Archives for posts with tag: children’s ministry

No it’s not all in your head. Your job as a children’s ministries staff person/volunteer is one of, if not THE toughest job in your church. Why? Here are a few of the key reasons that you have such a difficult (yet rewarding) ministry:

1.No area of the church is as prone to explosive conflict as the children’s area. Very nice people can become UNNICE rather quickly when their children are involved. Any program that works with people’s kids will encounter intense conflicts from time to time. On top of that several articles have been written recently about the problem of parent bullying of teachers. Unfortunately, that bullying can extend itself into your ministry- parents/guardians bullying you and your leaders in order to get their way (a part in a play for their child, special rules just for their child, a certain prize for their child, an ending of consequences etc. etc.) These conflicts tend to involve a lot of emotions and may become quite personal. The sheer number of these conflicts can be wearing on a kid’s ministry leader.

2. The legalities involved are mind-boggling. In the past decade, liability insurance for churches has skyrocketed. This massive insurance premium increase has resulted in changes in the way that some churches do ministry- some have stopped doing camp outs, some have stopped offsite activities, others have discontinued their 15 passenger van services (because their insurance will no longer cover them). Every single thing that we do in children’s ministry must be scrutinized for its possible liability issues. The public schools deal with this as well. If a child falls on church property, or is injured by faulty equipment, the chances are MUCH higher of their being a lawsuit against the church than if the injury happened to an adult. And let’s just face it- kids get hurt. Toddlers fall down. Kids get hurt playing games, running and horseplaying. We cannot prevent all injuries, but we can do due diligence to minimize injuries on our property. If something goes to court, the question will be asked, “Did you and your staff do everything REASONABLE to prevent this from happening?” Bottom line: the vast majority of your church’s liablity and potential lawsuits come from your children’s ministry department.

3. Medical issues in children’s ministry have changed. This goes hand in hand with #2. We do not have room here to debate why the cases of food allergies (including peanuts) and cases of autism and childhood depression, among other disorders, have increased exponentially in the past several years.  Most of these medical issues will affect the children’s department the most. At our church, 8 out of every 10 medical issues happen in the kid’s ministry area (a fall, a bite in the nursery, an allergy reaction, an emotional meltdown). One Sunday morning, I got a call that a 7 year old child was down, struggling to breathe, because another child came into class that had just eaten a peanut butter sandwhich at home. She had a severe peanut allergy reaction just from the boy’s breath. Thankfully her mother taught for us and was nearby with an epipen. These are issues we face much more often in kid’s ministry than in the adult service.

4. Recruiting is so MUCH MORE difficult for the kid’s ministry leader than for ANY OTHER area in your church. Why? A. Due to the above issues, you MUST maintain proper ratios. Depending on your state recommended guidelines and/or your church’s guidelines, you may need to have 1 leader per 2-3 kids in the infant room, 1 per 4-5 in toddlers, 1 per 6-8 in pre-K, 1 per 8-12 in elementary. Adults do not have to worry about these ratios. Student ministries do not need quite as high ratios. B. You CANNOT put just anyone serving in kid’s ministry. Many people in your church will not qualify. You cannot use anyone with a history of child abuse, or anyone with a bad temper etc. Not everyone has a temperament that will work well in kid’s ministry. C. Your onboarding requirements will be MUCH tougher for a new volunteer. They must be fingerprinted, background checked, trained and more. Your kid’s ministry SHOULD have the toughest guidelines to serve in the church. Not everyone will qualify, or even stick around for the longer onboarding process. *SEE HOLIDAY SCHEDULING

5. You will have a lot of administrative duties. Many new children’s leaders are not prepared for the level of administrative work they will need to do. You have to organize the recruiting, training and onboarding of new leaders continually. You need to create the schedules for each class, make sure each class has teachers each week. This means filling holes in the schedule week to week and on a Sunday morning too when the need arises! You are keeping track of who is serving when and with whom and who traded days with who etc. ****HOLIDAY SCHEDULING- This scheduling can be so frustrating and overwhelming around holidays- Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, Summer….And in most cases, when there is an adult service, there will be children’s ministry. The other pastors may get a “break” to sit with their family at the Christmas Eve service. You may not. Your budget will have to be more detailed because it covers several ages groups and activities (Our is 14 pages as compared to student ministries 2). You will have a LOT more equipment to keep track of- diapers, wipes, AWANA game equipment, curriculum, teaching supplies etc etc. You have the planning of VBS, Camps, Weekends, Midweek, Christmas play, Harvest Fest etc. etc. Many of these have to be planned  up to a year in advance.

