Archives for posts with tag: family ministry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love Always- Trisha

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Ask ministry leaders about their main frustrations and most will answer through clenched teeth “Fundraising!” Next to recruiting, fundraising is arguably going to take up quite a bit of your time in your ministry. Ministries are often required to raise some of their own support every year. Unfortunately, parents, kids and ministry leaders all seem to report “fundraising overload/burnout”, due to so MANY asks for money, from every imaginable side. For example, my kid’s school has them selling candles for the book club. The Lion’s Club is selling tootsie rolls on the roadside by the school. The VFW is selling Memorial flowers outside of Walmart. The girl scouts are selling cookies (so awesome) door to door. My husband’s work is selling candy bars for Muscular Dystrophy. A relative of mine is raising money for her missions trip to Honduras. And my Facebook feed is literally CLOGGED with fundraising for orphanages, schools, wells, cancer research, etc etc etc. And it is in the middle of this information/money asking OVERLOAD that you are having to fundraise for YOUR ministry/event. I understand. I have been there. And in an effort to help, I have collected just a few of the best ideas that we have used at our church, or that I have personally seen work at my colleague’s churches. Some are pretty WILD!!!! I will include the links to these programs for more information if possible. Please comment below with the best fundraising ideas that have worked for YOU and your  ministry. And God bless your work for Jesus and His kids!! OK- here goes.

My Current Top Ten List of PROVEN Ministry Fundraisers-

10. Pizza Ranch serving- If you have a Pizza Ranch near you (Christian-owned Pizza Buffet chain), they offer a special fundraiser, that you and your team can serve food and bus tables for one evening. Then you and your ministry receive a certain percentage of the profits from that night. I have heard of ministries making a great deal of money- some even meeting their event budget- in one evening. And who doesn’t love Pizza Ranch? If you do not have a Pizza Ranch near you, go talk to some of the local restaurants in your town and just ASK them if they would do the same. You are driving people to their business that night- and both of you will benefit!  https://pizzaranch.com/community/fundraising

Krispy Kreme- Our church purchased a bulk load of Krispy Kreme donuts through their fundraising program and then sold them on a Sunday morning at our church. Yes, they sold extremely well. 🙂 We made enough money to send most of our kids to summer camp in that one day. https://krispykreme.com/fundraising/home

Papa Murphy’s Pizza- Yes, I’m seeing how many of these have to do with food! We purchased 240 coupon books through Papa Murphy’s fundraising program and sold them for 11 dollars each, clearning 2,400 dollars for our winter kid’s ministry outreach. And we finished selling them in about 10 days. We ended up doing this 3 years in a row because it worked so well. https://www.groupraise.com/papamurphys

Walmart Matching- Walmart has a program where they will “match” a certain amount of money you raise selling things (approved first) on their property. Now some churches have told me that their Walmart did not help churches, only other non-profits. But our Walmart does and I know of another few that will. The way it works is, you apply for a time slot and get approved first. Then you sell your product on that day, and Walmart matches a certain amount of the money raised. We sold brats (WISCONSIN!!) and made a good amount of money which Walmart matched 50% of. We used this to raise money for a missions trip.  http://giving.walmart.com/apply-for-grants/

“Crowdfunding”- There are a lot of success stories out there-and also a lot of misconceptions- about internet crowdfunding. There are now so many online charities competing for funds. And you CANNOT just put up a page and forget about it, assuming your funds will just roll in. If you go through kickstarter, gofundme, or a similar crowdfunding site, you will need to put time and effort into writing a compelling appeal. You will also need to offer SOMETHING at the $10, $25, $100 donation level etc. You will need to stay on top of sharing that page EVERYWHERE. You will need to keep posting continual updates, and constant sharing in every place on the internet that you possibly can. Also, you will need to write thank-yous to those who donate. I was able to raise 3000 in 16 days for my first book project. It was amazing, but it was a lot more work than I thought. http://www.kickstarter.com

Family Movie Night Concessions- A surprisingly successful outreach for our church has been the family movie night. We got our hands on a brand new movie (or through the company, one that is ABOUT to be released on DVD), and then we show it on our big screen at the church. We offer it free to families. And we usually PACK OUT. Families have said that they do not have enough family friendly activities that they can do together, and/or that they can afford. We then sell concessions for the movie, which usually brings in a decent amount of money for kid’s ministry missions.

