HAPPY RESURRECTION DAY!!!

“Yet when God entered time and became a man, he who was boundless became bound. Imprisoned in flesh. Restricted by weary-prone muscles and eyelids. For more than three decades, his once limitless reach would be limited to the stretch of an arm, his speed checked to the pace of human feet.
I wonder, was he ever tempted to regain his boundlessness? In the middle of a long trip, did he ever consider transporting himself to the next city? When the rain chilled his bones, was he tempted to change the weather? When the heat parched his lips, did he give thought to popping over to the Caribbean for some refreshment?
If he ever entertained such thoughts, he never gave into them. Not once. Stop and think about this. Not once did Christ use his supernatural powers for personal comfort.
With one word, he could’ve transformed the hard earth into a soft bed, but he didn’t. With a wave of his hands, he could’ve boomeranged the spit of his accusers back into their faces, but he didn’t. With an arch of his brow, he could’ve paralyzed the hand of the soldier as he braided the crown of thorns. But he didn’t.”
Max Lucado, He Chose the Nails
“Want to know the coolest thing about the coming? Not that the One who played marbles with the stars gave it up to play marbles with marbles. Or that the One who hung the galaxies gave it up to hang doorjambs to the displeasure of a cranky client who wanted everything yesterday but couldn’t pay until tomorrow.
Not that he, in an instant, went from needing nothing to needing air, food, a tub of hot water and salts for his tired feet, and, more than anything, needing somebody – anybody – who was more concerned about where he would spend eternity rather than where he would spend Friday’s paycheck.
Or that he resisted the urge to fry the two=bit, self-appointed hall monitors of holiness who dared suggest that he was doing the work of the devil.
Not that he kept his cool while the dozen best friends he ever had felt the heat and got out of the kitchen. Or that he gave no command to the angels who begged, “Just give us the nod, Lord. One word and these demons will be deviled eggs.”
Not that he refused to defend himself when blamed for every sin of every slut and sailor since Adam. Or that he stood silent as a million guilty verdicts echoed in the tribunal of heaven and the giver of light was left in the chill of a sinner’s night.
Not even that after three days in a dark hole he stepped into the Easter sunrise with a smile and a swagger and a question for lowly Lucifer – “Is that your best punch?”
That was cool, incredibly cool.
But want to know the coolest thing about the One who gave up the crown of heaven for a crown of thorns?
He did it for you. Just for you.” – Max Lucado
Max Lucado, He Chose the Nails
resurrection

I am currently in a Master’s Degree program at Bethel Seminary, St. Paul, MN, in Children’s and Family Ministries.  This December’s graduation will be an exciting time, and its coming up so fast (we walk the line next May).  Our cohort has been privileged to read so many amazing books along this journey, some of which are now favorites of mine. As an author myself, what books do I most enjoy reading? To make this list, I have to want to reread these books and recommend this to others. Some are older and some are new- but I believe the really great book stand the test of time 🙂 So here are my top 10 favorites, NOT counting Scripture (which is always #1), in no certain order:

10. The Book of God, by Walter Wagerin Jr. This is definitely not a book for kids. But Wagarin’s version of the “Bible as novel” is painted with such vivid word pictures, it makes the story real in a whole new way. Also, you can see the common thread of God’s story woven throughout Scripture instead of random stories pulled out to stand alone. I was and am deeply touched by the telling of the salvation story in the Book of God. I usually reread it every year around Easter.

9. Well Intentioned Dragons, by Marshall Shelley. I read this book for my undergrad. I think all ministry leaders should read it. Church conflict is a main reason why pastors quit. This book does a good job and trying to prepare leaders for the pain, loss and infighting that sometimes (always) comes with working in a church.

8. The Fabulous Reinvention of Sunday School, by Aaron Reynolds,  I loved this book! Reinvention is packed with creative ideas and inspiration for kid’s church as well as a lot of encouragement for those of us every weekend in the trenches for Jesus and His kids. I especially love the layout of the book- it is so fun and creative! Many of us kid’s pastors are quite visually oriented and easily distracted (ADHD), so I loved the illustrations and just plain fun on each page.

