Archives for posts with tag: #leadership

I never want to get “desensitized” to what Jesus did for me. I want to remember what it cost Him, to redeem us to give us eternal life. Many Christians will be reading about the Passion of Jesus this week of Easter, from the gospels. But I have always felt that the Old Testament is actually more explicit, when it talks about what Jesus went through on that dark Friday. The New Testament writers are shockingly “straight to the point” when they talk about the crucifixion of Jesus, “And they crucified Him.” This may be because when the gospels were being written, the authors and early Christians already knew all about the horror of crucifixion, perhaps even losing someone they loved as as martyr to crucifixion. But in the Old Testament,  the Holy Spirit gives us a lot more detail in what we call “imprecatory” psalms, and Messianic prophecies that point to Christ. When Jesus died on the Cross, He actually fulfilled at least 100 of the Old Testament predictions about the death of the Savior. 

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Below, I have researched powerful verses from throughout Scripture, which seem to give a raw, horrifying glimpse into what Jesus did to redeem us. I put the verses together in a first Person voice, using “The Message” Bible for a fresh perspective. I will include all the Scripture passages I refer to for your study as well. Though this was for my own personal Holy Week reflections, I hope this inspires worship and love for Jesus in you too. Thank You Jesus.

“As it is written in Your book I come.  (Ps 40) This will please the Lord more than the blood of sheep and oxen. (Ps 69) I have a baptism to be baptized with and how anxious I am until it is accomplished. (Luke 12:50) No one takes My life from Me. I lay My life down, and take it up again. (John 10:18) No one has greater love than this, than laying Your life down for a friend. And I have called You friends. (John 15:13)

If it were some stranger who had betrayed Me I could bear it, but you My close friend? And what a princely price- 30 pieces of silver? (Ps 55:10-12) The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. I’m in agony, sorrow to the point of death, weeping, praying, sweating blood. Please stay with Me. Father let this pass from Me. But not My will but Yours be done. (Luke 22, Matt 26, Hebrews 12) My courage and strength have melted away. (Psalm 69)But this is Your plan. I’m doing what will please You. I didn’t hide my face from slapping, shame and spitting. I did not hide Myself. I didn’t retaliate. I said not one word to defend Myself at My trial. No one defended me. I was judged guilty and condemned to death through human injustice AND God’s plan. (Isaiah 53) This is My enemies’ hour to display the power of darkness. (Luke 22) Complete injustice to fill God’s justice. (Isaiah 53)

No one now believes My report or mission. They think it failed. They believe I failed and that God is punishing me. I am killed alongside sinners and buried in a rich man’s grave. (Isaiah 53) I am hated. They have plotted to kill me. Not even God is answering me. All the curses written in the book have fallen on Me. Made to suffer, oppressed and afflicted, God’s arrows have sunk into Me deeply. You were always there and now You are gone. Your Spirit is not here. (Deut. 29)

You pour out Your terrible wrath on Me. I am hated, rejected and filled with pain. The pain in unrelenting. (Psalm 69) I look for anyone to take pity, but everyone either mocks or turns away. Everyone has left Me. (Psalm 22) My back you have filled with searing pain. (Ps 38) My back is ruined. They are strong and surrounded Me, pierced My hands and My feet. (Ps 22) Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. (Luke 23:34) All of my bones have been pulled out of joint. I’m torn by wild dogs and disfigured. (Ps 22) My blood is shed, sprinkled out, given for many. My body is broken. (1 Corinthians 11:24) Pierced through for sin, punished, wounded, crushed. The Lord has laid the sin of all on Me, on Me. No beauty, no majesty, people are astonished and in horror at me. They say an evil disease is clinging to Me by God’s punishment. (Isaiah 53) I am not even human anymore-just a worm. I’m cut off young. (Psalm 22)Wrenched out of the land of the living by violence. My life and My soul are poured out to death as an offering for sin. But this is Your plan. I am doing what will please You. (Isaiah 53)My courage and strength have melted away. My insides are on fire. My bones are burning like a furnace. God has laid Me in the dust of death. Everyone stares and gawks. I can count all my bones. Everyone taunts Me, “Where is Your God? Why won’t He save You?” They play games for My clothes. Everything I had is gone, like someone already dead. There is no soundness or strength left in my body at all. (Ps 69, Ps 22) Beaten bloody and unrecognizable. (Is 53) Shaking, trembling, fear and horror overtake me. My heart is hammering, breaking. (Deut 29) The waters have come up to my neck. I’m sinking with no foothold in deep mire. My throat is parched from crying out, My eye sight fails. My tongue is swollen and clings to the roof of my mouth. (Ps 69) For My terrible thirst, they give me gall and vinegar as a joke. I am forced to restore what I did not steal. You will not save Me from this. (Ps 22) I am blotted from Your book. You charge me with crime upon crime. (Deut 29) God why? Why have You abandoned Me? I am in agony. I keep crying out to You and am not silent. I am exhausted. (Ps 22) But it was Your purpose to crush Me with pain, as a ransom for sin. I am consumed. I bear the disgrace of many and shame covers My face. (Isaiah 53) My own family pretends not to know Me. I am in trouble- do not leave Me here in death! God hides His face; scorn has broken My heart. Your fierce anger overwhelms Me. I have become a horror. There is pain from the soles of My feet to the top of My head. I know You have heard Me, every groan. You will not leave Me in the grave. Into Your hands I commit My Spirit.” (Ps 22, 69, 38)

