Archives for posts with tag: pastoral

 

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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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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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Feeling Blue - One Depressed Person

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

National Suicide Prevention Hotline (24 hours)

Call 1-800-273-8255

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love Trisha

Emergency

I had the privilege of being at CPC (Children’s Pastor’s Conference) last week in Orlando, FL. Long story short, it was an absolutely fantastic week. I tried very hard to narrow it down; so here are few of my favorite things from CPC 2018:

The Location: Florida!


For some of us (I think especially those of us in the frozen North and Midwest), having the CPC conference in Florida in January is a real treat! I so enjoy the sunshine break! What a great location to renew and revive! And the close proximity to Walt Disney World? To me, being close to Disney reinforces CPC’s commitment to loving on children’s pastors AND their families. What better way to revive your kidmin creativity than a jaunt over to Disney? They even had an imagineer leading a breakout! The setting adds so much to the overall conference. P.S. They had a lot more food trucks this year- the food was amazing. I had the best lobster bisque of my life- no joke.

The Timing: For me, January is a great month to have a conference. Most of us have just come off of a tough holiday season. We may have had a Christmas musical, difficult holiday services to staff, a whirlwind schedule of holiday craziness at church AND at home. January, the start of a NEW season of kidmin/fammin is the perfect time to go on break and re-up, connecting anew to God and our fellow kid’s pastors.

The People: Someone said this year, “CPC is really a family reunion!” I couldn’t agree more. My number one reason for going every year is networking with people I have become so close to. I believe that our “success” in ministry rises and falls with relationships- with God first, then our family and of course, with other kid’s ministry leaders. We learn from each other, we pray for each other, we encourage each other.

The Worship Experience: How many of us say, “I almost never get to a church service.” The truth is that whenever there is an adult service, there is usually a kid’s service. How often do we attend a service just to be filled? Without wearing a radio/cell? This is a beautiful time to be fed, to soak up the Spirit of God in worship, to be ministered to by leaders who truly understand what we are going through, to take communion alongside our brothers and sisters. To be reminded, we are not alone. And we were made for this.
My favorite service moment this past year? That would have to be when children’s ministry pioneer Karl Bastian (the Kidologist who founded kidology.org -check it out) was honored on stage for his 50 consecutive visits to CPC!!!! WOW!! He shared some amazing kid’s ministry insights and encouraged us all.

The Classes: It is difficult to find another kid’s ministry conference anywhere that has the amazing variety of breakouts, with such passionate, experienced speakers. There were literally hundreds of breakouts on so many relevant topics. I loved the new feature of pre selecting your breakouts, and choosing a specific track if you like.

The Theme: “Made for This” was a perfect theme. Too many children’s pastors NEED to be reminded (perhaps all of us from time to time), that we were specifically made by God and called by God to do the greatest job on earth- reach children for Christ! And the God Who called us will equip us! We need to know its about HIS strength, not our weaknesses. He loves us just the way we are!

The Speakers: So grateful for all the speakers this year. I especially appreciated the raw honesty of Christine Yount Jones of Children’s Ministry Magazine, when she talked about anxiety and even depression in ministry and how God will use you in ministry despite the “storm”. WOW.

I left inspired, refreshed and excited for CPC 2019. Will I see YOU there?
Did you attend this past year’s CPC? Leave a comment and let us know what YOUR favorite part of CPC 18 was! Thank you Micayla and your amazing team!

Love and best wishes for your ministry this year!
Trisha

 

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

Will You See Me Off?

“Is there anything else we can do to help Michael?” I asked.  The Dad of 2 small girls looked up at me sheepishly. “Well, there is something I would like to talk to someone about.” His eyes darted over to her wife who was standing hear her hospital bed. Michael is battling stage 4 cancer, and each  new report that comes back is more and more bleak.

“We can talk about anything. What is on your mind?” I asked.

“If I do not make it….”  His wife interrupted him here. “You will be fine.”

“But if I do not make it…” She interrupted him again, “Don’t talk like that. No negative talk.” With that, she kissed him on the forehead. “I’m gonna go get a cup of coffee. I’ll be right back babe.” She left the room giving me a warning look.

