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

interviewing-hoops

Advertisements

heart-in-barbed-wire-400x240

And by “our” I mean, our modern, American culture has a very messed up, incorrect definition of love. And tragically, sometimes this warped view of love seeps into the culture, thinking and message of the church. Our definition of love is CRUCIAL- especially as followers of Christ. Scripture tells us “God is love” . As Christians we are literally commanded to love God, our fellow Christians, our neighbors and even our enemies! “Love” is mentioned in Scripture a whopping 3orld, are 1. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength”. 2. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Mark 10 times. Jesus tell us that the most important commandments of ALL, in the whole w12:30 So wouldn’t it be IMPERATIVE for Christians to have a crystal clear understand of what love is?

Most people THINK they understand love. But how much of our definition of love is based on Scripture and how much is based on Twitter, romantic comedies and sentiment? One major part of the problem is that we only have ONE word for love in English. Greek has 3 different words for love- friendship, romantic love, unconditional love. Some languages have as many as 14 different words for love. But in English the meaning of “love” is diluted when we use it for everything….I love you, I love ice cream, I love my baby, I love….lamps. etc.

Here would be a few modern definitions of love that are really screwed up:

  1. Love is a gushy feeling. Truth: Love is much more of a verb than a noun. Feelings can come and go with time, circumstances or last night’s bad Taco Bell. Love is a choice- a commitment to care about someone and to want a relationship with them even when you do not “feel” like it.
  2. Love is always “nice.” Truth: Sometimes love is fierce. Having grown up in a “Minnesota nice” culture, I do understand the thinking that if you love someone you will never correct them, never offend them, never tell someone a painful truth. All we need to do is read the major and minor prophets in the Old Testament to see a whole different side of “love.” God pours out His raw hurt at being betrayed, His anger and yet His neverending passion and commitment to fight for His people. God does NOT hold back. He is brutally honest. I have not yet learned the balance of “speaking the truth in love.” But I really want to get better at it! The total lack of discipleship or accountability that results from always being “nice” stunts the growth of Christians and churches. What could really happen if we started speaking the truth in love?
  3. Love means you agree with anything and everyone anyone says or does. Love means never ever saying no. Truth: If you really love someone, you are going to have to say no sometimes. My 3 year old son really really wanted to run down the middle of the street. But I had to say no because I did not want him to be squished. And I’m sure at the time he thought I hated him and wanted to ruin all his fun. But I had to say no and ask him to trust me. There are things in the Bible that God explicitly says NO to. And if God says NO then there must be a good reason even if we do not always understand it. And if God has clearly said NO, it is not love at all to try to overrule God and say, “Oh sure do whatever you want. I support you!” If I were hurting myself with bad decisions, I really hope someone would love me enough to try to help me make better ones- not support me as crash and burn. God is literally love and in Scripture and He sets limits, boundaries and holds people accountable BECAUSE He loves us.
  4. Love means never saying no to abuse. Truth: Letting someone endlessly abuse you is not love either. The church has been criticized in the past for perhaps not helping victims of domestic violence. I have actually talked to wives who were told by their pastors to stay with their violent abusive husbands because it was the loving thing to do. They were also told that since Jesus suffered for us, we should be abused too to be real Christians. AND if you are being abused than that must be God’s will and you have to to take it and like it without complaining. This fallacy burns me up. Yes, Christ suffered vicariously for us (Once for all) and sometimes God will call us to suffer for our Christian testimony. But it seems that we are to use our legal and other defenses as well. When Paul was going to be beaten by the Romans, he invoked his rights as a Roman citizen. When the Jewish leaders wanted to hide how they treated Paul, he again invoked his rights and made them “own up” to what they had done. How can we say we love someone if we continually let them sin against us without trying to confront them and call them to grow? Love means setting boundaries, accountability and occasionally saying NO. God desperately wants relationship with us, but to be close to Him He has very definite boundaries.
  5. If someone loves me they will give me what I want, when I want. Truth: Manipulation is not love. God does not always give us everything we want when we want it. But as a Good Father, He gives us what we need in His time. Meeting everyone’s hectic demands in our lives is not love. Trying to keep everyone happy is exhausting. Love tries to help others to have what they NEED. Or better yet, love frees others to work for what they need. If I let my teenage son have what he wanted whenever he wanted, he would eat nothing but fiery cheetos, fries, donuts and pizza rolls. He would be in a scooter with type 2 diabetes before the age of 18. So we make sure he has what he NEEDS when he needs it- and occasionally some fiery cheetos. God’s love for us is not selfish- He chooses to love us sacrificially.

So what about you? What falsehoods have you heard about love? How would you define love?

Here is how Scripture defines love- beautiful and inspiring! God bless and Happy Valentine’s Day!

We love because He first loved us.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love.

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.

If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.

Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget,
I will not forget you!
See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are ever before me.

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.

