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When I was little, I was terrified of that story of the talents- the one where God gets mad at the guy for hiding his gift in the sand and not using it.??? I felt constant guilt, that I could really soar if I just tried hard enough. I was so SCARED of God giving up on me and putting me on the shelf- I told Him I would do ANYTHING- janitorial, etc. I just wanted Him to use me, and not be disappointed in me. I remember looking at the tool box there at our little church, wishing and praying that I could be a “hammer” for Jesus- something powerful and useful and needed. Or a power drill- they are awesome and expensive and wanted. I determined to try my hardest to be that hammer for God- the BEST, the toughest. Desperate not to be put on the shelf as a disappointment. Then one day, just a couple of years ago, this all came back to me, when my grampa Barker died. I was remembering how he always had this rusty old pocket knife on him everywhere he went in his breastpocket. It was from his navy days in world war 2. He used it everyday for EVERYTHING- paint scraping, tooth picking, apple cutting, undoing screws, cutting the dogs nails etc. It was close to his heart so much, that even after he was gone, it still smelled like him. And in that moment, God said to me, (okay now I am crying), Trish, kid, you’re my pocket knife. Not a hammer, or a big power drill that comes out one in awhile for a big project and then goes back. You are my pocket knife. When I need someone for a job, I call you and you are there. Big jobs, little jobs, icky and glamourous. I know you will say yes, and you don’t fail me. I use you all the time, and best of all, after each job you go right back close to my heart, so that every time I pull you out front you bring the “smell” of me, and the heat of my Presence to those around- you remind them of Me. You don’t have to fight anymore to be a hammer. I didn’t want another hammer. I’m pretty happy with my pocket knife.” I lay there in the dark and sobbed. I guess I am okay with not being a “hammer for God” anymore. I know I am not a disappointment to Him. And being a pocket knife feels pretty darn good. You will fly higher than even I can imagine (and that is pretty far). And you are never a disappointment to Him. He made you perfectly for what you do. And no one else can do that. There are a lot of hammer and powerdrills in this world. But not many beloved pocket knives. I believe in you, and God does too. Be who He created YOU to be. Love Trisha

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Fall Kidmin kickoffs are almost here, ready or not, and soon another season of weekends, midweek, outreaches and recruitment will be here and gone. So this may seem like an odd time to be talking about planning your volunteers trainings? It’s not. This is the perfect time to be planning your volunteer trainings. And here’s why-

A. You already know how important ongoing training is for keeping your kid’s ministry team sharp, up to date and current. Volunteer trainings should never be a “one and done” deal. We should all be growing and learning together always! If you want to make sure your trainings are the best they can be, if you want your trainings to meet the needs of your leaders then you will need to plan ahead, starting NOW to make sure they are done with EXCELLENCE.

B. We KNOW how difficult it can be to get our volunteers to our trainings! Statistics tell us that they need to hear about it 8 separate times in order for your information about that training to break through all the other “white noise of information” we are bombarded with daily. Do NOT plan your trainings last minute. Do not try to advertise your trainings in less than 5 weeks time. I highly suggest you plan out all of your trainings for next year NOW. We do 5-6 volunteer training every school year and put them on a calendar that EVERY volunteer receives at the start of each season. Then they get reminders as we go along.

C. The number 1 complaint of brand new volunteer leaders is usually, “I was not given enough training for the position before I was left by myself.” You will need to plan ahead to have enough variety. You will need to include classes for brand new volunteers to prepare them for the positions they will be serving in. And you need to plan for this NOW if you want to have enough time to advertise and work to get your new recruits THERE.

D. We have never had a lot of luck with doing summer volunteer trainings. For us, it is just the nature of the beast living in the north. As soon as the summer hits, people are gone, gone, gone. So summer is the perfect time to PLAN for the most amazing volunteer trainings for the school year- right now, you have 3 months to make sure that your 5-6 volunteer trainings during the school year are the best, most fruitful and highest attended they have ever been!