My favorite verse in the Bible- which seems to be the whole gospel in a nutshell:

Still, this is what God had in mind all along, to crush Him (Christ) with pain.The plan was that He give himself as an offering for sin, so that He’d see life come from it—life, life, and more life. And God’s plan will deeply prosper through Him. Out of that terrible travail of soul, He’ll see that it’s worth it and be glad He did it. Through what He experienced, my righteous One, my Servant,will make many “righteous ones,”as He Himself carries the burden of their sins…He looked death in the face and didn’t flinch, because he embraced the company of the lowest. He took on His own shoulders the sin of the many, He took up the cause of all the black sheep”. Isaiah 53:10-12

Let us make sure we take time this Easter to think about the sacrifice of Jesus, and about how deeply God loves each and every one of us. Undeserved. Unearned. This is the love that changes us heart and soul. Jesus took the punishment for everything we have ever done (and will ever do) wrong. Salvation is trusting Jesus to forgive us, and then living our lives for Him- for what HE wants, not what we want. Right now, wherever you are, you can ask Him to make Himself real to you- and He will. That is the Good News that forever changes us, and changes the world.

Happy Easter, and God Bless.

Love Trisha

“We do not do kid’s ministry worship at our church,” the speaker at the conference said. “Kid’s can’t understand what they are doing at that age, so it’s all just emotional manipulation at that point. We wait until upper high school to introduce worship services, because then they are old enough to understand.”

Anyone who knows me knows that I was boiling inside at this point. I know that kid’s can worship- and mean it from their hearts. I also know that worship is KEY for every person in their faith- including kids! I even made an appointment later on to talk to the speaker and explain why I do believe in kid’s ministry worship. I thought I made a decent argument, but he remained unconvinced. “Not at my church, until high school” he concluded. What a tragedy.

As churches, we often focus on getting “head knowledge” into our kids from a young age. And this is well and good. Our children NEED to know what we believe and why. They NEED to know Scripture. According to Barna, most children will completely solidify their world view, right versus wrong, by the age of 12-14. That is scary to me! And that decision will NOT be made in a void. Many worldviews are competing for our kid’s hearts and minds. Their viewpoints on the world should NOT be forged without any imput from the church!! Waiting until upper high school is often far far too late. That is even more silly and dangerous than saying, “Do not teach children to read until upper high school when they can decide for themselves if they want to read or not.” We have a window of opportunity when kids are young, a small window in which God can make a huge impact.

Isn’t our faith supposed to be more than head knowledge anyway? Isn’t the most important commandment “Love the Lord Your God with all your HEART, with all your SOUL, with all your MIND and with all your STRENGTH?” Faith is not supposed to without emotion. Experience is not a bad thing. And kids are hungry to experience something- Someone- real. Why do you think that the occult is targeting- and successfully- recruiting so many kids? They are hard wired to believe, to connect with God. As Jon Tasch says, “We teach children to make their beds and eat their vegetables. Why aren’t we teaching our kids to connect with God?”

