Now IS a great time to write that book you have been dreaming of. You aren’t magically going to have time to write- you are going to have to make time! booking2

Welcome to Part 2- Here’s what I learned from bringing my books “Your Children’s Ministry From Scratch” and “Your Children’s Ministry Beyond Basics” from the concept stages all the way to being sold successfully on Amazon and elsewhere.

The final steps to getting your book fully written of course is….

6. You have to FINISH. I don’t know how many people I’ve talked to, who start a book, get a couple of chapters in and then put it in their underwear drawer where their book stays for all time. Starting is difficult, staying disciplined enough to keep writing regularly is tough, but in my opinion, finishing your book WELL is often the toughest challenge of all. Think about it this way. What is the hardest part of your workout? Yes, starting is difficult, and going the distance takes discipline, but many times, those last few minutes are the toughest, when you honestly feel you cannot go on.  Many things in life are this way- having a baby, climbing a mountain, completing your finals in college….you are at the end, totally exhausted and drained, and that is when you have to dig deep and PUSH.  This is when those wonderful relationships and all that accountability you have set up are really going to pay off. You need that support team to make sure you don’t drop out. This is NOT the time to stop talking with them regularly.  They will work to keep you motivated and inspired.  Take a moment to look back at your initial notes and outlines to remember your original dream- remember why you are doing this!

7. You are going to have to communicate, communicate and communicate.  It is a mistake to assume that everyone around you can just read your mind and know how important this is to you.  Most people will not understand how difficult it is to write a book, how time consuming. As you enter into the last stages of writing your book, you are GOING to need some help, watching your kids, possibly with housework, getting groceries and more.  If you work full time (or are a full time pastor!) this is the time for strategic planning- do not put your toughest projects on the weeks you are finishing up your book. This is the time to delegate, and to entrust many of your day to day operations to your capable leaders.

8. Do not give yourself an “out”. As the saying goes, “If you give yourself an escape bridge, you WILL use it.”  Do not start planning, “Well if this gets too tough, I can take a break for a few weeks/months.”  “Oh, I can always work on this next year” “If work gets really busy (when is it NOT busy at a church?), I can back off for awhile”…..if you have a backup plan to take an extended break, that is exactly what will happen.  Life will get busy, problems will happen, and you WILL have delays. But do not plan to take extended breaks.  Plan to FINISH, and finish well.

9. Begin to work on your social media platform NOW, before the book is completed. Do not make the mistake of waiting too long to begin talking publicly about your book. These days you NEED to build your book’s platform BEFORE it actually comes out.  I met with 2 marketing experts about my book, and both of them told me that I needed to do a lot more work on my social media presence. To be honest, I didn’t see the pressing need….I was on Facebook for awhile, but hadn’t done much at all with Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Tumblr, etc. I had always been so busy with our growing ministry, that I hadn’t put in enough time building on social media. I was definitely skeptical. But I decided to listen to these 2 men who did this for a living.  And they couldn’t have been more right.  I am convinced now more than ever, of the power of social media.  In fact, they told me, that you cannot expect much success or much of any kind of audience for your book without that platform. Instead of making excuses like “I cannot understand it at all” “It’s too much work” “It’s not really that important” “I just don’t DO that stuff” etc, make it your JOB to learn the in’s and out’s and continually update your social media profiles. I spent several days devoted solely to building that platform for my book online. Get help from a friend if you have to.  This step could make or break the launch of your book.

10. You’ve finished the book- now what? So after you’ve been faithful and finished the book that you set out to do, congratulate yourself- go out to dinner and celebrate!!! That’s a HUGE achievement! So you’re done now right? WRONG. Now you have the big step of getting your book published. Who are you going to have publish it? Are you going traditional or self publishing? Actual print books, online books or both? What will you charge? What avenues will you use for distribution. You are done with one major milestone, now on to the next big challenge!

So what great book ideas are YOU kicking around right now? You can do it! Step out there in faith!

Love and prayers, Trisha

Got a book inside you screaming to come out and greet the world?

While at a conference a little over a year ago, I got to sit in on a well known author’s meet and greet with a small group of would be authors. One young woman kept dominating the entire conversation, probably trying to impress this author. She talked on and on about her book, while all of the others in the room squirmed impatiently for their turn to ask questions. Finally, the young woman leaned across the table and asked, “_________, I need to know, what is the most important thing I need to do to get my book published?”  Everyone in the room hushed to hear the answer.

The author, without missing a beat, stated “The most important step in getting your book published is to write the book.”

It is true; having your book finally published is seeing a lifelong dream fulfilled.  It’s even better getting to hold that dream in your hands and then share that dream across cultures and across miles. Both of my books -Your Children’s Ministry From Scratch and Your Children’s Ministry Beyond Basics (Amazon)- are products of years of planning, writing, rewriting, researching and garnering feedback. Those who know me, know that I talked about the books for years, but the actual pace of our growing ministries had me writing in spurts over the course of 5 years.  It is very difficult to be a full time staff pastor AND an author (and more importantly a wife, mom, family member and friend).   As the saying goes, “I didn’t know, what I didn’t know.”

Many many people wish to write a book, and some even talk about the book they want to write. A few even start to write one. And a VERY VERY few actually finish writing their book. And then comes getting your book published……  This amazing new adventure is still fresh in my mind; so if I can encourage you to step out and try your own book adventure- GREAT!

Here are the things I learned on my journey from a book idea to a book on my nightstand:

1. “The hardest part is getting started.” This is so true. You can talk about this forever, but your book will never happen if you don’t START. If you are a perfectionist like me, you may have a lot of fears (excuses) that are holding you back, such as “I’m waiting for a better time” (like WHEN? be honest), “I’m too busy” (and when will you NOT be busy?), and “what if it’s not perfect?” (it won’t be, really).  Your journey begins with the single step of “START.” It may help you to put your big beginning on your calendar and clear the time to get started. Don’t wait for a “perfect” day or time or when you think it will be “perfect”. You have time for rewrites later. Take a breath, clear an hour or two, and start writing.

