Archives for the month of: September, 2018

“Any Christian with half a conscience cannot vote in this election!” he said angrily. “All of these candidates are horrible, and a vote for them is a vote applauding their evil.”

I sat listening to my brother in Christ vent his frustration about the upcoming elections. And to be fair, he has some good points. He is also not alone in his feelings; I have seen a few Christians now on social media afraid to vote this November. I myself have to admit, that before 2016, I completely avoided the news, because it can be so depressing, biased. I think we all sense that this election is different. Our country has never been in this situation before. I’m watching the news VERY closely. And while I love you no matter what you decide to do, I have been praying and thinking a lot about this Nov election, and I would like to offer up some food for thought.
Reason #1 All of the candidates are so awful. Politics have gotten so combative, why even try? Why get involved? I’ll wait till things get better.

My Pushback: History has shown us that many of our American leaders, even presidents, have been less than paragons of morality. There have been so many scandals that I’ve lost count. I fear that if we wait for a candidates that talk, walk and act how we would like, dress how we like, and have an unspotted past, we will never vote again. This is the same thinking I have seen in some Christians about going to church: “I just can’t find a church that isn’t full of hypocrites. Every pastor lets my down. I’m not getting “fed” by any church.” These are usually people who do not go ANYWHERE to church because they are still waiting on that “right” one. The fact is that we live in a broken world. And the more you find out about that candidate, the worse they are going to look. Like it or not, a certain group of people are going to be governing our nation for the next several years. Only God can change a person’s heart- I pray for our government every day- so I am voting the best I can bearing in mind the issues that mean the most to me as a Christian. (A bit more on what those are in a minute).

Reason #2 to stay home and not vote: The Bible doesn’t say anything about voting. Jesus and Paul never voted. We should just stay with separation of church and state. If I do vote, I need to check my Christianity at the door of the booth and vote what might benefit me economically.

My Pushback: The Bible doesn’t address voting that I know of, because voting did not exist, at least not for Palestinian Jews. The Bible also doesn’t address TV, high heels or Miley Cyrus. So we Christians make our decisions on modern moral dilemmas based on the principles that God’s Word DOES show us. And I would bring up the fact that Jesus directly confronted the screwy politics that had infiltrated the church, the governing religious leaders and He even spoke the harsh truth to the appointed political authorities of the day: Pilate, Herod, the Pharisees etc. Jesus did not excuse political corruption; He addressed it head on. And if all Christians had followed the aforementioned “don’t get political” thinking, slavery would still be legal in this country. Christians wishing and hoping slavery would go away did not do a whole lot of good; brave people had to speak up, and inevitably fight it out in the political arena. You can follow Jesus AND fight for justice. My ancestors were all Quakers who fought slavery- in politics. I’m so thankful for people like Martin Luther king Jr. Who followed Jesus AND fought for justice in the political arena. If Christians are going hands off, then we are hoping that someone else will speak up. In our system, everyone has a say (theoretically). We shouldn’t abdicate ours…What a horrible place these arenas would be without Christian input…Yes, there are still Christian politicians fighting hard in our government.

Reason #3- Jesus is just coming back soon anyway so it doesn’t matter who gets elected. And the Bible says the world will continue getting worse and worse until Jesus comes back, so there’s no point in trying.

My Pushback– They say almost one third of Generation X (my generation) is not here today due to abortion. I think that Christian generation was too busy being uninvolved, astetic, non political..too HOLY to be involved in earthly things..sitting on a roof believing Jesus would be back next week. I believe that generation of Christians are partially responsible for that holocaust. God never said every thing that happens was what He wanted. God didn’t bring abortion. He isn’t bringing this current violence and racial hate. We’re supposed to be salt and light in a very dark world. We still have a choice. I want to know that I spoke up. That I at least tried to speak for those who couldn’t. And sure, I know things will be horrible in our world when Jesus comes back. But we do not know the day or hour. We are supposed to stay busy serving for Him until He returns. We don’t have time to waste sitting on a rooftop.

Reason #4- It’s just one more pointless election that won’t change anything. It is the same old same old and doesn’t affect me or my family.