Jewelry Sale- “Destiny Point” is a home for hurting women who need rehabilitation, safety and hope. They hand make jewelry pieces for mere pennies and then they sell this jewelry at a great profit. They sell the jewelry at various women’s events throughout my state. I have heard that they raise a lot of money this way every year to support the ministry. https://destinypoint.net/

Flower Sale- A student ministries pastor I know does this unique money-maker every year. First she collects and “pots” as many flowers as she can. She has people from the church who will let her come over and take a few flowers from their gardens/yards. Then they have a community flower sale every spring. They typically clear 1400-1700 on that one day which funds her ministry most of the year! If you are good with gardening, this may be the one for you?

“The Talents” Investing- OK. This has got to be one of the wildest ones I have ever heard. A pastor just 11 miles from where I live, decided to do something radical. He literally gave every person in the church $100. He then preached on the parable of the talents. He asked every person to go turn that 100 into more money and then bring that money back. Full disclosure- I thought this was completely nuts. I was wrong. His parisioners used the money to do bake sales, brat frys, etc. etc. When all the money was returned with extra, the church was able to pay off their entire new sanctuary- DEBT FREE. I am not recommending your DO this, but WOW. It paid off for them.

Family Circus- My friend, children’s pastor Ben Christiansen, just did a “family circus” and CLEARED 15000 in ONE EVENING for kid’s ministry missions. He’s willing to go to other churches to raise missions money for YOU too. Interested? Check out all the details on my show “The Peach Buzz”, this week’s episode “How He Cleared 15000 in One Day for Missions.” Like, Share and Subscribe! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jRpHPfboBJc

Well, what do you think? Please comment below with YOUR favorite fundraiser! Let us know if you have tried, are going to try any of these and how they go! God bless you and all you do for Jesus and His kids-

Love Trisha

 

 

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

challenges

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I love speaking for summer Bible Camps, VBS’s and outreaches. This is part of a challenge booklet I like to pass out at these events. I just thought I would share it with ya, because I know there are a lot of children’s pastors and parents and teachers on here. I will be challenging these kids to revolutionize their spiritual lives in 21 days by doing 7 important things-

1. Cleaning out the sin

2. Reading the Bible for themselves daily

3. Journaling about what they find in Scripture

4. Praying daily

5. Listening to God in prayer

6. Serving in the church, home and community

7. Finding a Christian mentor/accountability partner and a Christian friend to take the journey with them

I am excited to see what God will do in these kids lives in just 21 days of focusing on Him! What do you think? Have you done something like this? I do not want what happens at camp to stay at camp. I want them to come home from camp and GROW. Feel free to use this and alter it as you like. It has fill in the blanks to do with the kids, but I added the answers I am using in parenthesis for you. God bless! Pastor Trisha

Getting “Fit” in Christ 21 Day Challenge

My ACTION Plan

NAME:                                   AGE:                                       DATE:

Did you know? That just like we have to train hard to get fit physically and mentally, we have to train hard to get fit spiritually? Take the 21 day challenge to know God better, and take your spiritual life to whole new levels! Here are the action steps; let’s get started…

1.The Bible tells us to “Throw aside every weight, and every ______(sin) that slows us down.” Hebrews 12:1 We throw aside these weights so we can pursue Jesus with our whole heart, soul, mind and _______ (Spirit). With God’s help, in the next 3 weeks, I am going to pray about getting rid of these things that may be slowing me down in my walk with Jesus: ___________________________________________________________________

2.I am learning this weekend that to really grow closer to God, I must read my Bible every day. “Your Word is a _____ to my feet and a _____ to my path.” Psalm 119:105. Have you ever tried to find the bathroom at night at the camp without a flashlight? We need God’s directions to grow! With God’s help I am going to read God’s Word every day for 3 weeks. I will check off the chart below:

1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18  19  20  21

3.It is important to _______(listen) to what God is trying to say to me through His Word. His Word is _______(living) and active right now in my life and can speak to my situation right now! These are some of the things that I believe God is _________(speaking) to me through my Bible reading.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

4.A huge part of growing in Christ in not just listening but also _________(talking) to Jesus. I will try to pray every single day. Prayer is talking to God. He ____(hears) us when we pray and He answers us. He will say _____(yes) , ______(no) or ________(wait). Here are my top three things I will be praying about in the next 3 three weeks _______________, ____________, _______________. I will pray every day for the next 21 days.