2. It won’t just happen. Nothing great in this life just magically appears. The best things in life aren’t really free- they cost us the most in time, tears, heartache. For example, a great marriage, parenting your children, a growing ministry, physical fitness= none of these things just “appear”, they take a LOT of hard work and sacrifice. All things on this earth, when left to themselves DECLINE; improvement always takes work.  Your book is going to take time, and hard work. The best way to make sure this happens is to actually schedule your writing times and stick to them.  There will be interruptions, and life happens, but keep at it and don’t give up.

3. Set smaller goals- Looking at the giant mountain you are about to climb may be completely overwhelming, and may actually stall your progress. It helped me immensely to break the writing of the book down into smaller more bite sized pieces. For example, I would aim to do “one half chapter a week” and so on. It helped my confidence and encouraged me to keep going as each smaller goal was met.

4. Lay the majority of the groundwork BEFORE starting your project. Having a crystal clear plan helps a lot, and keeps you on track.  I did an overall book outline, then outlined each chapter in depth, then kept doing my research, keeping records and giving out surveys. After that, I could stay following the plan all the way to the finish.  This will also keep you from “rambling” or going off on an unrelated tangent.

5. Find a way to be ACCOUNTABLE.  Just like your fitness program, you will be MUCH more successful if you include others in your project.  It’s easy to get started, and life gets in the way and your book begins to fall by the wayside. You NEED one or more people you can trust that will continually, repeatedly ask you, “How is the book going?” With everything else going on in my life, I had to CREATE deadlines to keep myself on schedule. I am eternally indebted to my family, my husband and my close team of friends who met with me, helped me through the tough spots and wouldn’t let me quit. Make sure you have a SMALL team- 1-3 people, who will pray with you, brainstorm with you, and hold you accountable to fulfill your dream.

COMING NEXT WEEK: Part Two……

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In 16 years as a full time children’s pastor, I have done some interviewing in my time, and I have also interviewed many potential staff members.  Along the way, I have compiled a list of some of the most important questions- essential questions- to ask very early on in the interview process. Admittedly, these questions are most relevant to family/children’s ministry candidates, but I truly hope that anyone interviewing can find some of these topics helpful.

Here are a few questions you NEED to ask and have carefully answered BEFORE you accept a ministry position:

  1. Is this church looking for a Children’s Pastor or children’s leader/administrator? Before accepting the position you should know if the job description is for a pastor, an administrator or a bit of both. Make sure to ask for a copy of the job description! When I look through children’s pastor/director job descriptions I see many terms (buzz words) like “cutting edge” “relational” “team player” “family minister” “creative” “leader of leaders” “self starter who can hit the ground running” “not a one man (or woman) show”. More and more churches, especially larger churches, are looking for more of an administrator to head up their programs for children’s ministry instead of a pastor. The sheer volume of details involved with coordinating that many children need a “Joseph” (or several of them) with a lot of wisdom and great organization.  What is the difference really? Which one does your church really need or want to hire? Which one are YOU? Here’s how to tell:

Children’s Pastor: Provides leadership, vision, strategy, recruitment, coordinates teams of volunteers and parents.  Has a background/training in pastoral work/studies.  The position or role is a pastoral role.  As a pastor, this person baptizes, visits homes and hospitals etc- has a pastoral ministry calling.

Children’s Director: This person is more on the administrative side of things.  Usually a previous children’s pastor or the current lead pastor or pastoral leadership team have already provided the vision and direction for the children’s department, and the children’s director is the “person in the trenches” carrying out that plan.  The Children’s Director typically does NOT have a background in pastoral ministry, but may be very gifted in organization, networking and communication.

Many positions are a mix of both of the above. It is absolutely CRUCIAL that your understanding of your role is CRYSTAL clear BEFORE you sign on the dotted line and step into that ministry.  Expectations MATTER. If your church is expecting a children’s “pastor” but you do not ever want to do baby dedications, baptisms, kid’s worship etc- you may have an awkward clash of expectations.  Or if, your church THOUGHT they wanted a visionary, strong leader and communicator/children’s pastor, but what they REALLY wanted was a very organized administrator to carry on all of the programs that the former children’s pastor had instituted, this is going to lead to problems.

2. Are you looking for someone to provide vision or to carry out a preexisting vision? If this position is a “director” position, managing a preexisting vision, who came up with the vision, and who is setting that vision now? (former children’s pastor, senior leader, Family Life Director, a curriculum?).

3.Who chooses the curriculum we use? Am I locked into the current one? If so, for how long? Who would have to approve a curriculum change?

4. What is your church’s policy on providing childcare for events? Would I be responsible for recruiting/providing childcare for church events? How many events are there per month?

5. Does the church do evangelism/outreach? (not all do!!)  What and how many outreaches and serving opportunities does the church do and how would I be involved?

6. What expectations would the church have for my spouse/children?

7. What is the typical work schedule/hours for staff members?

8. What is the senior leader’s vision for the children’s department? (this is crucial, because his/her vision for that area is automatically YOUR vision, which you must uphold and defend.  If you accept that position, the senior leader’s vision is what you will be working to bring to life! You have to be 100 percent on board with that vision.

9. What is the church’s official position on women in ministry? This is good to know whether you are a male or female applicant.  A male worship pastor friend of mine was shocked when the church did not support his wife going for credentials.

10. How many staff members have they had (total in all areas) come in and go out over the past 3 years? If there was a huge turnover at one point, what was the reason?

11. What were the circumstances of the last children’s leader’s departure? May I speak with the former leader (I highly recommend it).

12. Who would I be directly reporting to? (Ie. If I have a problem, or a question, will I go to the senior leader or a family life director or elder??). What you are really asking is, who is your boss on a day to day basis? You may adore the lead pastor, but really have a rough experience reporting to and working with his wife/sister/uncle/etc.

