I had a good discussion this week with a young lady children’s pastor who I was hired on to coach this semester. We talked about any differences we had observed between children’s ministry in large churches versus smaller churches. She started off as a volunteer in a very large church, and is now full time as a children’s pastor in her own right full time at a smaller church. I started out at a very small home missions church and through the years I have served at churches of all sizes- ending up in a growing “mega church” with several sites. I now travel all over the country speaking and doing trainings at churches of all sizes/denominations. Here are a few observations I had as to what is the same and what is different in small and large church kid’s ministry:

Having seen so many kid’s ministries both large and small, I can say that I have seen a few things that I have found to be similar in both large and small church kid’s ministries:
1. Kids are kids all over the country- and the world. They need love, limits, the truth, the gospel….they need to move, need to laugh etc.
2. I have found that certain ministry elements work well in kid’s ministry regardless of the size of the church: music, drama, dance, VIDEO etc. Kids are visual AND participatory learners!
3. Everywhere I have gone, there have been common elements that have contributed to the growth of kid’s churches regardless of church size: A. Outreach B. targeted recruitment and training of quality leaders C. Using students IN ministry D. Having clear cut vision E. Having a “participatory” ministry ie having children DOING ministry, not just sitting and listening out of a book.
4. I have found that budget dollars and number of people do NOT equal quality of ministry. I’ve seen very small churches with amazing, quality, growing kid’s ministy and very large mega churches with poor, stagnated ministries. The key to quality and growth regardless of church size seems to be passion, vision and creativity- also ability to recruit and lead teams and ELBOW GREASE (as in a whole lot of hard work by you and your volunteers). I’d take creativity and teamwork over a large budget any day. Just throwing money at something won’t make it GREAT.
5. I’ve also seen that both large and small children’s church ministries suffer when there is lack of vision, and especially if there is disunity and infighting. Both die rather quickly if you add in a “survival” “let’s just by” mentality.
6. All sizes of churches MUST recruit and delegate. I was teaching a workshop at a conference recently when a children’s pastor of a smaller church said aloud to the children’s pastor of a larger church, “Well, you would understand what it is to hurt for volunteers. Your church is so big you wouldn’t even have to recruit” I started laughing. We have had Sundays that 11 leaders all call in sick and must be replaced. When you have 270+ volunteers, you will always need replacement leaders for those who are sick, who have moved, or who have switched ministries etc. There are many more open positions to fill at any given time in a larger church- but there is also a bigger pool to pick from. But no matter what the size, the statistics still tell us in ANY church, 14 percent of the people do 88 percent of all the work that is done in a church. We all need leaders!
What about differences?
1. Smaller churches have a tendency to get a bit more stuck in the church politics or in the whims of one or two individuals who are prominent in the church.
2. Larger churches may lean more towards a business model in practical operations (this can be good and bad- that is a lot of money and leaders to manage well but the focus still needs to be on the fact that you are a CHURCH.) This means a lot more forms, paper trails, systems of operation etc.
3. Larger churches MAY have a longer and more involved budget process. Again, there are so many departments that all need funding in a ‘mega” church, and to be efficient and effective with people’s tithe money takes time and a lot of planning.
4. Small churches tend to START with human creativity and innovation (elbow grease) because they know (or assume) that the sets, props etc could not be paid for any other way. This leads, in my opinion, to some amazing innovation, creativity and problem solving coming out of smaller churches and missions works because they CAN’T just throw money at a problem. Necessity really is the mother of invention.
5. Larger churches do tend to be faster paced. There are so many people, so many projects in the works that excuses just do not go far. You learn to keep up, delegate more than you ever thought possible and you grow as a leader- or you do not make it long at a very large church.
6. Larger churches DO have to deal with much larger expectations. When someone visits, they see the massive building and unconsciously they expect something on a higher level. You cannot get by with what is in the curriculum alone. “Good” ministry will NOT cut it. You really have to keep pushing your level of excellence and challenge yourself to exceed where you have been.
7. Smaller churches MAY offer the children’s pastor opportunities for a broader, more varied ministry. In a smaller church, I was able to help lead worship, lead an adult Bible study etc. In a very large church, the kid’s department all by itself was more than enough to push me WAY beyond full time. Smaller churches can offer a broader, more well rounded church ministry experience. Larger churches offer a more indepth and targeted ministry experience.
OK so I know that I am missing some things! What is the same and what is different between large and small church kid’s ministry? What do you think or what have you experienced?
Love Always, Trishasmall-vs-large-628x250

This past week, I heard several people on social media broach the subject of Christians and child adoption. One young lady said, “Christians are only pro-life until the embryo is born, then they couldn’t care less about the child or the mom.” Another responded with, “You can’t be pro-life when so many kids are stuck in the foster system with no family.” And yet another, “I cannot understand why so called Christians refuse to adopt any of these kids they claim to care about.”