May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.
No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
and because I love you,
I will give people in exchange for you,
nations in exchange for your life.

However, as it is written: What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived — the things God has prepared for those who love him.

If you were blessed to be at Children’s Pastor’s Conference this week, then you already know it was packed out. I heard a couple thousand people were there! Which makes sense since I saw volunteers having to set up more and more and more chairs. So here are just a few of my favorite memories from Children’s Pastors Retreat 2019.

  1. Location- I certainly enjoyed the weather (67 and sunny in Orlando versus 23 and snowing in WI). Children’s pastors retreat is something I look forward to every year-a refreshing winter retreat to be with Jesus and others passionate about kids ministry. The stunning Caribe resort seemed well able to accommodate all of us, and their staff were very helpful. This year there were a lot more food trucks, making things a bit easier to get lunch onsite. (I particularly liked the salted caramel gelato! Yes, that WAS my lunch lol.) Also, the close proximity to Disney meant that many children’s leaders were able to go over to one of the parks or Disney Springs for a bit. Several kid’s pastors brought their families to stay an extra day or two after the conference. This makes CPC a place for growth and learning for kid’s pastors, as well as a place for CP families to refresh and make memories. Nice plus!
  2. The Powerful Main Sessions- The worship was powerful, expressive and engaging. Now worship style can be a controversial thing. But I felt that just about anyone could feel at home in these worship services. Many people seemed to enjoy the prayer stations set up around the room as well. People lined up for different prayer stations to make a lasting moment there with God. The speakers were amazing as usual, however I was especially touched by the ministry of Beth Guckenberger (again) talking about the sweetness of God and inspiring us to a new level of intimacy with God. And Robert Madu- oh my goodness!!! I was blown away. I will never forget all he had to say about “staying in your own lane” and the “but me!” glasses. I laughed so hard but left deeply impacted. I hope he comes back!!!
  3. The Large Variety of Relevant Breakouts- There were a wide variety of breakouts that I felt were hot button issues for most of us who attended. I still like the fact that you can choose a “track” that you are interested in, and find classes on that theme (Or not). For example, you can pick, “Special needs ministry” and find the 4-5 breakouts that will specifically deal with that issue. I know many of the breakout leaders, and they are extremely qualified, experienced people who absolutely love to serve others.
  4. Coaching- CPC Conference is a bit unique in that personal one on one coaching is INCLUDED in the price of the conference. This coaching allows the attendee to get a 30 minute session with a kid’s ministry professional. You bring one issue and together you work out a “plan.” The idea is to “Go home with a plan.” I saw God at work in these sessions. I saw kid’s pastors leaving their coaching sessions with hope and a new excitement for their ministries. Coaching is one of my favorite ministries offered by CPC. (I was blessed to be a coach, and to teach a breakout).
  5. The Networking- Most children’s pastors will tell you that the best part of a kidmin conference is the networking that happens between children’s pastors in classes, at meals and in the hallways. Children’s leaders are born networkers. I heard a first time attendee remark, “Wow, I am impressed. I haven’t met a single snob here yet!” The organizers of CPC get this and intentionally build in networking time. But they also allow this to happen organically as well.
  6. The Schedule- I felt that the schedule was well planned out- not too busy and not too lax. Plenty of time for coaching, worship, networking, resource center and even relaxing. I actually did not go home from this conference completely spent.
  7. The staff and volunteers- They were so helpful and friendly. They all seemed thrilled to be there and to be serving!
  8. The resource center- I always have a lot of fun there. There were so many booths and so many fun things to do. I THINK that we got more time allotted there this year and perhaps a few more booths. It was a blast.

If you were there last week, please tell us what YOUR favorite part of the conference was? Do you agree with my favorites list? What did I miss? Lots of love and blessings- Thank you for all your work for Jesus and His kids! Love Trisha

fundraisersFundraising can be such a pain! And even if you have a children’s ministries budget at your church, chances are that you will be called upon to raise money for some project- camp scholarships, a new set of puppets, missions etc. Teaching our children to give is an important part of their faith. I do not believe that faith is genuine if it never touches our wallet! And children need to be taught from an early age to tithe and to give of their time, talent and money.  This needs to be a “habit” that extends into adulthood. Also, if your church as a whole is working to raise funds for something, then your kid’s church should be a part of that (they are part of the church right now!) Although children may not have access to the the same flow of cash as an adult, I am continually surprised at the amazing things kids can do when someone challenges and inspires them. Over the years our team has done MANY fundraisers and missions pushes. And I wanted to share with you the ones that worked the best for us. I know that what works at one place will not necessarily work in another; nevertheless, I hope this gives you some great ideas.