 

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? Do you think what you do is harder than most people think it is? Stay tuned for part 2 next week of Why Your Job Really is Harder. Please be encouraged and have an amazing week. You are loved, and Jesus sees all you do for Him and His kids. Love Trisha

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I really hope you enjoyed the first part of this blog! It certainly hit home with some of you. And yes you can feel free to share as you like. Why is it so hard for those of us who lead others to take care of ourselves? It is not selfish to lead ourselves; it is essential if we want to be effective over the long haul. So here are five MORE ways to practice self care/self leadership!

5. Go to a conference- I always learn and grow so much by getting away from my usual setting and interacting with other leaders. Iron definitely sharpens iron. Many of my fellow pastoral leaders say that the best part of conferences is the interaction and networking with other leaders. I grow from the breakouts, from the main sessions and especially from the hallway conversations! At conferences you can find a whole new perspective, find new skills and have the freedom to discuss hardships that you perhaps cannot discuss at home. A conference is worth the investment in your future ministry. None of us should EVER stop growing or learning.

4. Perhaps take a break- Here is a controversial point for sure. Americans are some of the worst on the planet for NOT taking their vacation days (instead taking the money). Too many pastors report not taking a regular day off. In our culture, being a workaholic is seen as a badge of honor and a sign of dedication. But Jesus got away from the crowds regularly to be alone with God. I remember being told that you should never take a break from ministry or “that gap would look terrible on your resume.” Jumping from one bad ministry situation to another without taking adequate time to heal and recover, sets you up for more damage to yourself and your new ministry. It is not weakness to take time away and pray for God’s leading. Otherwise you may risk going from the fire pan into the fryer. Some churches are catching on to this healthy idea and offering pastors sabbaticals (usually after being there 7 years etc.)

3. Get someone on the outside to talk to- Due to the confidential nature of many of our dealings, we pastors can start to feel isolated. Everyone talks to us, but we have few to be real and honest with. And if you are like me, one who processes tough situations by talking through them, then you need a safe person to bounce ideas off of. This is absolutely necessary for pastors to have someone safe to talk to. I highly suggest you find someone outside of your church setting, who you know will keep things confidential. It may be helpful for you to find a professional counselor. Again, going in for counseling is NOT weakness. Having someone to listen and pour into YOU can make all the difference in the world.

2. Get a mentor- As the saying goes, every minister should have a hand up (someone who is mentoring them) and a hand down (someone they are mentoring). If you do not currently have a mentor, someone who is further along in the direction you are trying to go, then begin actively praying and seeking for that person. We must all keep learning always. And none of us have “arrived.” I have had to swallow fear before and just ask, “Would you meet with me every other week for 6 months? I just want to learn from you.” I have been so surprised how many “giants” of ministry were willing to say yes. I think it is because they too see the importance of mentorship. Not sure where to start? I would suggest a paid coaching for 6 months with someone you respect. Many ministry leaders- Jim Wideman, Karl Bastian, myself etc. etc.- offer this service. Sometimes a mentor, a coach who believes in you can make all the difference in your life and ministry.

1. Relationship with God MUST continue to be, or must become first priority. Let me just say this: Time spent working FOR God is NOT the same as time spent WITH God. We ministers spend a whole lot of time working FOR God- but most of us do not get enough time just spent WITH God in His Presence. This time getting away with God is not selfish- it is essential. Sounds terrible, but anything that isn’t carefully planned for, just does not seem to happen. You should plan your time with God right on your calendar and protect it. Yes I know life happens and you can have emergencies come up. But developing those habits of prayer and Bible study and journaling are the MOST important parts of your day- and the most important part of your personal and ministerial health as well. Make those appointments with God happen!

What about YOU? What do you do to lead yourself well? What leadership hacks could you share to help other leaders with self care? See you next week, love Trisha

ps- If you are interested in the personal coaching program, email trisha@peach.im for more information.

heart-stones

Great leaders need to consistently lead THEMSELVES well. When you wake up in the morning, you have the privilege of piloting an amazing body and soul crafted by God Himself. He loves you and gifted you uniquely to serve. Too often leaders think they have to neglect their own growth in order to truly put others first. Here are a few statistics from 2016, churchleadership.com, that should make us all stop and think!

