.  I can then choose to thank God for his love and grace, and I can accept the correction as a gift instead of a threat.

Here’s the principle: When your actions are corrected, it doesn’t mean your character is being questioned.  Chill out and learn from the challenge instead of defending yourself to the death!

MOMENTUM KILLERS

We all love those moments in ministry when everything seems to be clicking.  The team is rocking, the place is growing, the numbers are climbing, and the morale is as high as its every been.  It’s what many leaders call “The Big MO” – a.k.a. MOMENTUM!

Momentum in ministry should NEVER be taken for granted.  You never know how long it will last.  You want to make the most of it and capitalize on it.  If you aren’t careful, you might lose it.  Here’s a quick hit list of some of the biggest MOMENTUM KILLERS.

1)  PRIDE – There is nothing worse than you starting to believe that the reason for the momentum is YOU.  Although it’s true great momentum can happen when a team is being led by a strong leader, there is not a single leader alive who can bring about momentum for an organization ALONE!  Give God the praise!  Give your team the credit!

2)  CONFLICT AMONG TEAM MEMBERS – With momentum comes growth.  When an organization grows, it’s systems can become stressed and strained as they are pushed to new limits.  This tension can sometimes lead to conflict.  Remember to keep the finger on the pulse of your leaders.  When you sense tension or conflict, remember to resolve it biblically (Matthew 18:15-17).  Do not allow feelings to fester.

3)  LAZINESS – Things come easier when you have momentum.  It’s easy to lay back and let the momentum do the work.  We all have a tendency when things are going great to spend a little less time in planning, vision casting, and organization.  Don’t let it happen!  It will bust your momentum!

4)  SIN IN THE CAMP – Momentum brings growth.  Growth brings more work.  Things get busy and it is easy for our personal prayer and spiritual time to fall to the wayside.  When you allow that to happen, you open the door for temptation.  Nothing will kill momentum like sin in the lives of the leadership team.  Don’t wait until you notice the problem – prevent it.  Make prayer and The Word a #1 non-negotiable priority in your life.

Momentum is a wonderful thing.  It is a precious gift from God.  Don’t squander it.  Be aware of these momentum killers – and guard it safely!

What about you?  Are you aware of other MOMENTUM KILLERS that I didn’t list?  Please share those in the comments section so that the other readers can benefit!

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!!!

Does a Kidmin Volunteer have to be a Christian?

KIDMIN QUESTION:

“In a small church, it can be difficult to get enough volunteers since you are just starting out.  What do you think about people who aren’t
Christians volunteering with kids?” –
submitted by Dan in Santa Monica, California

I understand that many of you will have differing opinions than I have on this subject.  I want you to know that it is OK – and I welcome the discussion.  Please leave comments below.  Let’s share our approach and reasons for it.

My personal opinion and conviction on this matter is that all volunteers in Kids Ministry should go through a screening process.  Part of that process should be affirming the fact that they are committed believers and daily followers of Christ.  I think it should definitely be a requirement.  Here are my reasons:

1)  Kids Ministry is not child-care – it is discipleship.

Kids Ministry is exactly that – Kids MINISTRY.  It is working hard to share the Gospel with the children through our actions, words, love, and concern.  We are to teach the children to be life-long followers of Christ.  It is very difficult to teach what you have not yet become – a follower of Jesus.  As John Maxwell always says, “We teach what we know, but we reproduce what we are.”

2)  We must protect the kids.

I think you have to have the HIGHEST level of safety and security.  By ensuring that every person that works in your Kids Ministry is saved, has been trained, and has gone through a background check process – then you can assure parents that you have done EVERYTHING you can to ensure their child’s safety.

3)  We must protect the volunteer.

Allowing someone who is not a Christian to become an influence in the lives of children is setting them up for failure.  Asking someone who is not a Christian to “act like a Christian” only when they are around the children is not only asking them to “be a hypocrite”, but it is setting them up for failure.  There are tremendous repercussions when that happens, not only for the child, but also for the volunteer.  Remember, Jesus said, “It would be better for someone to tie a mill stone around their neck and be thrown into the sea than for them to cause one of these little ones to stumble.”

4)  We must have a higher standard in Kidmin.

I personally think that Kids Ministry should have the HIGHEST standard of any ministry in the church, not the lowest.  I understand that in a small congregation it can be hard to get volunteers.  That means we have to work doubletime to communicate the vision and goals of the Kids Ministry.  INSPIRE others to be involved, don’t GUILT them into it.  I think the higher the bar is raised, the higher level of volunteer you will end up with.  If we won’t require someone to be a believer in order to work with our most prized possessions (our kids), then what WILL we require salvation in order to do?

5)  It’s not discrimination.  It’s wisdom.

Those who do not yet know Christ are one of THE REASONS we exist as a church.  We love them and are motivated to pray for them, love them, help them, and demonstrate Christ’s love to them.  However, we can not have those who do not yet agree wholeheartedly with what we are teaching be involved as a leader in the lives of the kids we are responsible for.  Too many opportunities for confusion to be sown in the minds of the children.

