Wednesday, November 3, 2010

3 Signs #1- The Volunteer Team

The first sign of a "Healthy Kid's Ministry" is the Commitment that is made to the Volunteer Leadership team. From time to time I am asked by others in Children's Ministry how I know whether or not what we are teaching or communicating is really sinking in. That is tough to gage with kids. With a teenager, you can usually get a good idea about the status of their spiritual life (sometimes simply by checking the status of their Facebook page). You can see Junior High and High School students going on Missions trips or attending retreats and special events (because they want to, not because their parents have signed them up).
With children's ministry, I can usually evaluate the rate at which our kids are grasping what we are teaching by the enthusiasm of the volunteers who are leading their classes. I have never had a volunteer come running out of a classroom on Sunday morning after service saying, "I am so excited, I had five kids who wouldn't sit still or pay attention." In fact, the opposite is usually the case. They will come to me and let me know how awesome it is that they get to serve, and that today in their class they had 5 kids invite Jesus into their heart.
I try to evaluate my leadership team on a pretty regular basis. If they are excited to come to class each week, it usually means that they are enjoying what they have the opportunity to do. Happy teachers are almost always better teachers, and better teachers equal kids who are learning in a fun and exciting environment.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

3 Signs of a Healthy Children's Ministry

I have been asked occasionally what it is that makes a "healthy" children's ministry. I think that isn't exactly an easy question to answer because it is something that is relative to the setting you are in. For instance, some would say that a healthy children's ministry is a growing children's ministry, but I would argue that is not always the case in a community that is in decline. There are however three things that I have consistently been able to see in children's ministries that I would describe as healthy: a commitment to the volunteer leadership team, an emphasis on discipleship and a focus on missions.
Each of these attributes are fairly simple, but extremely vital to the health of the kid's ministry. Over the next few days I plan to unpack each of these statements and explain why they are so important.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Pittsburgh Steelers

I know that the title of this one might polarize some people. After living in Dallas, Tx for nearly 4 years, I have come to find out that there are several people in this world who don't share my enthusiasm for the greatest NFL Franchise of all time. That is ok, in fact I am perfectly fine with fans of other organizations who don't like the Steelers, but I heard something this morning on the way into work that caused me to like the Steelers even more.
Mike Tomlin, the Head coach of the Steelers was being interviewed by Mike & Mike of ESPNRadio this morning. The hosts were asking Coach Tomlin about his teams success without their starting QB Ben Roethlisberger who was suspended for 4 games because he violated the NFL's player conduct policy (whether you think Big Ben is a good or bad person is irrelevant to this discussion). Coach Tomlin said that "we are measured by winning and it is never graded on a curve". He was letting the interviewers know that his team knew their responsibility was to win football games, no matter who was "under center".
What if we as church leaders operated like that? What would it look like if we built our ministries not on personality but on teams? Ministry today is so personality driven, it is easy to think that everything rises and falls on one key player. A lot of times, this is true, and the loss of a key team member will set the team back for a little while, but what if we built our ministries with the depth of a major league bull pen? When the "starter" stepped out, we would have someone right there ready to step in. Just a thought!
Go Steelers!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

10 Things-Teams are Great

I have been and always will be a huge proponent of teamwork. (Currently every time I say that word I have a song that pops into my head, if you have a preschooler, it probably pops into your head as well-"What's gonna work, TEAMWORK! Go Wonder Pets").
It is no secret that a great team will always beat a great individual. Sports, business, and ministry provide plenty of examples of teams triumphing over individual super stars, so I will not belabor that point here. However, more times than not, teams don't function at their highest potential.
Why is that? I think there are several reasons why teams sometimes falter. Teams are just like families. If they are not a priority, then things will begin to fall apart. From what I can tell, these are 7 keys to a great team:
1. Loyalty- The team has to know that everyone has the support of everyone else on the team. Does the team really have each other's "backs"? Or are they more worried about themselves and what they are doing and how they can further themselves?
2. Trust- Trust is huge on teams. Can you say the final 10%? Or is there always just a little bit you go without saying because you are afraid of how the other person will react?
3. Collaboration- In a great team, everyone needs to feel like they are valuable enough to give input to the team. Their input doesn't necessarily have to be used, but they need to feel safe to give it.
4. Fun- I have been on teams that have been so much fun that I can't wait to get back to the team, and I have been on other teams that cause me to want to stay away. In order for a team to be healthy, they must work hard, but they must play hard as well.
5. Growth- Healthy teams are always growing. They might not be growing in numbers (as a matter of fact, I think once you get to a certain point, adding people to the team will actually take away from productivity), but they will be growing together. For instance, our Team here at Hope takes regular opportunities to grow in our leadership by attending conferences and watching videos together. There is something huge to be said for attending a conference together as a team.
6. Communication- This one may actually be the most important, because without it, nothing else is even possible. Teams have to be able to have open lines of communication that travel in both directions. If the leadership team is only communicating "down", then the team will suffer for it.
7. Transparency- This one isn't quite as obvious, but it is just as essential. There are times, in business and in ministry, when leadership must make tough decisions. Most of the time when one of these decisions is necessary, a potential difficult situation can be averted if the leadership team will make clear the reasons for their decision. Sometimes this isn't possible due to the confidentiality of things, but if the leader has made it a habit to be transparent in other things, then the team will "TRUST" the leadership enough to know there is a reason for their decision.

