How Jim Wideman Helped Me

My story, like so many others, is that I didn’t want to be a children’s pastor, I got drafted. I was young and dumb and the only problem was I didn’t know it. Like most young people, I believed I knew everything. Unlike most young people, it took me a while to grow out of it. I was stubborn and didn’t want to have to depend on anyone outside my small circle of influence.

I was a legend in my own mind, but my ministry was a giant mess. No one could tell me anything. My pastor tried to help me but I wouldn’t listen. My team stayed relatively small and I had to depend a lot on my wife and myself. I was stuck at a level and wasn’t even trying to do anything about it.

That all changed when Jim Wideman came into my life. I remember the first time I met Brother Jim. He was on a tour with his church doing regional training meetings. When they came to our area, I loaded up our team in the church van and drove the thirty minute trip. I met Brother Jim in the men’s bathroom right before a session he was teaching. I had heard him teach before and had some of his Puppet Trax so I knew who he was. I greeted him and wanted to shake his hand. He probably thought “Who is this weird guy trying to shake my hand in the bathroom?”

His session was great and it challenged me in many ways. It was towards the end of a year so I geared myself up for a new year with a renewed commitment to ministry growth. I even went on eBay and bought an used set of his Club lessons. I then bought everyone of his books and got a hold of any audio teaching I could. As I was reading the book Children’s Ministry Leadership: The You-Can-Do-It Guide, a quote jumped off the page:

There’s no success without a successor.

I had done nothing to ensure lasting success at my church. I didn’t get help for five reasons:

  1. I didn’t know how to ask for help.
  2. I thought I could do it better.
  3. I never thought I would leave that church.
  4. I didn’t trust other people do things.
  5. I wanted all the credit.

Since meeting Jim and joining his mentoring program, Infuse, I have changed those old bad habits. Everyone does better with a coach and I would encourage you to take a look at Jim’s program. Its well worth the investment and I say that as someone who paid the fees out of my own pocket for the first year. It was worth every hard earned penny! If you’re a kids pastor, youth pastor, family pastor or work in any of those areas, check it out today.

Who is Your Daddy?

When I was a kid my parents got a divorce. My biological father wasn’t really a big part of my life after than. My mom remarried and my stepdad became more of a father to me. Eventually he even adopted me and I took his last name. I haven’t seen my biological father in decades. I don’t say this to get pity but it makes the words of Jesus come alive to me.

In John 8:44 (NLT) Jesus said to the people:
For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.

In this verse and the surrounding passage Jesus calls the people out for being like their father, the devil. As you can imagine, this didn’t go over too well. He was saying that the devil was their father because they acted just like him. Now we know that once we are born-again we should be transformed into the image of our Father, God.

Who is your daddy? Are you becoming like Him?

I remember when I got married, a woman at the wedding came up to me and said I looked like my dad (right in front of him). He was so proud. Although this woman didn’t know I was adopted by my stepfather, he was saying that I resembled him. Nothing makes a dad prouder than a son or daughter favoring Him. So my question to ask you is do you look like your Father? Can people see the resemblance? Are you surrendered to His sanctifying work in you?

Have you ever heard a son whose voice sounded like his father’s? I know  father/son preacher duo and as the son gets older he sounds more and more like his father. As you are seeking after God are you sounding more and more like Him? Are you uplifting people like He does? Do your prayers shake the foundations of heaven and earth as you pray in faith?

My almost 1 year old son loves to mimic me right now. He copies what I am doing. If I clap, he claps along. When I laugh, he laughs. If I try to dance, he dances with me. When I snap, he tries to snap too. I just love it when he does that and it blesses my soul deep within. God is the same way.  Are you following His example? Are your mannerisms like him? Are you allowing the Holy Spirit to develop the character of God within you? Do you love the things He loves?

Are you a Daddy’s boy/girl? Understand you position in Christ and submit to the process. We call that process discipleship. A disciple is simply a follower. It comes form the same root word as the word “discipline” does. We become more like God when we submit to a process or a system of spiritual disciplines.

Primarily those are:

  1. The Bible
    1. God’s Word needs to be part of our daily lives. We should read it, study it and apply it. The Bible is God speaking to us.
  2. Prayer
    1. I like to simply define prayer as talking to and listening to God. The more time you spend with Him, the more like Him you become.
  3. Community
    1. No one grows spiritually in a vacuum. Although it has become cliche we were intend to “do life together”.
  4. Living a Spirit Led Life
    1. Not only has God given us His word He said that true sons and daughters of God would be led by His Spirit! That is an amazing comfort knowing that the Creator of heaven and earth never leaves us! That’s why Jesus called Him the Comforter!
  5. Generosity
    1. John 3:16 says: “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son…” God’s way to display His love was to give. As we become more like Him, we can’t help but to become more generous. You claim to become more like God and not be generous, it just doesn’t match up.