E. If you are bringing in outside speakers for your training, that should NOT be done last minute. If you decide that you would like to do a training on special needs kid’s ministry, and you would like to bring in an expert to give tips to your leaders, this summer would be the time to start contacting people and asking about their availability. Get the best talent locked in NOW to come speak for your leaders; don’t make your quality speakers an afterthought (they will be busy!).

F. Topics for trainings should not be picked flippantly. Nor should you just do the ones you always have. The needs of your leaders will change just as the needs of your children and families will change. Take the time right now to pray, talk with your lead pastor and other children’s pastors- what are the key issues your volunteers need training and equipping in RIGHT NOW? Special needs kids ministry? Death and Divorce Care? Equipping Families? Recruitment? Self-devotions? Early Childhood? Dynamic Kid’s Worship? Creative Large Group? Positive Classroom Discipline? Choose carefully and prayerfully!

G. Church calendars fill up FAST. Get your plans on that calendar NOW. You may even have other departments of the church who may wish to attend some of those trainings with you!

You can probably tell that I am passionate about training our kids and family ministry leaders! Are you interested in having me do a training for your leaders at YOUR church this next school year? The perfect time to message me is ….you guessed it, this summer- pastortrisha@gmail.com or trisha@peach.im. I’d love to do a training at your church for your leaders on the topics that you are interested in the MOST. Let’s chat.

Have fun planning those trainings and happy summer everyone! Pastor Trisha

Every ministry leader needs to be effective at managing change or they won’t last long in todays culture. This book provides practical concepts for innovating change in children’s ministry. Trisha has consulted our children’s ministry department with her concepts and helped us successfully navigate several areas of ministry change. We are grateful for the insights she shares in this book!”
Bob Griffith
Executive Pastor of Family Ministries
Journey Church, Kenosha WI
www.ourjourneychurch.com

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The student ministries pastor has “scaled back” midweek services for the summer. The lead pastor is off with his family on vacation to somewhere amazing- judging by his facebook photos! The associate pastor is so chill right now (he’s growing a full on beard!) because he has “limited” small group sessions planned this summer. He’s using summer to work on fall. So why oh why are you, dear kid’s ministry leader, frying like an egg out on that hot hot hot sidewalk? Summer is not a break for children’s ministry leaders. It is typically VERY busy. Here are just a few reasons that summer can be tough for kid’s ministry leaders:

  1. Most of you have a summer outreach-or two. VBS, Summer Camps, Drama Camp, Sports Camp, Sidewalk Sunday School etc. This is one of your craziest, most impactful seasons of the whole year! And all of these outreaches are usually in ADDITION to your regular ministry times on Sundays and midweek. Which can make it more frustrating that…
  2. Your volunteers are AWAL. Those summer outreaches usually need a LOT of man and woman power. But your volunteers will be taking their vacations and will be off of their usual schedule. I live in the great state of WI. After so many months of bitter cold and snow, many of our leaders literally head out to go camping- ALL SUMMER. The ones who stay on in the summer, still have their vacations to go on.
  3. Parents are EXTREMELY distracted. The parents of the kids in your ministry are carrying out vacations, summer sports, family trips, family reunions, prepping for fall school etc. If your parents and volunteers need to be told something 8 times during the school year before it “sticks”, I think they need to hear information 17 times during the busyness of summer (also during the Holidays).  I do not give out a lot of very important information during the summer. Make SURE you make parents and leaders aware of all important summer dates BEFORE school lets out. We have our parent and volunteer meetings right after school starts.
  4. Your attendance drops. Most churches report that their Sunday and midweek attendance dips in the summer (including the kid’s ministry programs). In the past, when we tried to have a volunteer training or parent meeting in the summer, almost no one showed up.  Do not let this discourage you. It happens to us all. I do not showcase my amazing new curriculum in the summer. I usually pull out a smaller curriculum, tried and true, and then take new risks with it- like REALLY messy games, water play, or a guest speaker who enters on stilts! Summer is a great time to try some newer things with perhaps “older” lessons. Our focus changes in the summer to making VBS and Camp AMAZING and also preparing for the fall kickoffs.