I am interested in this topic because I am a Christian, a children’s pastor, a parent AND my sister and brother in law are adopting this beautiful angel- Eva Marie Hope. I also

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have several good Christian friends who have adopted children. I very much would like some of them to weigh in on this, as well as adults who grew up in foster care, to hear from those who have first hand experience.

I am 100 percent FOR adoption. Each of us is adopted by God after all. I am thrilled to see a rising interest in adoption by Christians and churches alike (our church celebrates an “adoption day”.

My experience tells me that more Christians have not adopted children for many different reasons. The assumption that Christians do not WANT to adopt or are not interested in the lives of at risk children just does not seem to be accurate to me. Here are a few reasons that Christians may not adopt, that have nothing to do with apathy.

  1. MONEY- If you did not know, adoption is INCREDIBLY expensive. Yes, the costs vary from state to state, and from agency to agency. But overall, these costs can be prohibitive for the average person. My sister was literally told by one agency “It would not be worth it to apply until you can show at least 20,000 in your bank account.” YIKES! This was impossible for them. Overseas adoption was creeping up on 50,000 from certain countries. A friend of mine had a private open adoption, and the costs still went over 10000. Parents determined to adopt may be forced to go instead to foster care and HOPE they can someday adopt. My sister went this route twice before this. She ended up adopting privately through a girl she met at church- a private adoption, but it still cost 18,000+. Anyone else feel like we are SELLING CHILDREN HERE? Why are these costs so high? I am honestly asking. It seems we are limiting adoption to the rich, as if rich people are somehow better parents.
  2. RACISM and DISCRIMINATION- This may be a very controversial section of this           blog. And I’m certainly open to other perspectives on this one. But it is a fact that certain children, in certain states cost MORE than other children, based entirely on the color of their skin or the state of a disability or their gender or age. For example, white female babies in some areas are considered “very desirable” and therefore cost more. My sister was told that Americans want to adopt girls because we think they will be “easier” to raise. They told her that if she would consider a child of color, or a bi-racial child or a child with disabilities the costs would be MUCH cheaper. Someone please explain this to me! This ANGERS me. Isn’t this institutional racism? Isn’t this SELLING CHILDREN? This is appalling!
  3. Unreasonable Requirements- Did you know that most states, adoption agencies have a long list of requirements that you and your spouse must meet in order to adopt. These requirements MAY include, but are not limited to A. Age- you may have to be under the age of 37-40 B. Medical History- Any medical problems on your or your spouse’s record may disqualify you to be an adoptive parent. C. Finances- If you do not have the required money on hand, or your finances are not what the agency considers good, you may be disqualified. D. Size of family- Some agencies will disqualify you if you have ANY children of your own (infertile couples only). Others, such as the one my sister was first using, will not allow you to adopt a BABY if you already have children. E. Single people often have a harder time adopting children F. Sometimes you will be required to be the same race as the child you are adopting. What wild requirements have YOU heard about/encountered? It is my opinion that these requirements disqualify too many people who would be GREAT parents and provide wonderful homes. And children wait in foster care for a person who matches these expectations.
  4. Heartbreak- Due to the high costs of adoption, my sister started with foster care, in hopes of adopting. Both long term placements went almost all the way up to adoption. In both cases, at the very last second, the child went to be with a family member. Even though my sister knew if could happen, and she knew not to get attached, it was still heartbreaking. We have all heard horror stories of adoptive parents thinking everything is fine, only to have the child taken away later. Many brave Christian parents step up every year and take that risk, trying to adopt. But I bet others simply do not want to put their hearts on the line like that with no guarantees. I have never heard my sister sob like that, like when she lost the second child. She described the loss as, “I feel as if I lost a child, but I’m not allowed to mourn publicly. I have no monument to mourn at. No one will be sending us cards or meals. But the pain is still here.”
  5. A Broken Foster System- A lot of attention has been given lately to the problems in our American foster system. It seems that the well being of the children isn’t always top priority to put it lightly. Too often the children suffer due to over regulation, outdated rules, politics, corruption and red tape. I highly suggest reading these articles: http://michellecaldier.houserepublicans.wa.gov/2017/04/18/op-ed-time-reform-broken-foster-care-system/    and ABC’s “Foster Care- Stretched Too Far,” http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/story?id=130266.  The state in which I live, proudly asserts, “The best place for a child is with the birth parent.” I have to disagree. The best place for a child is where they are safe, loved and cared for. What about adoptive parent’s rights? As a children’s pastor, I have personally witnessed children returned to abusive homes FAR too soon, only to be abused all over again. Where is the protection for these vulnerable children???
  6. Our culture of Materialism- Sometimes we think we cannot provide all the “stuff” that kids “need.” People matter so much more than stuff. And children can be happy, safe and healthy in a loving home, without all the “stuff.”