6)  It’s not about being “perfect.”

Many who have a differing opinion on this subject may say, “Well, no one is perfect.  Even the Christian volunteers you have are bound to eventually slip up and make a mistake, have a wrong attitude, say a cuss word, etc.”  This is true.  No one is perfect.  It’s not about whether or not they will make a mistake or not.  The bottom line is – we have to take every precaution we can to ensure that those we place in leadership over our children are going to represent Christ to the kids.  They are the “only Jesus” many of our kids will ever see.

7)  There are many other opportunities to serve.

I never turn someone away outright.  I explain to them the reasons behind my decision not to use them in Kids Ministry, then redirect them to an area in the church where they are not working with minors.  I might even put them on one of the Kidmin teams that does not interface directly with kids (setup, cleanup, etc.)  I do see the importantance for them to work alongside those are committed believers so as to be able to see the love and service of Christ weekly.

I also commit to pray for their salvation and step up my efforts to communicate Christ’s love to them through my life.

Again, I welcome your comments and other points of view?  Do you agree?  Disagree?  Let’s discuss…

Recruiting Volunteers pt. 3

picking up where pt. 2 left off – here is the conclusion of my thoughts on recruiting volunteers…

8)  Develop a job description and communicate CLEAR expectations.

You can’t expect a volunteer to “just know” what they need to do.   When possible, give a complete list of expectations in writing to avoid confusion.  There is nothing worse than giving someone a job to do and not clearly communicating expectations.  The volunteer has no way to know if they are doing what is expected or not.  This breeds confusion, so communicate expectations ON PAPER so there is no question as to their duties.

9)  Partner the new recruit with an effective member of your team.

The best way for someone to learn how to do their job effectively is to watch someone else in action.  Find the member of your team that is really knocking it out of the park and connect the new recruit with them for at least three weeks.  Allow them to observe not only what they DO, but what they DON’T do.  Leave the door open for the new recruit to come back and ask questions when they feel it is necessary.

10)  Encourage your entire volunteer team to be “relentless recruiters”.

It is important that YOU are not the only one pumping up the ministry and asking others to be involved.  People expect the Children’s Ministry Leader to recruit.   The very best recruiters are the ones who actively involved in the ministry on a volunteer basis.

People expect the Children’s Leader to say, “You’ll love it!  Come join the team!”  But, when one of their peers who is involved in Children’s Ministry speaks to them and is excited about it – that speaks much louder!

Recruiting Volunteers Pt. 2

KIDMIN QUESTION:

“When recruiting, how do you help potential volunteers respond out of the right motivation (God honoring, using their gifts, etc) instead of guilt?” – submitted by Donna Leupp in Peshtigo, WI

Picking up where Pt. 1 left off – here are more principles to follow when recruiting volunteers for your Kidmin Team…

4)  Develop a ministry application for volunteers to complete.

Sit down and put together an application that not only gathers pertinent contact information, but also asks probing questions that give you insight into the person you are considering.  What are their likes/dislikes?  What experience do they have working with kids?  What are their gifts and talents?  What do they consider “success” in ministry?

This should ALWAYS include a criminal background check and personal references.  We all know too well of incidences where children are harmed by adults within an organization/charitable group.  Churches are no exception, and it is our responsibility to make sure that the kids who come to learn about God at church are well protected.  There are many places online for you to get background checks on a limited budget.

Having an application also elevates the importance of the ministry in the applicant’s eyes AND in the eyes of your parents.  It speaks volumes as to how serious you are about running a safe and secure environment.

5)  Recruit volunteers based on their GIFTS.

Never recruit a volunteer simply to complete a task.  In other words don’t say, “I need someone to take care of my 5th grade boys class.”  Rather, offer people opportunities to make an eternal difference by using their spiritual gifts.  Study the application and see what the volunteer’s spiritual gifts are.

This will help you ensure that you don’t put someone who is gifted in teaching in charge of taking attendance and doing administration.  It will make sure you don’t put someone with the gift of hospitality in charge of organization the supply closet.  This way, every spiritual gift is honored and used for the sake of the kids.

It requires trust.  Trust in God to bring the right people to your team – and trust in your ability to place people where their gifts will shine!  Pray!  Believe!  God will lead you in the process!

6)  Ask the advice and consent of other Staff Pastors and your Lead Pastor BEFORE placing someone in their area of ministry.

This may be hard for you to believe, but you don’t know EVERYTHING.  🙂  Your pastor or other staff may be aware of situations in the recruited volunteer’s life that precludes them from being involved in ministry at the present time.  This may involve spiritual issues, emotional issues, or family issues.

Also, the volunteer may be involved in many other areas of ministry that you are not aware of and may be stretched too thin.  The last thing you would want to do is place someone in ministry with the kids, have them make a strong bond with the kids, and then have them “burn out” because they are stretched too thin.