So how can we make sure that we set up a great “playdate” with God- an impactful kid’s worship experience?? I’m so glad you asked. Here are the best tips I have found for setting up that kid’s ministry worship service:

  1. Live beats canned-Any chance you get, try to incorporate live elements into your kid’s worship. When you first start out, sure you may need to play a video clip and sing along. I have some video worship that is great. But work toward at least having a person up front leading and doing the motions. If it is not your gift, seek out someone with a heart for leading kid’s ministry worship. The more live elements the better.
  2. Go for excellence- No you can’t just throw anything up on stage “because it’s just kids.” Children can TELL when a leader is not prepared. To me, kid’s ministry is the greatest opportunity we can ever ever have! We are setting up playdates between kids and God! We don’t throw our leftovers on the altar. We should always be trying to do a bit better. Yes, this is going to mean rehearsing. And learning the motions to the songs.
  3. Participation is KEY- As much as possible, we have to move away from the “I sing on stage and all you listen” model of kid’s worship. It needs to be instead, “Let’s all worship together” while you and other leaders model what loving Jesus through song looks like. The more kids you can involve in this the better! Have kids prepared to do all the motions on stage, have kids singing along with mics, have kids helping to pray with other kids. VERY important here is to get your student ministries involved. Kids will naturally follow the lead of the teenagers on your team. Give them role models you WANT them to follow. This also gives your older students experience in ministry!
  4. Balance of fast worship and slower worship songs- Do not just do motion songs- kids CAN learn to enter into the deeper worship songs too. They do need the fast motion songs to get all that energy out. I prefer to do 2-3 action songs right near the beginning. I usually do 1-2 slower altar songs toward the end, after the message. Do not group all of your music together, or all of your talking together. I like to balance out our services between music, drama, teaching, prayer etc.
  5. Let parents see their kids worshipping- It is very important to understand what your parents SEE and HEAR when they drop off and pick up their children. I have heard parents complain, “When I drop off and pick up my kids, all I see is them running around and playing games. Is that all they ever do in there?” At our church, we decided to have fast worship going on when kids drop off and worship and prayer when parents pick up. Some parents are so shocked seeing their child worshipping and praying. Many times it inspired the parent to seek God more themselves.
  6. Try a family worship experience- It is wonderful to get together as “the church”, not separated by age, and have times of intergenerational worship. The other congregants can be inspired to see the devotion of the younger kids, and the kids have more models of how the CHURCH worships. Also the kids can begin to realize that they are a vital part of the church right now, not just in the future. Please remember that a truly family service is NOT a typical service with all grown up songs and the kids color on the back of the hymnal. A truly family service will balance with kid’s ministry songs that ENGAGE the kids- even having some of them on the stage helping to worship. Some churches do this once a quarter or one evening a month.

If you are looking for some help with your kid’s ministry worship, for resources or for some amazing worship at your next family service, may I highly recommend….

Jumpstart3 uses actual  verses in their songs, so your kids will be worshipping AND learning Scripture at the same time! You can get a free song just for subscribing here: https://jumpstart3.com/

Yancy Not Nancy- who is amazing at leading family worship events that everyone will love, from your elderly saints to your youngest preschoolers. http://yancyministries.com/

How about YOU? What are the greatest resources, tips or speakers you have encountered for kid’s ministry worship??

See you next week and much love- Trisha

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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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

Long gone are the days of “lone ranger” ministry- of one minister charging in, doing it “all” while everyone else follows. Today your ministry will literally rise or fall based on your ability to build and lead a strong team. Ministering to your TEAM should be one of your number 1 ministry goals this year. So how do you build a stronger, more unified team in 2015? The teams I have led, and been on over the years have become more of a family, and I am so blessed to be a part of them. Whether you’re leading a team of volunteers, volunteer department heads, paid staff or all of the above, these ideas you’ll see below have worked for me and other ministry leaders, to build a winning team.

1. Pray together- There is power in praying all together with one purpose. Pray FOR each other as well. It is a lot tougher to stay angry with someone, when your hand is on their shoulder in prayer for their upcoming surgery. This time spent in prayer together should not be “optional” or an afterthought. I cut 15 minutes of every outreach practice time just so we could spend that time in prayer together. It changed EVERYTHING- attitudes, effectiveness of “performances”, and our focus on the unchurched people who attended. Praying as one team can bond us in a way that nothing else can. I appreciate teams that begin and end all of their gatherings with prayer.