How about you? Do you have experience in the foster system? As a foster parent? An adoptive parent? Why do YOU think that more Christians do not adopt? How do you feel about proposed foster/adoption system reforms?

Love and Blessings- Trisha

And if you’d like to hear more about my sister’s journey to adopt Eva, you can read about it HERE: https://www.youcaring.com/erikagoffin-894207

I absolutely LOVE my baby niece!! Love you Peanut!

Taken From my book,”Your Children’s Ministry beyond basics”.

THE WINNING CHECKLIST TO MAKE ANY CHILDREN’S/FAMILY OUTREACH WORK FOR YOUR CHURCH

  1. Start EARLY –The earlier the better.  Most great outreaches start planning/working/meeting a year in advance. The very best time to start your planning and meetings with your teams is immediately after the last one ends- while it’s still fresh in everyone’s minds. Take a lot of notes. You’d be surprised what may slip your mind as soon as the event is over.
  2. Rehearse and prepare or don’t do it. Set the highest standards right from the outset. Destroy the outdated stereotypes by making your event stand out.
  3. Showcase a LOT of kids, not just the chosen few. The more children you can include in SOME way the better. Even if it’s not on the stage. Sign them up for offering, choir, handing out bulletins, reciting verses and more.
  4. ABOVE all- use these outreaches as a teaching opportunity to instill a love of SERVING God and others in that group of kids. I tell our young teams every week at rehearsal, “This is not about making us look good; this is about making Jesus look good. We do our best so that people will be drawn to Jesus. Your attitude trumps and your attitude is so much more important than your talent! I would rather have 5 of you up there, so in love with Jesus and people, even if you cannot sing or act or dance at all, than to have 200 of the best actors, dancers, and singers in the world, who get up there to share with a nasty selfish attitude.” They can almost recite this speech back to me now. But watching them minister, I know they get it. Teach serving- not a concert of popularity and showing off.
  1. Do your best to work cross teams- Kids and family outreaches can NEVER be fully carried out without help from other teams in your church. You are going to need help with sound/tech, perhaps your music pastor or your worship pastor or your drama director etc. Nothing we do is done in a bubble; and it is easy to get “laser focused” on what our own ministry is doing and forget that there are so many other very important ministries going on in our church at the very same time. And we assume each other area knows all about our event and cares about it as passionately as we do. And when another area drops the ball, or WE are not communicating as we should, it can be too easy to get a martyr complex and start feeling, and expressing to others, “I’m the ONLY one in this church who cares about the kids!” I would plead with you and your teams that as much as it depends on you, that you would strive to work as a team and be at peace with the other departments of the church. This will mean a lot of over communicating on your part, long before the event, thoroughly following up with heads of departments, a lot of patience, and at times communicating in various ways- email, letters, in person, voicemail and even in a meeting with your lead pastor. You will have to learn the delicate balance between kindness and persistence, forgiveness and confrontation, their needs and your area’s needs. You really can be loving and patient, and still be passionate and persistant about that ministry. Do your best not to burn any bridges while trying to launch your event.  An event is over in days, but the fallout of staff conflict can go on for years. If you know things are going sour, do NOT ignore the tension. Sit down and attempt to talk it out.  If that fails, go in with your leader and that staff person. And above all, keep praying, praying praying. This could be a great opportunity to forge a dynamic working relationship across teams that will last long after this outreach is gone.  God may be using this, these connections to take your every week ministry to another level! And if that other staff person is still not thrilled about a “kid’s event”? Love them anyway, pray that God will change their heart and but you keep your eyes on the goal.
  2. Be prepared to pay the toll- Jesus said “count the cost”. It is best to go into an outreach knowing that this is going to be a HUGE job. It will not be easy. There will be several times you will not feel you have enough help. You will feel that it will flop (especially the week before). Nothing great in life comes for free. An effective kid’s and family outreach will come at a heavy cost- to your energy, your time in general, your talents, time with your family, your emotions and more. Know, going into your outreach, that this is going to be tough, but worth it, and with God’s help, you will reach your goals!
  3. Have your plan in place for follow up and stick to it. Will you have everyone register at the door? Electronically or on paper? Who exactly will be going through the names and listing each and every visitor with emails and phone numbers? Which exact days and times will you- and your TEAM- be doing follow up? Will you use email, letters, phone calls or a combination? Will you split the follow up equally between the people on the team? Make sure you check back with your leaders and make sure they connected with everyone you assigned. I suggest having your follow up letter from you ready to go even before the event. The success of your outreach- by definition- rises and falls on your retention of new people.
  4. Put it in the evenings. More and more parents both have to work. Anything in the evening automatically is viewed as having more importance.