  1. Fill the crate- The premise of this fundraiser was unusual but simple. We were sending missionaries to an African village and they were asking for children’s clothing to pass out to orphans in need. We got a large crate, advertised the challenge, showed pictures of some of the children in need and heard from the missionaries. We gave the children 30 days to fill the crate with kid’s clothing items, used or new, of all sizes.  To my surprise and delight, our kids filled the entire crate in only 8 days. EIGHT DAYS!!! The clothes were all in good condition, although one or two dresses were far to fancy to be usable in that climate. It was too late at this point to advertise that we had filled the crate early, so we filled a second one for an orphanage in Kenya. I think this one was so successful because it was visible and tangible. Kids could see the bin filling up! We followed up by having the missionaries take a lot of pictures of the kids at the orphanages wearing the clothes from our kids. We showed these photos so the kids would see the results of their giving.
  2. Fourth and Fifth Grade Clean Your Church Day- I’ll be honest, I was did not know if this one would fly. My elementary director really wanted to do this. She suggested having all fourth and fifth graders come in on a Saturday and give their free time to THEIR church by spring cleaning- doing the windows, cleaning out flower beds, carpet cleaning etc. etc. She hoped to teach kids to treat God’s house with respect, to make a habit of volunteering at church, and to realize this was THEIR church. I will admit I was skeptical on this one. But I was wrong. These kids came out in record numbers, thoroughly cleaned our massive building, had a blast doing it- and couldn’t wait to do it again. We showed pictures from this event to inspire our adults to higher levels of serving.
  3. Papa Murphy’s pizza deal. Not sure if this one is still available- but it was amazing. We bought Papa Murphy’s pizza discount cards for 1 dollar each and then sold them for 10 dollars each. If a child wanted help with money for camp or an event, then they had to participate. Children who did NOT need a scholarship were allowed to raise money for their friends. I had kids who sold 400 cards all by themselves in a week just to send 4 friends to winter camp. It became a way to fund our events, allow less fortunate families to send their children, and to teach giving to others of our time and money. This also really got the attention of our community because our kids were hitting up EVERYONE. We ended up bringing 50-60 people to winter camp each year because we raised so much money.
  4. An Incentive- I know this is controversial, because we do not want to teach children to expect a reward for giving and serving Jesus. However, I have found that an incentive can make that event stand out in a family’s mind in a sea of information overload. I also believe in celebrating together and commemorating successes as a team in ministry. We teach kids not to expect rewards for giving, but to celebrate when we “win” as a team. Our 19 year old sound guy had extremely long hair. He offered to have his hair shaved to the scalp live on stage if we met our missions giving goal. The kids were so excited that we not only met our goal, we exceeded it. The day of the “shearing” the kids all brought their friends and we gained a lot of new kids to our kid’s church as a bonus.
  5. A Competition- Again, this one is controversial, as some churches discourage competitions in a church. It seems to me however, that kids are hardwired to love playing games and to compete. We do need to teach our kids that loving others is more important than “winning.” One competition we had that went very well was our kid’s church versus youth group challenge. We raised money for missions over the course of 6 weeks. At the end we had a pizza party that both groups attended. Since youth group raised less (slightly), they had to serve the pizza to the kid’s church kids. This worked so well because the youth pastor and I switched places a lot to promote it. It showed our groups working together. The kid’s church kids got to meet the youth pastor and interact with him. The youth group kids actually seemed to be having fun serving the kid’s church kids. It was an example of the church working together toward a common goal. The “competition” just made it really fun and no one felt like a “loser.” The main winner was our local women’s shelter who received the money, and our young people who all had a great time.
  6. Walmart matching- Now I have seen this one work differently in different cities/states. Where we live, Walmart will match what a non-profit makes selling food in their parking lot. There is an application process and some work involved in setting this up. “Brat fry’s” are big in Wisconsin, and whatever profit we make is matched by Walmart. This has paid for several of our kids to go to Bible Camp. If they wish to use a church scholarship for camp, they MUST help out at the brat fry. We want kids to think about putting some of their own sweat, funds and time into obtaining the things they want.

I am very curious to know what fundraisers YOU have used. What worked? What did not work at all?

I truly hope to see many of you next week at CPC in Orlando Fl! God bless ALL of your fundraisers. God bless the work you do for Jesus and His kids. Love Trisha

PS- I’ll be coming to you live next week from Orlando so stay tuned!

 

burnoutA Recent Research Paper of Mine for my Doctorate

(Please comment with your thoughts on this important subject! Bibliography at the end lists many more resources on leaders and burnout).

The Problem

Burnout has been defined as “emotional collapse or breakdown that sometimes comes as a result of stress.[1]” Unfortunately, stress can profoundly affect even those who serve the church. Ministers actually rank fairly high on the Maslach Burnout Scale[2] and the Francis Burnout Inventory[3]. In fact, clergy members rank on the same stress level as other occupations that serve the community, such as social workers, counselors and nurses[4]. Certain occupations, including pastoral ministry, have been found to be more inherently stressful than others[5]. The fallout of this stress manifests in the life of pastors in various ways.

