Here is a fun activity I have done with my leaders or even a small group of kids to teach the importance of each of us bringing our unique gifts to use for God! Feel free to share and try it out with your group!

Ask each member of the team/group to bring one specific item to your meeting. One person will be asked to bring eggs, one person to bring sugar, one baking soda, one vanilla etc. With everyone gathered, each will measure out what they brought into a large bowl. Take turns mixing it all together and put them in the oven to bake chocolate chip cookies (or whichever kind of cookies you like best!). The message is that we all “bring something to the table” as members of this team/group. If one ingredient is missing, the “cookies” just won’t turn out “right.” God has gifted each one of us individually to minister to kids, parents and to each other. Let’s all speak up today and bring ourselves to the mix! We will share what we believe are our unique contributions. How has God gifted YOU? What do you feel you bring? Then, going around the “circle”, each member will share what they see in each other- ie, “Here is what I see Danielle bringing to this team and to the kid’s ministry…” In this way, we will affirm each other and encourage each other. (In the past, this has led to a lot of tears and hugs and people saying things like, “I never knew I made that kind of a difference!)

God bless- I hope your Christmas season is going well. Blessings on all of your Christmas programs and preparations!

Love Trisha

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Greate Do we expect great things from God in our ministries this next year? Do we look forward to great things from God in our personal lives this next year?

Too many sad or blah faces at church last week?

This is the time of year that we are more likely to go see one of the MANY renditions of Charles Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol.” But today, I was thinking more about another of Charles Dicken’s literary works, “Great Expectations.” Why oh why would I be thinking about that sad, long story right around Christmas time? If you remember the book, it includes the tale of Miss Haversham, who, after being stood up on her wedding day, sits for many decades in the dust covered wedding reception room, in her mouldering old wedding dress, frozen in time in her despair and anger.  Why did I think of that story today? Well, I was rereading the Christmas story and I came across one of my favorite verses, in Luke 2, “an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, Who is Christ the Lord. You will find the babe lying in a manger wrapped in swaddling clothes.”  Can you imagine? After seeing and hearing and experiencing what they did? These shepherds had GREAT expectations! and why? The angel said the news was GREAT. It was a message of GREAT JOY- not ok news, everyday news, a possibility of hope, a reprieve of suffering, or a lament of sadness- it was a message straight from the Creator of the Universe, and He lit up the entire sky with this news of great joy. So these men set off to Bethlehem in search of….a metaphor? a possibility of hope? a balm to get by? No, they went in search of a Savior, of a LORD. And this news of great joy was to be for ALL people. And 2000 years later, we who are called Christians- followers of Jesus- believe in this message of GREAT joy, believe we have found the Savior, Christ the Lord. We of all people should have GREAT expectations! So….if we Christians should be the most joyful, hopeful people on earth, why are we so often sad, down and seemingly without hope? Who will want to listen to our Christian witness with our faces dragging the floor? What happened to our great expectations? Sometimes I think, life wears us down and we lose focus. We begin to get bogged down again with the problems of our “sheep”. Maybe we who have been Christians a really long time now ALSO need to hear the angel’s message again and all anew…. “But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior.”It’s still a message of GREAT joy and hope. There is still a Savior Who loves us and has promised good things that are coming in our future. No matter how difficult this past year has been, God has promised us many good things to come: that He will be with us no matter what we face in the future, that He is preparing a place for us to be with Him forever, that He will wipe every tear from our eyes, that He is going to end all war, suffering, and death, that we will see those we have lost again someday…No matter where we are at in this moment, God is sending us good tidings of GREAT joy and we can take steps forward with GREAT expectations.

God bless and Merry Christmas, love Trisha

 

 Merry Christmas! We hope God grants you peace and time with family this Christmas.  We are so appreciative for all of our family and friends- thank you for being in our lives! So…the biggest news for us this year….WE MOVED! In June, our family bought a home in Wisconsin near quite a bit of our family on both sides. It is such a dream come true. We love the house and the community. We even got a second dog- Sam- as a friend for Ursani. This has been a HUGE year in so many ways. For example:

 SCOTT: My beloved husband of 18 years got a great new job in I.T. in WI. He really loves his new job and they also seem to like him a lot! Scott is thrilled to be back in Wisconsin, close to family. In not so happy news, Scott battled lyme’s disease this summer, making him VERY sick for several months. Also, this summer, Scott’s grandmother passed away, and Scott went to the funeral and has helped clean out her home. Scott has surprised us all with his handyman skills on our new home- he ran electricity out to the new garage, ran electricity to the downstairs bathroom, installed fingerprint access on our exterior doors, new faucets, bathroom fan etc etc etc. He really seems to love working on this place! We hosted Thanksgiving at our house this year for both sides of our family. Scott loves showing off the place and especially loved NOT having to drive 9 hours to celebrate!