Our God is good at handling big transitions. Scripture is full of big changes.  Let’s trust the Lord of these ministry changes, while attempting to handle them with wisdom and sensitivity. Then we can truly get excited about what God wants to do in that new ministry position! What questions do you wish YOU had asked when interviewing for a new position? What issues should we be talking through during the interview process? love Trisha

Here are 5 MORE things that may keep visitors at your church from coming back:

5. Negative Buzz- I have actually heard church members complaining, bad-mouthing their pastor, the sermon, other churches/Christians, the new curriculum or the decor…while AT CHURCH. I think we get very comfortable while at our home church- it becomes a family to us, and we relax, let our hair down and say what we really feel. However, if our ‘family’ is ever going to expand to include others, we do need to think before we speak at church, about who is hearing what we are saying and about what effect our words could have.  When guests hear Sunday morning griping, it can make them want to run for the nearest exit. No one wants to wade into a church’s dirty laundry or join a divided house. Pastors and leaders have a huge responsibility to call out bad attitudes, complaining and gossip- in love. Gossip is not a “smaller” sin. It can actually destroy churches if allowed to fester.

4. General Apathy- A guest probably wants to know what your church is all about. What is the plan? Where is your church going? Are you growing? Hoping to grow? If your church gives the impression that you are “coasting” “existing” or “complete”, that may not be a draw to guests who want to be excited about a vision and a mission. If you aren’t stoked about where your church is going, why should anyone else be? This apathy expresses itself all too often in the condition of the building. Peeling paint, tattered carpet, broken chairs- this is a church that does not appear to be cared for anymore. No one seems too excited to keep it up. Facility isn’t everything; but vision is crucial. Without a vision the people perish- and so will your church.

3. All about money- Many visitors report being turned off to certain churches that spend a lot of time emphasizing giving. I’ve been at churches that have 2-3 separate offerings each Sunday and/or spend an inordinate amount of time guilting/pleading for money. This ESPECIALLY looks bad if you have a lavish facility, lots of staff and high tech equipment. This leads to the impression that churches are “only after your money.” Of course, balance is important, because Christians DO need to know the importance of tithing and of being a responsible steward of God’s money. At our church, we say, “If you are a visitor, we are not asking you to give.” We keep it short and sweet, always emphasizing tithing and giving as a positive form of worship. We also do longer messages on giving once or twice a year.

2. Stuck in one decade. Too many churches get stuck in one decade- usually a decade that the church was booming/growing or was founded. This church then continues with those exact same songs, decor, language, curriculum until the people it originally reached in that one decade age out. You can usually tell immediately when you visit a new church, what decade they decided to fix on: 1980’s? 1990’s? 1960’s? 2000’s? Bottom line, no decade is holier than any other. And your church must be effective in THIS decade in order to grow and thrive. What elements of our services are really Scriptural and relateable, and which elements are just relics of a decade gone by? If a new person cannot understand the lingo, is “weirded out” by the older music, and misses an impact in their own lives, they probably will not be back.

1. Nothing for kids/youth. This goes hand in hand with having no vision. Even if you currently do not have many kids or young people in your church, if you have no PLAN to reach young people, then you are planning to die out as a church within a generation. No young family is going to want to sign on if there is no plan. Before I was a parent myself, I did not understand this at all. I thought, “If it is your church, it shouldn’t matter if there are great programs for your kids.” Now I get it. The time you have to pour into these kids is SOOOOO small. And these years are SOOOO crucial. Parents will usually go to the church that will minister to their kids, even if their own needs are not met. Minister to the kids and you’ll have families.

How about YOU? What do you think is the biggest barrier to new people coming back? Do any of these above reasons ring true for you?

Love Trisha

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After 17 years as a full time staff pastor at a large church, I am have a much DIFFERENT perspective now, as a children’s ministry consultant, as a “visitor” in a brand new church at least twice a month. I do believe that as a church staff we run the risk of getting closed into our “bubble”, unintentionally oblivious to the situations that turn new people off to our church. We’ve all heard the statistics that people make up their mind in the first few minutes of visiting your church whether or not they will come back. And we know our mission is outreach! Who DOESN’T want to grow? So what is really making new visitors stay away, or come back? Based on the last 3 years of my experiences as a “visitor”, let me share with you my top 10 turnoffs that just might keep a visitor from going back to your church.

10. Too Many “Inside” Jokes and References-

This is a big one. I cannot tell you how many times, even just this year that I have visited a new church and heard something like this from the pulpit: “We are all so happy for Mandy today. Yesterday was tough, but we all got a good laugh too didn’t we? Can we all just wave at Mandy and give her a hug?” It is not a fun feeling to be the only one in the room who has no idea what is going on. I’m sitting there awkwardly thinking, “Who is Mandy? What happened to her? Oh no, now I am the only one not hugging her.” I fully realize that a church does become a family, a community of believers- that is the way it is supposed to be. But too many inside references can close your family away and repel any potential new community members. A good idea is to think about what you are going to say from the perspective of a brand new visitor and perhaps do a quick explanation of what is going on.

9. No parking-

Think about it this way. If you went to a grocery store, and you drove around and around without finding a place to park, then had to park down the street and walk, wouldn’t you think about going to a different grocery store the next time? What’s worse, (what happened to me last Sunday), is when there is no place to park, no one to tell you where to park, and you have to drive around a new neighborhood and find a place to park. It seemed that all the regulars knew exactly where to park, but I felt awkward not knowing if I parked in an ok spot or not (a couple of blocks away).

8. Taking forever to fill things out on first visit-

This one can be tricky. I do not recommend sending home something for new visitors to fill out/mail in. If it doesn’t happen right then, it is not going to happen. You need that information to do great followup if you really want to grow. However, it is a HUGE turnoff to new visitors if your guest information page goes on and on, gets too personal and takes forever to fill out. They either just won’t fill it out or will still be filling it out during your message (a huge part of what visitors are there to hear). I think it is smart when churches include the guest card in their bulletin or seat pocket, instruct guests to pull it out and fill it out during announcements, and then have them turn it in right away during the offering. Our guest card is no more than an index card size and asks for name, address, phone number, email and family size. Remember that a lot of people are becoming more and more reticent toward giving out personal contact information, so keep it short and sweet.