7. An Hour on Sunday, Creating Moments of Transformation and Wonder, by Nancy Beach- This is one the best books I have ever read. It is not a “kid’s ministry book” per se. But it IS an amazing, creative book from Willow Creek’s own Nancy Beach, who spent many years as the creative director for their weekend services. What she tells us about excellence, teamwork and innovation are definitely applicable in kid’s and family ministry. She makes a great case for giving it our best in every one of those precious 60 minutes each Sunday. I also love the artistic layout of this book.

6. Me, Myself and Bob, by Phil Vischer- I cried all the way through the last 4 chapters of this book. If you can make it through the first few chapters (all the details of the launch of Big Idea and Veggietales), Phil Vischer gets VERY personal on his painful journey at the end of the Big Idea company.  What do you do when God does not “save you” from falling down.  What can God show you at the bottom of it all, about His love and His plan? Oh, now I’m gonna get all choked up again….

5. Let Your Life Speak, Parker Palmer- Great book about listening to God’s Spirit, life experiences and others in your life to discern “the voice of vocation.” What were you really created to do with your life? How has God spoken to you through your failures as to what you are NOT called to do? (Way closing). How do we hear the voice of God, guiding us to our calling? What about when Christians are depressed, trying to find themselves?

4.  He Walks Among Us, by Richard Stearns. I cried through quite a few of these stories too. These are powerful stories from all over the world about what God is doing in kids and family’s lives- from Africa to Palestine to Equador etc. How is God “showing up” walking alongside these kids and families, some of them in horrific situations/conditions? What can we do to be a part of what God is doing globally? This book is great for a family or church devotional, with daily chapters that are small enough for a short story time.

3. Too Small to Ignore, Why the Least of These Matters Most, by Wess Stafford.  Yup, this one was a tear fest as well. I LOVED this book. What a heart rending story of loss, redemption, forgiveness, restoration. Wess, the founder of Compassion International, is a great storyteller. You will be fired up for missions, for Jesus and for child protection after experiencing this book.

2. Dreaming of more for the Next Generation, Dr. Michelle Anthony. Wanting more ideas for family ministry? This is your book. This was an easy, quick read, full of humor and creative ideas. I found myself nodding my head a lot in agreement. Dr. Anthony elevates the importance of what we do as kid’s leaders, and what God is doing in young lives.

1. I Blew It and Talk Now and Later- Brian Dollar- I love both of these books, for these raw honesty and humor.  Children’s leaders can be encouraged that God can use them even when they make mistakes, even though they are human. I laughed, I cried, I was inspired to try and try again.

So did any of these books make YOUR list? What books would you pick if you could only pick 10 ministry books? And these books are, of course, in addition to your daily Bible reading/study. What books would you reread, recommend, can’t do without? Love and Happy Reading!

Trisha Peach, Author of “Your Children’s Ministry From Scratch” and “Your Children’s Ministry Beyond Basics”.

BESTEVERWRITTEN-COLLAGE1

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love from the bottom of my heart- Trishablog

 

Yes, you CAN get a day OFF. And it can be Amazing!

Should I take Monday? Should I take Friday? Will I EVER get a day off? Does any of this sound familiar? If you are in leadership, a pastor or a parent of young children then there is no such thing as a “weekend” or a regular “day off”. And if you are like me, with a combination of travel, leadership and parenting it may feel IMPOSSIBLE to take a day off. But I want to tell you right now, it is imperative that you DO take a day off each week and that you make that day off as effective as possible, and here’s how:

1. First of all, you have to believe that it IS possible to take a day off. Too many ministers and leaders and parents have given into the lie of our America culture that it is not possible, or wise to take a day off. The lie says, “You MUST be a GOOD worker, and a GOOD parent, and to be a GOOD worker and a GOOD parent you must ….(work 80 hours, take the kids to soccer, hockey, ballet, karate, speech meets, playdates, etc etc etc etc ). What we really need to do is separate our America culture from what scripture actually says. We really do not need to work that many hours. We do not need to please that many people. We do not need to have our children in that many activities. It’s time to kill the martyr complex. If you absolutely cannot find one day to take off for yourself, than some activities will have to be cut. If some people are disappointed, than that is ok. You are not on earth to please everyone. You are on earth to glorify God and to please Him. God tells us to take one day in seven to rest; therefore it IS possible to do it. If we feel we cannot take one day in seven to rest, we are doing too much to please other humans instead of God. If pastors of massive churches have found ways to be faithful in resting before God, you can to. With a husband, five services a week, two small children, traveling, five employees, an intern, a more than full time schedule and a partridge in a pear tree I have made a way to have a day off almost every week (emergencies do happen), but it was WORK to make that happen. But first, I had to believe it was was the right thing to do, and that it was possible to have a day off every week. For parents, I used to think I couldn’t ever have a day or even an evening to myself. I told a friend, “I cannot afford a sitter right now.” She said, “Will someone watch your children for free so you can have a day off?” I said, “No one would ever do that.” She said simply, “Have you ever asked?” I was stunned to silence. I did start asking and very soon a kind lady from our church said yes. And I finally had “time off” each week.