Several modern studies have proven a direct correlation between stress[6] and increased physical health problems[7]. Ninety percent of pastors in a recent study reported chronic fatigue[8]. Fifty percent were overweight, twenty-three percent reported being obese. Most said that they had no time to eat well, exercise, or sleep adequately.

Younger pastors are more prone to burnout, and to leaving the ministry[9]. One study found that seminarians in their senior year, when given a stress test, scored an average of 348. This is alarming since the average population generally scores between 75-150 and a score of 300 is considered dangerously high[10]. These stressed out seminarians are often sent from school straight into a “high demand” church, without having learned any coping methods for dealing with stress. Older pastors who have managed to stay in the ministry for the long-term, were only able to do so because they developed effective coping methods for managing stress.

Female clergy do not have an advantage over their male counterparts when it comes to stress and burnout[11]. Several studies found that women and men are suffering from burnout equally[12]. Other studies argue that women’s stress is actually higher. Women do report a higher level of conflict and bullying in ministry. Some women report feeling added stress brought on by trying to be seen as “legitimate” in their role.

Studies did not find a significant difference in stress and burnout rates across ethnic lines[13]. However, it can be argued that much more research could be done on this subject. One study did find that African American pastors had higher emotional stability, and better coping mechanisms than Caucasian pastors. However, African American pastors scored lower for overall physical health[14].

One of the worst casualties of clergy burnout is the pastor’s family. Pastors rank third for divorces among professionals. When asked why they are leaving the ministry, 1/3 of ministers cited “family reasons”. This family stress is cyclical, in that ministerial stress exacerbates family stress, which in turn contributes to worsening loneliness and burnout.

The minister’s stress and burnout affects everyone around him or her, including his or her fellow staff members and the church body as a whole. Rather than being a local church problem, ministerial burnout is a universal church issue. The leader’s ministry will not be as effective because there is not enough mental, emotional or physical resources left to give to anyone else.

Once the pastor begins to “go numb” from burnout, then “depersonalization” often sets in[15]. This means that the pastor stops being able to truly care for their congregation or themselves properly. This is a negative coping method characterized by withdrawing from conflict and difficult situations rather than facing them. Whether a service or a program went well or was a disaster, he or she no longer cares.

One study found 75 percent of pastors report high stress and depression[16]. One-third report daily frustration and fatigue at even the thought of going into the church office. Two-fifths report being totally drained by their duties[17].

Studies varied greatly as to how many pastors are really contemplating leaving the ministry. One study found that 30 percent were thinking of leaving[18]. Another study said that 90 percent of pastors are thinking about quitting. Half of that second study group said they would definitely switch careers if they could[19]. The number one method listed by pastors for dealing with extreme stress and burnout is “getting out[20].” Given that many communities are already dealing with a shortage of pastors, with some pastors having to cover more than one parish, pastors leaving ministry due to burnout is a tragedy indeed.

Between 17 percent and 30 percent of pastors admit to engaging in dangerous coping methods such as alcohol or other “substances” to manage ministry stress[21].

 

The Causes of Ministerial Burnout

 

Too many leaders leave seminary and enter the ministry with clearly unrealistic expectations. This “role dysphoria”, which happens when talents and role expectations do not line up with the actual duties of the position, can quickly lead to frustration and burnout. Often the pastoral role is ill defined and varies by church, denomination and geographical area.

Several studies named “loneliness” as a key factor in clergy burnout[22]. Pastors reported not having friends or support systems or anyone outside the church to talk to. Spouses reported higher loneliness, but that could be because clergy are trying to appear “more spiritual.” Loneliness could be due to high expectations of the congregation[23], or inability to be completely transparent with people in the church. Rural pastors have a unique problem with loneliness due to depopulation of rural areas, and subsequent shrinking of their church membership as jobs move overseas[24].

Pastors consistently rated “church conflict” and “high demand” churches as major stressors. This conflict tends to become personal and persistent in nature, affecting the pastor’s home and personal life[25].

Modernization has also had several noticeable effects on the way we carry out ministry[26]. First, church attendance continues to be in decline in many countries around the globe[27]. Secondly, our contemporary parishioners may be more inclined to recognize secular authority over ecclesiastical authority. Thirdly, the church has adopted more secular (democratic) methods of governing that decrease the authority of the pastor[28]. Lastly, consumerism has also made its way into the walls of the church. Congregants may believe that they are “paying a pastor for goods and services” which they arbitrarily define[29].

One of the toughest times in a pastor’s life and ministry is when he or she is called upon to minister through a time of tragedy that affects their congregants and affects them personally[30]. This can happen when a hurricane, earthquake or other natural disaster strikes, causing loss of life and property. This can happen when a community has suffered a devastating act of violence, such as a mass shooting. The pastor may have lost their home or a friend or family member. Yet, the minister will still be expected to counsel their parishioners, to help congregants and community members find resources such as housing and food. The minister may feel obligated to ignore their own needs, to focus on the needs of others or of his or her own family. Pastors are visible public figures who are expected to outwardly present a message of hope no matter what they are personally going through. This is a particularly dangerous time for clergy marriages[31], which can fall apart due to neglect[32].