7. Too much attention-

One church actually had the visitors stand while the congregation all applauded. During this time they put the lights onto the new visitors and played a special “guest song.” I am an extrovert and even I felt uncomfortable. The couple next to me were very quiet people and seemed mortified. I heard the wife mumbling that they wouldn’t be back. Some people are nervous about crowds and do not want to be singled out.

6. Too little attention-

Again, balance is so important. One of the chief complaints of brand new church visitors is, “No one greeted me. No one made me feel welcome. No one followed up on me.” Without embarrassing someone, it is important to have warm, friendly greeters to acknowledge people and make them feel included. Most churches drop the ball on followup. They fail to call new visitors or followup with them after their visit. If you really want to grow, do not “hope” that someone follows up with a guest. Intentionally ASK a warm caring person to call them/visit them. Make SURE that each guest is followed up with during that very first week after their first visit. Too many churches complain that they aren’t growing, but they are not willing to put the time/effort in to follow up on the new guests that are coming through their doors.

Stay tuned for part 2 next week- my top five new guest turnoffs! How about YOU? What is a major turnoff for you, when you visit a new church? Any good stories?

Love Trisha

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Ah that summer kid’s ministry outreach…it seemed so far away in January, didn’t it? And then you blink twice and BAM! Here is is…. For all those amazing leaders, paid and unpaid, who sacrifice their time and energy in the summer to minister to kids and families let me just say- “Thank you for all that you do. God SEES all your hard work. Your are sowing toward ETERNITY! I salute you.” I remember one of our staff pastors offhandedly saying, “Oh I can’t wait for summer when things slow down a bit and I get a break!” I laughed and laughed to avoid crying! lol. Summer is GO time in kid’s and family ministries- VBS, Block outreaches, Bible Camp, Missions Trips etc. I am hoping that the following will HELP you, not stress you out worse. It is an excerpt from my second book, “Your Children’s Ministry Beyond Basics” which has a whole chapter on planning dynamic outreaches. This is a sample timeline for planning and effectively carrying out that amazing summer outreach. Don’t stress about being exact on every time goal. But this can give you a few ideas to reach for, so things aren’t forgotten and you aren’t scrambling at the last minute (as MUCH). Feel free to print it off and check it off as needed (I’m a list girl). Wanna get your hot little hands on a copy of the book? You can get it here- http://a.co/1ahWPpj         Lots of love- Trisha

 

PS- What is YOUR best tried and true tip for making summer outreaches a WIN?

 

SAMPLE TIMELINE TO A DYNAMIC AND EFFECTIVE FAMILY OR CHILDREN’S OUTREACH

 

One Year Before the Event

  1. Choose your outreach, by what is best for YOUR church and culture and goals.
  2. Get the word out NOW. Get your event on the church calendar ASAP and go ahead and reserve any needed vehicles, speakers, equipment.
  1. Have a planning meeting with your team. Again, the best time to plan your next outreach is right after the current one- while it’s all still fresh! You need HONEST feedback from a variety of people. Now is the time to get tips and ideas for the next outreach. Please see the back of this book for my “after action report” that I have all of my leaders fill out within 7 days of completing our event.  Those forms have been priceless in the planning of our next event.
  2. Set a schedule for regular planning meetings to work on the outreach. Don’t wait til the last minute. Pace yourself and work on it year round.  I have a different team for each different outreach (Christmas musical team is different from the people on my Harvest Fest Team or Egg Hunt Team).  I sit on all of these teams, but I give these leaders a LOT of room to lead, and be creative. You cannot do it all; a team approach works best.

 

9 months before-

  1. Select and Confirm Your Team- delegate such tasks as advertising, communication, food service, cast check in and check out etc. I love having written job descriptions for each role. Let your team know exactly what you need them to do and by when.
  2. Stick to your schedule to meet. Hold each other accountable to stay with the timeline. Keep everyone on task, reminded of the vision and progress.
  3. Make sure you are on track with your budget.
  4. Write a list of everything you are going to need as far as costumes and items. Start collecting those items right away and keep them in a safe place. Try to get things donated, check garage sales, and let people know what you need. You will save a lot of money collecting your materials early.

6 months before-

  1. Put in your written requests with other church teams for needed rehearsal rooms, equipment, and needed staff for the event.
  2. Continue to do your regular team meetings.
  3. Continue to stay on top of your budget.
  4. Continue to collect your costumes and materials that you need.

4 months before-

  1. Hold auditions for key roles (if applicable). Assign parts and give out scripts.
  2. Keep your lead pastor/supervisor apprised of the progress of the event planning. I recommend sending your lead pastor/supervisor a one page written update once or twice a month at this stage. Mention the event in staff meetings also.

C.Vision cast to your congregation. Begin NOW to talk to your congregation about the outreach. Remember that people need to hear about it about 8 times, in many different ways if you want to cut through all the communication “noise” they are hearing every day. Start communicating early and in as many ways as possible.

  1. Begin recruiting for all available positions (chart)
  2. Hold a parent meeting- and make it mandatory for all families whose children will be serving in the outreach. I enclosed our sample parent pack/communication at the end of this book. Remember that conduct standards are crucial; explain this fully, and have parents sign the conduct form right there. Explain the vision, the heart of the ministry. Have a chart ready listing all the areas that you need helpers- pass that chart around for parents to sign up right away.
  3. Begin your weekly rehearsals for your outreach/musical/dramas (if applicable).

3 months ahead-

  1. Your leader meetings need to increase now to at least every other week
  2. All rehearsals for your musicals or dramas are now in full swing. Keep enforcing HIGH standards, attendance standards.
  3. Begin costumes purchasing/development.