A Few Summer Survival Tips for Those of Us in Children’s Ministry:

  1. Do communicate frequently with your lead pastor and other staff. Many times they have NO idea how difficult summer is for you. They are throttling down while you are ramping up. Let the staff know how crazy this season can get for you.
  2. Try recruiting a whole separate set of volunteer leaders for your regular services in the summer. I started recruiting a small group of summer leaders that would commit for those 12 weeks. Then I gave all of my leaders the option to take summer off. Some stayed all summer and loved it. Others came back to the ministry in the fall. Our retention level is very high. Many said they respected that we value them as people, and we want to see them building their own families too.
  3. Plan Plan Plan. The earlier in the year you start planning for your summer outreaches, the better they will go. Plan downtimes for yourself as well after EVERY event. Try as hard as you can not to plan your outreaches back to back or right off of an all church event. AS tough as it is, try to take your day/days off.
  4. Give yourself a “light at the end of the tunnel.” Most people can push through a tough time if they know there is great reward on the other side, and that the tough time is only temporary. We know the reward for our summer outreaches is beyond measure- children and families coming to know Christ, our church and the kingdom expanding, our community a better place etc. But too often we feel like that insane pace of ministry should be happening at all times, year round. Ministry has SEASONS. For me, fall is my “breather.” After we get all of our fall programs kicked off and running smoothly, I have a couple of weeks that are a bit “saner.” But I have to work hard and plan before that to make sure I do not burn out. I can push through a tough patch of summer, when I focus on the amazing impact of these outreaches and the smoother season to come.
  5. You need to delegate and build teams. And this takes time and patience. Sometimes you have to have a few “wins” under your belt before your dream team will jump on board. But I highly suggest teams to help with each outreach, and above all a prayer team that you meet with regularly. You need others encouraging you and cheering you on as you run that “ball” through to the end zone.

How about you? How are summers different fromIMG_0017 the rest of the year in your ministry? What have you found that helps you the most in your summer ministry?

Love and encouragement always,

Trisha

 

So, you decided to do a “family service,” which is a church service that includes all generations. Instead of splitting up the family into age segregated classes, the family sits together and worships together. The benefits to a service like this are many- parents showing spiritual leadership in their family, children are a part of the church as a whole, and all of the family can talk about the same things on the ride home from church and for the rest of the week! And by the way, FAMILY events are big right now, even in the secular world and in our culture. Want proof? What were the highest attended and highest grossing films of the last few years? Shrek, Finding Nemo, Toy Story, Frozen etc….These are all movies that the entire family can watch together. The kids love it, but there are funny “gems” in the storyline and dialogue for the adults too. Family restaurants are making more money than ever. Family night at your child’s school will probably be totally packed out. Family services and events are well attended and going strong- everywhere but the church at times.

So why do churches not try to do family services more often? And when they do, why do family services sometimes fall flat? With so much potential benefit, what could possibly go wrong? Well, here are a few real life responses I’ve heard to the idea of having a family service:

“Nobody told me there wouldn’t be childcare. If I had known I would have stayed home.”

“Our pastor doesn’t want to try a family service, because he is afraid parents will just go down the street to a church that has children’s programs.”

“I’m with my kids all week. I absolutely must have a break.”

“I cannot worship with the distraction of my children.”

“Our pastor cannot preach with infants or children making noise. Our ushers are trained to immediately remove any child making noise. It’s even in our bulletin.”

“I do not believe it could work to have  my special needs child in the main service. She would be too disruptive.”

Have you heard any of those responses? When you are trying to change a paradigm and a culture, the above responses can be frustrating and discouraging. And I do understand that we must change the mentality of parents from “I drop my kid off at childcare. You lead them to Jesus and disciple them. I’ll be back in a hour” to “I am the spiritual leader of my child.” Remember, it took time to train parents to become that way and it will take time to change things now. We cannot give up. But what I want to propose here is this: Before we go blaming the parents for not wanting to sit with their children, have we done all we can do to truly create a “family service”? Well, what is a family service?