Trisha- I’M GRADUATING WITH MY MASTER’S THIS CHRISTMAS! I cannot believe my seminary journey went by so fast! I will be graduating Summa Cum Laude with my MA in Children’s and Family Ministries from Bethel Seminary. I had a very busy travel schedule this past year, averaging at least one different state per month. I visited/ministered in FL, IL, MN, WI, IN, OK, TN, KY, MS, MO (with several I was in twice).  It was my honor to be a keynote for a conference last summer. All total, I taught at 6 conferences. At one of these, I was thrilled to teach a certification class based off of my first book, “Your Children’s Ministry From Scratch.” I wrote a feature magazine article for Kidzmatter magazine as well. I am hoping to be able to release my third book in spring or summer of 2018, God willing. Tragically, my sister in law Siemona Stevens (my brother Shawn’s wife) was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive cancer this summer. I had the chance to fly down to Oklahoma to visit them and help out a bit. We are praying and believing for a complete healing for her. She and my brother have 7 children between them, all between the ages of 13 and 2. One of the miracles of this past year was my sister Erika’s adoption of a baby girl- Eva Marie Hope Goffin. She and Ken finalized the adoption this December! I am already so in love with my happy baby niece! Her brothers are already wrapped around her little finger.

Logan-Our 14 year old son graduated from 8th grade this past May. He is now a freshman in HIGH SCHOOL. No, I am not handling it well. lol. But he seems to be getting in the groove. We really like his school and his teachers. Logan is still very much into computers and technology. He wants to go to a local technical college to get his certificate in Video Game Design, and then go on to work in the gaming design industry. He has already created several video games of his own. Logan reads his Bible every night and seems to know his Scripture fairly well. He grew a lot this year- now 5’3″. Still short for high school, but tall to his Momma.

Eliana- My beautiful 12 year old, loves Jesus and studying Scripture. She faithfully prays each night and we have celebrated some amazing answers to those prayers this year! She loves her room in our new house, that we painted turquoise and black with glow stars all over. It is so HER. Eliana loves drawing and painting, reading and hanging out with friends. She is a smart, funny, shining light in our family.

P.S. We just decorated our 10 FOOT Christmas tree in the dining room! What a great year. We are excited to see what God has right around the corner in 2018!! Love you all- Merry Christmas and God Bless you and yours!

Love Trisha, Scott, Logan, Eliana (Ursani, Sam, Danny and Midnight)

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Will You See Me Off?

“Is there anything else we can do to help Michael?” I asked.  The Dad of 2 small girls looked up at me sheepishly. “Well, there is something I would like to talk to someone about.” His eyes darted over to her wife who was standing hear her hospital bed. Michael is battling stage 4 cancer, and each  new report that comes back is more and more bleak.

“We can talk about anything. What is on your mind?” I asked.

“If I do not make it….”  His wife interrupted him here. “You will be fine.”

“But if I do not make it…” She interrupted him again, “Don’t talk like that. No negative talk.” With that, she kissed him on the forehead. “I’m gonna go get a cup of coffee. I’ll be right back babe.” She left the room giving me a warning look.

Michael looked at me urgently. “I know that my chances are not good. And Leila is in denial. She won’t talk to me about my will, my last wishes, my power of attorney- nothing! Can you understand that I NEED to know that my wife and kids are going to be cared for? That I am terrified of being kept alive on machines forever? She has no clue that I have 2 very large life insurance policies that would take care of her and the kids indefinitely. She won’t listen to where I keep the insurance info. I know she is trying to be only positive around me. But it is just making me feel more and more alone and out of control I need to talk through these decisions. I’m so anxious for my family.” The words just seemed to pour out of Michael, in a hurry.  “Will you help me write up my living will for the hospital staff and for my family? At least will you listen to what I have down and offer suggestions?”

“Of course I will listen! You know I’m a pastor and not a lawyer, but I will offer any help I can,” I offered. His face lit up with relief and hope.

Together we went over his final wishes calmly and thoroughly. Michael leaned forward and took a deep breath. “I feel so very relieved right now.  I can go on fighting. I just need to know that Leila and  the boys will be ok.”

When I left Michael’s hospital room, I found Leila curled up next to the vending machine weeping.  When we talked, she told me that he just could not face the thought of life without Michael. She also said thats he was determined to never ever be “negative” around Michael. To her, any talk of death was, “giving up.”

I am determined to learn all I can and try my best to be for and minister to this couple during this tough time. Some of the  important things I am learning include: A. death is such a crucial time in a person’s life, in the family member’s lives, B..sometimes the person just needs someone to be there, to listen  and perhaps to help them “set their house in order.”