2. Grow together- Have you ever gone to a conference by yourself? You have this AMAZING experience, epiphanies that change your life! And then you come back to your church and try to explain those moments, those feelings to your team? It’s almost impossible isn’t it? The old saying is all too true, “You just had to be there.” Everything changes when the team returns together from a training/conference with a more unified vision, and everyone at the table “gets the inside jokes” and has the same memories of the event. You do not have to get them all excited or try to explain the experience, because they went through it with you. Other ways to grow together would include doing a book study or a Bible study together- we have had a LOT of fun bonding over our book/Bible studies! You can also find inexpensive local trainings to attend as a group or hire a speaker to come in and do a training for your team. A great newer option would be to do a live streaming training or conference and watch it all together at your church (or a neighboring church).

3. Serve together- Nothing, and I do mean nothing, seems to bond a team like working long hours on a major project. When you have a community outreach, vbs, service project, musical, Easter or Christmas function, it is good to have “all hands on deck” and give every member of the team a “job”. This laser focus- everyone pulling together in the same direction- everyone going for the same win, can show the “real side” of the people you minister with, the good, bad and the ugly. We get to know each other for REAL, and still love and appreciate your team for all of their unique giftings. We experience first hand the power of working as a group toward a common goal. This usually attracts new team members as well who want to be a part of something that is succeeding and so rewarding (Great teams are the best recruiters).

4. Dream Together- Is your “team” still a hierarchy of “I say and you do and don’t ask why?” Much better is the model “Let’s do this together, and I’ll help you until you can teach it yourself.” When you sit down to plan your calendar of events for the next year (which I really hope you are doing), who is sitting around that table? By that I mean, who has input in the planning of events and the pitching of new ideas? This can be scary to some leaders, and it definitely takes a lot of trust. But great ideas often come from diverse teams, even quiet, introverted team members. Perhaps your team members have been doing a lot of thinking and just need the chance to let those ideas out. They’ll think of great innovations and solutions that you never could on your own. It’s about letting go some of that need to control for the greater good of the people you minister to. Make it a safe place to express ideas, and even constructive criticism. But never allow pouting, grudge holding, or gossip. You can reserve the right to the final say, and you can always shut down negative or argumentative talk. But allowing a few more people at that planning table will not only uncork amazing creative conversations, but when you actually DO begin to implement your new ideas, you will have your teams buy-in and eager support, BECAUSE they had some say. BUY-IN always comes from IN-PUT. 🙂

5. Play together- It’s official; teams that play together, stay together. If the only time you contact your team is when you want something from them (work related), they may start to feel used; they may also dread it when they see you coming (just more work to do). Don’t just see people for what they have to offer you and “your” ministry. These are people, with lives and joys and hopes and jobs and families. Go to their sports games and cheer them on. Go as a team and do something fun- bowling, roller blading, boat ride, mini golf, a concert etc. I also highly suggest that you eat together. Sharing meals together has been known as a bonding activity throughout history. Go out to eat together as a team after services. Better yet, go to each other’s HOMES and COOK together. Being a team means caring about people’s lives OUTSIDE of the job you are trying to do together. If their child is sick, pray together for that child. If one of your team is in the hospital, go visit them together. As they say at Willow Creek, you are not just doing a job together, you are “doing life together.” You are building relationships to last for the long haul. These relationships give birth to the best, most successful ministries you will ever know.

What kind of team are you dreaming of? The best things in this life don’t just “happen”; they are intentionally planned and crafted. Put the majority of your time into growing a unified, effective team this year, and you’ll be surprised how far you’ll GROW. How do you disciple and pour into your ministry teams? (board, parent teams, teachers, volunteers, staff etc.)? Please let us know your best ideas for team building!

PS: I’d love to pray with you or sign a book for you. You can get a copy of “Your Children’s Ministry From Scratch” TODAY on Amazon, Kindle. Already have your book? Please make sure to rate it on Amazon- I read each and every review. God bless!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love Trisha

Today my grandmother passed away. Even though she was 90 years old and in frail health, you are never really “ready.” My memories of grandma are of a fiery, passionate woman of God who loved gum drops, root beer and Burger King. She had the energy of a hyperactive chipmunk after 4 monster drinks. She was so full of life (and orneriness) we all thought she’d outlive us all! At 80 years old she was diagnosed with cancer and the doctor told her she would need a permanent port because she was not going to survive it. She answered, “Well, just because you said that, I’m going to beat this cancer- just to spite you!” And she did. She was cancer free by 82. When I was feeling down or someone had been nasty to me, she would “preach” at me, “You get that chin up right now young lady. You’re a child of God! You are a Stevens!” Grandma had a great singing voice and was also a good shot at the shooting range. A few years ago I had the privilege of riding the Badger Ferry with grandma and my kids- we had a blast, even though Grandma sneaked her tiny dog on board and ate doughnuts the whole trip.

