Smile through the squeal…

25 Aug

So this weekend my pastor was gracious enough to ask me to do offering and announcements in the main service. I always want to take those opportunities because they make for great exposure for our kid’s ministry. I tired to be excellent but warm. I think I pulled off being a little funny without being goofy. This was to be my first platform exposure to Element Church.

It didn’t start off too well though. As I was waiting backstage during the last song on Saturday night, Pastor Erik let me know that he was changing the flow and asked me if I was OK with him doing the offering instead. I said “of course”, as it was my honor to do whatever he needed me to do. That was the first wrench in the machine. I love to practice what I’m going to say and work on a rhythm. I went ahead and got psyched up for just jumping in on the announcements.

As pastor finished praying I walked out the stage and it happened… the dreaded low end feedback. I panicked inside. Was I supposed to keep talking? Was I supposed to be quiet until the fixed it? I hadn’t even said anything yet. I smiled and analyzed my situation. I wanted to run off the stage. How embarrassing! It felt like it lasted for an hour but it was probably more like 5 seconds.

I stayed put and started talking. The amazing audio team worked it out. I struggled through the first announcement but by the end I relaxed and turned it around. This reminds me a a few strategies for when things go wrong.

1) Stay put. Don’t run away from your trouble. It will probably make things worse.
2) Be prepared. Because I was prepared I could lean back on what I knew to do instead of winging it.
3) Relax and trust God. I trusted the tech team just like I’ve learned to trust God.
4) Do what has to be done. I went through the announcements and people probably won’t forget how I smiled through the squeal.

Dumb Things I’ve Done in Kidmin – Miscommunication

22 Jul

Dumb Things I’ve Done in Kidmin – Miscommunication

This continues my plethora of stupid things I’ve done in ministry. I hope you can learn from me but at the very least laugh at me.

I remember serving at a church and taking kids to camp one summer several years ago. I had asked one of our long time helpers/teachers to cover the lesson that week and sent her the lesson plan. Or at least I thought I did.

You see, weeks prior I emailed it to her and even sent follow up emails. She never responded and I never made sure she was ready. I was so caught up in camp that I let it slip. I figured it would be alright and she would come through.

Well the Sunday morning after camp she was no where to be found. I ran to the sanctuary to see if she was held up talking after Sunday School. She was and nervously asked if she had everything she needed for the lesson.

“What lesson?” she replied. She wasn’t ready. She hadn’t check her emails that month apparently. I shouldn’t have assumed that my communications were received just because I sent them. She didn’t communicate the way I did. I learned afterwards that she would respond immediately to texts but didn’t check emails.

I flew by the seat of my pants that service and we had kids get up and testify about camp. It wasn’t a total disaster but I knew I had to get better at communication. We can assume that because we are talking that people are listening. Communication is two-way and if we aren’t using the proper channels then we are where the failure begins.

Can people understand what we are communicating?
I heard General Ulysses S Grant used to keep a regular solider at his side and run orders by him to make sure they were clear. I am infamous for writing things that make no sense which is why no one reads my blog. I have to run communications by others to make sure I am understood.

Are we communicating with the right length of information?
No one wants to read your novella email. I have received work emails that you had to scroll until your hand hurt. I just wanted to reply TLDR. The same goes for long policy manuals. Say what you got to say and then allow people to ask questions if they have them.

Do people know where to get the information they need?
You have to make it easy to get what they need or they just won’t do it. What methods do you use? Do people know that those are the methods?

Questions, questions, questions

17 Jul

Questions, questions, questions

I’ve already mentioned how and why I like questions in previous posts.

I was thinking tonight of times where I missed opportunities to grow and learn by asking questions of those who were leading me. So here’s some of my favorite questions.

Why are we doing this?

Why do we do this in this manner?

How can we do this better?

Who can we get involved on our team that isn’t already involved?

Who has insight to this challenge that we don’t?

Who has already solved this problem?

What do people outside our organization think of ______________.

What can we do to make my organization better?

What strengths are we not utilizing?

What people are being underutilized?

Is this really necessary?

What are your favorite questions?

Where are you going?

18 May

Disclaimer: This is a personal post for me letting people I love know about my family’s upcoming move.

A couple of months ago I was contacted by a church staffing search firm agent. He made me aware of a church in Wentzville, Missouri that was looking for a kid’s pastor. I was quite familiar with the church, Element Church. I had been following them since Pastor Erik Lawson planted the church eight years ago.

You may or may not know that I am originally from the St. Louis, Missouri area. Both Rachel’s and my parents live in the St. Louis metro. The idea of moving closer to family was appealing but we weren’t sure. We have a really great church that we serve at now, River Valley Church in Apple Valley Minnesota. The church is growing and healthy. I’ve been able to do things here that I’ve only dreamed of doing.

Rachel and I had a vacation planned for the end of March. We were going to be dropping off the girls at her parents so we decided that the Saturday following we could at least stop by the church to check it out and talk with them informally. We liked what we saw and heard and had a tug in our hearts. We decided we would continue the interview process and pray. We prayed and were close to a decision but we wanted to make it different for our family this time. I had an idea.