Pastors tend to be massive workaholics spending an average of 55 hours a week at the church office, but only 27 waking hours per week with their families[33]. This imbalance leads to increased family dysfunction, family breakdown and inability to cope. Many pastors report not having enough time to do all that they are expected to do. They definitely lack the time for reflection or self-care.

Burnout has been defined as “the result of mental fatigue.” Serving a congregation can be extremely emotionally draining[34]. This exhaustion is called “Compassion Fatigue”[35] and “Secondary Traumatic Stress” which describes the emotional drain that happens just by hearing and walking through the horror stories and the trauma of the people we counsel. Compassion fatigue has been found to come on suddenly as opposed to burnout which seems to build up over time.

Clergy members are “wearing too many hats.[36]” Possibly due to the breakdown of civil services, pastors are picking up a lot of counseling and social services. Even when other options are available, pastors feel obligated to self sacrifice. Since the church is one of the only multi-dimensional resource centers, parishioners are often going to their pastor before any other professionals. Pastors find themselves doing marriage, addiction and mental health counseling[37]. Pastors are helping people find resources such as housing, clothing and food. Pastor’s wives report working to keep the house, raise children and complete various “expectations” of the pastor’s wife[38].

Without clear boundaries, a pastor and their family suffers “boundary ambiguity” and becomes completely enmeshed in their parishioner’s lives and problems[39]. There is no life “outside of church.”  This can cause pastors to feel that they cannot leave town for vacations or family get togethers because their parishioners need them too much. On the other hand, pastors tend to uproot and move every few years, possibly due to burnout[40]. Each time the minister moves, they suffer the loss of their entire “world” (enmeshed environment within the church) and must start all over.

Pastors report having too few resources including finances. Pastors and their spouses tend to be well educated. However, the average salary for a minister in the United States has not changed in over 20 years[41]. Some cannot afford to seek professional help for themselves or their marriage. They cannot afford ongoing training or vacations.

 

Proposed Methods to Prevent or Treat Ministerial Burnout

 

Over and over again, studies have proven that spiritual resources were the most important factor is surviving ministry over the long haul[42]. Pastors who maintained the regular religious disciplines of attending worship services, prayer, and Bible study reported much lower levels of depression and burnout than pastors who did not regularly engage in spiritual practices[43]. This was the same for clergy spouses, however, pastor’s spouses reported feeling like they had fewer spiritual resources that the clergy person had[44].

Ministers need a strong commitment to physical and mental health, exercise, healthy eating, seeing the doctor regularly, sleeping, and taking vacations. Self-care needs to become a habit. Pastors who have survived burnout and have bounced back highly recommend taking sabbaticals and other times away to reflect and recover[45].

Finding a way to limit the enmeshment and put strong boundaries in place between church and home is crucial. This is part and parcel of reassessing priorities and committing to better time management. A pastor’s marriage and family have to have quality and quantity of time.

Strong support structures outside of the church can help a pastor adapt and flex to withstand adversity. This support structure should include ministry peers, the minister’s family, and perhaps a professional therapist. A minister needs to have a person they can speak honestly with and just be heard[46]. However, this should not spiral into a “venting” coping mechanism that becomes merely a focus on the negative. Also, this support structure should include the “secular” social services resources that exist in the community. The pastor must stop trying to “do it all.”[47]

Denominations and congregations need to implement more holistic training[48] at the seminary level. Young students need experienced mentors[49] who can guide them on how to cope with stress and how to develop reasonable boundaries[50]. Interventions can also be done when a pastor is in the middle of a ministry crisis[51]. In patient short term therapy has proven effective as well as sabbaticals[52]. Pastors also need ongoing training and support long after seminary. The key is to intervene with a variety of methods, not an either/or.

Job satisfaction, a feeling of being successful, of having control and having choices is so important to avoiding burnout[53]. Burnout can come with a feeling of powerlessness and failure. Ministers who had a strong internal sense of their own goals, their own calling and their own “merits” did much better in fighting off depression and burnout[54]. Those who adhered to external criteria for success, such as congregants’ expectations, tended to become frustrated and hopeless over time[55].

Pastors who scored higher in hope and resiliency had drastically lower levels of stress and burnout[56]. The innate challenges of ministry did not go away. Instead, the minister learned how to reframe difficult circumstances as a positive[57]. He or she could still envision a future where their internal goals could be met. Hope does not seem to be an inborn trait, but rather a fluctuating coping ability that gets stronger with conscious use. Hope and resiliency can come from learning how to recognize Christ in every situation.

 

In conclusion

 

Researchers agree that there has not been nearly enough study done in the area of ministerial burnout[58]. Since pastors are key figures in our churches, in our family lives and in our communities, it benefits us all when we learn how to better serve those who serve the church.

