Archives for posts with tag: #leadership

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

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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

 

 

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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