We asked our three daughters to weigh in on the decision. In fact we made a chart with two columns. On one side we wrote “stay at RVC” and the other we wrote “go to Element”. We then divided each of those columns into two more with a “+” and “-” on each side. We as a family listed every pro and con we could think of for both decisions. Nothing was off the table. Even “Mall of America” made it on the pros of staying here. Then we assigned “importance” point values based on a scale of 1-10. We added the pros and subtracted the cons (I’m looking at you Minnesota winter).

After the final tabulation, Element won out hands down. I accepted the offer to come and be their next kid’s pastor. We have a peace about it. We will be close to family and lifelong friends. We get to cheer the teams we love. It is bittersweet because I have lived out the dream here at River Valley Church. It truly is a life-giving place to serve God’s kingdom. Whoever fills my role will be blessed here and I know that God will continue to bless the vision here. I love the staff, volunteers and families. Many of you will be life long friends.

I am closing out the chapter here strong. We have record numbers of kids going to camp. GO Kids gave ten times more to missions last year than in the previous year. We are in the middle of a big giving contest and my last week I’ll wind up having green or purple hair. We are in a series on how we are “Better Together” with the Holy Spirit. On my last weekend we will see dozens of kids filled with the Holy Spirit. I’m excited to close out this chapter well because the way you close one chapter is the way you start the next.

Sheep Abuse

9 May

Sheep Abuse

I remember years ago I was a part of a ministerial fellowship group. Every month a group of local pastors would get together for breakfast. We’d pray for each other, talk, laugh and even tried to find projects we could work on together.

A few months in “it” happened. One of the pastors was voted out by his board of deacons. Things changed that day. That poor defeated man began to change the course of our group that day. He showed up and berated his deacons. He berated people in his church. Our group as a whole embraced him but no one stopped his negativity.

In fact it seemed many in the group joined in the “sheep beating” as I began to call it. As a young minister I sensed this wasn’t healthy but I honored my elders as I knew the Bible commanded. Things grew worse. It seemed to be contagious as other pastors in the group also lost their churches. One pastor in the group had a small flock and all these displaced pastors joined his congregation. He allowed them to speak at his church.

The bitterness grew to the point where my fellow staff member (a youth pastor) and I left the group. We couldn’t take it anymore. The continual verbal beating of their sheep was just too much. Their bitterness multiplied as they shared their horror stories. Instead of speaking life they had all worked themselves into a fury.

I’ve been involved in kids ministry group talks where the discussion turned to sheep beating. I’ve heard kids pastors go on and on about their horrible leaders. It’s no wonder with such a leader that these volunteers were so miserable. I’ve made a personal commitment to not participate in such negativity. I won’t allow it anymore in my prescence. These aren’t our sheep, they are His.

Jesus told Peter in John 21 to “feed His sheep”. It’s hard to feed the sheep when we are beating them. Primarily we feed His sheep through our words and actions. If our words and attitudes towards them are hostile we won’t have any sheep left to feed. We do have times where we need to correct them, guide them, help them and even pick them up to carry them. Never are we to beat them down with our words.

I know people let us down.
I’ve been let down more than I can count.

I know they will hurt us.
I’ve been hurt so much.

I know they can get a little wild.
I’ve been a little wild myself.

Someone loved me and that love is what drew my back to the Good Shepherd.

Ten Days Without

29 Apr

Ten Days Without

Clearly we need a countercultural way of grabbing people’s attention.

I have just completed reading Daniel Ryan Day’s Ten Days Without. In this book he describes his various experiments of going ten days of abstaining from various comforts of life. The idea is that going without shoes, coat, social media etc will raise the awareness for a cause. My first thought of this book was “oh great more slacktivism, that’s what we need.”

The first chapter quickly dissolves that notion. The author first makes the point that these “ten days without” projects push our belief into action. Then the point is made that these projects move beyond slacktivism. Slacktivism is the word slacker and activism put together. It’s when we do a small thing and think we’ve made some huge difference. The danger is of course it’s just a salve for our conscious. Thirdly Daniel makes a compelling argument that these projects dispel culture’s myths.

It goes on to talk about how these things actually make a difference in three specifics ways. First you influence people around you. Next you can use your efforts as a fundraiser. Lastly it creates a lasting awareness in you of these issues. He gives steps to do all if these and offers links in his website. (10dayswithout.com)

Most of the chapters address stories of one of the “comforts” he goes without. He goes ten days without: shoes, coat, media, furniture, legs, waste, speech and touch. Each chapter is a captivating story of what he learns in his time without. He has an awareness that he picks for each time and a cause to raise money for.

The chapter on touch was the most moving to me. When he talks about confronting his apathy towards prisoners as he went to visit some inmates. The fact that they deserve the punishment for what they have done is brought up and of course they don’t totally disagree. A prisoner talks about the only hope for change is found in faith, purpose, and someone to believe in them. Isn’t that what we all need? I know that’s my only hope.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for my review.

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