We are weeks away from Thanksgiving. And these holidays will be without grandma. You do not get to choose when you lose someone. You do not get to choose (sometimes) when a church transition happens. You may not get to postpone a heartache until January.

Some of my dearest friends are in the middle of fiery trials and ordeals right now. My heart aches for 2 of my friends who had major tragedies last week. Another of my close friends is in a gut-wrenching church battle right now. Perhaps you too are facing a different kind of holiday season this year.

If you are having a fantastic holiday and so is everyone you know, fantastic.  That’s wonderful. But this blog may not be relevant for ya, at least not this year. I would like to have a word with those of you who may NOT be having a great holiday season right now….

Several years ago, Christmas Day- As my little 2 year old daughter began opening her third gift, I heard my phone ring. I was confused at first seeing that my phone wasn’t on; THEN I saw it was the on call phone. I picked up the phone and answered.  On the other line I heard the tired voice of an older man.  He asked me, “I want you to give me one good reason not to end it all right here and now.”  Hey family, I need to go outside for a bit. I need to take this.

You have probably heard it said that the Holidays are the hardest time of year for some people. When I was younger I never knew how true that was. Coming on staff at a large church, I thought the reason none of the staff wanted to be on call during the holidays was purely due to family obligations. But having holiday time with the family was only PART of the reason that the pastoral staff did not relish being on call for Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Years. My first year, as the newbie on staff, I was on call during Christmas Day. It really changes your whole perspective on the holidays talking to people who are suicidal on Christmas. And your eyes are opened to the very large number people all around us who are hurting at the “happiest” time of the year.

Perhaps we are not as aware of this sadness in the church, because we have created a culture that says, “If you are really a good Christian, you will be happy all the time.  You will live in victory daily.”  This causes many Christians to hide their very real feelings, and the fact that they need a friend, because they are pretending to be “happy”. And some of these Christians wonder, “Is there something wrong with me, because I am not happy right now? Would other Christians understand or even be able to help?” We live in a broken, fallen world. The church and our American culture have created this artificial reality- that we are immune to heartbreak if we do the “right” things.  We can stay young, wealthy, have all we want and need.  As the poet aptly said, “Childhood is the Kingdom where nobody dies.” -Edna St. Vincent Millay. When you grow up, you begin to see, on planet earth bad things happen to ALL people, good, bad…etc. And if we will be honest, that is exactly what the Bible says- and what Jesus told us would happen: “In this world you WILL have trouble….they will persecute you and throw you out of synagogues for My Name’s sake….some of you will be delivered over to death…but the end is not yet etc etc etc” I do not believe Bible stories are just “stories”.  The accounts of certain lives are there for a reason! EVERY single one of the heroes and patriarchs of the Bible went through terrible times. And we are not exempt. We weren’t promised to be happy all the time.

I have two separate friends who lost their moms this year.  Another good friend lost a baby. One needs major heart surgery for herself, and she has 2 small children at home. I know they are going into the holidays uncertain.

I remember at least one holiday season that was  the worst time of my life.  I ended up curled up over the steering wheel of my car, listening to the sleet pelting the roof, outside of Lowe’s, crying my eyes out.  I knew I had to go home and make Christmas as wonderful as possible for my two young children.  But I remember thinking to myself, “Is this really Christmas for us this year??? This isn’t supposed to be how it is! Wait, where is the ‘holiday magic’ that somehow swoops in and makes this all ok?”

So if we know that the holidays are harder for us (even Christians) sometimes, then what can we do to get through the holidays on a difficult year? What can we do to help those in our lives who are struggling this season? Here are a few suggestions:

1. Know that you are not “bad” or “abnormal” to feel down at times during the holidays.  It is perfectly normal to be reminded of a loss at important events. It is normal to feel down, stressed and even blah. The thought of being on a huge emotional high through the whole holiday season is an unreasonable and unrealistic expectation for anyone.

2. You are not alone.  A lot of people have major lows during the holidays.

3. It is ok to go talk to someone and get help.  You owe it to yourself and your family to be honest and take care of YOU. That doesn’t make you less of a Christian, a strong person or a parent.