 

 

Bibliography

 

Abernethy, Alexis D., Gillian D. Grannum, Carolyn L. Gordon, Rick Williamson, and Joseph M. Currier. “The Pastors Empowerment Program: A Resilience Education Intervention to Prevent Clergy Burnout.” Spirituality in Clinical Practice3, no. 3 (2016): 175-86. doi:10.1037/scp0000109.

Adams, Christopher J., Holly Hough, Rae Jean Proeschold-Bell, Jia Yao, and Melanie Kolkin. “Clergy Burnout: A Comparison Study with Other Helping Professions.” Pastoral Psychology66, no. 2 (2016): 147-75. doi:10.1007/s11089-016-072

Bevere, John. The Bait of Satan: Living Free from the Deadly Trap of Offense. Lake Mary, FL: Charisma House, 2014.

Blanton, Priscilla W., and M. Lane Morris. “Work-Related Predictors of Physical Symptomatology and Emotional Well-Being among Clergy and Spouses.” Review of Religious Research40, no. 4 (1999): 331. doi:10.2307/3512120.

Chandler, Diane J. “Pastoral Burnout and the Impact of Personal Spiritual Renewal, Rest-taking, and Support System Practices.” Pastoral Psychology58, no. 3 (2008): 273-87. doi:10.1007/s11089-008-0184-4.

Darling, Carol Anderson, E. Wayne Hill, and Lenore M. Mcwey. “Understanding Stress and Quality of Life for Clergy and Clergy Spouses.” Stress and Health20, no. 5 (2004): 261-77. doi:10.1002/smi.1031.

Doolittle, Benjamin R. “The Impact of Behaviors upon Burnout Among Parish-Based Clergy.” Journal of Religion and Health49, no. 1 (2008): 88-95. doi:10.1007/s10943-008-9217-7.

Edwards, GeneA Tale of Three Kings: A Study in Brokenness. Augusta, ME, United States: Christian Books, 1980.

Fallon, Barry, Simon Rice, and Joan Wright Howie. “Factors That Precipitate and Mitigate Crises in Ministry.” Pastoral Psychology62, no. 1 (2012): 27-40. doi:10.1007/s11089-012-0486-4.

Feuerherd, Peter. “Groups Aim to Help Pastors and Strengthen Parishes.” National Catholic Reporter, July 15, 2016.

Harbaugh, Gary L., and Evan Rogers. “Pastoral Burnout: A View from the Seminary.” Journal of Pastoral Care38, no. 2 (1984): 99-106. doi:10.1177/002234098403800204.

Lee, Cameron. “Dispositional Resiliency and Adjustment in Protestant Pastors: A Pilot Study.” Pastoral Psychology59, no. 5 (2010): 631-40. doi:10.1007/s11089-010-0283-x.

Maslach, C. (2003). Job burnout: New directions in research and intervention. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 12(5), 189–192. Maslach, C., Schaufeli, W. B., & Leiter, M. P. (2001). Job burnout. Annual Review of Psychology, 52, 397–422.

Miner, Maureen H. “Changes in Burnout over the First 12 Months in Ministry: Links with Stress and Orientation to Ministry.” Mental Health, Religion & Culture10, no. 1 (2007): 9-16. doi:10.1080/13674670600841819.

Miner, M. H., Dowson, M. and Sterland, S. (2010), “Ministry orientation and ministry outcomes: Evaluation of a new multidimensional model of clergy burnout and job satisfaction.” Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 83: 167-188. doi:10.1348/096317909X414214

Muse, Stephen, Milton Love, and Kyle Christensen. “Intensive OutPatient Therapy for Clergy Burnout: How Much Difference Can a Week Make?” Journal of Religion and Health55, no. 1 (2015): 147-58. doi:10.1007/s10943-015-0013-x.

Ochberg, Frank. When Helping Hurts: Preventing and Treating Compassion Fatigue. Gift from Within, 2006.

Palmer. Let Your Life Speak. Listening for the Voice of Vocation. John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated, 2009.

Randall, Kelvin J. “Clergy Burnout: Two Different Measures.” Pastoral Psychology62, no. 3 (2013): 333-41. doi:10.1007/s11089-012-0506-4. 01/03/2013

Roll, Steve. Holy Burnout: Turning Brokenness into Blessing, through the Power of Gods Restoring Love. Tulsa, OK: Virgil W. Hensley, 1996.

Scott, Greg, and Rachel Lovell. “The Rural Pastors Initiative: Addressing Isolation and Burnout in Rural Ministry.” Pastoral Psychology64, no. 1 (2014): 71-97. doi:10.1007/s11089-013-0591-z.

Shelley, Marshall. Well-intentioned Dragons: Ministering to Problem People in the Church. Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1994.

Sullivan, James E. The Good Listener. Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press, 2000.