1  2  3  4  5   6   7   8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18  19  20  21

5.Here is what I believe God has been speaking to my heart during my prayer times during my 3 week time of growth ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

6.A huge part of growing spiritually is finding my place to _______(serve). I should not wait until I am older; I should find my place to serve in my church, my family and my __________ (community). Here are some ways that I am going to try to serve Jesus and others these next 21 days (VBS helper, cleaning at the church, camp helper, cleaning the house, visiting the sick or shut ins, using my gifts of singing, or playing an instrument, baking for someone or more!) ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

7.We all need a person to hold us _____ (accountable). A parent, a pastor, a Christian friend or teacher are good choices. You need to find a great ________ (adult) to help you grow and to keep you on _______( track). You should also have a friend your own age to do the challenge with. During my 21 day challenge, I found _________________ to be my accountability grownup and ________________ to be my challenge buddy!

 

                  DO YOUR BEST! GROW CLOSER TO JESUS! YOU CAN DO IT!

I just got back from Brighton, MI and this year’s CMConnect Conference at 2/42 Community Church (which happens to be one of the fastest growing churches in North America). I thoroughly enjoyed the week over all, but here are a few highlights- my favorite takeaways 🙂

#10. The kind and hospital people that worked the front desk of our hotel, and at the restaurants. I’ve heard of Minnesota nice, but this was definitely Michigan nice!

#9. We had gorgeous, unseasonably warm weather for most of the conference.

#8. There were over 200 topics to pick from in the breakouts, on a variety of relevant topics.

#7. The real life testimonies were a new addition this year. They were powerful, intimate, devastating and unforgettable. I did not sense any judgement in that room, and I think we all felt then like family. We understood that none of us are alone in the battles we face.

#6. The talent was great- a junior high dance team doing routines, a professional drama team that did yoyo dances, etc. etc.

#5. The large group speakers talked about some VERY hot button issues, such as divorce care for kids, ministry to special needs kids, ministry to single parents, the problem of bullying/child suicide and more. This needed to be brought up; and there was no tiptoeing around the issues!

#4 The building was perfect for the event- and helped inspire our creativity. 2/42 Community Church features an INDOOR soccer field, a gym area, a themed kid’s ministry wing, a cafe and so much more. I loved the design and the “feel” of the location. (Watch me tour the building on an upcoming episode of The Peach Buzz, my all new YouTube Channel. It’s all about what’s Now and what’s NEXT in kid’s and family ministry. Check it out- Share, Like, Subscribe Today!) https://youtu.be/Q6EkTCgCpE4

#3 This is the most organic, “unplugged” of the conferences I attend. You can sit next to a “big name” at dinner. You may recognize the person sitting next to you in a breakout, as the person who TAUGHT the last breakout! We all support each other and collaborate.

#2 There are many opportunities to get your questions answered in conversations “in the hallways.” We have so many heart to hearts and amazing conversations in the halls in between classes.

#1 I loved the band, the worship songs and of course, Brad the emcee. We children’s leaders relish every chance to get to sit in a service and be ministered to!

If you attended the conference, please comment below and tell us what YOUR favorite part was!

Want more information about next year’s event? Get the details (when they are available) here- http://www.cmconnect.org.

Lots of love- God bless! I’m off to catch a plane to do ministry in North Carolina!

Love Trisha

“Thank you for taking a moment to talk with me” the mom said over the phone. On a busy Monday, packed with meetings, I was lucky to sandwhich in a few minutes for phone calls before the day ended. But something in this mom’s voice caught my attention. I grabbed my pen and paper in case she was about to bring up a problem, need or complaint. To my surprise, she said, “I just wanted to thank your team for the service for my kids this past Sunday.” “Um, you bet, you’re welcome!” I managed. “We are always striving to make our services connect with kids and have an impact.” After a moment of silence, the mother continued, “Well, you see, Pastor Trisha, my husband Neil is the worship pastor at _____________ church downtown. Actually, I am a licensed worship pastor myself. My husband and I used to lead worship together there. And I miss it so much.”