Quite honestly, it would be wise to get input from your Pastor even BEFORE you approach the volunteer.  It will help you immensely and save you a world of hurt!

MORE TO COME in Recruiting Volunteers Pt. 3…

Recruiting Volunteers Pt. 1

Recruiting Volunteers

KIDMIN QUESTION:

“How do you get folks in the church to volunteer when they think it is the Children’s Pastor’s job to do the ministry?” – submitted by Mike Benintende, N. Versailles, PA

This is one of the most difficult tasks of a Kidmin Leader – Recruiting Volunteers.  I can tell you, there is no magic formula.  The only way to recruit successfully is by CONTINUOUS hard work and adherence to a few key principles.  In the next few posts, I will share some of those keys that I have learned.  Hopefully they will help you to build a strong team of leaders to serve the children of your church.

Keys To Recruiting A Volunteer Team:

1)  Don’t recruit from a NEED, rather recruit from an OPPORTUNITY.

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!“  That tells the person listening:  “There must be a reason no one is working with them.”

NEVER use the phrase, “No one wants to help! OR I can’t get anyone to help me!”  That’s like my son starting off a question, “I know you are going to say NO, but…”

Rather than moan about how much we need help, choose to celebrate the growth and excitement of your Kids Ministry.  Don’t talk about what you DON’T have, talk about what you DO have – opportunities for the member of your church to make an eternal impact on a soul for whom Christ died.

2)  Recruit from the VISION of your ministry.

Start by raising the value of children’s ministry inside your church.   Share stories in church services about life change in children or have volunteers share stories about how their lives have been changed.  Serving in children’s ministry is an opportunity to honor God—not a duty or a task (Col. 3:23).

You are recruiting by giving people an opportunity to be a part of what God is doing in the lives of the children of your church.  Explain to them, “God is going to accomplish His plan in the lives of  the children in our church.  The question is not ‘WILL God do it?’ The question is ‘WILL YOU be a part of it?’”

3)  Recruit One-On-One and Face-to-Face.

Rather than putting a blurb in the bulletin, a video announcement, or a pulpit spot from your Senior Pastor, recruit by approaching people one-on-one and having a meaningful conversation with them.

Pray ahead of time who God is preparing to serve (Luke 10:22).  Once He leads you to someone, approach them.  Don’t just walk up in the hallway at church – that doesn’t communicate value to someone.  Instead, invite them to lunch, call them on the phone, or go out to eat with them after church.

Explain to them that as a result of what God is doing in your Children’s Ministry, an opportunity has arisen.  You have been praying about who the person should be to serve in this area.  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.

MORE TO COME in “Recruiting Volunteers Pt. 2″…


Kids Ministry Philosophy

changes in philosophy

WEEKLY KIDMIN QUESTION:

“What has been the biggest change in your Kids Ministry philosophy in the past 20 years?” – submitted by Jon Warneke of Polson, MT

It’s hard to believe I am even qualified to answer this question, since to do so means I would have actually had to BE IN Kids Ministry for nearly 20 years.  It’s true though – I am officially an OLD MAN!

I began my Kids Ministry life in 1992 as a sophomore in College serving at a local church.  I had NO idea what I was doing when it came to leading kids on their spiritual journey.  I started leading Kids Church with just a couple of volunteers.  I grew up putting on shows, acting, performing, etc.  I knew how to draw a crowd, so the entire Kids Ministry pretty well consisted of…ME doing MY thing.

It’s one of my biggest regrets.  I was having a great time.  I enjoyed singing, acting, teaching, and praying with the kids.  The problem is I spent a great deal of time running the Kid’s Ministry as a “one man show.”  I wondered why I couldn’t get people to volunteer in Kids Church.  It was because when they came, I never trained them and never let them flourish.

Sadly, I allowed my Children’s Ministry to become “personality-driven” instead of TEAM-driven.  Why did I do that?  Because I was convinced it was easier to just do it myself than to try to train someone else to do it.  And, that is true – in the short-term.  It takes a lot of work and commitment to train and build a team that is effective.  Sadly, my first decade of Kids Ministry wasn’t half of what it could have been if I had learned this lesson earlier.

Don’t try to do it alone.  There are many individuals that God is calling to work with kids in your church.  You have to pray for God to call them, receive them when they answer the call, and train them so they can be effective in that ministry.

Ten years ago, you could have walked into my Children’s Church service and I was on stage nearly the entire time.  Now, on any given week I’m on stage no more than 15% of the time, and many weeks I am NEVER on stage.

If you are trying to do the work of the ministry alone – shame on you.  Jesus needed a team to accomplish His goal, what makes you better than Him?  You are depriving people of the opportunity to serve out their God-given assignment to minister to the kids in your church and community.  Don’t be a superstar – build a team!

P.S.  Congratulations to Joseph Mater, the winner of our $200 drawing for my first post!