I can honestly say that when I went to Bible College for Children’s Ministry, I had not imagined myself doing end of life visitations or performing funerals or ministering to families that were grieving. I should have.  Over and over again in my 17 years as a staff pastor, I have been called upon to minister to families walking through grief and loss. I am realizing however, that this whole area of “End of Life Care,” is a fast growing, yet terribly under resourced ministry in our churches. According to a report from the National Institute of Aging, Americans are living longer than ever. More and more Americans are dying at home now too, in hospice or palliative care programs.  Because Americans are living longer, and more of them are dying at home, what does that mean for the church? Well, our churches are aging more and more as well.  In fact, a recent study found that 1/4 of American church members are 65 or older. That means that more and more of our congregation members are going to be facing end of life illnesses and final decisions. And it seems like a tragedy for the church to be silent during one of the/if not THE most important time in a person’s life. To me, the most important part of a book or a movie is the ending.Even if someone was a coward or a villain in the film- they might just redeem themselves in the end before the credits! Shouldn’t more of our focus as THE Church be on FINISHING well?

The Bible actually has a lot to say on the subject of death. And it doesn’t talk much about AVOIDING death. What does Scripture tell us about death?

  1. We are ALL going to die (barring those going in the Rapture, according to my faith). (Heb. 9:27, 1 Thess. 4:17-18)
  2. Our lives are short, even if we live 100 years- it’s over in a flash. (James 4:14, Psalm 39: 5-6)
  3. Jesus went through death first, and conquered it. (Col. 1:18, 1 Cor. 15:57, Rom 6:8-10)
  4. Death is not the end.( Revelation 14:13, John 11: 25-26)
  5. We will see those we loved, who died in Christ. (1 Thess 4:13-18)

How did people in the Bible approach death? In the Old Testament, the Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph) would realize that they were going to die soon. Then they would gather all of their family around them and speak a blessing/prophesy over them. They were “setting their house in order” (setting their earthly and spiritual affairs in order) before they died, surrounded by their families (example Gen. 39).  In the New Testament, Christians are pictured as going to their deaths confidently (sometimes as martyrs), assured of eternal life in Christ. Paul famously said at the end of his life, right before being martyred, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:7-8. How amazing to be able to say that at the end of a life! So a comprehensive look at Scripture seems to teach that we should prepare for death, with confidence and faith in Christ, looking back on a life lived all out for Jesus, having all of our earthly and spiritual affairs in order, speaking blessings on our family as we go. “The day of death is better than the day of birth.” Eccl 7:1.

This beautiful picture of ending life well reminds me of stories my grandmother has told me. My grandmother who is now 86 was a pastor’s wife for 35+ years.  This is one story she told me. “Back then, we thought about death differently. People didn’t usually die at the hospital. They died at home. And when they were close, you called the pastor and all the family to pray together in the room until they were gone. One time, this elderly lady called your granddad and I to say she thought she was close. She loved Jesus and was battling the cancer for years. We called her son, and we raced over. We prayed with her as she rocked in her rocking chair. She said, ‘Lord, I’m ready to go.’  A few minutes later, we looked up from prayer and she was gone. It was a beautiful moment and we were glad to be there for it. Her son pulled up a few minutes later.”

I feel bad when I hear stories like this, because I do not feel that the church is as involved these days in the end of a person’s life.  If the church IS dropping the ball a bit in the realm of end of life ministry, I could pinpoint a few reasons for that.

  1. Our culture does not like to face the reality of death. The Victorians used to keep death in front of them at all times. Funerals were held in homes. With disease running rampant and little medical care, death was all around them. Victorians even coined the phrase, “Remember you will die.” Our culture seems to be the opposite. We pretend that we will never die. We keep bodies and dying people far away from the public. It helps us keep our happy illusion of immortality.
  2. Some denominations, including mine, pray for the person to recover. I totally agree with praying for a person to get better. But talking about death and final wishes CAN be perceived as a lack of faith. I disagree with death being caused by a lack of faith either on the part of the person or those praying for them. Everyone eventually dies. And death may be God’s way of fully healing that person.
  3. Our pastors and key volunteers are usually not trained well to deal with death, tragedy or grief. It is scary and sad to be present when someone is dying/has died. It reminds us of our own mortality. It may feel like an intrusion of the family’s time. So, fear may hold us back from ministering well when someone is leaving earth.

So, how could the church do a better job of ministering to individuals and families facing loss and grief? According to the funeral director here in my town, many families are totally unprepared when death strikes. They often made NO plans for the funeral (even for family members who were in their 90’s!). These families often need guidance in putting the service together and making 100’s of little decisions- and they have to make their decisions in a very short amount of time and while dealing with their own grief. What if the family has to make the awful decision of whether or not to keep a family member on life support? They badly need their church family through that. My church’s stance is of not doing anything to end life in any way (euthanasia). But I think more pastors and key leaders should be trained in dealing with crisis, in grief care and in ministry to those at the end of life.