I waited with baited breath for her to tell me she quit ministry due to conflict issues or leadership struggles. But instead she said this:

“We couldn’t wait to start a family. But our boys, who were born a year apart, are both autistic- and pretty severe on the spectrum. We soon began to feel unwelcome at church. I could no longer serve because I had to take care of the boys. And then came the day that the children’s ministry could not accept them, and they made noises in service. I loved our church, and had spent all my time there.  I lived for those services. But now, I have not been in a church service for over 3 years, because I have to stay home with the boys. We are pariahs. Cast out of God’s house and it has been so hard (she started crying here). But last Sunday, I decided to try out one of your site churches that meets in a school.  I thought that might be smaller/easier to quickly leave if things got bad. I called ahead, and explained the whole situation to one of your staff, and she told me to come on ahead. (Inside I was doing a dance because I knew that staff member has a huge heart for kid’s with special needs). I was terrified that this would be a disaster, so I sat just outside the door for the entire service. But your team never called me once! They didn’t make a big deal when the boys made noises and even tried to include them in what was going on! I just sat in my car after the service, put my head on the steering wheel and wept. Even though I didn’t get to be in worship or hear the sermon, it felt SO GOOD just to be in church on a Sunday. And to not be treated like a burden or a freak or a failure. (I had tears running down my own face at this point).  I just wanted to say thank you.  And I want to give it another go this Sunday.  And whether or not it works out or not, I am grateful that at least your team is trying.” You know how your perspective can change in just 5 minutes? That team deserved a lot of credit that week for ministering like Jesus and showing grace……

But I realize that this is a hot button topic right now. Autism is on the rise like never before. It used to be a rare thing for a church to have a special needs child in their services. Part of this was partially due to the shame, stigma and “hiding” that has traditionally come with special needs- either physical or mental. And unfortunately, these terrible views of disability have taken hold, have dug a root into our churches. These days there are so many children in our ministries with special needs- down syndrome, cystic fibrosis, deafness, autism (all across the spectrum), ADHD, children from abuse and neglect situations (they have special needs too!!) and many many more. What’s worse, there is so much fear associated with disabilities. All this guilt, as if someone must have done something wrong, or not had enough faith, or as if certain challenges were “contagious” from close contact. I think that one of the deepest fears is of making a mistake, doing something wrong, or of inadvertedly “not ministering correctly” to a child with special needs. The needs can seem overwhelming. But gone are the days that we can ignore special needs family ministries- you already have several in your ministry, and in your church RIGHT NOW. And perhaps even more importantly, how many families of children with special needs are NOT in your ministry, because they do not feel welcome at a church? That question tears me up inside.

So what do you do if you and your church are considering ways to better include kids and families with special needs into your ministry? Need some ideas on how to better address the issues you are already having with integrating kids with special needs into your existing ministries? You already have conquered the first and most important step: you are open to, and are trying to INCLUDE these families, and you CARE about them- you want them to be ministered to effectively.

As a parent of a child with Asperger’s, and 16 year staff children’s pastor (600 kids), here are a few tips I have learned over the years to help you get started ministering to children and families with special needs:

1. Start small, but do START. If you stay afraid you will never step out. Make up your mind to take steps, even small ones, to reach out to families of children with special needs.

2. Set REALISTIC expectations. If you build it they will come. The need is so great, and so many families of special needs kids are looking for a place to go to church. I would highly suggest you let word of mouth do all your advertising at first. Be careful to manage those expectations and do not promise what you cannot deliver.  A good idea would be to say, “we are just starting to reach out to families of special needs kids. We are in the process of expanding what we can offer. We are looking for people with experience in working with special needs teaching/ministry to work with us.” Remember, “Promise low, Deliver high”.  It is always better to exceed expectations.

3. Sensory Room- We created a “sensory room” for kids with severe needs (autism etc.) who need a “break”. The schools gave us the sensory room items we needed. We know that all kids have good days and bad days. So we have the sensory room option open for tough days. Some kids who are sensitive to flashing lights or lots of worship noise may need some quieter time, and for us the sensory room has been helpful.

4. Special needs ministry non-integrated. We have been sooooo blessed with two older ladies, both of whom have raised autistic sons- they do our class for children with severe special needs, children who the parents do not want integrated. We work closely with parents to decide what works. Most kids with special need are integrated. But this is about what works best for the individual child and their family. And some kids do better in a designated class. But this has to be taught by loving people who have EXPERIENCE working with special needs kids.  You may not have this right away, but it may be something you want to work toward.