4. It is ok to have some happiness during the holidays even if you have had a major loss. Some people feel very guilty if they feel happy during the holidays if they have lost someone. It’s ok to laugh and have fun too…there’s no rule book for how you have to feel.  And more than likely the person or people you are missing would love to see you smile too.

5. Create some new traditions.  It is great to keep up old traditions. But one thing that is very healing after a loss is to incorporate a new tradition or two.  A tradition to remember the good that was, and a tradition to look forward to the good that will be. Which brings us to:

6. Remember that there WILL be better seasons to come. Everything in this life comes in seasons. In the middle of a tough holiday season, it is easy to think, “This is how things will be from now on. It will always be this way.”  But a good friend once told me, “There is life out there beyond this. And no it’s not the same as before.  But it’s a good good life.”  I hung on to that during a dark time, and it proved to be so true.  Life will continue to change; but good IS coming.  God’s Word promises us that God’s plans for us are GOOD.  And that “all things work together for GOOD for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

7. Last but not least: Make a list of all you are thankful for. Now before you shriek, “Wait? You want me to be THANKFUL after the year I’ve had?” remember that pain can blind us to everything that is still good in our lives. Remember the story in the Bible about the widow and her two mites? Jesus said she gave more than anyone else because she gave all she had.  Perhaps the one who is sad on Thanksgiving, but who stops to thank God for all the good still in their life, is so very precious to God, because it probably takes everything they have. “In EVERYTHING give thanks, for this is the will of God.” It is easy for someone in a good year to be thankful; but if you’ve had a rough year, your thanks and praise are much more of a sacrifice.  And I have found that stopping to thank God, when there seems to be nothing going right, is when I seem to feel Him here, and sense His working the most.

Are you having a wonderful, fun filled Thanksgiving and Holiday Season? Fantastic! That’s great. Are this year’s festivities particularly difficult? I am wishing to send you a great big hug right now through my laptop and say, “you are loved, and good IS on the way”. God bless you this Thanksgiving and Christmas and all through this next year- whether a good or a bad year- may you feel Him with you, working in your life. Love Trisha  and P.S. Grandma, I love you. So glad you made it home. I will remember to keep my chin up.

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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

 

 

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Question for pastors and lay ministry leaders: How much of your time as a ministry leader is spent doing counseling? What situations have you been called upon to do counseling for?

Pastors often are asked to do counseling, for a variety of situations, including marital counseling, children with anger or other emotional issues, addictions (alcoholism, drug abuse, pornography etc), depression, parenting and much more. Why do some people choose to go to their pastor or church leader for counseling? Well, reasons for turning to the church for counseling can include:

A. Money- church counseling is often free

B. Comfort level- a person may be anxious about going to a new place and talking to a stranger, so they will seek counseling at a place they already consider “safe.”

C. Stigma- there is unfortunately, still a lingering social stigma in some people’s minds or some cultures, against seeking “professional help.” This stigma seems to say that those who seek professional counseling are weaker, are “severely impaired” or are “in sin” for not trusting God. This erroneous line of thinking seems to stem from the notion that any professional help outside the church is somehow wrong. I sure hope they don’t take this approach to brain surgery.

D. Quick fix- some, not all, of the people who seek church counseling rather than secular help are hoping to have a faster answer to their problems. Therapy sounds like a lot of hard work, and a lot of time. It sounds easier to pray a prayer, read a few Scriptures and have the situation be all better.

E. Loneliness- as humans we are hardwired to interact with others. Some people seek out counseling with their pastor to have that one on one communication and someone to talk to.

For countless years, pastors and church leaders have been doing counseling on various situations. And most pastors are in ministry because of a calling and a deep LOVE for people. So what could possible go wrong? A LOT. Here are a few pitfalls to look out for if you, and/or your team, are routinely doing counseling (non-professionally) at your church:

1. It can become a massive time drain. For years our large staff would do counseling for free for anyone who asked. But over time, the demand for hours made it almost impossible for me or my staff to get our kid’s ministry services planned for. Counseling 7-8 people began to take precedence over ministry services for 600 kids and their families. I got into ministry due to a strong calling to love and reach kids and families- and counseling was definitely a part of that- but I needed balance. I thought I was obligated to counsel anyone who asked, but my bigger obligation was to the ministry I was there to do (our weekend and midweek services). Left to itself, counseling can easily become most if not all of your job rather quickly.