  • 79% of Evangelical and Reformed pastors are happier personally
  • 88% of churches are treating their pastors better, too
  • 88% have a high view of Christ
  • 75% are better at their spiritual formation
  • 57% are more satisfied in their calling
  • However, 54% of pastors still work over 55 hours a week
  • 57% can’t pay their bills
  • 54% are overworked and 43% are overstressed
  • 53% feel seminary had not properly prepared them for the task.
  • 35% battle depression
  • 26% are overly fatigued
  • 28% are spiritually undernourished and 9% are burnt-out
  • 23% are still distant to their families
  • 18% work more than 70 hours a week and face unreasonable challenges
  • 12% are belittled.
  • 3% have had an affair
  • Yet, 90% feel honored to be a pastor!  Read more here:  http://www.churchleadership.org/apps/articles/default.asp?blogid=4545&view=post&articleid=Statistics-on-Pastors-2016-Update&link=1&fldKeywords=&fldAuthor=&fldTopic=0

But, to truly give of yourself to others, and to do quality ministry to more people over time, we must learn to invest in ourselves. In other words, you need to “fill up” if you are going to continually give out. It is such a misnomer, the old idea that you “finish school” and then minister until retirement. Really, we should never stop learning and growing. The people, the generations, that we are called to reach are rapidly changing. We must continually be growing or we will rapidly become burned out and ineffective. The following are 10 steps YOU can take right now to grow as a person and as a leader. #1 is by FAR the most important.

10. Never stop learning. Always include ongoing training in your plans- no matter how long you have been in ministry. You can go back for a degree (I’m currently in a Master’s Program online through Bethel Seminary in Children’s and Family Ministries). You can even audit a class or two. Some denominations (including mine) offer district training events. There are also online training “academies” on a variety of subjects. Just be aware that some are accredited and some are not. You may even want to go forward pursuing your ministerial credentials with your church, if you haven’t already. A friend of mine got a certificate in counseling; another friend got a tragedy response certificate.

9. Make your day off HAPPEN. Most ministry leaders are BUSY. So many tell me, “Trish you just don’t GET IT. I CAN’T take even one day off. It’s impossible.” And I always tell them, “I’ve been on staff at a very large church. Yes, I totally get it. But your church was trained to act a certain way; and they can be trained to act a different way.” Remember, you are daily teaching others how to treat you. Put a higher price tag on your health! Put the same amount of planning into having a day off as you put into Sundays or outreaches. I plan ahead. I have an auto responder for my email. I have a voicemail that lets people know I am NOT available and who to call in my absence. Only my admin has my personal phone number and she knows to NEVER give it out. She only notifies me if it is a REAL emergency. You need a sharp person who understands a real emergency.

8. Take care of your health- For my senior project in my undergrad, I studied, “The occupational hazards of ministry”. I was horrified to discover that pastors have a MUCH higher rate than the general population of diabetes, obesity, heart disease and depression. I believe that stress, long work hours and the fallout of poorly handled church conflict takes a catastrophic toll on your body. We may just be figuring, “Well, I’m doing God’s work, so God will just have to fix me.” Jesus also taught us not to jump off buildings and expect angels to catch us before we hit the ground. You will not be as effective as a pastor if you health- mental or physical- is a wreck. We pastors do not like going to get help for ourselves. We do not always have health insurance. But it is imperative that we keep taking good care of the body God has entrusted us with. This means taking the time to eat nutritious food (Gluttony is the only sin we openly promote and laugh about in our churches). Exercise should become your lifeline. Exercise helps with preventing and treating diabetes, heart disease, stress AND depression. Going to the doctor for regular check ups helps us face the reality of where we are at physically as well as mentally. We as leaders need to stop having a “martyr” mentality about our health. Instead of “sacrificing” our health for our “flock”, we can serve others so much better, for many more years, if we are physically and mentally well.