I love teams, and I think that God has called me to serve on teams and do my part to help the teams that I am on to be healthy.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

10 Things-The Individaul

Very early on in ministry I learned an unusually difficult lesson. I had a very serious issue with a volunteer that had to be addressed immediately. I was somewhat new in ministry so I went to my Pastor to find out how he wanted to the situation handled. I will never forget the words he spoke to me that day. This was a key volunteer in my ministry, and I knew without a doubt that he needed to be dismissed, I just wasn't sure how to go about it. My pastor said, "No matter what Scott, you must always remember that the individual is more important than the ministry." It took me a few minutes to understand exactly what he was saying. I grew up playing sports and always knowing the exact opposite to be true. The team is more important than the individual, and no one player is above the team. This seemed to be the exact opposite of everything that I knew, so I asked the Pastor to explain what he meant. He took the time that day to teach me that the ministry that a volunteer is a part of, though valuable, is not the most important thing. What they do for me is no where near the most valuable part of them.
I think we lose track of that when we get caught up in our flow charts and our job descriptions. Don't get me wrong. I am a huge proponent of knowing what you need people to do, and where you need them to do it (In fact, I just examined every area of Adventure Kidz to see where we could use more staff, turns out pretty much everywhere has availability). The problem comes though when we lose sight of the individual and all we see is another spot on our chart filled.
My pastor taught me that day that every person has value and deserves to be treated fairly and with respect. He taught me that just because I had to ask that volunteer to step down, didn't mean that I needed to cut him off from the church and banish him entirely.
No matter how large our ministries grow, they will always be made up of individuals. People deserve to be treated as individuals and not just another spot on our flow chart that we have filled.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

10 Things-Read to Succeed

Let's face it, there are a lot of things that clamor for our time in the ministry. Most of the time, when I come home from the office or from some activity, the last thing I want to do is pick up a book and spend an hour or two reading before I go to bed. I would much rather pick up a remote, shut my mind off, and watch an hour or two of some mind-numbing form of entertainment (I have to "some" because it is entirely dependent upon who gets to the remote control first, if it is me it will be something on espn...if Sarah gets it though, it is likely to be some form of a reality show).How different would we be as leaders though, if we would put down the remote and pick up a book? I have been mentored by some of the greatest leaders of my generation simply by reading what they have written. Reading is an investment. It will cost you time, energy, and probably a little bit of money to read on a regular basis; but it is an investment that can pay almost immediate dividends. I have been struggling with an issue at church, and I will go home and pick up my reading material for the night, and a completely workable solution will be right there on the pages I am scheduled to read that night (almost like a God-thing or something).
I have been asked on more than one occasion, what should I read? So, here is my top ten list (in no particular order) for books that you should read if you are in a ministry leadership position:
1. Choosing to Cheat by Andy Stanley
2. Confessions of a Pastor by Craig Groeschel
4. Leading from the Second Chair by Bonem & Patterson
5. In a Pit with A Lion by Mark Batterson
7. Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham & Donald Clifton
8. The Three Signs of a Miserable Job by Patrick Lencioni
9. Leadership Gold by John C. Maxwell
10. Courageous Leadership by Bill Hybels

I have intentionally only listed one book from each of these authors. Most of them have multiple works that have shaped me as a leader and helped to cultivate thoughts and visions in my life that have brought me to where I am today. A book that just barely missed this Top Ten List is Tony Dungy's latest book The Mentor Leader. Maybe because I have only read it once and I just finished it about a week ago. There was so much to unpack in that book that I think I will be rereading it soon.
No matter what you choose to read, start making reading a habit. It can dramatically affect you and your leadership abilities!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I love you too Daddy

I have a two year old little girl named Myah who is possibly the cutest little girl in the entire world (when she wants to be). Lately she has been on this kick of looking up at either me or Sarah and saying "I love you too." Pretty stinking cute, and it really melts my heart every time. As I was spending some time in prayer though, I got to thinking. That is kind of how God must feel each time we decide to stop and spend some time with Him.
The Bible is clear, Romans 5:8 says it this way: "But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners Christ died for us." You see God is calling out to each of us in so many different ways, trying to share his love with us. He is just waiting for us to stop for a moment and look up and say, "I love you too." Being a dad is teaching me so much more than just parenting, it is teaching me about my relationship with my heavenly Father.