2. You are going to have to plan and work toward having your day off with the same creativity as any other event on your calendar. Did you just yell unfair? That may well be unfair. But if you do not work to plan and protect your day off, other things will creep in and steal it away. What do I mean by plan and protect your day off? I do not schedule anything on my day off. Not dentist visits or doctors check ups. Not teacher meetings.  If people from church ask to meet that day, I respond, “I cannot, because I have something scheduled that day. How about the day after.” I do not say, “That’s my day off,” because people are shockingly flippant about days off, saying “oh, then I’ll just come by your house and we can meet there!”.  I will deliberately plan to be out of town in a state park on my day off where there is no cell signal. You are NOT powerless as far as your schedule goes; you have more control than you think. When someone says, “we are doing _________ on (your day off)”, many times you CAN say, “No, I can’t that day, I have a commitment, how about __________?” It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it. And what if it is your senior leader or someone on your staff who regularly disrespects your day off? You may have trained this person that your day off didn’t matter. And you can retrain them that now your day off DOES matter. It takes time and patience and good communication. “I would rather not do our outreach debrief on our day off if at all possible. I had planned to take my family to the zoo that day. We could all use a day of break after that big weekend. Could we all meet ____________?” Be respectful, but start making a case your time OFF to be time OFF. If your senior leader does not honor their own time off, they probably will not honor yours either. But YOU need to keep working toward a day of rest for the sake of your relationship with God, your spouse and your family anyway. Put your days off on the calendar at home and at church and protect them at all costs. Put your out of office reply on and let your voicemail pick up. That’s what it is for.

3. Remember your reasons for taking a day of rest. God told us to do so all throughout the Bible. He set the example for us in Scripture. The burnout rates of ministers are high because ministers tend to be the LEAST obedient to God about taking a day off! You are not doing ANYBODY any good if you burn out and leave ministry. Your family needs you. And you get only one chance to make memories with the family God gave you. You will be a better minister if you take a day off once a week. Your relationship with God will be better and closer if you are obedient to Him to rest once a week. “Obedience is better than sacrifice.” We really like to be in charge. But our ministry can dramatically change for the better when we decide to be obedient and rest in Him. Your health depends on learning to rest. You’ll do ministry for the Lord longer on this earth if you learn to take days off! So stop flinging yourself off cliffs and demanding that angels catch you as you crash and fry yourself!

4. Plan activities for your day off that will refill and renew YOU. Do not just hope that your day off will “happen”. You may just end up folding clothes and raking and then wonder why you’re still tired at work the next day. What energizes you? What makes you feel new again? It is not the same for all of us. For introverts, it is usually time alone, away from it all. If that’s you, maybe you should schedule some hiking time for yourself, or time on a secluded beach, a nap with all phones and lights off etc. Extroverts, like myself, get energy from being around people! I refill from going to a movie (phone off) or the mall with friends or the zoo with my family. I do not like staying around my house because 9 times out of 10 I end of doing housework or someone from church finds me with a minor crisis. No matter what it is, find out what refuels you, and then schedule THAT on your day off- NOT things for work, or house work, or school work- nothing that DRAINS you. I know this is difficult. It is a discipline but it is worth it.

I know how difficult it is to get a day off, and sometimes life happens, so it just does work out. But that should be the exception, not the rule. I just wanna encourage you today and give you hope that you and your family are WORTH having that day off every week. It’s Biblical and it’s what’s best for you, your family, your staff, and your church and ministry! Taking a break is a lot of work, so let’s get to it!