When I recently  interviewed the nurses in my local hospital’s emergency department, they shared with me that they used to have a whole list of pastors who were willing to come to the hospital for emergencies. But now, over the years, they only have 2 pastors willing to stay on that list! The nurses said that often they cannot get a pastor willing to come if the person is not one of their parishioners. So they take turns sitting with the person, because they do not want them to die alone. This broke my heart. Where is the church? I hope to bring attention to the crucial mission field of those with one foot in eternity- and their families grieving the loss. My hope is that the church will step up to this mission field, white for harvest, and help more of our congregation members to FINISH WELL!

What do YOU think? What is the role of the church with those who are dying? With the families of those who lost someone? Love Trisha

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BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

Recer, Paul. “Older Americans Living Longer, Study Says.” ABC News, ABC News Network, abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=118056.

 

https://www.forbes.com/sites/howardgleckman/2013/02/06/more-people-are-dying-at-home-and-in-hospice-but-they-are-also-getting-more-intense-hospital-care/#645203a75f99

 

“Aging Congregations May Be Churches’ Biggest Concern.” Insights into Religion, religioninsights.org/articles/aging-congregations-may-be-churches-biggest-concern.

 

“End of life End-of-Life care.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 23 July 2016, http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/end-of-life/basics/endoflife-care/hlv-20049403.

 

Nichols, Hannah. “The top 10 leading causes of death in the United States.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 23 Feb. 2017, http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/282929.php.

 

https://ag.org/Beliefs/Topics-Index/Medical-Euthanasia-and-Extraordinary-Support-to-Sustain-Life

If you are having a fantastic holiday and so is everyone you know, fantastic.  That’s wonderful. But this blog may not be relevant for ya, at least not this year. I would like to have a word with those of you who may NOT be having a great holiday season right now….

Seven years ago, Christmas Day- As my little 2 year old daughter began opening her third gift, I heard my phone ring. I was confused at first seeing that my phone wasn’t on; THEN I saw it was the on call phone. I picked up the phone and answered.  On the other line I heard the tired voice of an older man.  He asked me, “I want you to give me one good reason not to end it all right here and now.”  Hey family, I need to go outside for a bit. I need to take this.

You have probably heard it said that the Holidays are the hardest time of year for some people. When I was younger I never knew how true that was. Coming on staff at a large church, I thought the reason none of the staff wanted to be on call during the holidays was purely due to family obligations. But having holiday time with the family was only PART of the reason that the pastoral staff did not relish being on call for Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Years. My first year, as the newbie on staff, I was on call during Christmas Day. It really changes your whole perspective on the holidays talking to people who are suicidal on Christmas. And your eyes are opened to the very large number people all around us who are hurting at the “happiest” time of the year.

Perhaps we are not as aware of this sadness in the church, because we have created a culture that says, “If you are really a good Christian, you will be happy all the time.  You will live in victory daily.”  This causes many Christians to hide their very real feelings, and the fact that they need a friend, because they are pretending to be “happy”. And some of these Christians wonder, “Is there something wrong with me, because I am not happy right now? Would other Christians understand or even be able to help?” We live in a broken, fallen world. The church and our American culture have created this artificial reality- that we are immune to heartbreak if we do the “right” things.  We can stay young, wealthy, have all we want and need.  As the poet aptly said, “Childhood is the Kingdom where nobody dies.” -Edna St. Vincent Millay. When you grow up, you begin to see, on planet earth bad things happen to ALL people, good, bad…etc. And if we will be honest, that is exactly what the Bible says- and what Jesus told us would happen: “In this world you WILL have trouble….they will persecute you and throw you out of synagogues for My Name’s sake….some of you will be delivered over to death…but the end is not yet etc etc etc” I do not believe Bible stories are just “stories”.  The accounts of certain lives are there for a reason! EVERY single one of the heroes and patriarchs of the Bible went through terrible times. And we are not exempt. We weren’t promised to be happy all the time.

I have two separate friends who lost their moms this year.  Another good friend lost a baby. One needs major heart surgery for herself, and she has 2 small children at home. I know they are going into the holidays uncertain.

I remember at least one holiday season that was  the worst time of my life.  I ended up curled up over the steering wheel of my car, listening to the sleet pelting the roof, outside of Lowe’s, crying my eyes out.  I knew I had to go home and make Christmas as wonderful as possible for my two young children.  But I remember thinking to myself, “Is this really Christmas for us this year??? This isn’t supposed to be how it is! Wait, where is the ‘holiday magic’ that somehow swoops in and makes this all ok?”

So if we know that the holidays are harder for us (even Christians) sometimes, then what can we do to get through the holidays on a difficult year? What can we do to help those in our lives who are struggling this season? Here are a few suggestions:

1. Know that you are not “bad” or “abnormal” to feel down at times during the holidays.  It is perfectly normal to be reminded of a loss at important events. It is normal to feel down, stressed and even blah. The thought of being on a huge emotional high through the whole holiday season is an unreasonable and unrealistic expectation for anyone.