Most of our problems with having a family service would be resolved if we understood what a family service is NOT. A family service is NOT:

  1. A service just like all the others, with no difference in the lineup, themes or preparation. It is really geared for adults, decorated for adults, with songs, sermons and illustrations for adults only.
  2. A service that “allows” children to be in the sanctuary, as long as they do not interfere with the “adult” service. Children are not engaged. In fact, they are told to sit silently, color on the back of the bulletin. No one is really concerned whether the children take anything away from the service. The only goal is for the adults to like the songs and the sermon. So the goal for the children by default is silence, and not to distract adults.                                                                                                                                   A service that ALLOWS children is miles away from a service that WELCOMES children and families.
  3. A service as “punishment.” I’ve actually heard of churches having a family service because “no one is volunteering to work in children’s ministry.” The thinking goes like this: “If the parents have to suffer through having their children in the service with them long enough, eventually they will give in and volunteer.” AHHHHHH! Family ministry services should never be used as punishment. In fact, I cringe when I hear kid’s ministry leaders threaten a child with “If you don’t stop acting up, you’re going to Big Church. I mean it! You’ll sit with your parents! God have mercy on your soul….” We are making a family worship service, (sitting in the main sanctuary with their parents) the worst of all punishments, reserved only for very bad behavior. This has got to stop!

So, how can we completely revision our idea of a “Family Service”? What should it look like? What COULD it look like? How do we intentionally craft a dynamic worship experience that will minister across the generations and not just one age group?

Stay tuned for Part 2 next week “Family Services: the ReBoot, Strategies for Crafting a Better Intergenerational Church Service.”

How about you? How have your experiences been with having family services at your church? How would you like to see the family services at your church improve?

love Trishakids2

 

depositphotos_126258766-stock-illustration-many-receipts-and-hand-holdingWhy should I have to turn in my receipts!? But Trish, you just don’t understand. The people in our finance office are always after me to turn in my receipts for kid’s church expenses, and to fill out paperwork for reimbursement! Then they want to know specifics about what exactly the money was used for and why. It’s like they don’t believe me.  And that hurts! I mean, I’m a LEADER in the kid’s ministry! I’m sacrificing here to make this happen. Sometimes I get so irritated by all of their questions that I just pay for it myself rather than deal with the paperwork. I shouldn’t have to explain why I need this or what I’m going to do with it. I signed up to work with kids; I don’t want to explain all this to adults. And I’m a kid’s leader- not a finance person. So what if I can’t find some of the receipts, or a paper or two? They are nitpicking, which means they don’t care about the kids. Why can’t the finance people be supportive of the kid’s ministry? It’s like they keep us from getting ministry done. I am a minister, and I’ve been at this church for _____ years.They should just trust me! Why can’t they just trust me?”

I have heard this argument so many times over the years from frustrated children’s ministry leaders. It is almost a cliche, and a joke at kid’s pastor meetings, that creative, absent minded children’s leaders are going to butt heads repeatedly with the logical, calculating finance people. And I do want to say, that I do understand that their needs to be balance. The children’s leader needs to feel appreciated, respected and valued; AND they need to have a voice at the table that makes those financial decisions. Children should make up at least 25 percent of your church body, which impacts all those parents and all those volunteers etc. Anyone with that much influence should have a VERY large portion of the church’s overall budget, AND a strong voice when it comes to making financial decisions that impact the church and/or the kid’s ministry.

Having said that, however, I want to pause for a moment here and say emphatically: Dear children’s leader, NO they should NOT just trust you. And you need to see those finance people at your church as allies and safeguards for you, and work VERY hard not to be a source of frustration for them. And here are a few reasons why:

  1. There are relatively few failures in ministry that have the potential to destroy you, your family and your entire ministry, now and possibly for life. The first of course is a sexual fall. But secondly, right behind that, is a conviction for mishandling, misappropriating MONEY. What has taken down so many pastors, ministers, televangelists and missions organizations in the past decade? Mishandling money- embezzlement, putting funds to an area illegally, not paying appropriate fees, etc. etc. etc. Yes, it is that serious. It is no longer optional for churches to have safeguards in place. These kinds of scandals destroy lives, churches, ministries- and worse, they drag the name of Jesus and Christianity right through the mud on every news channel. And these scandals LINGER in people’s minds for years to come. Many charities reported a net loss of income last year and attributed it to “lack of trust” from the public to religious organizations, after so many money scandals have hit the news. Churches MUST be more responsible now than ever before.
  2. Those finance people are also there to protect YOU and that ministry. We already said that one scandal can forever marr your ministry. But sometimes all it takes is someone irritated with you making accusations that cast doubt in people’s minds. During those times, and if you are ever formally accused of mishandling money, those finance people are your saving grace and your very best friend. And you will thank God on your knees for every receipt you turned in to prove exactly where that money went.  When I worked as a security trainer, we had a rule, “If it isn’t in writing, it didn’t happen.” What that means is, it is too late after the fact, when you are already in hot water to try to figure out which money went where. One of the KEY functions of your church’s finance officer/office is to keep great WRITTEN records- every form, every receipt, every budget request. Please understand this: “ONLY WHAT IS IN WRITING IS GOING TO COUNT.” If anything ever did go to court, no is just going to “trust you.” And your word on it is going to mean less than nothing. Those receipts, and those records will either be your saving grace or your downfall. DON’T fight your finance office on keeping careful records.
  3. Everyone needs accountability. EVERYONE. Even a pastor. And whenever someone continually resists being accountable, it begins to look suspicious. Too many awful moral failures have happened because leaders refused to be accountable to anyone. That is not Biblical. And they shouldn’t have to chase you down and force you to be accountable. You should be willingly open to Biblical accountability- and MONEY is a huge part of that. Be accountable. Some pastors I know made it a policy that it takes two signers on any church check, or that whenever the church credit card is used the finance director gets a report. This is an example of willing accountability. Nothing done with the church money should ever be done with only one person’s knowledge. Nothing should be done without a paper trail. No one should have to sneak around to act with church money. If these things are going on, something is very wrong, and it will come back around to bite you.
  4. This is people’s tithe money. This is even more important that someone’s 401K, to God. This is people’s hard earned, faith given, oft times SACRIFICIAL giving. And no one in church leadership should ever take that huge responsibility lightly. Every single cent needs to be well accounted for, and used with wisdom for God’s kingdom. God’s holds His ministers to a higher standard. So we should be extremely careful to be good stewards of God’s money- people’s TITHE money.
  5. You are responsible to explain what you need for ministry to the leadership of the church. Even if you say, “but I just wanted to be with the kids.” Part of your job as a children’s leader is to accurately and effectively communicate to the church’s leadership, what your ministry needs to be successful. And that will entail giving some rationale. That means you will have to explain some things like, “This is what JumpStart3 is. This is why I feel we should get it. This is what it costs. Here is why I chose it over ______________.” Your board is probably not in kid’s church every week. They may have no IDEA what the difference is between a PVC puppet stage and an aluminum travel stage. And you will need to do your homework, legwork and research. Make a good case for what you need. And if they say no, take it graciously and don’t burn bridges. Don’t gossip and don’t pout. Wait, pray, and keep track of your numbers- build a better case and try again. If you are asked to explain WHY you need such a costly curriculum, be grateful! Grateful that you have the change to talk about the kid’s ministry and vision cast to a part of the church who may not know what God has been doing in there- it’s a chance to speak up and connect!

So I cannot say it is easy to feel like you are always defending and that you not being trusted. But please know, those financial safeguards are there for a reason. Maybe this week would be a good week to bring your financial officer an extra large apple cider- and turn in your receipts. All my best and God bless. Trisha

 

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Question for pastors and lay ministry leaders: How much of your time as a ministry leader is spent doing counseling? What situations have you been called upon to do counseling for?

Pastors often are asked to do counseling, for a variety of situations, including marital counseling, children with anger or other emotional issues, addictions (alcoholism, drug abuse, pornography etc), depression, parenting and much more. Why do some people choose to go to their pastor or church leader for counseling? Well, reasons for turning to the church for counseling can include:

A. Money- church counseling is often free

B. Comfort level- a person may be anxious about going to a new place and talking to a stranger, so they will seek counseling at a place they already consider “safe.”