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A recent article I read stated that women are four times more likely than a man to apologize all the way through a presentation.[1] Those constant apologies foster distrust in listeners, causing them to be much less likely to approve whatever she is proposing. The more I thought about this article, the more I believed it. But I have heard both female and male leaders apologize all the way through their appeals more times than I can count. When I tell them, “Hey, here is what you said,” they sputter, “Me? No, I never apologize when asking for volunteers.” So now I usually record it and play it back for them just to show them how many times they actually do it. One young lady apologized nineteen times (I counted) in a ninety-second appeal asking people to serve. So she apologized roughly once every four to five seconds. That’s a record, so far.

Before you start yelling that you would never do that, I challenge you to record and listen to yourself when you do an appeal (for volunteers, budget or anything else). Also read your email and voicemail appeals. Did you know there are a lot of ways to say “I’m sorry” without realizing it? How about this children’s pastor’s appeal, with my thoughts in parentheses:

Hi, I’m Pastor ____________. (So far so good.) Can I have a minute of your time? (Uh oh. Said every vacuum salesman/Jehovah Witness.) Sorry (1), I don’t do this very often (Why tell them this?) So excuse my (2) nervousness. This Scripture (read verse) oops (3) lost my place, sorry (4). What I need to tell you is this: I’m no expert (5). (If you are up there talking about it, we all consider you the expert until you told us otherwise. Why did you just tell us this?) But I really think (You think or you know?) we need people badly in the preschool area, because we have a lot of holes. (Why do people not want to work there?) We are just doing our best over there, and we need you. (Um, you want me to do better than you at it?) So if you could just spare a little of your time, just an hour a month, (Wow, you really do not expect much.) please, we could really use you. I’m never too good at this (6). (At what? What exactly are you asking me to do? How do I get started?) So I hope you’ll bear with me (7). (You are up there and I don’t have a choice.) So if you can help, let me know. (How can I let you know? Where do I find you? What are the steps? What exactly do I have to do? How can I get my questions answered? Oh never mind.) Thank you for giving me your time. (This can count as another apology, such as, Sorry I took your time.”)    

Yikes. 7 to 8 apologies??!

Contrast that with a different pastor’s appeal for volunteers I heard about a year ago:

Hey, I’m ____________, elementary director here at _________________. Behind me you’ll see pictures of the elementary dance team doing ministry downtown for our Love Your Community Day. (Whoa, that is amazing.) Our kids’ ministry is growing fast! (Something cool is going on there.) Our mission is to reach the kids of this city with the love of Jesus, while meeting their needs in a real way. (They know what they are doing!) I want to take this moment to thank our leaders for making this happen! You represented Jesus well that day, and what a difference we made! (These leaders are valued, and they are winning at their mission, a mission that is important!) With our classes growing this fast, we are going to need a more people on our team, so I am taking applications for our next season of programming. (People want to do this. They don’t just take any trained monkey.) Are you interested in more information on joining our kids’ ministry team? (Yes, I’d love to be a part of something like that!) It is not easy, and sometimes it breaks your heart. Like last week, when six-year-old Hannah from the homeless shelter walked barefoot  to the parking lot where we were ministering because she wanted to hear the music about Jesus. She hadn’t had a meal in a day and a half. We fed her a great meal, prayed with her, and she won a teddy bear at the end of the day. I’m telling you, the cost is worth the difference we get to make in kids’ lives and in our city! (Oh, my gosh. I’m crying.) Don’t wait. (I won’t!) Sign up today. (Where? How?) For more info call us at __________________________, email us at ____________________, or you can find me immediately after the service at ________________________.

She had me in tears, ready to sign up right then! It’s no surprise that she had a flood of signups—and a lot more growth over that next year. What did she do right with her appeal? She pushed vision, strategy, and excellence. The ministry was winning at a goal and the volunteers were appreciated.

There is one overarching reason to never apologize for asking someone to work in children’s ministry:

SERVING JESUS IS THE GREATEST OPPORTUNITY SOMEONE CAN BE A PART OF.

Being a part of explaining the story of Jesus; being there when they “get it”; praying with them to receive salvation; seeing them learn to talk to and experience God themselves; helping them find their God-given gifts and the joy of serving—these are the greatest moments I have ever had. Offering someone a chance to use their gifts for something that matters and will last into eternity is the kindest thing you can do for them. You need to understand this down to your soul right now.

If you do not see the “mission critical” impact of what you do, no one else will either. If you don’t believe in the eternal significance of what you are doing, right down to your toes, how can you ask others to take on this journey with you?