7. Take care of  your family life- This may sound harsh, but chances are you will not be in your current position of leadership for life. In fact, the statistics tell us that most leaders only last between 18 months and 3.5 years in a position. That is so sad. But no matter what the reasons, church positions may come and go, but your MARRIAGE is supposed to last forever. Your family is supposed to remain standing when the smoke clears. That is why your family needs to come before work at the church. No outreach or event is worth damaging your marriage or the self worth of your child. If your life is out of balance to the point that you are missing date nights and all of your child’s “big” events (not just one or two), then you need to do an overhaul on your schedule. If your family is your priority, then your weekly schedule needs to reflect that. When is your regular date night? When is your family night? You should be taking every one of your paid days off as well. Again, the “martyr” complex of not taking your days off because “the church needs you” is a mistake. Your family needs you. And they need you at your best.

6. Become a ninja at time management- Most of us have a lot more control over our schedules then we realize. We not to stop the false mentality that we are helpless victims of our chaotic circumstances. The old adage applies, “If nothing changes, nothing changes.” It does not help to HOPE that someday your senior leader notices how stressed out you are and makes sure you get a quiet day off. That is probably will not happen. YOU have to work at laying out that schedule. It is WORTH it to spend an hour or two on a Thursday planning out your whole next week, hour by hour. Group your phone calls together. Group all emails together. Things are aren’t planned for just don’t seem to get done. It IS a lot of work to get your schedule under control. But how much do you really want balance in your life, home and ministry? Pray hard and tackle that schedule. YOU CAN get the life you are hoping for- you are just going to have to work at it.

Please stay tuned for Part 2 next week, where I’ll be writing you from Henryetta Oklahoma! I am flying down to help out my sister in law who is battling an aggressive cancer. Your prayers are greatly appreciated! God bless! love Trisha

 

A_self care

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love and Blessings- Trisha

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

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

Whether or not to celebrate Mother’s Day, and if so to what extent, has been the subject of more than one “intense” discussion for our staff in the past. People can have VERY strong feelings on the subject. Here was my standpoint in those staff meetings:

Yes. I still believe the church should acknowledge Mother’s Day. Yes. From the pulpit.

Now before anyone starts sending hate mail, just hear me out. My husband and I DID struggle with infertility. As a children’s pastor, it was MISERY to be in church every single year on Mother’s Day, handing out flowers to Mothers, when I so desperately just wanted to BE a Mother. Oh, and let’s not forget all the baby dedications, and nursery renovations, and children’s productions when the desire for a child of my own was so overwhelming I thought it was going to crush me/kill me. I am ashamed to say that when one family announced that “oh oops, I guess we are expecting number 8!” I went home and bawled my eyes out. More than once at Walmart, I would pass a 14 year old pregnant girl headed outside to smoke and want to claw her eyes out and rip out all her hair. Not my finest hour. But even during those difficult times I knew that being a Mom was a special full time job, a calling that I wanted in on.

Skip ahead several years, and our church had grown. a lot. And in a very large church, you have to take a lot of things into consideration when planning your services ahead. For awhile we decided to cut our tradition of the kids singing on Mother’s Day in our Sunday morning service, because non-Mother’s might be hurt by it. And we debated mentioning Mother’s day AT ALL because non-Mother’s might not come to church. This line of thinking spread into cutting most of our Father’s Day activities because a lot of children do not have fathers. And then our Veterans Day cards giveaway was on the chopping block because some of our soldiers did not come home (they were killed in the line of duty). Next came came cutting our children singing/performing near Christmas time, because some families do not have children and may feel left out, or they come from divorced homes and cannot participate. During all of this debate and planning on our staff, I was asked whether or not we should have special services at all or if we should mention things like Mother’s Day. After some prayer and thought this is what I said:

Yes. We need to mention the importance of mothers and fathers and family because God does and Scripture does. Not just on one or two days but throughout the year. Furthermore, our American culture does not highly value the role of “mother”. In fact, in an era when young women are encouraged almost EVERYWHERE they turn to be thin, beautiful, sensual, sexually appealing, young, immature and irresponsible- raising a child does not fit into that mind set at ALL. Young women are taught from the get go to be selfish, to focus on what THEY want, when THEY want it. Choosing to raise a child and put the child’s needs ahead of your own is considered old fashioned and ignorant and even a waste of your life. The “secular” world does not usually see a “stay at home mom” as a full time job, though it most certainly is!