2. You are not alone.  A lot of people have major lows during the holidays.

3. It is ok to go talk to someone and get help.  You owe it to yourself and your family to be honest and take care of YOU. That doesn’t make you less of a Christian, a strong person or a parent.

4. It is ok to have some happiness during the holidays even if you have had a major loss. Some people feel very guilty if they feel happy during the holidays if they have lost someone. It’s ok to laugh and have fun too…there’s no rule book for how you have to feel.  And more than likely the person or people you are missing would love to see you smile too.

5. Create some new traditions.  It is great to keep up old traditions. But one thing that is very healing after a loss is to incorporate a new tradition or two.  A tradition to remember the good that was, and a tradition to look forward to the good that will be. Which brings us to:

6. Remember that there WILL be better seasons to come. Everything in this life comes in seasons. In the middle of a tough holiday season, it is easy to think, “This is how things will be from now on. It will always be this way.”  But a good friend once told me, “There is life out there beyond this. And no it’s not the same as before.  But it’s a good good life.”  I hung on to that during a dark time, and it proved to be so true.  Life will continue to change; but good IS coming.  God’s Word promises us that God’s plans for us are GOOD.  And that “all things work together for GOOD for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

7. Last but not least: Make a list of all you are thankful for. Now before you shriek, “Wait? You want me to be THANKFUL after the year I’ve had?” remember that pain can blind us to everything that is still good in our lives. Remember the story in the Bible about the widow and her two mites? Jesus said she gave more than anyone else because she gave all she had.  Perhaps the one who is sad on Thanksgiving, but who stops to thank God for all the good still in their life, is so very precious to God, because it probably takes everything they have. “In EVERYTHING give thanks, for this is the will of God.” It is easy for someone in a good year to be thankful; but if you’ve had a rough year, your thanks and praise are much more of a sacrifice.  And I have found that stopping to thank God, when there seems to be nothing going right, is when I seem to feel Him here, and sense His working the most.

Are you having a wonderful, fun filled Thanksgiving and Holiday Season? Fantastic! That’s great. Are this year’s festivities particularly difficult? I am wishing to send you a great big hug right now through my laptop and say, “you are loved, and good IS on the way”. God bless you this Thanksgiving and Christmas and all through this next year- whether a good or a bad year- may you feel Him with you, working in your life. Love Trisha

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Here is a great parent, child activity to help teach gratitude in an increasingly ungrateful world.

 I don’t know about you, but this year was a rollercoaster at times of highs and bitter lows. And it can become easy, to focus on the negative, or to take all the good in our lives for granted- to not realize the beauty in our lives until it’s gone.  Our American culture at times pushes us to be entitled, without even realizing it.  So this November, I announced to our family, that we were going to cover a wall in our living room with butcher paper, and every single day before bed, we would write at least one thing we are thankful for. I got a box of brightly colored markers and we set up the large wall of paper.  At first I got a few lame excuses, “oh mom, I don’t know what to write…..this is so different”  But even after the first night, everyone has been having fun with it. And the best part? We all have to walk past that wall so many times a day, and just seeing it, reminds us all how amazing God is. And I love seeing my kids stop to read everything on the wall before we thank God at the end of the night. That visible reminder of God’s goodness changes your view of everything else that day…..God tells us in His Word to be thankful, and grateful, no matter the circumstances. We are to cultivate an “attitude of gratitude” in our homes, and we as parents lead the way. What has God done for you and your family this year? This is the perfect week to stop, remember and say, “Thank You Lord”.

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Long gone are the days of “lone ranger” ministry- of one minister charging in, doing it “all” while everyone else follows. Today your ministry will literally rise or fall based on your ability to build and lead a strong team.  Ministering to your TEAM should be one of your number 1 ministry goals this year. So how do you build a stronger, more unified team in 2015? The teams I have led, and been on over the years have become more of a family, and I am so blessed to be a part of them. Whether you’re leading a team of volunteers, volunteer department heads, paid staff or all of the above, these ideas you’ll see below have worked for me and other ministry leaders, to build a winning team.

1. Pray together- There is power in praying all together with one purpose.  Pray FOR each other as well. It is a lot tougher to stay angry with someone, when your hand is on their shoulder in prayer for their upcoming surgery. This time spent in prayer together should not be “optional” or an afterthought. I cut 15 minutes of every outreach practice time just so we could spend that time in prayer together.  It changed EVERYTHING- attitudes, effectiveness of “performances”, and our focus on the unchurched people who attended.  Praying as one team can bond us in a way that nothing else can. I appreciate teams that begin and end all of their gatherings with prayer.