You see, American culture has it all wrong by supposing that volunteering is a nice thing to do if you have extra time. Scripture tells us that every Christian—not just the pastor—is to be actively engaged in serving and using his or her gifts to serve Christ, His church, and the lost. Our consumer mentality tells us that the church is here to serve and entertain us by providing us with something. This thinking couldn’t be more wrong and unbiblical. In reality, God created and loves His church desperately. The church is a hospital, a rescue center, reaching out to those without Jesus, and training and equipping Christians to reach the lost. We are to train Christians how to serve to their fullest potential. This serving is not optional; Scripture warns that God will hold us accountable for how we use our time, treasure, and talent. On that day, when everyone gives an account for how they spent their lives, when only what was done for Jesus matters, how many will be ecstatic that you asked them to serve? So do not hesitate to give someone the chance to serve—and do not apologize for doing so.

Want more tips on recruiting volunteers? Check out “Your Children’s Ministry From Scratch”, now available on Amazon.com, for a comprehensive look at the do’s and don’ts of effective recruiting.

So honestly, do you apologize too much? What have been your best recruiting, presentation strategies? Trisha

A man holding a card with a hand written message on it, Sorry.

[1] Brian Williams, NBC Reports, Sorry, it’s true, women apologize more. http://www.nbcnews.com/id/39384763/ns/health-womens_health/t/sorry-study-shows-why-women-apologize-more/#.VAOcfMVdWro, 2012, accessed May 2014

Has your life/ministry jumped the track? Gone off the rails? Have you ever agonized over the  questions, “God how did we get here? How did things go so very wrong?? This isn’t what I thought or imagined? What about Your promises? Can anything good ever come of this?”

Major life detours can take many forms- a death, a loss of a job/ministry, breakup of a relationship, marital issues, career shift/change, health set back etc. Most of the time these life detours are so traumatic because our journey is not what we expected. Somehow we got American culture mixed up with Scripture, erroneously thinking that a Christian’s life is supposed to be a smooth direct line,  continually getting better and better at lightening speed. When life does not meet up to these expectations (which it won’t) we left asking questions like, “God, did I really hear You? God did you really speak to Me? Did I do something wrong to get here? Did I blow it somewhere so badly that I have ruined God’s overall plan for my life? How could God let this happen? Can He be trusted?”

If you have ever had a major detour in life, and if you have ever asked any or all of these questions, know that you are not alone. In fact, you are in great company with some of the greatest heroes of the Bible.

Paul the Apostle- Jesus promised Paul at Paul’s conversion that God would use Paul powerfully, to minister widely and preach for Him. But right away, Paul was rejected in church after church (they were afraid of him due to his past). Instead of walking into leadership at a growing mega church, God’s Spirit took Paul in the WILDERNESS for 3 years. God was training and shaping Paul in that wilderness. But even after Paul launched into itinerant ministry he was rejected, thrown out of churches, stoned, beaten, arrested, shipwrecked etc. I know it must have been very difficult for Paul to sit in a Roman prison for years. Wouldn’t he have wondered what God was up to? How do you minister in a prison? But Paul (through the Spirit) wrote 2/3 of our New Testament in that prison cell. And through his trials, Paul was able to share the gospel with some of the most influential leaders in Rome!

Moses- Moses had been a prince with incredible potential. Then he was forced to flee into a WILDERNESS. And God kept Moses there, tending sheep until Moses was 80 YEARS old! Then when Moses started his ministry, Pharoah refused to listen or cooperate, the people were not too willing or grateful, and the obstacles were numerous. And then God brought Moses and the people into the WILDERNESS. They did not get to go straight into the Promised Land. God decided to develop them in the wilderness for 40 YEARS. Moses dealt with constant complaining, rebellion and infighting.

Joseph- He was famously given wonderful promises by God. But before Joseph saw God’s word come true, Joseph was sold into slavery, falsely accused, arrested, betrayed numerous times and imprisoned for many years. I would have been tempted to think that I hadn’t really heard God, or that God had forgotten about me. But Joseph could not have handled the position God had for him, without the developing he received in those unfair, unjust situations. He had learned that God could speak through dreams, he had learned how to organize and administrate, he had learned to systematically plan ahead. And God used Joseph to save an entire region from certain starvation.

Elijah- Before and after this champion of God faced off against 400 prophets of Baal, he spent a LOT of time alone with God in a WILDERNESS.

