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In our age of technology linking us all across the globe, information and training has never been more accessible or more affordable! Google puts answers at our fingertips, almost instantly. More and more churches are doing their training seminars for staff and volunteers though “webinars”- training done entirely online from the comfort of home or the church building. Webinars have many benefits including low cost, no travel expenses, no time away from home, and flexibility with your own schedule. I love webinars; they are absolutely valuable in reaching and training today’s leaders. I even speak for several webinars. Does that mean that I no longer believe in sending teams away for “off site conferences”? Absolutely not. Traditional conferences still have enormous value, offering what webinars cannot. With a lot of churches in a budget crunch, and so many under resourced children’s ministries leaders, we have to ask, “Are off site conferences worth the expense?” I answer, with a resounding “Yes.” Here’s Why:

 

10. Laser Focus-There are a lot of conferences/trainings out there on every imaginable ministry topic- leadership, outreach, worship, discipleship etc. etc. etc. But if your passion and heartbeat is children’s/family ministry- if the faces of those kids and parents keep you up at night- then nothing beats a children’s/family ministry conference for putting all the best of everything right towards your calling.  Instead of finding one or two things that will benefit your ministry at a website, you will find that most, if not all, of the large group services, worship services, resources and breakouts will directly speak to, equip and impact YOUR ministry right now. There is a lot to be said about the effectiveness of that kind of focus- everything, absolutely everything, applies to your kid’s and family ministry.

9. Resources Galore- Every year, I see several children’s leaders arrive with cash in hand to buy their curriculum, training materials, books, worship DVDs, and supplies for the whole year. These events offer the chance to go through MANY vender booths, talk directly to the creators of many of the products, handle and examine the resources (as opposed to buying online)- all under one roof! And every single thing is for kid’s and family ministries! It’s like Christmas for kid’s ministry leaders.  I even saw a few teams that brought their senior leader WITH them (great idea!) to help them purchase most of what they would need for the next year all at once. Great idea, very efficient.  It also gets your senior leader in the loop, excited about the possibilities and increased vision for the family ministries area! Some booths also offer conference discounts that you can only get at the conference.

8. The Speakers- Quality, dynamic speakers present each year the main sessions at conferences, and live always trumps recorded. There is power in “being there.” Want to hear from the most successful and in-demand children’s/family ministry leaders? You’ll probably find all of them in one place. And every single year, I and my team have been inspired, challenged and encouraged to let God use us in bigger ways! I took so many notes last year at one conference, that I ran out of paper, and had to write on random scraps of paper in my purse.  I still reread those notes several times during the year (some are tear stained).  The impact of those large group services goes on well after the conference is over.

7. The networking- The very best part of off site conferences is NOT the amazing services or breakouts- sorry.  The BEST part of the conference is the networking that happens organically among children’s leaders.  Everywhere I see children’s leaders connecting, exchanging ideas, praying together, commiserating….they’re exchanging emails and Facebook info in the hallways, classrooms, after services, late night activities.  They are bonding over lunch! We are always better when we are working TOGETHER. I have met some of the most amazing friends and ministry collegues at these conferences!

6. College credit- Did you know, that several conferences now offer classes that count for college credit? Awesome right? I highly advise you to check this out on the conference website, especially if you are going or thinking about going after a ministry degree. All of us should we working to do better, to BE better at what we do. Because we have the greatest job on earth!

5. The workshops- Every year, I find so many workshops that I cannot WAIT to attend. In fact, usually there are usually two or three I want to visit every time block, SO my teams split up and each attend a different workshop. Then at lunch or dinner we compare notes and share what we learned.  Coming by yourself? You may find yourself wanting to order copies of certain classes so you don’t have to miss a thing! And some conferences let you pick a “track” of classes to attend: for example, “recruitment” “family ministry” and several more. And if you choose a track, remember you are not locked into that track.  If you see a workshop you really can’t wait to be a part of- go ahead and go! The track gives you great ideas of workshops to benefit your biggest needs.  I think it’s a great new idea that will work well.

4. The activities! – It’s not all “heavy” learning.  There is a lot of fun! Games, demonstrations, giveaways- late night stuff! It is part of the whole experience- touring the area around the convention halls, local attractions (if you like), great food, swimming and more. There is always a lot of laughing and fun to be had even when the classes are NOT in session. This is bonding for your team that is priceless. This bonding flourishes when you get away together.

3. Those amazing God moments in the hallway….  I cannot say enough about this one. I go to a lot of conferences all over the country (USA), and I love seeing children’s leaders praying together in the hallways, workshop leaders praying over people in classrooms after sessions and people having such deep God-conversations over lunches.  One such “God moment” happened to me 3 years ago. Two women I had never known, along with a workshop leader, prayed with me in the hallway. I was so inspired that I went home and finished writing my first book “Your Children’s Ministry From Scratch”- an all inclusive guide, to help children’s leaders launch or rebuild a dynamic kid’s ministry from the ground up.  I referred back to my notes from that conference many times during the long editing and publishing process, and it gave me the courage to keep going.  Since going live on Amazon, the 1st book has already sold over 2000 copies in 11 countries in 4 languages, and has become a mandatory textbook at several universities.  What ministry could God be growing within you right now? Go with an open mind and a ready heart.  And look for God to speak to YOU, in AND out of the services.