2. Grow together- Have you ever gone to a conference by yourself? You have this AMAZING experience, epiphanies that change your life! And then you come back to your church and try to explain those moments, those feelings to your team? It’s almost impossible isn’t it? The old saying is all too true, “You just had to be there.” Everything changes when the team returns together from a training/conference with a more unified vision, and everyone at the table “gets the inside jokes” and has the same memories of the event.  You do not have to get them all excited or try to explain the experience, because they went through it with you.  Other ways to grow together would include doing a book study or a Bible study together- we have had a LOT of fun bonding over our book/Bible studies! You can also find inexpensive local trainings to attend as a group or hire a speaker to come in and do a training for your team. A great newer option would be to do a live streaming training or conference and watch it all together at your church (or a neighboring church).

3. Serve together- Nothing, and I do mean nothing, seems to bond a team like working long hours on a major project. When you have a community outreach, vbs, service project, musical, Easter or Christmas function, it is good to have “all hands on deck” and give every member of the team a “job”. This laser focus- everyone pulling together in the same direction- everyone going for the same win, can show the “real side” of the people you minister with, the good, bad and the ugly.  We get to know each other for REAL, and still love and appreciate your team for all of their unique giftings. We experience first hand the power of working as a group toward a common goal.  This usually attracts new team members as well who want to be a part of something that is succeeding and so rewarding (Great teams are the best recruiters).

4. Dream Together- Is your “team” still a hierarchy of “I say and you do and don’t ask why?” Much better is the model “Let’s do this together, and I’ll help you until you can teach it yourself.” When you sit down to plan your calendar of events for the next year (which I really hope you are doing), who is sitting around that table? By that I mean, who has input in the planning of events and the pitching of new ideas? This can be scary to some leaders, and it definitely takes a lot of trust.  But great ideas often come from diverse teams, even quiet, introverted team members. Perhaps your team members have been doing a lot of thinking and just need the chance to let those ideas out. They’ll think of great innovations and solutions that you never could on your own. It’s about letting go some of that need to control for the greater good of the people you minister to. Make it a safe place to express ideas, and even constructive criticism. But never allow pouting, grudge holding, or gossip. You can reserve the right to the final say, and you can always shut down negative or argumentative talk.  But allowing a few more people at that planning table will not only uncork amazing creative conversations, but when you actually DO begin to implement your new ideas, you will have your teams buy-in and eager support, BECAUSE they had some say.  BUY-IN always comes from IN-PUT. 🙂

5. Play together- It’s official; teams that play together, stay together. If the only time you contact your team is when you want something from them (work related), they may start to feel used; they may also dread it when they see you coming (just more work to do). Don’t just see people for what they have to offer you and “your” ministry.  These are people, with lives and joys and hopes and jobs and families. Go to their sports games and cheer them on. Go as a team and do something fun- bowling, roller blading, boat ride, mini golf, a concert etc. I also highly suggest that you eat together.  Sharing meals together has been known as a bonding activity throughout history.  Go out to eat together as a team after services.  Better yet, go to each other’s HOMES and COOK together. Being a team means caring about people’s lives OUTSIDE of the job you are trying to do together. If their child is sick, pray together for that child. If one of your team is in the hospital, go visit them together. As they say at Willow Creek, you are not just doing a job together, you are “doing life together.” You are building relationships to last for the long haul.  These relationships give birth to the best, most successful ministries you will ever know.

What kind of team are you dreaming of? The best things in this life don’t just “happen”; they are intentionally planned and crafted. Put the majority of your time into growing a unified, effective team this year, and you’ll be surprised how far you’ll GROW.  How do you disciple and pour into your ministry teams? (board, parent teams, teachers, volunteers, staff etc.)? Please let us know your best ideas for team building!

PS: I’d love to pray with you or sign a book for you. You can get a copy of “Your Children’s Ministry From Scratch” TODAY on Amazon, Kindle. Already have your book? Please make sure to rate it on Amazon- I read each and every review.  God bless!


 Last week’s blog about how much harder your job is as a Children’s/family minister, was pretty highly trafficked! You all seemed to find some commonality with hard working kids leaders around the world! Here is part 2. Thoughts?

6. You’ll have to navigate “Separate Orbit Syndrome.” This happens when you start to feel disconnected from the adult church service or from the church in general. This happens because children’s ministry is sometimes the ONLY ministry that takes place DURING the adult main service. Other ministries break out during the week or serve IN the main service. Children’s ministry can start to have its own orbit. You have to fight the children’s ministry becoming its own “silo.” It is a lot of work to keep it connected to what is going on in the church at large. I realized one day in our staff meeting that in a room packed out with staff, I was the ONLY one who had not been in the main service, and I was also the only one who knew what had happened that week in the kid’s services. The kid’s leader has to be very vocal about what is happening in the kid’s areas. The rest of the church may not know, because they weren’t there. Your hardships, your huge wins- you have to get very good at making sure these are heard. Kind of like a moon, orbiting the earth….”Houston, we have a problem….”