Get on the Bus?

In one church I worked at we were in a building project. Our elementary room was running about 70 kids on a Sunday morning and the room was designed for about 40 kids. The church built a new sanctuary right next to our current facility. The new building and old building would join right where our classroom was. There were a few weeks where they would have to tear out a wall and the classroom would not be usable. My solution was for the elementary children to sit in with their parents for a couple weeks while we worked on the building.


Leadership decided against that idea and someone suggested we could meet on a bus. We had a bus ministry at the time with two full sized school buses.  I argued a bit about it but decided to honor my pastor’s wishes. We got a battery operated karaoke machine and setup our song service on a cassette tape. We had the kids wait in the hall until the bus got there with the children already on board. It was a cold spring day so we had to keep the bus running with the heat on. It was loud and still cold. That was probably the most horrible service we ever had. I was glad when we only had to do it for one week.

I look back at that experience and encourage myself whenever I think our facilities are lacking but the truth is if we had church in that bus every week people would have stopped bringing their kids. All my workers would have quit and I probably would have quit myself. There was nothing good about it. Sitting in a cold, loud, smelly bus wasn’t God’s best for our kids when we were building an almost 2 million dollar addition.

Our facilities can keep us from growing even if we aren’t sitting in a 30 year old school bus.

Jim Wideman writes about seven areas for assessing our facilities in his book Stretch:

1) Classrooms

Are there enough rooms? Are they cluttered? Is there room for growth? Are the visually pleasant? Multipurpose rooms make clutter and classroom management an issue you always have to deal with.

2) Hallways

Some churches spend lots of money decorating inside the classrooms and the hallways look scary. I love our hallways because we put thought into the design.

3) Bathrooms

I went to a great church one time and was impressed at all the changes they made in a transition that brought rapid growth. One thing that capped their growth was bathrooms. They still had seats but no more space for going potty. That outgrew the building even though they had empty seats.

4) Signage

People don’t like to not know where to go.

5) Parking

If the parking lot is scary, people keep on driving. Just like when it comes to buying a home, curb appeal matters when picking a church.

6) Furnishings

Are there enough chairs, tables, rugs, cribs, rocking chairs etc to handle growth?

7) Equipment

Are we using battery operated karaoke machines that only take cassette tapes? If so, we probably aren’t positioned for growth. Projectors, TV’s and sound systems may not have been needed in grandma’s Sunday school but as you grow those things become essentials.




God’s Exponential People Power

Leviticus 26:8 NKJV says:

Five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight.

If you start with the math on the first part, a hundred should only put to flight two thousand. The hundred have five times as much potential power per person as the five do. That’s what I call “God’s exponential people power”. When people work together at a common goal we achieve more together than we can apart. People are the most important element in a growth structure.

To grow an organization you must first grow people. I used to just see myself as a teacher of children. Now I know that I am more valuable to the kingdom of God as a teacher of teachers of children. When I teach others I release God’s exponential people power.

Here’s are my steps to building a team that can release “God’s exponential people power”:

  1. Get the right people – recruit and win the right people to our team.
  2. Put the right people in the right places – sometimes this works hand in hand with part one. Sometimes we recruit based on need, other times we recruit on talent and desire.
  3. Build the people –
  • Loving people. If you don’t love people you will just use them.
  • Getting to know people: their dreams, hopes, weaknesses, strengths, fears and character.
  • Developing people: disciple, challenge, correct, teach and lead.
  • Duplicating people – lead and copy ourselves in others.
  • Multiply people – move beyond adding and into “God’s exponential people power”.

Growth or Maintenance?

When it comes to church structures there are many different types or styles. Really though there are two classifications of church structures: growth and maintenance. A growth structure is one that can be built upon to create something greater. A maintenance structure actually prevents growth from happening. I honestly believe that God won’t give us more people than we can handle. If we can’t minister to them effectively why would He entrust us with that cause?

So what is a structure? It is a foundation on which we can see God build something for His glory. (see Matthew 7:24-29)

What are the important elements or resources of structure in a church?

1) People – who we are

2) Facilities – where we are

3) Policies and Procedures – how we do what we do

4) Curriculum and Programming – what we do to share God’s Word

5) Vision – why we do it

We will continue to expand on each of these in the following weeks.