2. One on one coaching- CPC (Children’s Pastor’s Conference) offers sign ups for a one on one session with the children’s ministry expert of your choice (from the conference)- the cost of which is FREE with paid registration to the conference. The point is to “Go Home with a Plan!” that you can immediately implement- practical tools and strategies just for you and your situation. Other conferences offer these encounters in a less formal way; CMCONNECT conference gives you the chance to talk with “experts”, rubbing shoulders with them in every hallway. The intimate feel puts everyone on the same level, giving you the chance to really open up to those who have been in your shoes.

1. Team bonding- Effective growing ministries do not grow and thrive from one man (or one woman) shows. The future of your children’s ministry depends on the strength of your TEAM. Want to bond and inspire your team for years to come? A get away is the place to do that. It is so difficult to come home from a conference and try to relay the information to people who weren’t there. There is power in experiencing those moments, the laughs, prayers and tears TOGETHER.  “You had to have been there”.  Your team may just come home solidified as one team, with a strong vision for ministry- and totally stoked to take things to the next level!

Convinced yet? Need more info? Check out these upcoming conferences. I am so excited to be speaking at each of these this spring. If you will be there, please come up and say HI! Do you still love going to offsite conferences? Which is YOUR favorite?

Love Trisha

Children’s Pastor’s Conference- Orlando, FL, Caribe Resort and Conference Center, Jan 24-26, http://www.incm.org/events/

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CMCONNECT Conference- Louisville, KY, Graceland Baptist Church in New Albany, Indiana, February 20-23, https://cmconnect.org/cmconnect-announces-2017-site/

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AGKidMIN Conference-Fort Wayne, IN April 19-21, First Assembly of God (sponsored by the National Assemblies of God), http://kidmin.ag.org/conference/

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Now IS a great time to write that book you have been dreaming of.booking2

Welcome to Part 2, of what I didn’t know about getting my books “Your Children’s Ministry From Scratch” and “Your Children’s Ministry Beyond Basics” from the concept stages all the way to being sold successfully on Amazon and elsewhere.

The final step to getting your book fully written of course is….

7. You have to FINISH. I don’t know how many people I’ve talked to, who start a book, get a couple of chapters in and then put it in their underwear drawer where their book stays for all time. Starting is difficult, staying disciplined enough to keep writing regularly is tough, but in my opinion, finishing your book WELL is often the toughest challenge of all. Think about it this way. What is the hardest part of your workout? Yes, starting is difficult, and going the distance takes discipline, but many times, those last few minutes are the toughest, when you honestly feel you cannot go on.  Many things in life are this way- having a baby, climbing a mountain, completing your finals in college….you are at the end, totally exhausted and drained, and that is when you have to dig deep and PUSH.  This is when those wonderful relationships and all that accountability you have set up are really going to pay off. You need that support team to make sure you don’t drop out. This is NOT the time to stop talking with them regularly.  They will work to keep you motivated and inspired.  Take a moment to look back at your initial notes and outlines to remember your original dream- remember why you are doing this!

8. You are going to have to communicate, communicate and communicate.  It is a mistake to assume that everyone around you can just read your mind and know how important this is to you.  Most people will not understand how difficult it is to write a book, how time consuming. As you enter into the last stages of writing your book, you are GOING to need some help, watching your kids, possibly with housework, getting groceries and more.  If you work full time (or are a full time pastor!) this is the time for strategic planning- do not put your toughest projects on the weeks you are finishing up your book. This is the time to delegate, and to entrust many of your day to day operations to your capable leaders.

9. Do not give yourself an “out”. As the saying goes, “If you give yourself an escape bridge, you WILL use it.”  Do not start planning, “Well if this gets too tough, I can take a break for a few weeks/months.”  “Oh, I can always work on this next year” “If work gets really busy (when is it NOT busy at a church?), I can back off for awhile”…..if you have a backup plan to take an extended break, that is exactly what will happen.  Life will get busy, problems will happen, and you WILL have delays. But do not plan to take extended breaks.  Plan to FINISH, and finish well.