C. Stigma- there is unfortunately, still a lingering social stigma in some people’s minds or some cultures, against seeking “professional help.” This stigma seems to say that those who seek professional counseling are weaker, are “severely impaired” or are “in sin” for not trusting God. This erroneous line of thinking seems to stem from the notion that any professional help outside the church is somehow wrong. I sure hope they don’t take this approach to brain surgery.

D. Quick fix- some, not all, of the people who seek church counseling rather than secular help are hoping to have a faster answer to their problems. Therapy sounds like a lot of hard work, and a lot of time. It sounds easier to pray a prayer, read a few Scriptures and have the situation be all better.

E. Loneliness- as humans we are hardwired to interact with others. Some people seek out counseling with their pastor to have that one on one communication and someone to talk to.

For countless years, pastors and church leaders have been doing counseling on various situations. And most pastors are in ministry because of a calling and a deep LOVE for people. So what could possible go wrong? A LOT. Here are a few pitfalls to look out for if you, and/or your team, are routinely doing counseling (non-professionally) at your church:

1. It can become a massive time drain. For years our large staff would do counseling for free for anyone who asked. But over time, the demand for hours made it almost impossible for me or my staff to get our kid’s ministry services planned for. Counseling 7-8 people began to take precedence over ministry services for 600 kids and their families. I got into ministry due to a strong calling to love and reach kids and families- and counseling was definitely a part of that- but I needed balance. I thought I was obligated to counsel anyone who asked, but my bigger obligation was to the ministry I was there to do (our weekend and midweek services). Left to itself, counseling can easily become most if not all of your job rather quickly.

2. Most pastors are NOT trained counselors. As yourself, “What has my training really prepared me for?” My intention here is not to offend. But ministry leaders typically have an education, background and experience in ministry- not mental health or addiction.  I am not trained or equipped to fix your car- I would send you to a mechanic. I also would be the worst possible person in the world to paint your living room. I am also not trained to counsel someone through memories of severe sexual abuse. You are a minister- you really do not have to be EVERYTHING to EVERYONE. We have to admit that we are not trained to handle a lot of counseling situations- suicidal depression, cutting, bulemia, borderline personality disorder etc. I’ll be totally real here- my mandatory pastoral counseling class was only 3 credits, many years ago, and I do not remember a whole lot of it….That is not enough training for me to counsel a lot of conditions.

3. Too many scandals have already made the news of inappropriate relationships between pastors and the ones they were “counseling.” Use a lot of wisdom before you spend a whole lot of time alone with someone who is emotionally raw and vulnerable. In fact, do not ever do counseling truly “alone”. I keep my door open, or include my husband (who DOES have a psychology degree), and/or I meet in a room with a LOT of windows, during the busiest time of the day in the office. If you are not careful, your love for people and compassion, could cause you to compromise yourself and your reputation, leading to horrendous damage to that person, your church and your ministry as a whole.

4. There have been several lawsuits already against pastors for “terrible counseling advice.” For example, if a teenager you are counseling for suicidal depression actually kills herself…will the family be satisfied that you did your best? It is not a good idea to represent yourself as a trained counselor when you are not one. If you set up people’s expectations that you are a trained, licensed therapist when you are not, and then your advice goes wrong- or is simply misinterpreted- you can set yourself and your church up for a lawsuit.

5. You may end up with an open ended “black hole” situation. Any minister who has been doing this awhile knows what I am talking about when I say, “A person who is a black hole of need.” This is a situation where the person/family will never get enough of your attention or time.  They will need more and more of your schedule; and there will be NO natural end of the DRAMA. The connection with you will become inappropriate- breaking into your family and recreational time. This is not about any one situation or problem; this becomes an addiction to YOU, to attention and to drama. And it will never end on its own. And people who have these needs will come out of the woodwork looking for you, as soon as it is well known that you do endless free counseling. They will monopolize your time until your family time, personal life, and all other ministry ventures suffer. As a responsible pastor, you cannot allow that to continue to go on.