D.Begin working on sets.

lE. Work on a written plan for tech, sound and lighting (see examples at the end of this book).

  1. Meet with other teams to vision cast and confirm reservations. Send written reminders as well. Keep communicating the progress to your supervisor.
  2. Advertising needs to go into high gear. Advertising needs to start in earnest 4 months ahead-Public schools, billboards, posters, handouts, overnight prints, postcards, coupons, parades etc.

H.Begin working on a retention plan!

1 month before-

  1. Rehearsals need to pick up at this point to twice a week.
  2. You should aim for at least 2 dress rehearsals with tech and costumes
  3. Go to your church’s prayer team and ask them to pray regularly for your outreach. Invite them to come in and have prayer with your team and your kids.
  4. Have someone taking notes at every meeting and rehearsal. You’ll need to refer to them later.
  5. Step up your communicating with your leader and all other teams and the families of your church.
  6. Be prepared for the 4 weeks of kid’s church that will happen right after the outreach.
  7. Finish all preparations for follow up.
  8. Do one last all out advertising push
  9. Double check that ALL volunteer positions are filled, with emergency backups if necessary.
  10. Double check that all materials and costumes are purchased, and ready to go.
  11. Finish all sets before dress rehearsals.

The Day/night of:

You have done all the prep work at this point. Try to enjoy it now- smile, laugh, hug, pray. You need to be very present, encouraging and flexible. WHEN something goes wrong (not if) pull the focus back to the goal of the outreach. Something will always go wrong; keep going anyway, and make it a win regardless. Your job the night of is to keep encouraging and destressing your leaders, your team and your kids. Meet and greet with new families as much as possible. Watch God work- and enjoy the fruits of all that hard preparation!!

 

The day AFTER-

  1. Post outreach pics and statistics. Collect written TESTIMONIES from your leaders and team.
  2. Expect post-outreach blues. Many children’s ministry leaders are surprised to find that the day after an outreach they experience tears, sadness, and exhaustion. It is normal after such a big event that you’ve been planning and dreaming about for a whole year! Don’t schedule major events during this time. You need to recover.
  3. Turn your phone OFF and get out of town for a day or two to recover.
  4. Send out after action report right away. (see end of the book)
  5. Schedule your debrief meeting within seven days of the event.
  6. CELEBRATE- make sure you have an amazing after party, for all of your cast, crew, leaders and their families. Read the testimonies, talk about all the wins, and look at the best pictures. Allow the members to share about what God did in their lives through the outreach. Ask them to commit to another year of ministry and making a difference.
  7. Schedule new leader trainings and welcome meetings for new families for the weeks immediately following your event. Be strategic about plugging these new families in!

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church-vs-state-logo-in-teal-edited2We hear a lot about the Separation of Church and State. As you probably know, the phrase “separation of church and state” is not actually in the Constitution. Nope. It’s not there. The phrase “separation of church and state” is derived from a letter written by President Thomas Jefferson in 1802 to Baptists from Danbury, Connecticut, and published in a Massachusetts newspaper soon thereafter. The first Amendment to our U.S. Constitution does state, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” This was more to protect the church FROM the state, and to prevent the government becoming “Protestant” and persecuting Catholics, or vice versa etc etc.

For modern day evangelical Christians, we face a crisis of moral decision making. When a choice comes down to our 5000+ year faith, based in Someone much higher than us, versus our less than 250 year old country’s current ethical consensus- we are to always choose our faith. And don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my country- I stay informed, I vote and I speak up politically. I am so grateful for the freedoms we have as Americans. But when I vote as a Christian American, the “Christian” part comes first. And Scripture, as best as I can understand it, is my basis of how I choose to vote.

But that leads us to a dilemma. Some Christians use Scripture to advocate for the death penalty (mostly from the Old Testament). And some Christians use Jesus’ teaching to promote government social programs. Scripture is used to tell Christians to vote for and against every issue under the sun. I saw a post a few days ago on social media saying that no person could call themselves a Christian unless they voted for this certain social program, because Jesus taught us to feed the poor. So does how you vote decide if you are a Christian or not? Why is the Old Testament so “Law and Order” and the New Testament so “Grace and Mercy”? Here are a few things Christian voters NEED to understand:

THE BIBLE ACTUALLY DOES HAVE A SEPARATION OF INSTRUCTIONS FOR CHURCH AND STATE.

Now before you gather stones to throw, hear me out. There is NOT a disconnect between the Old and New Testaments. Much of the Old Testament is written as the LAW- for the STATE, the government (a theocracy) to operate by. The death penalty, laws of public safety, laws of public holidays- these were all written for the Jewish state of Israel. And Jesus did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. And God’s heart is apparent here- He forbids stealing, adultery, lying, murder…and gives the state the power to enforce the law by issuing penalties. Individuals are to be good citizens, obey the Law etc. The Apostle Paul talks about this in his letters:

Every person must be subject to the governing authorities, for no authority exists except by God’s permission. The existing authorities have been established by God. Romans 13:1

Daniel 2:21
“It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men And knowledge to men of understanding.

Daniel 4:17
The Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, And bestows it on whom He wishes.

John 19:11
Jesus answered, “You would have no authority over Me unless it were given to you from above.”

Romans 13:2
Consequently, the one who resists authority is opposing what God has set in place, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.

So the purpose of the State is to enforce laws, ensuring law and order. And God does have a hand in our human history; He works His purposes through “good” leaders and through horrible leaders.

Which commands in Scripture then are for us as individuals? Well, much of what Jesus said, as well as Paul and the other apostles (the New Testament) was written to….

INDIVIDUAL CHRISTIANS and HIS CHURCH.