5. I still say, do not give out any medications or provide any medical treatments. This is a liability issue and still must be the sole responsibility of the parent. I do not make exceptions to this one. You MUST have a way to contact that parent at all times, even if you try not to use it unless you really need to.  But for safety reasons, do not accept any child in your ministry if you cannot quickly contact the parent (paging, cell, screen etc.), especially a child with special needs. It is true that a church is not equipped to do what a school can do. That doesn’t mean that we do not try to reach out and minister to these families. What is reasonable, AND full of grace in your ministry situation?

6. Case by case- no two children are alike, and no two children have exactly the same severity of special needs. Two children with autism can be so far apart on the autism spectrum that their plans may look nothing alike. Your first step is always to talk with the parents and try to understand the full situation and try to help them understand your set up. Don’t promise what you cannot deliver. Listen a LOT. I suggest writing down a plan for each child that you agree on with the parent. Evaluate it later to see how the ministry is going. Think of ideas for inclusion.

Coming up in part 2- How to effectively partner with parents of special needs kids and make them a part of the ministry, great leader training that works, ideas for inclusive special needs kid’s ministry and more.

What great tips do YOU have for reaching out to families with special needs? love and God bless- Trisha

Integrated special needs ministry

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Can I let you all in on a little secret? I’ve been working on the launch of an all new project- a short, weekly  Youtube show all about ministry- kid’s ministry, youth ministry, family ministry etc. I am so excited at how it is developing! We’ll be talking about what’s working well NOW in kid’s ministry, what’s brand new, what’s on the horizon!

I’ll also be talking live with some amazing pastors, some who are “legends” in ministry and want to share their years of experience. We’ll also feature some newer leaders who are innovating in bold new ways.

I’ll be occasionally broadcasting live when I’m traveling across this nation, so you can see a variety of church facilities and get ideas from several areas of the country and styles of ministry.

Look for fun, impactful, encouraging, inspiring moments together every week. We’ll be covering crucial topics such as volunteer recruitment that works, safety and security, ministry and depression, amazing facilities on a budget and more. Better yet, you’ll have a chance to suggest topics, places and people that YOU WANT US TO talk to/about!!

But first, I need YOUR help. I am searching for the name of our new show! Here are some of our suggestions from leaders all over the nation. Which one is your favorite? Wanna write one in? Whoever’s suggestion wins will be receiving a free copy of my second book! So please take a sec and vote! We’ll make sure to announce and countdown when the show gets close to going live. I cannot wait for us to connect and create together soon! Thanks so much! Trisha

 

Possible Titles for my Kidmin/Fammin You Tube Channel? Which is Your Pick?
  1. Just Peachy
  2. The Peach Buzz
  3. Going Bananas with Peach
  4. The Peach Adventure
  5. Peachy Keen TV
  6. A Peach of my Mind
  7. Other-comment below!!

 

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This is one of the most difficult parts of my job.  This is one of the things they didn’t train me for in Bible College. A church member, who is also a dear friend, had lost their young child.  And I am standing in the doorway of their hospital room. Surrounding the child’s bed are the grief stricken parents, looking lost and blank, as well as several friends and family members. I’m twisting my hands behind my back, desperately praying in my head for wisdom. Just then, the husband’s well meaning aunt calmly states, “Don’t worry, you’ll have another child, and then you’ll hardly even remember this moment.”  Anger and astonishment boil up from my heart into my neck and turn my face bright red. I clench my teeth shut so I don’t erupt. This is not the time, nor the place- and confrontation is not what I am here for. I am here for these parents.

Most pastors have had people say insensitive, albeit well meaning, things at funerals. Here are a few of the more common things I really wish people would not say at a death or a funeral:

“Heaven needed another angel.” – Despite the obvious theological problems with this statement- humans and angels are NOT the same creations/species and humans do not turn into angels after death, the statement is very trite, and claims that God took the child because of heaven’s need. This adds to the feeling they may already be struggling with, “God TOOK someone I loved away from me.”