Jesus- Immediately after being baptized, Jesus launched His new ministry, not with a dazzling budget, but with 40 days of grueling temptation in a WILDERNESS.

What about YOU? Has God given you a promise? God gives us promises because we are really going to need them. We will have a dark time, when you will be tempted to forget in the dark what you heard in the light- and that promise could be the lifeline that you cling to in your own WILDERNESS. Faith, remember, is the evidence of things NOT seen. If you already have all you wanted, you don’t need a promise or faith. We fast paced Americans sometimes only care about the DESTINATION and getting somewhere GREAT fast. But God cares more about what we will BECOME in the waiting. Here are 3 things to remember if your life has taken a detour:

  1. Don’t look back. We get tempted to wish for things to go back to how they were when “they were good.” We may long for, attempt to go back to, a time or a ministry that is gone. Our mind glosses over all the things that were really wrong during that time. We start to act like the Israelites begging to go back to Egypt. God is NOT a fan of His children always trying to go back (Lot’s wife). We can appreciate the good about what was. We can cherish those memories. But God has much more in store. You did not ruin God’s plan for your life. Your are not that powerful or awesome. God may have planned this “detour” all along. It’s time to leave Egypt behind and press on into the Promise.
  2. Develop as much as you can in the desert. God develops His champions in the WILDERNESS (David, John the Baptist, John the Revelator etc.). If you find yourself in a scary unexpected desert, it’s time to listen for that still small voice, notice that burning bush and even entertain an angel or three. God often gets our undivided attention by removing the distractions. Yield to the moving of the Holy Spirit; wait on Him as long as it takes. He will move that glory cloud on when it is time. While you are in that desert, seek God, learn a skill (Joseph), be faithful and work hard.
  3. Determine to wait on God. Delay is NOT denial (Abraham and Sarah- Isaac). A detour is not defeat. Again, it may only be a detour from a human perspective. Determine to let go of control of your life. God really does order our steps. And as long as we hold on to Him, He really does “work all things together for good for those who love God.” God doesn’t use anyone powerfully until He has thoroughly developed and tested them first. He is teaching us to trust Him fully, and to give up OUR plans and OUR timeline. He is the pilot and we do not get to back seat drive.                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Have you been in a wilderness of unexpected twists and turns lately? What is God developing in you during this time? What skills are you pursuing? What has God been speaking to your heart? What promises of God do you need to dust off and hang onto tighter? From one “desert wanderer” to another, God bless your ministry and all you are becoming. This detour will not define you, but it will refine you and refuel you to what He has been planning all along. God bless- Trisha

 

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Heidi Hinsley- “Never ignore the ‘warning signs’ in your life. There are always warning signs before the fall. As the saying goes, ‘the tree falls in the way it leans’, so be careful which way you lean. No one falls all at once. There warning lights WERE there; they were ignored. Who is close enough to you, in your life, to see the warning signs and be heard? If they see those warning signs, will you accept it?

The fire of your faith must be fanned. Encourage another leader to fan their flame. Take that step to fan someone else’s flame, and just watch, you’ll see others stepping up to fan your flame. Accountability and Encouragement matter.

Battles will come; crashes will come. You’re not built to battle alone. The closer you are to Jesus, the closer you will be to people. ‘I went out to find a friend, and they were nowhere. I went out to be a friend, and friends were everywhere.’

Greg Baird- 1 Cor. 9:19-23 Learn the particulars of the culture you serve and are called to. You cannot serve a people you don’t understand. The shape of your ministry should reflect the culture of your community.”

I hope you are encouraged this week! God Bless your ministry for Jesus and His kids!

 

 

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We all have those special moments in life that stand out in our memory. This week I was delighted and honored to present 4 breakout at CMCONNECT Conference, a conference for children’s and family ministers and volunteers. I had a wonderful time connecting with dear friends in kid’s ministry as well as getting acquainted with new leaders as well. Here are a few of my favorite moments (things said by different leaders) at this year’s CMConnect Conference:

KidMin Charlie: “Everything I have was given to me by my Father. When I am done with my bus or a puppet, I give it away. My Father provided it, why should I charge for it? How many times does My Father need to pay for that puppet? My Father provided that resource and I will pass it along.”

Lori Bertram:

“Faithfully serve an audience of One. You are uniquely situated by God Himself to impact your corner of the globe. Lead from a genuine place.”