I do not believe that our young ladies (or young men) are getting the tools they need to be parents, because the role of a parent is not valued in our society.

So if the role of a parent is not valued or encouraged in our self focused, self driven life style- then where can a parent be valued, encouraged and equipped? That should be, and is supposed to be in the church. God created the family and places a very high value on parents- including Mothers. Mothers are important to God. What they do is valued and blessed by Him. It is a good thing for the church to go counter culture on Mother’s Day and affirm and thank moms for following a calling laid out in Scripture.

Then, what should our approach be as a church, as a congregation- when some of your congregation are parents and some are not? When some are mothers and some are desperately trying and some are mothers who are grieving? And what about divorced families and families with only one parent and foster families and blended families?

One of our major problems as a body of Christ is our tendency to swing to extremes. We tend to swing violently to one end of the pendulum or the other. Either we have every Mom stand up in the church service with their flower bouquet while the band and the children sing, and every other woman gets nothing OR we skip the whole day for fear of offending anyone. Part of our Christian walk is learning to live together in love and balance. We can learn to lovingly thank and affirm our mothers without singling people out. We can remember that people in our congregations are suffering, waiting for a child or grieving the loss of one and be sensitive to that. At the same time, we can make a stand as to the value of God’s design for the family- and weave that into our programming and the way we “do church” year round. Can we do special day well, with balance, effectiveness and grace? Oh definitely. I don’t want to cut so much that we are not offending anyone, because we are saying nothing at all.

Should we acknowledge Mother’s Day from the pulpit? Yes. We should affirm God’s design and approval for motherhood, but with grace, compassion and balance. So go love that crazy messed up outta wack beautiful thing we call the church this Sunday (the Body of Christ) and Happy Mother’s Day. Love Trisha

Ephesians 4:13-15American Standard Version (ASV)

13 till we all attain unto the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a fullgrown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

14 that we may be no longer children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error;

15 but speaking truth in love, we may grow up in all things into him, who is the head, even Christ;

Here is a pic of me, my mother Bonnie Stevens and my daughter. I love you Mom! Thank you for always pointing us to Jesus. Your prayers have carried us countless times. Love you!!

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Yes, reaching out to children in Jesus’ Name is a high calling and a great adventure, but children’s and family ministry does have some unique challenges. Here are just a few:

 

  1. “Different orbit” Children’s ministry is one of the few church ministries that takes place at the same time as the main service, and in a different room. The danger here is that the children’s ministry can be cut off from the vision and life of the church as a whole. The children’s leader must work harder than some of the other staff to communicate to “earth” (the parents, adults, lead pastor and other staff) about what is going on on the “moon” (the children’s ministry) and vice versa. The children’s leader has to intentionally work to make sure their ministry reflects the values and mission of the church as a whole, and that the children are a part of the church and its activities.

 

  1. “High Volunteer Need” Arguably, no other area of the church has a higher need for volunteer leaders than the children’s ministry department, due to the need to keep to ratios (6 kids per 1 adult for example). Also, you cannot put just ANYONE in with children. Each potential volunteer must be thoroughly vetted and background checked before being considered. If they pass, they need to be trained, discipled and placed in an area that flows with their skill set. These precious leaders are not babysitters; they are co-laborers and fellow children’s ministers. A growing kid’s ministry doesn’t need one children’s pastor; it needs a team of children’s ministers, ready to reach all children regardless of background, learning style or situation. We should never apologize for asking others to partner with us in this amazing journey of ministry to kids!

 

  1. “Babysitting Syndrome” Too many churches are following an old European custom instead of Scripture. By this, I mean, they look at children as unimportant, and put them off in another room to be babysat while the important adults have church. This thinking also leads to placing the most “expendable” people in kid’s ministry to “babysit”. Most children’s ministry leaders will run into this cultural belief at one time or another. It is up to us to lovingly vision cast a more Biblical view of children’s and family ministry- one that places great importance on children. I often tell parents, “We will not babysit your children. We pray that they are changed by learning about and meeting with God. We invite you to be a part of this experience.” We also fight the babysitting paradigm by actively and publically seeking out the best, most talented and qualified people to work with our kids. Not just any warm body will do. Another problem that arises is when the church expects the children’s leader to  babysit, or find babysitters for every single church event. I think this is a terrible idea and a legal liability. Also, it tears down the credibility of the children’s ministry program.  This “babysitting” mentality does not disappear in a day, but with love and prayer we can change the way the whole church views ministry to children.