“too bad they didn’t make heaven”- Whether or not you believe that the deceased person made it to heaven or not, a death or a funeral is NOT the place to have that discussion. Your focus now has to be on the family of the deceased. And you may not have all the facts, some things we will not know for sure until we get to heaven ourselves.  And all the speculation is pointless, and may just hurt rather than help, at the funeral.

“When you have another baby, you won’t think about this one” (see story at the beginning)- No person can ever take the place of another person. Each child, each human is unique, and there will never be another them. Let that person recognize and grieve that loss- an individual who is no longer there. Having more babies, or having more children will not take away the loss or the grief.

“God doesn’t give us more than we can handle”- This is a twisting of a Scripture in James that tell us that God will not give us more temptation than we can handle.  Many times, it seems to me, God allows situations in our lives, for reasons we do not understand- and these situations are far more than we can handle.  And it is in these situations that God has to carry us, because we simply cannot handle them in our own strength.

“We are here for you” and then disappear right after the funeral.- Do not say things that you do not mean. It has been well said before that people will not remember much of what you say after a tragedy or at the funeral.  But they will remember that you were there. Being there is so important. And not just right after the loss has occurred. When the funeral is over, and the cards have stopped coming, and the relatives have all gone home. and everyone else has moved on….that may be when that person/family needs you the most. Grief has no set timeline. Children especially will have a delayed response. They may suddenly need your love and support 6 months, a year or more after the traumatic event.

“Well, God took them because……” This one probably bothers me the most. As Christians, we are unnerved if we sense someone may be getting upset with God when they are grieving. Listen, we do not need to defend God. We humans always try to find the why in every situation. But sometimes we never know the WHY this side of heaven.  But we are called to trust His love anyway. God is big enough to handle the anger that comes right along with the grief. We shouldn’t try to make up desperate explanations to defend God when we do not really understand the situation ourselves.

“At least they were so old. It won’t be as hard.” It doesn’t matter how elderly the person was when they passed away; the family will still grieve. You are never ready to lose your father or mother etc. Their age made them no less precious. And you are never really “ready” to lose a loved one.

“They were sick so long, at least you were ready for it.” Like we said above, you are never truly “ready” to lose a loved one.  No matter how long they have been ill.  You will still grieve.

“At least they weren’t born yet so you didn’t get attached.”  AHHHHHH! Any mother who has lost an unborn child will tell you that the attachment begins right away- when you feel them move, see them growing, and watch those ultrasounds.  The attachment is a LOVE so strong- complete with hopes, joy and dreams that die along with that beautiful child. And I have seen fathers grieving right along with their wives after a miscarriage.

“just think of Job. Your loss isn’t that bad then.” Misery does not always love company. Pointing out someone else’s tragedy probably will not make a family feel better about their loss. And it almost comes off as “guilting” like “well, your loss isn’t nearly as bad as theirs……”. You cannot compare losses, tragedies or heartbreaks.  Scripture tells us, “Each heart knows its own bitterness” Prov 14:10 We all grieve differently. Comparisons don’t really help.

“The only grief counseling you need is a Bible and a prayer closet.” -Scripture and prayer are fantastic, especially during times of grief.  But I always point people to grief counseling as well. Most pastors are NOT trained in grief counseling or trauma intervention. There are specialists who ARE trained in these situations and are ready to help. It is wonderful to use Scripture and prayer; AND counseling- People going through a loss are going to need all the support and all the tools we can give them.

“Time heals all wounds”- That is not an actual Scripture verse. Although Revelation tells us that God will “wipe every tear from our eyes” (in heaven). Time does not take away the loss; we just learn to live with it and survive around it.  God gives us the strength we just don’t have, to find the beauty and smiles in life again.  But you will always miss that person, until you see them again.

What should we say to a grieving person/family? Not a whole lot. Be there for them- at the time of the tragedy, and in the many months to follow. Listen. Give hugs. Do send Scriptures and cards. Let them know you are praying for them (and mean it). Let them cry, let them be angry, relive memories of the lost person with them. Point them to Jesus- Who alone can get them through the unbearable. Be there for them.  Because eventually, inevitably, you’ll need them to be there for you too. “Your love for one another will prove you are My disciples”- Jesus  Matt 13:35

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Feeling Blue - One Depressed Person

 

 

The audience seemed to hold its collective breath. The lady next to me put her pencil down on her planner. Many heads came up to see if they were hearing her right. To be sure, Christine Yount Jones had everyone’s full attention. You see, Christine, a respected kid’s ministry voice for most of her life, was a key note speaker at this past January’s CPC (Children’s Pastor’s Conference). And Christine had just broached the subject of anxiety, depression and the ministry leader. With thoughtfulness, humor and raw honesty, she validated a lot of people there that day; talking about the different ways that God “calms the storm” in our lives.