Visker, Joseph D., Taylor Rider, and Anastasia Humphers-Ginther. “Ministry-Related Burnout and Stress Coping Mechanisms Among Assemblies of God-Ordained Clergy in Minnesota.” Journal of Religion and Health56, no. 3 (2016): 951-61. doi:10.1007/s10943-016-0295-7.

Warner, Janelle, and John D. Carter. “Loneliness, Marital Adjustment and Burnout in Pastoral and Lay Persons.” Journal of Psychology and Theology12, no. 2 (1984): 125-31. doi:10.1177/009164718401200206.

Wells, Carl R. “The Effects of Work-Related and Boundary-Related Stress on the Emotional and Physical Health Status of Ordained Clergy.” Pastoral Psychology62, no. 1 (2012): 101-14. doi:10.1007/s11089-012-0455-y.

[1] Abernethy, Alexis D., Gillian D. Grannum, Carolyn L. Gordon, Rick Williamson, and Joseph M. Currier. “The Pastors Empowerment Program: A Resilience Education Intervention to Prevent Clergy Burnout.” Spirituality in Clinical Practice3, no. 3 (2016): 175-86. doi:10.1037/scp0000109.

 

[2] Maslach, C. (2003). Job burnout: New directions in research and intervention. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 12(5), 189–192. Maslach, C., Schaufeli, W. B., & Leiter, M. P. (2001). Job burnout. Annual Review of Psychology, 52, 397–422.

 

[3] Randall, Kelvin J. “Clergy Burnout: Two Different Measures.” Pastoral Psychology62, no. 3 (2013): 333-41. doi:10.1007/s11089-012-0506-4. 01/03/2013

 

[4] Warner, Janelle, and John D. Carter. “Loneliness, Marital Adjustment and Burnout in Pastoral and Lay Persons.” Journal of Psychology and Theology12, no. 2 (1984): 125-31. doi:10.1177/009164718401200206.

 

[5] Adams, Christopher J., Holly Hough, Rae Jean Proeschold-Bell, Jia Yao, and Melanie Kolkin. “Clergy Burnout: A Comparison Study with Other Helping Professions.” Pastoral Psychology66, no. 2 (2016): 147-75. doi:10.1007/s11089-016-072

 

[6] Blanton, Priscilla W., and M. Lane Morris. “Work-Related Predictors of Physical Symptomatology and Emotional Well-Being among Clergy and Spouses.” Review of Religious Research40, no. 4 (1999): 331. doi:10.2307/3512120.

 

[7] Randall, “Clergy Burnout”, 334

 

[8] Lee, Cameron. “Dispositional Resiliency and Adjustment in Protestant Pastors: A Pilot Study.” Pastoral Psychology59, no. 5 (2010): 631-40. doi:10.1007/s11089-010-0283-x.

 

[9][9][9] Miner, Maureen H. “Changes in Burnout over the First 12 Months in Ministry: Links with Stress and Orientation to Ministry.” Mental Health, Religion & Culture10, no. 1 (2007): 9-16. doi:10.1080/13674670600841819.[10]

Harbaugh and Rogers. “Pastoral Burnout” 101

 

[11] Randall, “Clergy Burnout”, 337

[12] Lee, Cameron. “Dispositional Resiliency and Adjustment in Protestant Pastors: A Pilot Study.” Pastoral Psychology59, no. 5 (2010): 631-40. doi:10.1007/s11089-010-0283-x.

 

[13] Lee, Dispositional Resiliency” 341

 

[14] Lee, “Dispositional Resiliency.” 339

[16] Abernethy, et al. “The Pastors Empowerment Program: A Resilience Education Intervention to Prevent Clergy Burnout.” 182

 

[17] Lee, Cameron. “Dispositional Resiliency and Adjustment in Protestant Pastors: A Pilot Study.” Pastoral Psychology59, no. 5 (2010): 631-40. doi:10.1007/s11089-010-0283-x.

 

[18] Lee, “Dispositional Resiliency” 334

 

[19] Abernethy, et al. “The Pastors Empowerment Program: A Resilience Education Intervention to Prevent Clergy Burnout.” 185

 

[20] Randall, “Clergy Burnout”, 340

 

[21] Harbaugh and Rogers. “Pastoral Burnout” 101

 

[22] Harbaugh, Gary L., and Evan Rogers. “Pastoral Burnout: A View from the Seminary.” Journal of Pastoral Care38, no. 2 (1984): 99-106. doi:10.1177/002234098403800204.

 

[23] Abernethy, et al. “The Pastors Empowerment Program: A Resilience Education Intervention to Prevent Clergy Burnout.” 183

 

[24] Scott, Greg, and Rachel Lovell. “The Rural Pastors Initiative: Addressing Isolation and Burnout in Rural Ministry.” Pastoral Psychology64, no. 1 (2014): 71-97. doi:10.1007/s11089-013-0591-z.