10. Begin to work on your social media platform NOW, before the book is completed. Do not make the mistake of waiting too long to begin talking publicly about your book. These days you NEED to build your book’s platform BEFORE it actually comes out.  I met with 2 marketing experts about my book, and both of them told me that I needed to do a lot more work on my social media presence. To be honest, I didn’t see the pressing need….I was on Facebook for awhile, but hadn’t done much at all with Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Tumblr, etc. I had always been so busy with our growing ministry, that I hadn’t put in enough time building on social media. I was definitely skeptical. But I decided to listen to these 2 men who did this for a living.  And they couldn’t have been more right.  I am convinced now more than ever, of the power of social media.  In fact, they told me, that you cannot expect much success or much of any kind of audience for your book without that platform. Instead of making excuses like “I cannot understand it at all” “It’s too much work” “It’s not really that important” “I just don’t DO that stuff” etc, make it your JOB to learn the in’s and out’s and continually update your social media profiles. I spent several days devoted solely to building that platform for my book online. Get help from a friend if you have to.  This step could make or break the launch of your book.

11. You’ve finished the book- now what? So after you’ve been faithful and finished the book that you set out to do, congratulate yourself- go out to dinner and celebrate!!! That’s a HUGE achievement! So you’re done now right? WRONG. Now you have the big step of getting your book published. Who are you going to have publish it? Are you going traditional or self publishing? Actual print books, online books or both? What will you charge? What avenues will you use for distribution. You are done with one major milestone, now on to the next big challenge!

To be continued in part 3!!!!

Got a book inside you screaming to come out and greet the world?

While at a conference a little over a year ago, I got to sit in on a well known author’s meet and greet with a small group of would be authors. One young woman kept dominating the entire conversation, probably trying to impress this author. She talked on and on about her book, while all of the others in the room squirmed impatiently for their turn to ask questions. Finally, the young woman leaned across the table and asked, “_________, I need to know, what is the most important thing I need to do to get my book published?”  Everyone in the room hushed to hear the answer.

The author, without missing a beat, stated “The most important step in getting your book published is to write the book.”

It is true; having your book finally published is seeing a lifelong dream fulfilled.  It’s even better getting to hold that dream in your hands and then share that dream across cultures and across miles. Both of my books are products of years of planning, writing, rewriting, researching and garnering feedback. Those who know me, know that I talked about the books for years, but the actual pace of our growing ministries had me writing in spurts over the course of 5 years.  It is very difficult to be a full time staff pastor AND an author (and more importantly a wife, mom, family member and friend).   As the saying goes, “I didn’t know, what I didn’t know.”

Many many people wish to write a book, and some even talk about the book they want to write. A few even start to write one. And a VERY VERY few actually finish writing their book. And then comes getting your book published……  This amazing new adventure is still fresh in my mind; so if I can encourage you to step out and try your own book adventure- GREAT!

Here are the things I learned on my journey from a book idea to a book on my nightstand:

1. “The hardest part is getting started.” This is so true. You can talk about this forever, but your book will never happen if you don’t START. If you are a perfectionist like me, you may have a lot of fears (excuses) that are holding you back, such as “I’m waiting for a better time” (like WHEN? be honest), “I’m too busy” (and when will you NOT be busy?), and “what if it’s not perfect?” (it won’t be, really).  Your journey begins with the single step of “START.” It may help you to put your big beginning on your calendar and clear the time to get started. Don’t wait for a “perfect” day or time or when you think it will be “perfect”. You have time for rewrites later. Take a breath, clear an hour or two, and start writing.

2. It won’t just happen. Nothing great in this life just magically appears. The best things in life aren’t really free- they cost us the most in time, tears, heartache. For example, a great marriage, parenting your children, a growing ministry, physical fitness= none of these things just “appear”, they take a LOT of hard work and sacrifice. All things on this earth, when left to themselves DECLINE; improvement always takes work.  Your book is going to take time, and hard work. The best way to make sure this happens is to actually schedule your writing times and stick to them.  There will be interruptions, and life happens, but keep at it and don’t give up.

3. Set smaller goals- Looking at the giant mountain you are about to climb may be completely overwhelming, and may actually stall your progress. It helped me immensely to break the writing of the book down into smaller more bite sized pieces. For example, I would aim to do “one half chapter a week” and so on. It helped my confidence and encouraged me to keep going as each smaller goal was met.

4. Lay the majority of the groundwork BEFORE starting your project. Having a crystal clear plan helps a lot, and keeps you on track.  I did an overall book outline, then outlined each chapter in depth, then kept doing my research, keeping records and giving out surveys. After that, I could stay following the plan all the way to the finish.  This will also keep you from “rambling” or going off on an unrelated tangent.

5. Find a way to be ACCOUNTABLE.  Just like your fitness program, you will be MUCH more successful if you include others in your project.  It’s easy to get started, and life gets in the way and your book begins to fall by the wayside. You NEED one or more people you can trust that will continually, repeatedly ask you, “How is the book going?” With everything else going on in my life, I had to CREATE deadlines to keep myself on schedule. I am eternally indebted to my family, my husband and my close team of friends who met with me, helped me through the tough spots and wouldn’t let me quit. Make sure you have a SMALL team- 1-3 people, who will pray with you, brainstorm with you, and hold you accountable to fulfill your dream.

COMING NEXT WEEK: Part Two……From Scratch CH 6.2