After I got home, I noticed a conversation on a popular kid’s ministry forum, possibly sparked by this session. A children’s pastor shared that she battled with depression, but that God was giving her the energy and strength every week to minister effectively to families. Her comment seemed to break an unseen barrier as more and more leaders began sharing their stories as well. One leader, an older man, shared that he had felt like a failure after going in for counseling after a particularly rough church transition. But he discovered that this counseling was the best decision EVER for him, and for his family and his ministry. Yet another pastor said how tough it can be to fight through your own battles to minister to others who are in need. How many of us HIDE it from others-especially at our church-when we are anxious, depressed or hurting? Do we feel like “lesser” ministers when we are depressed? Can God use us through our own pain, to help others?

I highly recommend reading this article from churchleaders.com: https://churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-articles/144651-silent-suffering-pastors-and-depression.html. It includes among other facts:

The likelihood is that one out of every four pastors is depressed,” said Matthew Stanford, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. But anxiety and depression in the pulpit are “markedly higher” in the last five years, said Smoot. 

Nearly two out of three depressed people don’t seek treatment, according to studies by the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. Counselors say even fewer depressed ministers get treated because of career fears, social stigma and spiritual taboo. “Clergy do not talk about it because it violates their understanding of their faith,” said Scoggin. “They believe they are not supposed to have those kinds of thoughts.” Stanford, who studies how the Christian community deals with mental illness, said depression in Christian culture carries “a double stigmatization.” Society still places a stigma on mental illness, but Christians make it worse, he said, by “over-spiritualizing” depression and other disorders—dismissing them as a lack of faith or a sign of weakness.”

I hesitated writing this message this week. But after a lot of prayer, I felt that some of my fellow ministry leaders and fellow believers may need this word. Here are some things I really really want you to know:

  1. Anxiety and Depression are mood disorders- they do NOT disqualify you in ministry, any more than having diabetes or a thyroid disorder would. Some of the most talented, creative pastors I know battle bipolar disorder or anxiety.
  2. So many suffer, in the shadows. Sometimes you may think you are the only one- and you are not. People are not always as sunny and perfect as their Facebook may lead you to believe! We really do not know someone else’s struggles from day to day
  3. God understands- He really does, and He cares. God wants to ease our anxiety and our depression. Did you know that there are over 500 Scriptures in the Bible about dealing with fear (anxiety)?? We wouldn’t need all of those promises from God if Christians got a free pass for no anxiety or sadness. We are never promised a life free of pain this side of heaven. See below for some of my favorite verses for anxiety, sadness or confusion. We need to remember that Jesus understands. He was fully human as well as fully God. He even said, speaking of His soon approaching death, “I have a baptism to be baptized with (the Crucifixion), and how ANXIOUS I am until it is accomplished!” (Luke 12:50, emphasis mine). In the Garden of Gethsemane He said, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow even unto death!” Mark 14:34. He understands! And He hears and He acts to help.
  4. Counseling/A doctor IS a great idea. Who would ever shame a diabetic for taking their insulin!? But for the ministry leader who is focused on helping everyone else- getting help can be the hardest part. But you cannot go trusting everyone around you with every one of your private battles. You need someone safe that YOU can talk to openly. I went in for professional counseling several years ago, as I struggled to get over a devastating loss. As tough as that was, it was such a great decision. I needed to heal in order to keep giving out in ministry to others.
  5. Ministry can make us prone to depression. I know what we deal with on a weekly basis. People are hurting and broken. We ministers love others through the fallout of deaths, sexual assaults, broken marriages, abused children, suicides, car accidents and so much more. Ministry is not a 9-5 job; it is your whole life a lot of times! It consumes your whole heart and soul! That is why we have to be on our guard to minister to our OWN soul. Pastors are terrible about not taking their days off, or their vacation days. We work WAY too many hours. How’s your heart? How is our relationship with Jesus? Yes, self-care matters.
  6. God created you, He loves you and His plan for your life is not over because of what you are going through. As Paul said, “His strength is made perfect in our weakness.” Yes, God can and will use you, in your brokeness. But He also cares about YOUR health and joy.