My Pushback- As you may have heard by now, the outcome for the Supreme Court and the laws of our land, federal judgeships, the direction of our nation literally hang on what happens Nov 6. (We know God is sovereign- and sometimes He allows us to wallow in the aftermath of our laziness or terrible judgment…aka 40 more years around Mt. Sinai?) These lawmakers will make, repeal the law of the land which affects us all. Abortion, religious freedom, school choice, fight against terrorism, taxation, health care…so much is at stake. Truly this is a battle for the soul of our nation. Shouldn’t Christians speak into that?

Please know, no matter who you vote for, or don’t vote for, I love you bunches. Can we stop all the hatred, name calling, posturing etc.? I saw several posts today that said, “If you don’t vote for ____________, you are not saved.” I must have missed that verse. But we DO need to educate ourselves, and keep learning this balance of being IN the world, but not OF this world. Let’s shine wherever we can in this dark world. And please keep praying about this coming election and for our nation and our world. In ask upcoming post, I’ll be talking about the key issues that decided how I will vote. What about you? Do you believe a Christian should vote, even if they do not like any of the candidates? Are we Christians treating each other in a loving manner this election? Love Trisha

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I hope you all enjoyed the tips from part 1 last week, on how to make sure more parents attend your parent meetings and more volunteers attend your trainings. It is so important to increase attendance at these meetings! Here are a few more strategies to try:

  1. Honor their time by keeping to the point and being brief. Stick to your notes. Better to end early than irritate people with a never-ending meeting. Yes, you probably have a lot of things on your heart to go over, that need changing in the kids’ area, but this is not the time for that. Stick to the reason you have them there. If you don’t, they won’t come to the next one.
  2. Do not give out information early. This is an important lesson I learned as a children’s pastor. When I went on staff at a certain church, I was told that “no one shows up for parent or volunteer meetings.” I wondered why. Then I called a meeting about an important security change. Right away the phone calls started coming in. “Um, I can’t make the meeting. What’s the announcement?” “We are out of town. Just give me the details.” Right away I realized why no one came to the meetings. There was no reason to. They got a few abbreviated details over the phone, passed them on to each other, and skipped the meetings. The meetings were no longer of any importance. People were shocked as I told them one by one, “I’m sorry to hear that. This will be a very important change happening. I want it to first be presented to the people present. Wouldn’t want it to get out over the grapevine. I highly suggest you get with one of those who were there after you return and get their notes. That’s a bummer, because I really would have liked your input. But maybe after you get back you can make an appointment with me and I can try to catch you up.” This had a dramatic effect. First they pushed for more info. I held to my guns very politely and wished them a great trip. Word got out that something “big” was going on. Nine times out of ten “their schedule just cleared up.” And I spoke to a packed house. Give them a reason to show up and be really present. Ask yourself these questions: Is this change something you want discussed in the court of public opinion before you even present it? Do you want to give ammo to those who resist change? Do you want parents and volunteers serving with only partial or possibly incorrect information? Do not call a parent or volunteer meeting for any petty reason. But when you determine that the change affects everyone and they need to be there, do not give out an abbreviated version before the event.
  3. Give people a chance to provide input, feedback, and ask questions. Be prepared to give well-researched answers to their questions. If you do not know the answer, take down the questioner’s name and respond, “I’m not sure, but I will find out.” You will gain parent support and more volunteers if you allow honest feedback and questions. I usually take notes during that time. People will show up if they have buy-in.
  4. Do not let anyone monopolize the discussion. Especially if you are a young or new children’s leader, stay in charge of that meeting and keep it on the task at hand. Do not allow the topic to get derailed to something else. Do not let it be a forum for debate. Your response when challenged sets the tone for your ministry. Also, don’t be defensive or argumentative. You’re not trying to lead the meeting, you are leading it. It is not the place to aim anything at anyone or have a great big public argument. There are people in this world who jump at the chance for public drama. That is the biggest drawback to having a parent or volunteer meeting. Don’t give anyone a pulpit for a public drama. Shut down anything nasty as soon as it starts.  Many parents and volunteers do not want to attend group meetings or trainings because they know someone always monopolizes the meetings and/or they become negative bashing sessions. You can change this perception. If someone starts something say something like this:

“That is a whole different discussion, for another time. Make an appointment to see me about that” (they usually won’t because they want an audience).