That is correct. The words of Jesus were not commands to Rome, or instructions for the government of China. His commands were for us, for individual Christians. And here are just a few things that Jesus told us to do:

  1. Feed the poor
  2. Care for widows and orphans
  3. Love one another-even sacrificially
  4. Endure hardship and persecution
  5. Give God what is His and the state what is the state’s (taxes)
  6. Take care of your father and mother
  7. Honor marriage
  8. Obey God in everything at all times- This is the one that we Americans do not appreciate. But what about those times that our State, or our culture ask us to do things that God says are wrong? Scripture is clear that we are to choose our faith over the wishes of the state- …                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Acts 5:28“We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching…” 29But Peter and the other apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than men. 
    Exodus 1:17
    But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt had commanded them, but let the boys live.

    Daniel 6:13
    Then they answered and spoke before the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or to the injunction which you signed, but keeps making his petition three times a day.”

    Acts 4:19
    But Peter and John replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than God.”

    Shadrach, Meschach, Abednego Daniel 3: “Let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

There is so much more of the words/teaching of Jesus and the apostles to explore and study, but it is SO important to understand WHO these commands are for. Our problem comes in when we get the church and state confused in their roles. Here are just a few examples:

  1. Expecting the state to feed the poor, take care of widows and orphans. This is nice for American Christians, because then we can feel better that we “did our duty” without any personal sacrifice. We can keep our stuff, our wealth. We also then ignore the command to “GO into all the world and preach the Good News.” It is much easier to just expect the government to take care of all of that. But those commands were for US. Taking care of the poor, widows, orphans, refugees…this used to be a vital, uncompromising part of being a Christian. Many massive ministries grew out of the church reaching out to help- Sunday Schools, the ministry of Mother Teresa, the original deacons of the church…These days, by relegating “serving others” to the state, we are missing a HUGE opportunity to reach others for Christ.
  2. Families expect the state to care for father and mother in their old age.
  3. Christians may look to the State to define/legitimize marriage. Marriage was instituted by God Himself and is supposed to be about the Christian life- not dictated by the state.

Now I disagree with those who say that Christians should never be political. Jesus did clearly say, “My kingdom is not of this world, if it were then my followers would fight for my release.” He preached, and died for, a Kingdom that has begun- but its not of this world. It’s final culmination will be at His return. However, I do believe that we as Christians should be a “light” in our world any way we can, without abdicating our responsibilities to the state. My ancestors were devout Quakers who at first, did not believe in getting involved politically. But they also were staunchly against slavery. They preached against slavery, bought slaves to set them free and helped slaves escape. But they realized that wasn’t enough. If they really wanted to see slavery end, these Quakers knew they would have to get involved in politics and fight slavery in state law- which they did. So I am grateful for our Christian senators, representatives etc who daily fight against abortion, or for religious rights, or to protect citizens- at the level of the law.

But that does NOT exempt each one of us as Christians to obey the commands in Scripture that are for each of us. Now, more than ever, the Church needs to step up and do what Jesus told US to do, instead of demanding that the State do our job. And we need to be Christians first in all things-even when we vote.

So what about you? Do you know of any examples of people taking Scripture out of context politically? Do you believe a Christian should vote? Do you believe a Christian can be a politician?

No matter how you believe politically- I hope we are family in Christ. Love and blessings- Trisha

I was fifteen years old, watching in horror, as a children’s pastor I had just met began making fun of his lead pastor, his church’s board and the other staff. He laughed as he told me stories of threatening to quit if he didn’t get his way. He reenacted a tantrum he threw publicly at a recent church business meeting. I couldn’t even speak because I was floored by such arrogance and disrespect. At that moment, my mentor-another childen’s pastor- asked me to step out the room. I’ll never forget how he looked me straight in the eyes and whispered, “You promise me Trisha-promise me-you will never be like that guy.” I nodded my head. Many times in my own ministry, whenever I had thought about how to make a presentation or how to tackle a tough problem with my lead pastor, I have thought of that moment. I had learned a valuable lesson- from a not so great example.

Have you ever wondered why God allows certain nasty people in your life? I have. And I’m not just talking about non-Christians either. I’m talking about “Christian” church people, family members, fellow church staff members and parents of kids in your ministry. I’m referring to people you encounter within the walls of the church who are bullies, who are deliberately hurtful, selfish, arrogant, deceitful, gossiping, backstabbing, lying, passive aggressive, and more. Too many Christians believe church will be a “safe place” and then get a nasty surprise. As my dad often said, “All people are sinful and carnal. Only some of them are going to heaven because they know Jesus.” So why does God allow mean people to interact with us on a daily basis without immediately stopping it? I don’t have all the answers, but I do have a few ideas.

Perhaps God allows us to go through painful experiences with mean people to A. teach us to love like He does and to forgive- though truly never as much as we have already BEEN forgiven B. to make us stronger in our faith and dependence on Him C. to sharpen our skills dealing with difficult people ….and also possibly- D. to teach us some important life lessons, kinda like a living object lesson. Didn’t Jesus teach many life object lessons? In fact, most of those Old Testament stories I love, may be included in the Bible just to teach us a lesson about what NOT to do! Joshua not asking for God’s counsel with terrible consequences, (Josh 4), Achan’s greed, Nebuchadnezzar’s pride,  Ahab’s fall etc. etc. etc.

What could we possibly learn about ourselves and about life from nasty, hateful people? Well, here are a few lessons I learned over the years from awful people:

  1. Don’t treat people like a commodity or a disposable product. People have feelings and should be treated with respect.
  2. Hurtful people have usually been hurt. Just as bullied children may in turn bully others. I have to watch myself when I’m hurting, not to take it out on others or to copy those bad behaviors.
  3. You tend to become like the person or persons you focus on every day. One of my least liked bosses gave us, the staff, a lot of research on how it’s a proven fact you will start to become like the person you work for or focus on. I took that research to heart and changed bosses/jobs. We need to be very careful about who we choose as a leader, a mentor, or a hero- you WILL subconsciously begin to pick up that person’s traits- good and bad.
  4. Don’t gossip or talk badly about others. You may be completely convinced and yet be completely wrong about them.
  5. Words hurt much more and do more lasting damage than any physical punch or fight ever could. I have to be very careful not to let my words destroy a brother or sister for whom Jesus died.
  6. Just because someone is hateful, doesn’t mean they are not RIGHT about certain things. It can be too easy to dismiss what someone says because we do not like the person saying it. Sometimes what they said was RIGHT, and we need to find that grain of truth because the hurtful, hateful way they said it. Two of my best ever curriculum/program suggestions came from the meanest, most critical people in my life. Both programs have been successful, and God has used them to touch many lives. It’s hard to accept sometimes that God may speak to you with great wisdom, through the worst, most hurtful person in your life! Can we allow God to speak to us through ANY circumstance?
  7. Don’t let your heart grow cold, or your love or passion for Jesus and His kid’s/families die. Some of the meanest people I have ever met are also the most angry, bitter and unforgiving. I do not want to become them! I want to let my heart stay warm, broken, if need be- I want to keep my passion for ministry and for people. Or I will become just like the meanest of people I have met.

How about you? Have you learned any great lessons from horrible people?

lots of love, Trishablog2

Maybe you saw it coming, or maybe it hit you out of nowhere like a Mack truck into a brick wall at 90 miles an hour…The ministry you were living and breathing, has come to an end. It may have been abrupt- a new senior leader came in and several (or all) of the staff leaders are gone. Or the congregation voted, and out of nowhere, you are now just OUT.

The change could also have been a long time in coming; a ministry on life support, just waiting for that new ministry position, feeling and sensing things coming to an end- and then at last- the finality of announcing that you are moving on.

Bottom line: This is a time of transition. And there is a ministry loss involved (the loss of one before a new one comes).

Whether or not you knew this was coming, we are rarely “prepared” for a ministry loss. We all hope to be at our church “forever”, and yes, we’ve all heard the stories of “He was at that church for 47 years and died in the pulpit” but the reality is this: MINISTRY POSITIONS END. And most of them will NOT last; only a very small percentage of ministers get to stay in one place more than 5 years. There is a lot of debate as to why that sad fact exists, but my purpose here today is not to tell you how to AVOID transitions in ministry. Almost all of us will have to deal with one or two along the way. I want to encourage you and give you any small insight I can to go THROUGH a transition WELL.Transitions are tricky- and involve some level of pain. As a staff pastor at a very large church, I saw countless staff come on board, leave for new ministries, or be let go, or have their positions eliminated. Some knew what was coming and others did not. I have also left positions and taken new ones a couple of times in my own ministry career- and I know first hand how difficult that can be!

So here are a few things I have learned (sometimes the hard way) during my own ministry changes and losses and from other pastors who have survived more than I ever will. Directly following a ministry loss/transition:

  1. DO- give yourself some time to process the enormity of the loss. You have to allow yourself time to grieve. Many pastors have likened their exit from a church to a death- the death of something they loved very very much. Ministry is like NO other job on earth. You cannot understand if you haven’t lived it. It’s not just a JOB, it’s your whole life. And the people of that church become your FAMILY, your support system, your counselors, your prayer partners. So when a minister leaves a church for whatever reason, they not only lose their source of income, their security- they also lose their place to attend church, their close friends, their support system, etc. They lose their entire way of life. And if you have a spouse and/or children, this adds another loss- watching them grieve as they say goodbye as well. It’s also the loss of your hopes and dreams that you had for that ministry and that church- you are grieving the loss of the good that was, and the loss of a future that now will not be. Your whole heart and soul was tied up in those dreams. In a “normal” career, if you leave your job, your family will likely stay in the area, in your own home, with their current friends, in their usual school, with the support of their church family and friends. A pastor may lose it all when their church position is gone. Many times the church will bar pastors and staff from attending the church after they resign or are let go, to “assure loyalty to the new staff.” The loss for the minister and their family can be all encompassing, involving a move to a new city, new church, new schools, new friends… Many pastors say they have had to go through all five stages of grief- shock, anger, sadness, bargaining and finally acceptance.
  2. DON’T- rush yourself into a new ministry position too soon. Many pastors do this because they need the source of income. But you have to let yourself grieve. And don’t stuff your feelings down; you’re going to have to acknowledge them sooner or later. And it’s not fair to carry that on to the next place of ministry and carry out your grief (or anger or mistrust) on that poor group of unsuspecting people. If you can remember back to when you were dating, you may remember cautioning someone, “Don’t take the first person you see right after a breakup. Avoid the rebound person!” That advice holds true after a ministry “breakup” too. Your judgement may be clouded while you are grieving. You may not be hearing God clearly right now, and may inadvertently jump right from the frying pan into the fire. Which leads us to –
  3. DO wait on God for clear direction as to your next steps. He hasn’t forgotten you. He will tell you what to do. God called you so one person or one church cannot UNCALL you. When he called you into ministry, He didn’t turn to ask anyone’s permission, and He doesn’t need their permission to use you now. His gifts and calling are irrevocable. He still has a ministry for you- a future and a hope. Don’t settle.
  4. Don’t believe the myth, “If I don’t jump into a new ministry seamlessly, I’ll never work in ministry again.” That is simply not true. Remember that God opens the doors you are supposed to be in. Wait for His right door.
  5. DO find a great support system. You may have lost some of your best friends and supporters. You need safe people to talk to. You need to be able to rely on your extended family, friends and ministerial colleagues at this point. The key here is to find SAFE people to talk to who will give you wise, loving counsel and let you talk/grieve. Your network of minister friends and colleagues will be invaluable to you when you are ready to take a ministry position again.
  6. DO go for counseling if you can. There should never be any stigma on getting wise confidential help from a professional counselor.
  7. DO take a vacation. Take care of YOU. Get healthy. Work to improve yourself. DON’T just sit there. Go to a conference. Finish that book you’ve been planning to write. Go finish that degree. You cannot improve what happened; but you can improve YOU.
  8. DON’T just talk to anyone who wants to talk to you about it. It’s not okay to try to destroy the church, ministers and ministry at the church you are leaving- regardless of how it went down. And some people are NOT safe to talk to. They just want juicy gossip, and perhaps drama. They aren’t going to help you heal, in the end- they’ll just pour salt on the wounds. These are the kind of people who want to come tell you everything that is happening at the church you just left- who said what about you, what your replacement is doing wrong and how they took down your beloved jungle set in kid’s church. You do not need those conversations when you are trying to grieve. I heard one pastor’s wife tell her best friend, “I love you Amy. But if we are going to stay best friends, we cannot talk about everything going on at First Church right now. I need some time to heal. Our friendship has to be more than my former church.”
  9. DO forgive those who may have hurt you. The Bible says that we must forgive others as Christ forgave us. Not because they deserve it – because they probably don’t. But for Jesus’ sake. And for our own sake! We may not FEEL those feelings right away; but we make the DECISION to obey and forgive and the feelings follow later. Don’t let a ministry loss come between you and your Savior. Know that Scripture tells us that God DOES vindicate in His time, not ours. Forgive and leave them to Him. You still have work to do.

