Archives for posts with tag: #leadership

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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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

  

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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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

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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“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

IMG_20170419_145004In our age of technology linking us all across the globe, information and training has never been more accessible or more affordable! Google puts answers at our fingertips, almost instantly. More and more churches are doing their training seminars for staff and volunteers though “webinars”- training done entirely online from the comfort of home or the church building. Webinars have many benefits including low cost, no travel expenses, no time away from home, and flexibility with your own schedule. I love webinars; they are absolutely valuable in reaching and training today’s leaders. I even speak for several webinars. Does that mean that I no longer believe in sending teams away for “off site conferences”? Absolutely not. Traditional conferences still have enormous value, offering what webinars cannot. With a lot of churches in a budget crunch, and so many under resourced children’s ministries leaders, we have to ask, “Are off site conferences worth the expense?” I answer, with a resounding “Yes.” Here’s Why:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Convinced yet? If I see you at one of the upcoming conferences, please come up and say HI! Do you still love going to offsite conferences? Which is YOUR favorite?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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