Michael looked at me urgently. “I know that my chances are not good. And Leila is in denial. She won’t talk to me about my will, my last wishes, my power of attorney- nothing! Can you understand that I NEED to know that my wife and kids are going to be cared for? That I am terrified of being kept alive on machines forever? She has no clue that I have 2 very large life insurance policies that would take care of her and the kids indefinitely. She won’t listen to where I keep the insurance info. I know she is trying to be only positive around me. But it is just making me feel more and more alone and out of control I need to talk through these decisions. I’m so anxious for my family.” The words just seemed to pour out of Michael, in a hurry.  “Will you help me write up my living will for the hospital staff and for my family? At least will you listen to what I have down and offer suggestions?”

“Of course I will listen! You know I’m a pastor and not a lawyer, but I will offer any help I can,” I offered. His face lit up with relief and hope.

Together we went over his final wishes calmly and thoroughly. Michael leaned forward and took a deep breath. “I feel so very relieved right now.  I can go on fighting. I just need to know that Leila and  the boys will be ok.”

When I left Michael’s hospital room, I found Leila curled up next to the vending machine weeping.  When we talked, she told me that he just could not face the thought of life without Michael. She also said thats he was determined to never ever be “negative” around Michael. To her, any talk of death was, “giving up.”

I am determined to learn all I can and try my best to be for and minister to this couple during this tough time. Some of the  important things I am learning include: A. death is such a crucial time in a person’s life, in the family member’s lives, B..sometimes the person just needs someone to be there, to listen  and perhaps to help them “set their house in order.”

I can honestly say that when I went to Bible College for Children’s Ministry, I had not imagined myself doing end of life visitations or performing funerals or ministering to families that were grieving. I should have.  Over and over again in my 17 years as a staff pastor, I have been called upon to minister to families walking through grief and loss. I am realizing however, that this whole area of “End of Life Care,” is a fast growing, yet terribly under resourced ministry in our churches. According to a report from the National Institute of Aging, Americans are living longer than ever. More and more Americans are dying at home now too, in hospice or palliative care programs.  Because Americans are living longer, and more of them are dying at home, what does that mean for the church? Well, our churches are aging more and more as well.  In fact, a recent study found that 1/4 of American church members are 65 or older. That means that more and more of our congregation members are going to be facing end of life illnesses and final decisions. And it seems like a tragedy for the church to be silent during one of the/if not THE most important time in a person’s life. To me, the most important part of a book or a movie is the ending.Even if someone was a coward or a villain in the film- they might just redeem themselves in the end before the credits! Shouldn’t more of our focus as THE Church be on FINISHING well?

The Bible actually has a lot to say on the subject of death. And it doesn’t talk much about AVOIDING death. What does Scripture tell us about death?

  1. We are ALL going to die (barring those going in the Rapture, according to my faith). (Heb. 9:27, 1 Thess. 4:17-18)
  2. Our lives are short, even if we live 100 years- it’s over in a flash. (James 4:14, Psalm 39: 5-6)
  3. Jesus went through death first, and conquered it. (Col. 1:18, 1 Cor. 15:57, Rom 6:8-10)
  4. Death is not the end.( Revelation 14:13, John 11: 25-26)
  5. We will see those we loved, who died in Christ. (1 Thess 4:13-18)

How did people in the Bible approach death? In the Old Testament, the Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph) would realize that they were going to die soon. Then they would gather all of their family around them and speak a blessing/prophesy over them. They were “setting their house in order” (setting their earthly and spiritual affairs in order) before they died, surrounded by their families (example Gen. 39).  In the New Testament, Christians are pictured as going to their deaths confidently (sometimes as martyrs), assured of eternal life in Christ. Paul famously said at the end of his life, right before being martyred, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:7-8. How amazing to be able to say that at the end of a life! So a comprehensive look at Scripture seems to teach that we should prepare for death, with confidence and faith in Christ, looking back on a life lived all out for Jesus, having all of our earthly and spiritual affairs in order, speaking blessings on our family as we go. “The day of death is better than the day of birth.” Eccl 7:1.