“I learned from David to have a heart similar to God, and to trust God’s timing. God gave David promises that were a long time coming. God has perfect timing and HE elevates us, not our own actions. Even during the times it doesn’t make sense, a leader like David waits on God. David went through 8 years of exile. God SCULPTS us in exile. David teaches us to honor people, honor friendships. He teaches us to have a repentant heart. We should repent of sin quickly and worship with abandon.”

“Moses taught me the importance of obedience. To lead, you must completely obey. God sculpted Moses in exile. You cannot lead in human strength; there must be humility. The more God elevates you and your ministry, the lonelier leadership gets. You do not get as many kudos and pats on the back as your leadership grows. Moses had a very tough last year of his life, last year of his ministry. During that year his sister died, there was no water for the people again, Moses lost his temper and angered God when Moses hit the rock and took credit, and then his brother Aaron died too. Obedience is really honoring God. Moses did not obey, he did not honor God in that instance. Did Moses desire human affirmation and feel the people deserved more of a reprimand? We need to know God’s voice. Sacrifice anything else in your life, but never sacrifice your devotional life. There is a specific mantle for YOUR life only. Your receive that mantle in prayer. Be patient with people. Moses teaches us to use a teach approach- EX 34:9-10. God wants to covenant with us, because He loves us so much.”

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How do I know if it’s MY time to make a transition (leave my current position)? Much has been written on this topic; and I have LOVED some blogs I have read on the subject. Of course, the chief concern here is the terrible lack of longevity we see in our churches today-  some churches seem to go through staff like water, and many staff are far too quick to leave.  We should never leave a ministry God has called us to on a whim. Ministry is HARD- no doubt about it.  And if you leave every time ministry breaks your heart or gets difficult, you won’t stay anywhere long. I have heard it said that you cannot effect any REAL change in a ministry until you have been there at least 3 years.

But if you have honestly tried EVERYTHING you can think of to improve things at your current ministry, and you have tried to stick things out for this long haul, is it ever right to leave a ministry position? Actually, yes, sometimes God is telling you to move on.  And if you overstay in the wrong position, you can do damage to the ministry you are supposed to be serving. AND there can be frustration and harm for you, your health and your family.  So how can you know? How can you know if it may be time to find a new ministry position? Well, I talked with a few of my friends in ministry, and here are some of the TOP ways I and others have known it was possibly time to move on:

  1. You just don’t care anymore. You cannot shake apathy. Something doesn’t go well, or you exceed goals- and it doesn’t faze you either way. Something inside you has died for this ministry. I encourage you to talk about those feelings with your senior leader and other ministry leaders you trust outside your ministry.  It could be you just need a break, or a refreshing etc. But you cannot ignore that apathy for long- it is SAYING something.
  2. You are almost ALWAYS frustrated, irritated and resentful.  It’s perfectly normal to be frustrated at times (especially Mondays!). But if these feelings or anger and hurt and resentment have gone on and on and nothing you are doing is helping; it may be time for you to leave before that attitude gets worse and/or poisons those around you.
  3. Vision is gone. You are no longer hoping or planning for great things a long way off for the ministry there. You can barely focus on planning for this coming Sunday. Planning for a year from now is nearly impossible. Because you can no longer see the future for this ministry. Writing messages further out is becoming more difficult. Many ministers have told me that when it was time to leave, they “felt it lift”- their vision and desire for that place was gone….so much so that the building itself began to look different to them; nothing seemed the same.
  4. You find yourself often day dreaming about a different ministry/church. A lot of leaders have that awesome daydream of filling in for Francis Chan for a Sunday and 2000 people get saved… But if ALL you do is hope and dream about another ministry, then your heart may have died for this one.  And that’s not fair for the people at your current church. You should still be able to dream for the church you are at.
  5. You are now there for the wrong reasons- ie. money, habit, fear. You do not want to be there at all, but you just don’t know how to do anything else. Or you are afraid or going somewhere new. Which leads to a great question:            Why are you staying?
  6. Your ministry there does not “fit” with the church’s new vision/direction. Your giftings and talents are not being used; you’re just not challenged anymore. It could be that God has grown you so much in that ministry, that He now has plans for you elsewhere. And it could just be that – and please please hear my heart when I say this- you may not be what that church is looking for in a new season.  Everything changes, always. And your giftings and leadership could just be an answer to prayer and a perfect fit somewhere new. I remember, many years back, sitting around the table at our weekly staff meeting at my church.  I had been on staff there for several years, with a lot of growth and success.  But increasingly, I was finding myself frustrated at these meetings. With the new leadership, new vision and direction, I had been so excited, but week by week I felt like a fifth wheel.  I prayed about it, sought wise counsel, talked to the new lead pastor, and worked harder to make it work. But one morning, sitting in that meeting, reigning in a volcano of frustration, I took a good look around and realized….I was what didn’t fit in this picture. It wasn’t the 6 other staff who needed a change- I wasn’t right for this newly redefined position.  And I knew it wasn’t going back to what it was. In that moment the whole picture changed. I felt a relief wash over me, as well as sadness, grief….but when we got up to leave the room and go into the hallways, nothing was the same. I knew it was over. I did keep praying, thinking, grieving, but God confirmed through several other people that it was time to go.  I listened and moved on to an amazing new staff position that has been one of the greatest experiences-and most challenging!-of my life. And I got to see the next kid’s ministry grow exponentially, and I grew in team building by matching myself and others in their skill sets. I know that if I had been stubborn and stayed without God’s blessing, my ministry there would NOT have kept growing, and I would have continued feeling stymied and
    frustrated. And furthermore, things like my Africa trip, traveling/speaking, and my book may never have happened.