“Okay, let’s hear what some other parents think about this topic.”

“Interesting, but for the sake of time, let’s stay on topic.”

“I know you probably have more you would like to share on this topic. Good thing I am putting my email up on the screen! I am also handing out these feedback forms. Please put your name on it if you wish to be contacted. Everyone please fill out a feedback form and leave it on your chair.” (Instead of public meetings, some churches now use only email and forms for feedback. I understand why.)

Remember that the purpose of the meeting is to communicate vision, convey information, and occasionally to garner feedback. It is not a debate. Do not imply that the church’s decisions are being debated or being voted on. You are letting them know that a decision has been made or that a change is coming. Never use one of these meetings to attack someone or any area of the church. Do not retaliate in any way if someone makes a snide comment. You set the tone. Make sure the parent or volunteer meeting is a positive, uplifting, and beneficial experience for everyone involved. Make all of your parents and volunteers eager to be at any meeting you call.

Can you think of any more tips on getting people to your meetings? Please share in the comments below so we can all have better, more effective, better attended trainings and meetings. Love and blessings! TrishaIMG_20160503_082534

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Some information—the very important turns and changes in the ministry, whether they be leadership changes, curriculum or scheduling changes—must be clearly communicated to the parents and leaders. But how do you go about relaying it to parents and volunteers? You are going to have to be strategic, persistent, and consistent to get information across. So I encourage you to use some or all of these methods to convey information:

  1. Use live meetings with a big group sparingly. Mass meetings are not a method to use weekly. They should be only by used to convey something of great importance (examples: major curriculum change, service times change, key leader stepping down, brand new security procedures that affect everyone). That way, when you call a meeting, they will know it’s important.
  2. Advertise it at least one month in advance, and advertise it in many ways.
  3. Be specific. Who is supposed to be present? When you say “parent meeting,” is that all parents? Parents of kids up to twelve years old? Parents are understandably irritated if they clear their schedule (especially if they paid a sitter) to go to your important meeting, only to find out you didn’t mean them. Which volunteers did you need at this training and why? Be specific about the location. Can anyone find that room if they are new? What time is it? Is there child care provided? How long will the meeting be? Indicate why the meeting is important, like a leadership or curriculum change, but don’t go into too much detail. One church I visited handed out a leaflet during the service that said, “Parent meeting right after service in the choir room.” Parents were in a mass of confusion. I heard them saying, “Meeting right after which service?” “Why do we have to go? Is the pastor leaving?” “I’m a parent of two junior-highers. Do I have to go?” “I’m new. Where on earth is the choir room?” That parent meeting was a total disaster. I heard that the youth pastor who called the meeting never made that mistake again. But sadly the congregation didn’t forget it soon either.
  4. Be respectful of people’s time. I didn’t fully understand this when I was a new children’s pastor, but now that I have kids of my own, it makes more sense. For example, do everything in your power not to take another night of the week. Parents and volunteers are already, on average, gone at least five nights a week with church, sports, recitals, plays, and so on. If you pick a night during the week, unless it is an emergency meeting, many will not be there. And the ones who show up want a sense that this was important to take some of the only family time they might have that whole week. Try to have the meeting when they are at church already—first service, if you have two (this takes care of someone to watch their kids too); directly after a service (some will complain about lunch); before or after midweek service (some will complain if it gets late for their kids to be out on a school night). No matter when you pick, someone will complain, so you cannot please everyone, but try to be considerate. They will already be resentful of you if they feel you do not care about their family time, and you need them on your team!
  5. I do not recommend sending out a survey asking what time to have the meeting. You will get thirty-seven different answers; one person will get their way (and probably not show up) and the rest will think, “no one cares that I filled out the survey” and not show up. I personally ask one or two people I trust and then make a decision and stick with it.
  6. This is going to sound awful, like bribery, because it is bribery, but we always have more people show up when we offer food. So we offer refreshments if we really need people to hear what we have to say. Advertise that you will have refreshments!