7. And you’ll run a higher risk of burnout. Children’s ministry tends to run non-stop. School year, summer, holidays, weekend, midweek. And too many children’s leaders report NEVER being in an adult service. They do not ever sit with their families in a worship service. They do not get to attend a Bible study. And this can be extremely wearing on even the strongest Christian. We’ve always had 3-5 services to plan every single week for kid’s ministry as opposed to student ministries’ 1 (they are adding another one). You will have to work harder perhaps, than other staff members to make sure you make it to a church service. I know how difficult that can be. I make it to one at least once a month (wearing my pager!), and I attend a morning Bible study during the week. You MUST invest in yourself and your relationship with God or you will soon have nothing left to give!

8. Underappreciated, underrated ministry- Even though you have one of, if not THE TOUGHEST jobs in the church, you may feel invisible. You may feel that no one understands or appreciates what you do. Many times Children’s Ministry is still viewed as babysitting or women’s work or a stepping stone. I remember hearing in bible college, “Someday God may move you up”. I always felt this was top of the ladder for me! 

I hope you read part 1…what did I miss? Why is your job so tough sometimes?? Let me just say that I love you guys and you are not alone. There are many of us! Jesus sees all you do for him and His kids. Please keep on fighting today and always! Love Trisha

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No it’s not all in your head. Your job as a children’s ministries staff person/volunteer is one of, if not THE toughest job in your church. Why? Here are a few of the key reasons that you have such a difficult (yet rewarding) ministry:

1.No area of the church is as prone to explosive conflict as the children’s area. Very nice people can become UNNICE rather quickly when their children are involved. Any program that works with people’s kids will encounter intense conflicts from time to time. On top of that several articles have been written recently about the problem of parent bullying of teachers. Unfortunately, that bullying can extend itself into your ministry- parents/guardians bullying you and your leaders in order to get their way (a part in a play for their child, special rules just for their child, a certain prize for their child, an ending of consequences etc. etc.) These conflicts tend to involve a lot of emotions and may become quite personal. The sheer number of these conflicts can be wearing on a kid’s ministry leader.

2. The legalities involved are mind-boggling. In the past decade, liability insurance for churches has skyrocketed. This massive insurance premium increase has resulted in changes in the way that some churches do ministry- some have stopped doing camp outs, some have stopped offsite activities, others have discontinued their 15 passenger van services (because their insurance will no longer cover them). Every single thing that we do in children’s ministry must be scrutinized for its possible liability issues. The public schools deal with this as well. If a child falls on church property, or is injured by faulty equipment, the chances are MUCH higher of their being a lawsuit against the church than if the injury happened to an adult. And let’s just face it- kids get hurt. Toddlers fall down. Kids get hurt playing games, running and horseplaying. We cannot prevent all injuries, but we can do due diligence to minimize injuries on our property. If something goes to court, the question will be asked, “Did you and your staff do everything REASONABLE to prevent this from happening?” Bottom line: the vast majority of your church’s liablity and potential lawsuits come from your children’s ministry department.

3. Medical issues in children’s ministry have changed. This goes hand in hand with #2. We do not have room here to debate why the cases of food allergies (including peanuts) and cases of autism and childhood depression, among other disorders, have increased exponentially in the past several years.  Most of these medical issues will affect the children’s department the most. At our church, 8 out of every 10 medical issues happen in the kid’s ministry area (a fall, a bite in the nursery, an allergy reaction, an emotional meltdown). One Sunday morning, I got a call that a 7 year old child was down, struggling to breathe, because another child came into class that had just eaten a peanut butter sandwhich at home. She had a severe peanut allergy reaction just from the boy’s breath. Thankfully her mother taught for us and was nearby with an epipen. These are issues we face much more often in kid’s ministry than in the adult service.

4. Recruiting is so MUCH MORE difficult for the kid’s ministry leader than for ANY OTHER area in your church. Why? A. Due to the above issues, you MUST maintain proper ratios. Depending on your state recommended guidelines and/or your church’s guidelines, you may need to have 1 leader per 2-3 kids in the infant room, 1 per 4-5 in toddlers, 1 per 6-8 in pre-K, 1 per 8-12 in elementary. Adults do not have to worry about these ratios. Student ministries do not need quite as high ratios. B. You CANNOT put just anyone serving in kid’s ministry. Many people in your church will not qualify. You cannot use anyone with a history of child abuse, or anyone with a bad temper etc. Not everyone has a temperament that will work well in kid’s ministry. C. Your onboarding requirements will be MUCH tougher for a new volunteer. They must be fingerprinted, background checked, trained and more. Your kid’s ministry SHOULD have the toughest guidelines to serve in the church. Not everyone will qualify, or even stick around for the longer onboarding process. *SEE HOLIDAY SCHEDULING