So what can we do then? Never do any counseling at all? I do know some churches who have forbidden their ministers to do any counseling at all. If you plan to continue to offer counseling at all (full disclosure, I still do at times), please consider taking the following important precautions:

1. Do not commit to counsel anyone who asks every time. Anyone who is interested in counseling should call and ask for an appointment. Decide ahead of time and put in WRITING what you are prepared to do counseling on and what you are not. For me, I will talk to parents about parenting issues, to children who are grieving (I took special grief counseling training etc), and to children having deep spiritual questions/concerns.  I refer people immediately who are suicidal, being abused, or may be in danger.

2. We follow a rule of three. Most of the time, we only meet with someone a maximum of 3 times before we refer them to a professional counselor. Three sessions only keeps the situation from being open ended and going on forever, monopolizing your time. If they need more than 3 sessions, it MAY be outside of your scope of expertise anyway.

3. Do not meet completely alone. Do not meet in complete secrecy. DO include your spouse or another staff person if necessary. Do NOT meet in their home. Do NOT meet in your home. Meet during office hours, NOT after dark. Do NOT go off alone with this person anywhere, ever.

4. Remember that being compassionate does not mean saying yes to everything. You are still in control. You can say NO to endless sessions, or to a poor time/place choice. At times it is the MOST compassionate answer to refer someone to a better place for help and support. If your gut is saying something wrong, trust it and refer that person on.

5. Build a great repoire with the professional counselors in your area. KNOW what is offered in your community, for free or on a sliding scale. KNOW which counselors you trust. If possible, have that relationship with amazing counselors that you can refer parishioners with confidence. Some churches actually have a counselor on staff or a counseling center that they are affiliated with. Know all about these options and make referrals.

6. Go get more training. I found free grief counseling training/certifications right in my own city. It was a lifesaver for helping me to help kids and families dealing with loss, divorce and death. Always be educating yourself to increase your ministry effectiveness, but know when to defer.

So what are your thoughts? How have you handled pastoral counseling at your church/in your ministry? What do you think our scope of pastoral counseling should include? Love Trisha

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 this summer? 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: You can get a copy of “Your Children’s Ministry From Scratch” TODAY at http://www.kidology.org. Already have your book? Please make sure to rate it on Amazon- I read each and every review. God bless!

Taken From The UpComing Book “Your Kid’s Ministry: Year Two and Beyond”, Sequel to “Your Children’s Ministry From Scratch”.

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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Taken from my first book, “Your Children’s Ministry From Scratch” (Amazon)

And now an important word about men and children’s ministry: In my humble, yet totally correct, opinion, we need to stop barring men from our children’s ministries.

I have seen this trend at some churches lately. The reason, when you boil it down, is this: people fear that men working with children may secretly be pedophiles and that parents will be afraid to leave their children with a man in a classroom, especially in early childhood. News stories of late have only added fuel to this mania. In response, some churches have removed all men from their kids’ areas and even refuse to recruit men in kids’ ministry. I would laugh at this if it weren’t so very tragic. The second church where I was on staff had this rule, and we were desperate for leaders in the kids’ area. To my horror, I found out the church did not even conduct background checks on the women who served because “women aren’t pedophiles.” Wrong! Women can be pedophiles, and the number of women sex offenders, though still far behind men, is rising. I demanded that all women in our kids’ areas undergo a background check, and I received heavy sighs and eye rolling. One administrative assistant finally said, “What for? They are women!” We all were unprepared, however, when the checks revealed that two women applicants for key teachers in the preschool area had felony convictions for child molestation. One had even lost custody of her own children. We never would have known that if we hadn’t checked. I changed the whole way we recruited and thought about our kids’ ministry that day. Everyone underwent a background check. And I opened the door for men to serve in the kids’ ministry again. Some men were hesitant to sign up, however, because they didn’t want to be viewed as a potential child molester. Do we understand how biblically far off we are when we do this? Where does this thinking come from? Actually, the way we think of kids’ ministry as a whole isn’t biblical at all. In Deuteronomy, God commands the whole congregation, especially the men, who ruled that patriarchal society to make absolutely certain that the next generation knows all about God and His Word.

Nowhere in the entire Bible is the spiritual
formation of children written off as “women’s work.”