This beautiful picture of ending life well reminds me of stories my grandmother has told me. My grandmother who is now 86 was a pastor’s wife for 35+ years.  This is one story she told me. “Back then, we thought about death differently. People didn’t usually die at the hospital. They died at home. And when they were close, you called the pastor and all the family to pray together in the room until they were gone. One time, this elderly lady called your granddad and I to say she thought she was close. She loved Jesus and was battling the cancer for years. We called her son, and we raced over. We prayed with her as she rocked in her rocking chair. She said, ‘Lord, I’m ready to go.’  A few minutes later, we looked up from prayer and she was gone. It was a beautiful moment and we were glad to be there for it. Her son pulled up a few minutes later.”

I feel bad when I hear stories like this, because I do not feel that the church is as involved these days in the end of a person’s life.  If the church IS dropping the ball a bit in the realm of end of life ministry, I could pinpoint a few reasons for that.

  1. Our culture does not like to face the reality of death. The Victorians used to keep death in front of them at all times. Funerals were held in homes. With disease running rampant and little medical care, death was all around them. Victorians even coined the phrase, “Remember you will die.” Our culture seems to be the opposite. We pretend that we will never die. We keep bodies and dying people far away from the public. It helps us keep our happy illusion of immortality.
  2. Some denominations, including mine, pray for the person to recover. I totally agree with praying for a person to get better. But talking about death and final wishes CAN be perceived as a lack of faith. I disagree with death being caused by a lack of faith either on the part of the person or those praying for them. Everyone eventually dies. And death may be God’s way of fully healing that person.
  3. Our pastors and key volunteers are usually not trained well to deal with death, tragedy or grief. It is scary and sad to be present when someone is dying/has died. It reminds us of our own mortality. It may feel like an intrusion of the family’s time. So, fear may hold us back from ministering well when someone is leaving earth.

So, how could the church do a better job of ministering to individuals and families facing loss and grief? According to the funeral director here in my town, many families are totally unprepared when death strikes. They often made NO plans for the funeral (even for family members who were in their 90’s!). These families often need guidance in putting the service together and making 100’s of little decisions- and they have to make their decisions in a very short amount of time and while dealing with their own grief. What if the family has to make the awful decision of whether or not to keep a family member on life support? They badly need their church family through that. My church’s stance is of not doing anything to end life in any way (euthanasia). But I think more pastors and key leaders should be trained in dealing with crisis, in grief care and in ministry to those at the end of life.

When I recently  interviewed the nurses in my local hospital’s emergency department, they shared with me that they used to have a whole list of pastors who were willing to come to the hospital for emergencies. But now, over the years, they only have 2 pastors willing to stay on that list! The nurses said that often they cannot get a pastor willing to come if the person is not one of their parishioners. So they take turns sitting with the person, because they do not want them to die alone. This broke my heart. Where is the church? I hope to bring attention to the crucial mission field of those with one foot in eternity- and their families grieving the loss. My hope is that the church will step up to this mission field, white for harvest, and help more of our congregation members to FINISH WELL!

What do YOU think? What is the role of the church with those who are dying? With the families of those who lost someone? Love Trisha

hospice

BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

Recer, Paul. “Older Americans Living Longer, Study Says.” ABC News, ABC News Network, abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=118056.

 

https://www.forbes.com/sites/howardgleckman/2013/02/06/more-people-are-dying-at-home-and-in-hospice-but-they-are-also-getting-more-intense-hospital-care/#645203a75f99

 

“Aging Congregations May Be Churches’ Biggest Concern.” Insights into Religion, religioninsights.org/articles/aging-congregations-may-be-churches-biggest-concern.

 

“End of life End-of-Life care.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 23 July 2016, http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/end-of-life/basics/endoflife-care/hlv-20049403.

 

Nichols, Hannah. “The top 10 leading causes of death in the United States.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 23 Feb. 2017, http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/282929.php.

 

https://ag.org/Beliefs/Topics-Index/Medical-Euthanasia-and-Extraordinary-Support-to-Sustain-Life

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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