Ministry takes a lot of wisdom and prayer.  And remember that God is still guiding, still writing your story and the stories of the ministries where you work. “He Who has begun a good work in you, will be faithful to complete it.” Believe that in time, He will make His will clear to you.  Just be willing to jump in and follow it.  And be patient, prayerful and act with integrity in that “waiting time”. God bless your ministry now and in coming year. ! Love always, Trisha

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Well-child policy.

Common sense tells us that when your child is vomiting, has a fever, or is blowing lots of thick green guk out his nose, you stay home with him until he is well. Your work would not be happy with you if you brought that child with you into the office and held him on your lap hacking stuff up during a meeting. And the schools all have “well-child” policies that would keep you from leaving your child in class that day puking in a bucket under his desk or passing out during gym. Doctor’s offices would make your child with a heavy cough wear a mask while there. So why do we treat church so differently?

I overheard a staff member whispering to another staff member once, “I would never ever leave my child in the nursery here. That place is a Petri dish of every bacteria known to man. No one leaves there healthy!” Several parents responded to our survey saying they wouldn’t use the nursery for fear of their child catching an illness. It was time to act. We researched well-child policies from surrounding schools and churches and came up with our own that matches our needs.

Some things we included in ours went something like this:

“If your child is displaying any of the symptoms below either now or in the past 24 hours, please keep your child with you, and have them sit out of children’s ministries until they are well. 

Keep your child home if they have:

Fever over 99, vomiting or diarrhea,runny nose especially with any color of discharge, heavy wet coughs, unexplained rashes, skin infections, impetigo, boils, ringworm, eye infections, childhood diseases such chickenpox, mumps, measles, rubella, pertussis, scarlet fever etc.

If a child develops any of the above symptoms while in our care, we will contact the child’s parents as soon as possible so that they might tend to the child’s illness.

Our Children’s Ministry staff will not administer any type of medication to the children placed in our care.”

At first we caught a lot of backlash. I had the volunteers call me over to speak with parents who were not being able to leave a sick child. I got a lot of excuses like “Well, the school won’t take him either and I really need a break. Here you take him!” And “Oh yeah, that rash has been spreading all over his legs since this morning. He caught it at daycare, but it’s not contagious.” and “This is a church. You have to take anyone!” No wonder people didn’t want to use the nursery. Again, I didn’t understand this until I had kids of my own and found out that one nasty virus could waylay our whole family for a week. The bottom line is that you need to do your research, come up with a solid well-child policy, and have your pastor approve it. Then you need to post it somewhere visible so you can make it apparent you are not targeting any particular child; this is the policy across the board.

NOTE: web20It is extremely important to make sure no parent feels singled out or embarrassed in front of others. Yes you do have to turn some children away if they are too ill, for the safety of all the other children and your workers, but remember to be kind and caring. That poor parent may have had a very rough week and thought “maybe we are well enough now to finally get out” when they just weren’t quite ready. Always use grace and kindness. But keep that kids’ area a “well-child area” as much as you possibly can.

From “Your Children’s Ministry From Scratch” available on Amazon