9.  Work hard to get the whole family there. Make it an event that the whole family will enjoy and you are much more                  likely to see that family come back and visit your church again!

10.Adapt the curriculum (without braking copyright!) for your church and your families/culture. How can you best get THIS         group’s attention?

11.Connect your VBS to what your church is doing as a whole. This is so important! As much as possible, tie your event in         to your current kid’s/family programs; this increases your retention by leaps and bounds. Do the kids adore a certain             puppet or costume character at your event? Bring that character back on a regular basis for kid’s church. Was the               icecream social after your VBS a hit with families? Then do it again for back to school. Stand alone events do not have         the impact of an event that ties in or even launches something ongoing at your church.

12.Step up the quality of your weekly kid’s ministry now. Just as important as the outreach itself are the four weeks of               “regular” church immediately after the outreach.  You may be tired, but this is PART of the outreach- not additional.             When those families DO come back to check out your church after an event, they usually give you ONE chance.                   __________________ So make it count; if you really want to grow, you will have to raise the bar- be ready.

13. 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!

Of course, when your outreach is all said and done, praise God you survived.  Every time you complete an outreach or major project in ministry, you learn, grow, and get better.  No outreach is perfect. Overcome and face your fear. And God’s grace shines brighter in our weakness. He can take what little we give and do the impossible. I like this quote: “Better to reach for the stars and come soooo close than to aim for the dirt and hit head on.” Jesus taught us to be “Fisher’s of men”. And we are never more like Jesus than when we welcome His kids and even lay down our lives (and schedules and comfort) to bring them home. I wish you happy and effective fishing. Love Trisha

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Just sharing what my family is going through right now. Could you share this for us? They did not get good news today. Already lots of shares, prayers, positive encouragement left here. And I am so grateful to you all…

Siemona Stevens, a compassionate R.N. herself, is fighting for life! She’s the 32 year old vivacious mother of 4, step mother of 3= 7 children in all! my sister in law (my worship leader etc. brother Shawn’s lovely wife) was just diagnosed with a rare, very aggressive uterine cancer. It has already spread, so she is soon to start incredibly high doses of chemo and radiation 5 days a week for the next 12 weeks. Over half of the family’s income came from her nursing career, but she will be unable to work in the next 12 weeks at least. My brother hopes to hang on to his jobs, while driving her back and forth to treatments daily and caring for the kids. The children range in age from 14 all the way down to 19 months old (baby Noah). I’m working to raise money to cover their household bills for a month or two while she focuses on fighting! If you can donate- please give to encourage this couple to keep fighting. If you cannot give monetarily, will you please take a moment and leave a word of encouragement, a Scripture, a prayer or a suggestion for Siemona? Especially if you or someone you know is a cancer survivor, your words of encouragement are what she needs right now! Please share this with prayer groups, church and cancer groups as you see best. Updates to come! I plan to go down there myself and will post. God Bless- Trisha Stevens Peach

https://www.youcaring.com/siemonaandshawnstevensfamily-885730

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https://www.youcaring.com/siemonaandshawnstevensfamily-885730

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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