 

[25] Bevere, John. The Bait of Satan: Living Free from the Deadly Trap of Offense. Lake Mary, FL: Charisma House, 2014.

 

[26] Lee, Cameron. “Dispositional Resiliency and Adjustment in Protestant Pastors: A Pilot Study.” Pastoral Psychology59, no. 5 (2010): 631-40. doi:10.1007/s11089-010-0283-x.

 

[27] Harbaugh and Rogers. “Pastoral Burnout” 105

 

[28] Visker, Joseph D., Taylor Rider, and Anastasia Humphers-Ginther. “Ministry-Related Burnout and Stress Coping Mechanisms Among Assemblies of God-Ordained Clergy in Minnesota.” Journal of Religion and Health56, no. 3 (2016): 951-61. doi:10.1007/s10943-016-0295-7.

 

[29] Shelley, Marshall. Well-intentioned Dragons: Ministering to Problem People in the Church. Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1994.

 

[30] Abernethy, et al. “The Pastors Empowerment Program: A Resilience Education Intervention to Prevent Clergy Burnout.” 180

 

[31] Warner and Carter,  “Loneliness, Marital Adjustment,” 130

 

[32] Abernethy, et al. “The Pastors Empowerment Program: A Resilience Education Intervention to Prevent Clergy Burnout.” 180

 

[33] Darling, Carol Anderson, E. Wayne Hill, and Lenore M. Mcwey. “Understanding Stress and Quality of Life for Clergy and Clergy Spouses.” Stress and Health20, no. 5 (2004): 261-77. doi:10.1002/smi.1031.

 

[34] Blanton and Morris, “Work-Related Predictors,” 331

 

[35] Ochberg, Frank. When Helping Hurts: Preventing and Treating Compassion Fatigue. Gift from Within, 2006.

 

[36] [36] Scott and Lovell. “The Rural Pastors Initiative,” 78

 

[37] Fallon, et al. “Factors That Precipitate and Mitigate.” 38

 

[38] Warner and Carter,  “Loneliness, Marital Adjustment,” 130

 

[39]  Scott and Lovell. “The Rural Pastors Initiative,” 93

38Fallon, Barry, Simon Rice, and Joan Wright Howie. “Factors That Precipitate and Mitigate Crises in Ministry.” Pastoral Psychology62, no. 1 (2012): 27-40. doi:10.1007/s11089-012-0486-4.

 

[40] Fallon, et al. “Factors That Precipitate and Mitigate,” 36

[42]  Scott and Lovell. “The Rural Pastors Initiative,” 95-96

 

[43] Abernethy, et al. “The Pastors Empowerment Program: A Resilience Education Intervention to Prevent Clergy Burnout.” 180

 

[44] Warner and Carter,  “Loneliness, Marital Adjustment,” 135

 

[45] Fallon, Barry, Simon Rice, and Joan Wright Howie. “Factors That Precipitate and Mitigate Crises in Ministry.” Pastoral Psychology62, no. 1 (2012): 27-40. doi:10.1007/s11089-012-0486-4.

 

[46] Sullivan, James E. The Good Listener. Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press, 2000.

 

[47] Doolittle, Benjamin R. “The Impact of Behaviors upon Burnout Among Parish-Based Clergy.” Journal of Religion and Health49, no. 1 (2008): 88-95. doi:10.1007/s10943-008-9217-7.

 

[48] Harbaugh and Rogers. “Pastoral Burnout” 101

 

[49] Miner, “Changes in Burnout.” 10

 

[50] Randall, “Clergy Burnout”, 337

 

[51] Feuerherd, Peter. “Groups Aim to Help Pastors and Strengthen Parishes.” National Catholic Reporter, July 15, 2016.

 

[52] Muse, Stephen, Milton Love, and Kyle Christensen. “Intensive OutPatient Therapy for Clergy Burnout: How Much Difference Can a Week Make?” Journal of Religion and Health55, no. 1 (2015): 147-58. doi:10.1007/s10943-015-0013-x.

 

[53] Harbaugh and Rogers. “Pastoral Burnout” 101

 

[54] Palmer. Let Your Life Speak. Listening for the Voice of Vocation. John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated, 2009.

 

[55] Doolittle, Benjamin R. “The Impact of Behaviors upon Burnout Among Parish-Based Clergy.” Journal of Religion and Health49, no. 1 (2008): 88-95. doi:10.1007/s10943-008-9217-7.

 

[56] Abernethy, et al. “The Pastors Empowerment Program: A Resilience Education Intervention to Prevent Clergy Burnout.” 180

 

[57] Edwards, GeneA Tale of Three Kings: A Study in Brokenness. Augusta, ME, United States: Christian Books, 1980.

 

[58] Warner and Carter,  “Loneliness, Marital Adjustment,” 130

 

cover

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Love and encouragement always,

Trisha

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

love Trishakids2

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love Always- Trisha

Wanted-A-Few-Good-Men-1024x576-1505826005