5. You will have a lot of administrative duties. Many new children’s leaders are not prepared for the level of administrative work they will need to do. You have to organize the recruiting, training and onboarding of new leaders continually. You need to create the schedules for each class, make sure each class has teachers each week. This means filling holes in the schedule week to week and on a Sunday morning too when the need arises! You are keeping track of who is serving when and with whom and who traded days with who etc. ****HOLIDAY SCHEDULING- This scheduling can be so frustrating and overwhelming around holidays- Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, Summer….And in most cases, when there is an adult service, there will be children’s ministry. The other pastors may get a “break” to sit with their family at the Christmas Eve service. You may not. Your budget will have to be more detailed because it covers several ages groups and activities (Our is 14 pages as compared to student ministries 2). You will have a LOT more equipment to keep track of- diapers, wipes, AWANA game equipment, curriculum, teaching supplies etc etc. You have the planning of VBS, Camps, Weekends, Midweek, Christmas play, Harvest Fest etc. etc. Many of these have to be planned  up to a year in advance.

 

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? Do you think what you do is harder than most people think it is? Stay tuned for part 2 next week of Why Your Job Really is Harder. Please be encouraged and have an amazing week. You are loved, and Jesus sees all you do for Him and His kids. Love Trisha

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I really hope you enjoyed the first part of this blog! It certainly hit home with some of you. And yes you can feel free to share as you like. Why is it so hard for those of us who lead others to take care of ourselves? It is not selfish to lead ourselves; it is essential if we want to be effective over the long haul. So here are five MORE ways to practice self care/self leadership!

5. Go to a conference- I always learn and grow so much by getting away from my usual setting and interacting with other leaders. Iron definitely sharpens iron. Many of my fellow pastoral leaders say that the best part of conferences is the interaction and networking with other leaders. I grow from the breakouts, from the main sessions and especially from the hallway conversations! At conferences you can find a whole new perspective, find new skills and have the freedom to discuss hardships that you perhaps cannot discuss at home. A conference is worth the investment in your future ministry. None of us should EVER stop growing or learning.

4. Perhaps take a break- Here is a controversial point for sure. Americans are some of the worst on the planet for NOT taking their vacation days (instead taking the money). Too many pastors report not taking a regular day off. In our culture, being a workaholic is seen as a badge of honor and a sign of dedication. But Jesus got away from the crowds regularly to be alone with God. I remember being told that you should never take a break from ministry or “that gap would look terrible on your resume.” Jumping from one bad ministry situation to another without taking adequate time to heal and recover, sets you up for more damage to yourself and your new ministry. It is not weakness to take time away and pray for God’s leading. Otherwise you may risk going from the fire pan into the fryer. Some churches are catching on to this healthy idea and offering pastors sabbaticals (usually after being there 7 years etc.)

3. Get someone on the outside to talk to- Due to the confidential nature of many of our dealings, we pastors can start to feel isolated. Everyone talks to us, but we have few to be real and honest with. And if you are like me, one who processes tough situations by talking through them, then you need a safe person to bounce ideas off of. This is absolutely necessary for pastors to have someone safe to talk to. I highly suggest you find someone outside of your church setting, who you know will keep things confidential. It may be helpful for you to find a professional counselor. Again, going in for counseling is NOT weakness. Having someone to listen and pour into YOU can make all the difference in the world.

2. Get a mentor- As the saying goes, every minister should have a hand up (someone who is mentoring them) and a hand down (someone they are mentoring). If you do not currently have a mentor, someone who is further along in the direction you are trying to go, then begin actively praying and seeking for that person. We must all keep learning always. And none of us have “arrived.” I have had to swallow fear before and just ask, “Would you meet with me every other week for 6 months? I just want to learn from you.” I have been so surprised how many “giants” of ministry were willing to say yes. I think it is because they too see the importance of mentorship. Not sure where to start? I would suggest a paid coaching for 6 months with someone you respect. Many ministry leaders- Jim Wideman, Karl Bastian, myself etc. etc.- offer this service. Sometimes a mentor, a coach who believes in you can make all the difference in your life and ministry.

1. Relationship with God MUST continue to be, or must become first priority. Let me just say this: Time spent working FOR God is NOT the same as time spent WITH God. We ministers spend a whole lot of time working FOR God- but most of us do not get enough time just spent WITH God in His Presence. This time getting away with God is not selfish- it is essential. Sounds terrible, but anything that isn’t carefully planned for, just does not seem to happen. You should plan your time with God right on your calendar and protect it. Yes I know life happens and you can have emergencies come up. But developing those habits of prayer and Bible study and journaling are the MOST important parts of your day- and the most important part of your personal and ministerial health as well. Make those appointments with God happen!

What about YOU? What do you do to lead yourself well? What leadership hacks could you share to help other leaders with self care? See you next week, love Trisha

ps- If you are interested in the personal coaching program, email trisha@peach.im for more information.

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