A few weeks ago, a well known pastor of a very large church in my area took his own life. The whole city, as well as his family and his congregation, are reeling from the loss. He helped so many people, including some who were depressed themselves.

Can I just say, if you are feeling down or overwhelmed, please do not harm yourself. Do not be embarrassed to go in for help. Many people love you and would be so lost without you. If you were asking God to speak, maybe this is Him speaking into your life saying, “I love you. It IS going to be OK. I do have an amazing plan for your life. You are not a failure, you’re My special creation. Hang on, this WILL get better.

I truly did not mean to write so much on this topic, but please feel the love and encouragement behind it. All my love- Trisha

National Suicide Prevention Hotline (24 hours)

Call 1-800-273-8255

A few of Trisha’s favorite verses to read in time of anxiety and/or sadness:

So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God. Psalm 43:5

 But when I am afraid, I will put my confidence in you. Yes, I will trust the promises of God. And since I am trusting him, what can mere man do to me? Psalm 56:3-4

 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Psalm 27:13

Please share YOUR favorite verse that has helped YOU in a difficult time!

“You are going to meet with me tonight! I don’t care how late it is. Meet me at Joe’s Coffee shop in 20 minutes. We have to talk this out now.” I groaned when these texts started coming through. Because I knew this mom. We had been through all of this before. Part of me had been holding my breath, expecting this. Her daughter didn’t get a solo in the Christmas play, and I knew she wouldn’t handle that well.

I’ll never forget that night. Our quarterly vision casting meeting at the church had gone late. After finishing up some paperwork in my office, at 10:15 pm, I began finally walking towards my car. Then my phone buzzed. And buzzed again. And again and again.  I needed to be up early the next day to get my kids to school. But I felt obligated to “make this right” and meet with her. My boss, who was also leaving late after the meetings, saw me in the parking lot wearily trudging to my car to go meet her. I explained the situation to him briefly, expecting him to tell me to “make things right with her.” Instead he adamantly told me, “This late at night? NO. No Way. You are letting yourself be too controlled by others. Go home to your family. You are jumping every time this woman says “jump.” You can lovingly tell her no. Offer to meet with her during office hours. This has to stop.”

“But..but..” I stuttered, “She’s angry and says we have to meet right now!”

“And?” my boss answered. “You really have to stop making HER emergency YOUR emergency. She is the only one who can control her feelings. Go home to your family.”

I went home. She was angry, but by the next day she had cooled off quite a bit. When we met later that week, she apologized and offered to help with the play. This was a huge learning moment for me, and I want to share it with you. It can change the way you do life and ministry. We need to ask ourselves:

Is this really an emergency?”  This is a question to ask yourself when someone approaches you for help in a crisis. Is someone in danger of physical harm? Is someone in the hospital or dying or being abused or in an accident? Being offended by which Bible translation you used last Sunday during the offering is NOT an emergency- no matter how mad someone is. As pastors and leaders we have to TRAIN others how to deal with their emotions appropriately. When we jump and run every single time someone is offended we are FEEDING that culture of offense- and FEEDING someone’s need to CONTROL others, both of which run directly contrary to what Scripture teaches. There are people in our churches who are addicted to drama; these people need love, hope and healing. They do NOT need you to enable their addiction. People demanded that Jesus do signs to prove His ministry, or give them more bread from heaven, or defend His ministry or stay in one place forever. He told these people no, because He had a mission from the Father that He needed to carry out. If other people’s agendas control us, it will hamper our ability to carry out the Father’s agenda for us. As Nehemiah said when certain factions demanded meetings with him because they were offended with him, “(They)said, ‘Come and let us meet together…” But they intended to do me harm. So I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it to come down to you?” They sent to me four times in this way, and I answered them in the same manner.” Nehemiah 3:2-4 

Stay tuned for more in this series of my favorite phrases/questions to improve your life, ministry and family life! God loves YOU, not just for what you DO for Him, but just because you are His child. He cares about your health and the health of your family!

What about YOU? What is YOUR favorite piece of ministry advice??

Love Trisha

Emergency