Please stay tuned for next week’s part 2! What are your best tips for getting your team to trainings and your parents to parent meetings? Love and blessings- Trisha

 

Everyone knows that a change in pastoral leadership, for any reason, can be a tough situation for your church, staff, volunteers and families. But did you know that what you DO during this crucial time of transition will GREATLY impact your church’s ministries either for growth and healthy change or for hurt and damage for a long time to come? But do not panic! Let’s take a look at some very common mistakes that leaders make during transitions in church leadership and some tips on how to make a transition more positive for everyone.

Mistake #1 Announcing that nothing is going to change with this transition in leadership. Everything will stay the same.

Tip: Be HONEST with the leaders, the church, the volunteers and with yourself. There WILL be change. Change occurs all the time, with any growth, leadership transitions, and time. During a transition in any part of the church leadership team there WILL be changes. I actually sat in a church service and heard a pastor promise the congregation that “absolutely nothing would change” when his successor came in the next week. In fact he said, “they wouldn’t even be able to tell the difference, or even that he had left.” Internally I groaned. He had just promised the church something that could NEVER be delivered. And within a VERY few short weeks, people were angry and complaining that “things felt different” and “the new guy wants to do something new”. I don’t believe in making promises to your leaders, parents and kids that you can’t keep. And it also isn’t fair to whoever is coming in! That person WILL have their own style, giftings and ministry. And it is wrong to expect them to be someone else, or to keep someone else’s ministry on life support indefinitely. God will be using that NEW leader and THEIR giftings in wonderful new ways. During a time of transition, it is so important for everyone to stay flexible, and to hold their expectations loosely. Don’t promise that nothing will change. Promise that you are all doing your best to make this a smooth transition, promise to care about your leaders, your parents and your kids. Promise that what matters to them, matters to you. Promise to find (or be) the very best leader you can possibly be and to listen and obey God the best you can, each and every week. And make sure to keep those promises.

Myth #2 Jumping in to change things- IMMEDIATELY, as much as possible, without listening to those in the trenches and those who were there before.

Tip: Smart leaders WAIT, WATCH and LISTEN a LOT at first. Listen to parents, volunteers, staff and perhaps even your predecessor. I thought I would jump out of my skin waiting to make changes at my last children’s pastorate, but we kicked off programs with quality and impact instead of throwing them together. And I was SO glad we waited and prepared. One of the biggest mistakes a leader can make is going in like a wrecking ball and bowling over people in your wake. Those people are not “in the way of your ministry”- they ARE your ministry. Most lead pastors have recurrent nightmares about getting a new children’s leader who barges in, offends people, causes solid long term leaders to quit and parents to complain. Yes, you WILL need to make changes, and some people are not going to like them. But take the time up front to build RELATIONSHIPS and vision cast. That way, when it is time to take that ministry further, God-willing, much of your team will be on board with you for the long haul.

Myth #3 I can gain more credibility by discrediting my predecessor.

Tip: Never ever ever ever X4 tear down the one before you. Here’s why: a. there will always be some people- parents, volunteers and staff, who DID like and connect with your predecessor- no matter how things were when they left. It is not worth it to alienate those people. They highly supported the last pastor, and may just support you too. b. You set the tone of your ministry there. If you set a note of tearing people down, they’ll tear you down too eventually. Set a tone of love, and encouragement from the start. c. You do NOT have all the sides of the story. You may find after a year or two, you agree with the last guy now, and you’ll have to eat those words. d. If there had been a scandal, or the former pastor left on a bad note, don’t keep associating yourself and your ministry with that scandal by constantly bringing it up (tearing them down). Make a BREAK with it. e. Your biggest job right now will be to gain the trust of other staff/parents you may cross paths with. No one is going to trust someone that is putting others down. f. Putting down the former pastor doesn’t make you look better, it makes you look more insecure. You do not need to “break” anyone’s loyalty to a former pastor. Be glad they appreciate and miss the one that left. Then give them a ministry they can appreciate and be excited about right now.

Transitions are tough, but they are the only way to the great things God has in store! How exciting! love Trisha

What tips do you have for surviving and thriving in a time of transition?