How about you? Have you been through a ministry loss/transition? What helped you get through it? What tips can you give others for surviving and then shining in a tough time between ministries?

Love from the bottom of my heart- Trishablog

Whether or not to celebrate Mother’s Day, and if so to what extent, has been the subject of more than one “intense” discussion for our staff in the past. People can have VERY strong feelings on the subject. Here was my standpoint in those staff meetings:

Yes. I still believe the church should acknowledge Mother’s Day. Yes. From the pulpit.

Now before anyone starts sending hate mail, just hear me out. My husband and I DID struggle with infertility. As a children’s pastor, it was MISERY to be in church every single year on Mother’s Day, handing out flowers to Mothers, when I so desperately just wanted to BE a Mother. Oh, and let’s not forget all the baby dedications, and nursery renovations, and children’s productions when the desire for a child of my own was so overwhelming I thought it was going to crush me/kill me. I am ashamed to say that when one family announced that “oh oops, I guess we are expecting number 8!” I went home and bawled my eyes out. More than once at Walmart, I would pass a 14 year old pregnant girl headed outside to smoke and want to claw her eyes out and rip out all her hair. Not my finest hour. But even during those difficult times I knew that being a Mom was a special full time job, a calling that I wanted in on.

Skip ahead several years, and our church had grown. a lot. And in a very large church, you have to take a lot of things into consideration when planning your services ahead. For awhile we decided to cut our tradition of the kids singing on Mother’s Day in our Sunday morning service, because non-Mother’s might be hurt by it. And we debated mentioning Mother’s day AT ALL because non-Mother’s might not come to church. This line of thinking spread into cutting most of our Father’s Day activities because a lot of children do not have fathers. And then our Veterans Day cards giveaway was on the chopping block because some of our soldiers did not come home (they were killed in the line of duty). Next came came cutting our children singing/performing near Christmas time, because some families do not have children and may feel left out, or they come from divorced homes and cannot participate. During all of this debate and planning on our staff, I was asked whether or not we should have special services at all or if we should mention things like Mother’s Day. After some prayer and thought this is what I said:

Yes. We need to mention the importance of mothers and fathers and family because God does and Scripture does. Not just on one or two days but throughout the year. Furthermore, our American culture does not highly value the role of “mother”. In fact, in an era when young women are encouraged almost EVERYWHERE they turn to be thin, beautiful, sensual, sexually appealing, young, immature and irresponsible- raising a child does not fit into that mind set at ALL. Young women are taught from the get go to be selfish, to focus on what THEY want, when THEY want it. Choosing to raise a child and put the child’s needs ahead of your own is considered old fashioned and ignorant and even a waste of your life. The “secular” world does not usually see a “stay at home mom” as a full time job, though it most certainly is!

I do not believe that our young ladies (or young men) are getting the tools they need to be parents, because the role of a parent is not valued in our society.

So if the role of a parent is not valued or encouraged in our self focused, self driven life style- then where can a parent be valued, encouraged and equipped? That should be, and is supposed to be in the church. God created the family and places a very high value on parents- including Mothers. Mothers are important to God. What they do is valued and blessed by Him. It is a good thing for the church to go counter culture on Mother’s Day and affirm and thank moms for following a calling laid out in Scripture.

Then, what should our approach be as a church, as a congregation- when some of your congregation are parents and some are not? When some are mothers and some are desperately trying and some are mothers who are grieving? And what about divorced families and families with only one parent and foster families and blended families?

One of our major problems as a body of Christ is our tendency to swing to extremes. We tend to swing violently to one end of the pendulum or the other. Either we have every Mom stand up in the church service with their flower bouquet while the band and the children sing, and every other woman gets nothing OR we skip the whole day for fear of offending anyone. Part of our Christian walk is learning to live together in love and balance. We can learn to lovingly thank and affirm our mothers without singling people out. We can remember that people in our congregations are suffering, waiting for a child or grieving the loss of one and be sensitive to that. At the same time, we can make a stand as to the value of God’s design for the family- and weave that into our programming and the way we “do church” year round. Can we do special day well, with balance, effectiveness and grace? Oh definitely. I don’t want to cut so much that we are not offending anyone, because we are saying nothing at all.

Should we acknowledge Mother’s Day from the pulpit? Yes. We should affirm God’s design and approval for motherhood, but with grace, compassion and balance. So go love that crazy messed up outta wack beautiful thing we call the church this Sunday (the Body of Christ) and Happy Mother’s Day. Love Trisha

Ephesians 4:13-15American Standard Version (ASV)

13 till we all attain unto the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a fullgrown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

14 that we may be no longer children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error;

15 but speaking truth in love, we may grow up in all things into him, who is the head, even Christ;

Here is a pic of me, my mother Bonnie Stevens and my daughter. I love you Mom! Thank you for always pointing us to Jesus. Your prayers have carried us countless times. Love you!!

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