 

  1. “Universal Leader” Never before has the children’s leader had to be such a jack of all trades. A lot of churches are looking for a person who can speak up front to children, communicate with the parents, train and disciple the leaders, recruit effectively for multiple open spots at all times, manage the scheduling for leaders and services, head up several outreaches a year and more. Whew. That is a huge job!

  

  1. “Teeny Tiny Time Frame” We have so little time to make an impact. We only have these kids an average of 1 hour per week, only 32 days a year. These statistics should scare us and challenge us. We must be incredibly intentional about our programming to do everything we can, to equip these kids in every way possible. And part of that equipping process must include partnering with the parents to make sure that these kids are getting what they need spiritually at home first, where they spend the MOST time. Parents+church+dedicated Christian friends make a dynamic support structure for optimal change and growth.

 

 

  1. “Poverty” Even in a nation as wealthy as the United States, too many families are struggling with the reality of poverty. According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, “About 15 millionchildren in the United States – 21% of all children – live in families with incomes below the federal poverty threshold, a measurement that has been shown to underestimate the needs of families. Research shows that, on average, families need an income of about twice that level to cover basic expenses.”[1] As children’s ministry leaders, we may be asking kids to come up with money for several events a year- camp, winter retreat, fundraiser etc. There are children in our ministries who honestly cannot afford to pay for these things. Does that mean that they cannot participate in camp, for example? What ways can we work to include more kids instead of excluding them with fees? I struggle with this with our AWANA program. The suggested fees would never work in our area, and even the $20 we did end up charging for books and uniform proved to be too much for several of our children. The gap between the rich and the poor is ever widening in our culture. But at church we are not supposed to give preferential treatment to the rich. How can churches better minister to families struggling with lingering poverty? A book I read recently, “What Helping Hurts,” was a great read, full of great ideas for building up instead of sustaining a spiraling situation.

 

  1. “Too Many Activities” One of the biggest challenges facing children’s leaders today is that we are competing with so many other activities. Soccer games were never on Sundays when I was a child. Today, parents are routinely taking their children to sports rehearsals 3 or 4 nights a week with games almost every weekend- even on Sundays. In addition they usually have music lessons, 4H, Boy Scouts, etc etc. I think those of us in ministry need to be much more careful about not scheduling a whole lot of extra events. Instead, we should be working to make our weekends (and midweeks if applicable)more effective. Many churches respond to the challenge of “family ministry” by putting on dozens more programs and activities. We need to understand the busyness of our families, do fewer programs, and do those fewer programs with more quality.

 

  1. “Native Technology Speakers”- I have learned in our classes that this generation of children are native speakers of everything technology related. Perhaps as a result of all this time in front of screens, children have a VERY short attention span (3-5 minutes average), are drawn to videos and can be more inclined to be visual learners. I learned a lot about the different learning styles. Children’s leaders must craft a diverse kids’ service that will minister to different learning styles and proficiencies. Most children’s leaders are also NOT “native technology” speakers, meaning we did not grow up with computers, laptops etc. But the modern ministry leader must commit to learning the language of children and the language of this culture if they plan to be in any way effective. On a side note: I also discovered in my own church, our kid’s ministry programs have been neglecting the “imaginative” learning style. This generation, especially the imaginative learners, need time to “verbally process” what they are hearing. They need an opportunity to share their thoughts and personal experiences. I realized that I needed to add this important time to the curriculum that we write.

 

  1. “Biblical Illiteracy”- We can no longer assume that the children we minister to, even within the church, all “know” the Bible stories. Biblical literacy is not what it used to be. We have to make an intentional plan to teach children the basic Bible stories both at home and at church.

 

  1. “Rise of Special Needs”- For unknown reasons, the incidences of autism and other special needs in children has skyrocketed[2]. It may be safe to say that all children’s leaders will have children with special needs in their ministry. And for every one that IS there at church, I imagine that there may be 10 special needs children who stay home, because they or their parents do not feel like they can go to church? Right along with physical special needs-autism, muscular dystrophy, down syndrome etc. is a whole host of mental and behavioral special needs- ADHD, Bipolar Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder and more. I believe that children’s leaders must educate themselves and others about special needs in children. It is important to do trainings with our leaders and work to be more inclusive to children and families with special needs.