2. Most pastors are NOT trained counselors. As yourself, “What has my training really prepared me for?” My intention here is not to offend. But ministry leaders typically have an education, background and experience in ministry- not mental health or addiction.  I am not trained or equipped to fix your car- I would send you to a mechanic. I also would be the worst possible person in the world to paint your living room. I am also not trained to counsel someone through memories of severe sexual abuse. You are a minister- you really do not have to be EVERYTHING to EVERYONE. We have to admit that we are not trained to handle a lot of counseling situations- suicidal depression, cutting, bulemia, borderline personality disorder etc. I’ll be totally real here- my mandatory pastoral counseling class was only 3 credits, many years ago, and I do not remember a whole lot of it….That is not enough training for me to counsel a lot of conditions.

3. Too many scandals have already made the news of inappropriate relationships between pastors and the ones they were “counseling.” Use a lot of wisdom before you spend a whole lot of time alone with someone who is emotionally raw and vulnerable. In fact, do not ever do counseling truly “alone”. I keep my door open, or include my husband (who DOES have a psychology degree), and/or I meet in a room with a LOT of windows, during the busiest time of the day in the office. If you are not careful, your love for people and compassion, could cause you to compromise yourself and your reputation, leading to horrendous damage to that person, your church and your ministry as a whole.

4. There have been several lawsuits already against pastors for “terrible counseling advice.” For example, if a teenager you are counseling for suicidal depression actually kills herself…will the family be satisfied that you did your best? It is not a good idea to represent yourself as a trained counselor when you are not one. If you set up people’s expectations that you are a trained, licensed therapist when you are not, and then your advice goes wrong- or is simply misinterpreted- you can set yourself and your church up for a lawsuit.

5. You may end up with an open ended “black hole” situation. Any minister who has been doing this awhile knows what I am talking about when I say, “A person who is a black hole of need.” This is a situation where the person/family will never get enough of your attention or time.  They will need more and more of your schedule; and there will be NO natural end of the DRAMA. The connection with you will become inappropriate- breaking into your family and recreational time. This is not about any one situation or problem; this becomes an addiction to YOU, to attention and to drama. And it will never end on its own. And people who have these needs will come out of the woodwork looking for you, as soon as it is well known that you do endless free counseling. They will monopolize your time until your family time, personal life, and all other ministry ventures suffer. As a responsible pastor, you cannot allow that to continue to go on.

So what can we do then? Never do any counseling at all? I do know some churches who have forbidden their ministers to do any counseling at all. If you plan to continue to offer counseling at all (full disclosure, I still do at times), please consider taking the following important precautions:

1. Do not commit to counsel anyone who asks every time. Anyone who is interested in counseling should call and ask for an appointment. Decide ahead of time and put in WRITING what you are prepared to do counseling on and what you are not. For me, I will talk to parents about parenting issues, to children who are grieving (I took special grief counseling training etc), and to children having deep spiritual questions/concerns.  I refer people immediately who are suicidal, being abused, or may be in danger.

2. We follow a rule of three. Most of the time, we only meet with someone a maximum of 3 times before we refer them to a professional counselor. Three sessions only keeps the situation from being open ended and going on forever, monopolizing your time. If they need more than 3 sessions, it MAY be outside of your scope of expertise anyway.

3. Do not meet completely alone. Do not meet in complete secrecy. DO include your spouse or another staff person if necessary. Do NOT meet in their home. Do NOT meet in your home. Meet during office hours, NOT after dark. Do NOT go off alone with this person anywhere, ever.

4. Remember that being compassionate does not mean saying yes to everything. You are still in control. You can say NO to endless sessions, or to a poor time/place choice. At times it is the MOST compassionate answer to refer someone to a better place for help and support. If your gut is saying something wrong, trust it and refer that person on.

5. Build a great repoire with the professional counselors in your area. KNOW what is offered in your community, for free or on a sliding scale. KNOW which counselors you trust. If possible, have that relationship with amazing counselors that you can refer parishioners with confidence. Some churches actually have a counselor on staff or a counseling center that they are affiliated with. Know all about these options and make referrals.

6. Go get more training. I found free grief counseling training/certifications right in my own city. It was a lifesaver for helping me to help kids and families dealing with loss, divorce and death. Always be educating yourself to increase your ministry effectiveness, but know when to defer.

So what are your thoughts? How have you handled pastoral counseling at your church/in your ministry? What do you think our scope of pastoral counseling should include? Love 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