Spiritual training was the job of the father and mother of the home and ultimately of the entire congregation. In fact, Jewish boys by the age of five were instructed by skilled teachers of the law—all men. Part of what happened in our early American culture is that children were viewed as inferior and unimportant, and carted off to another room to be “babysat” while the important adults had church. That posed a problem: who is the least important person we can spare to go babysit while we have church? Usually it was the young unmarried girls. The Bible tells us clearly in both testaments that God cares dearly about the next generation. He directly holds His congregation responsible for these young ones, to make sure that they know HIM and His Word. He doesn’t take it lightly when this teaching hurts His kids (think “millstones,” see Matthew18:6).

The church should never allow cultural pressure or the latest headlines to scare us into operating any ministry in an unbiblical manner.

Right now, more than 53 percent of the kids in my congregation are in single-parents homes. Many of these homes are run by a single mom. So many kids have no father figure at all. Almost all of their public school teachers are women also. Many kids are desperate for a strong male role model to show them how a man of God acts. Not a perfect guy, just a man who loves Jesus!

So what happened when we started recruiting men and allowing them to serve in kids’ ministry? Panic and mayhem? Not at
all. Amazingness is what happened. We gained some of the best leaders I have ever known—strong men of God who have prayed for, been there for, and lovingly taught these kids. Right now almost 61 percent of my kids’ ministry volunteer force are men, and I haven’t had any parent complaints. We were ready to address any concerns, but we decided to completely get behind our volunteers and unashamedly begin promoting this more biblical view of kids’ ministry. We put all of our leaders in the classroom because they are well screened, and we believe in their ability to serve our kids and church well. I thank God for all of our volunteers—men, women, teenagers, grandparents. We know that reaching our kids for Jesus is the job of the congregation, not just a few women between the ages of eighteen and fifty. Even though my husband and I have a great marriage, I am so grateful for the Christian men who have taken the time to set an example for my son and for my daughter. It was one of these dedicated teachers, a grandfather, who led my son to Christ one Wednesday night—and it brings tears to my eyes even as I write this. If you’re having trouble getting enough people serving in kids’ ministry, for heaven’s sake, and the kids’ sake, don’t tie either of your hands behind your back.

Love Always- Trisha

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When I was ten years old, I vividly remember a certain day, when a man came to the front door of our parsonage. People came to our door all the time, day and night, to ask for help from my dad (small town pastor), from church, but this gentleman stuck out to me. He claimed to be a veteran, and had one leg badly twisted. He was very neat and clean shaven, though his clothes and glasses were definitely very old. He tried to stand as tall as he could on his cane. His body seemed thin and frail. He was terribly embarrassed, and he spoke quietly and deliberately. He asked for help getting shoes. It seemed to almost kill him to ask. My father was standing at the open door and I was peeking around him, looking at the badly tattered shoes. It was Wisconsin, already cold, and the man’s feet were visible through the flopping soles. I knew the church office was closed, the treasurer out of town, and we just ran out of benevolence forms. As for our family, we made next to no money and had all of us kids to feed, glasses, braces etc. My dad only owned two pair of shoes. One for walking and one for Sunday. And they definitely weren’t new. I waited for dad to give the poor guy the bad news or the “application and get back to you thing”. Without a word, my dad (who was padding around in his socks that Saturday) turned to the coat closet, pulled out his walking shoes and handed them to the man. The man just kept thanking my dad and choking back tears. Then he slowly walked back up the road. My dad never talked about it; he just wore his Sunday shoes every day for a good long while. He wonder if he even remembers that day. I’ll never forget it. To a ten year old kid, that was Jesus right there. I understood what that verse meant “give to him who asks”. Suddenly I realized that everything I was hearing at church was very very real. Jesus would wear socks.
Recently, my daughter heard about a young friend without food after a family crisis. She started getting cans of food out of our cupboards, saying “mom, they may need these right?” It reminded me of dad and shoes. I let her pack the box. Happy early father’s day dad. Maybe I’ll get you some shoes this year instead of a tie……  10974592_10205168113816062_8909382272690314547_o