 

[1] “Child Poverty.” NCCP | Child Poverty. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 May 2017.

[2] “”1 in 68:What Do Autism’s Rising Numbers Mean For Our Families?”.” Autism Speaks. N.p., 24 July 2012. Web. 01 May 2017.

So what are the biggest challenges for you and YOUR ministry? Do you agree with this list? Why or why not?

Whatever challenges you may be facing in your ministry, I pray God helps you meet each and every one with courage, strength and humor. God bless- Trisha

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Yes I’m a woman in ministry, ordained in 2006. And I’ve done weddings, funerals, baptisms, visitation….you name it. I am totally ok with working on a large staff of mostly males. But I have noticed a few challenges that I think female leaders in a church, may face more often than their male counterparts. What do you think? Am I right? Here’s my top ten things only female ministers will understand:

1. Oh no. I wore a dress today. Wearing that lapel Mic is going to be rough.

2. I am going to have to take these gorgeous shoes off if this prayer line gets any longer…and not because of a burning Bush.

3. Too many crying infants in this sanctuary. I’m going to have to go feed my own infant during worship and before my message, just to be safe.

4. After being up most of the night with a sick toddler, teething infant, I’m here on time for work, prayer service (a miracle) and no, I’m not feeling overly sympathetic that you, dear young intern, are too tired for these early mornings.

5. If it says, “all staff should attend”/be copied,  YES that should include me too.

6. After a church tragedy/death, yes I will need extra time to meet with my all female staff, because one will start crying and then they all will. Then they will need to start verbally processing their thoughts, emotions, and talking it out, encouraging each other-hugging. But together we will pull through and get it all done.

7. Another envelope came in the mail for “Reverend Scott and spouse”. He’s an I.T. Guy. But he thinks it’s really funny.

8. In college, people actually told me, “Oh honey, you’re a Children’s Pastoral major? Don’t be upset. You’ll meet someone.” When I first started dating Scott, a psych major, I heard, “I thought you said you felt called into ministry? Why would you throw that all away?” Lol

9. I am stressing so bad about the upcoming pastoral staff retreat. I have to coordinate the kid’s schedules, write out instructions for the sitter , make sure all the kid’s laundry is done, Scott’s lunches packed, dinner meals frozen, schools notified, dog meds laid out etc etc etc

10. Why oh why didn’t I remember to wear waterproof!!!! I always cry when I’m baptizing. And I’m in the tank today! Oh Lord, please help me wrestle that really big dude back up out of the water…..

How about you? Are you a woman in ministry? What are your pet peeves, funny or tender stories? God bless, and thank you all, men and women, for the ministry you do!

Love Trisha

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

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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I was honored and privileged to get a preview of Mark Harper’s brand new book  (just released on New Year’s Day, Jan 1, 2017) “The Red Book: the Life Blood of Children’s Ministry” all about the things that really matter the most in kid’s ministry- the “life blood” if you will. I so wish there had been a book like this when I was first getting into children’s ministry. Mark Harper of course, is the founder/author of the Super Church, known and used world wide.

I did not find any negatives as I read through it. It hooks you from Chapter One, and before you know it, you are half way through! But then you want to go back and reread several things. Mark Harper brings to bear his many decades of children’s ministry experience; and we get to benefit. The chapters are short enough to use as practical devotionals with your team. I love the fact that Mark pulls no punches and dives right into the tough topics we children’s leaders face, with several practical “how-to’s”. But the best part of the book, is that he brings it back around to “why we do, what we do.” He answers the question, “What is children’s ministry REALLY all about, underneath it ALL?” And his answer is “It’s about the gospel- It’s about the blood of Jesus.”

This is a must read for veterans and newcomers to children’s ministry alike. I think we all will find fresh inspiration to fuel our ministry to children, when we come back to the beauty and power of the Good News, and the Hope found only in the Jesus we know.

“The Red Book” by Mark Harper is available on Amazon, christianbook.com and more.

redbook

 

On another note- I hope to see several of you at CPC Orlando this coming week. I am so excited for what God will do, re-energizing ministries, hearts and lives! I’ll be tweeting live when I can. Can’t wait!! Love Trisha