Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Never Assume...

Assumptions cause all sorts of problems.  We have to learn to never assume.  There are people who simply will not think of things that you find very basic to ministry and on the other side of that, there will be things that others find very basic that will not even cross your mind as necessary.  For this reason, we have to be very specific about our plans and our programming.  We are all created differently and we will all find various things important...but when those things are not the same things we sometimes can have conflict.  What can we do?

My Dad, who is also a pastor, gave me a piece of advice early in my ministry.  He said, "It's not what you do, it's what they think you do."  Now this might seem like a pass to be lazy, but it's actually quite the opposite.  What it means is that people will only know about what they see you doing.  You may spend 40 hours a week in your office planning your services and preparing activities, but no one generally sees that part of your ministry.  If you are never seen outside of a service, the easy assumption is that you don't do anything.  How can you change that thinking?
        BE VISIBLE. You must promote what you are doing.  I don't mean that you need to toot your own horn to the congregation, but you need to be sure that the church leadership understands the work that you are doing.  That may simply mean putting your activities in your monthly report, but it may also mean inviting the Board members to attend a children's church service, or asking to be an active part in your church's Family Sunday Service.  Be visible in and around the community whenever possible as well.  Attending local events/fairs/activities is a great way to connect with new people as well as strengthening bonds with folks you know.  
        DELEGATE TASKS.  If you are doing everything, no one else will know what it takes to prepare a service, plan an event, or promote an activity.  It may seem simpler to just do the job yourself, but we are here to train others to do ministry, so share the responsibility.  Allow others to learn from you and you must be willing to learn from them as well.  They will do the job different than you and that's ok.  

For the following we will use a fundraiser lemonade stand as an example.

Be Specific...very specific
When you are making a plan, don't be general in your plans.  Generalizations can lead to assumptions.  If you say, "We're going to have a lemonade stand fundraiser in July," that might be all you need to promote to the church, but for your team you need a specific plan:
         Jan will buy the lemonade
         Mark is going to make the lemonade on Sunday morning and put it in the fridge to cool.
         Each week a different family will run the stand.  Mary is in charge of setting up that rotation.
         Max will see that the donation box is put in the safe each week for the counters. 
Now each part of the plan is in place and no one is wondering who is doing what for the fundraiser. Planning is very important, but be careful that you do not become a micro-manager.  Once you have delegated the task, let that person do the task their way.

Be sure everyone knows the plan
Plans are great, but if you don't share them, they are not much help.  Make sure everyone knows the plan for your fundraiser.  Mark may know he's to make the lemonade, but if he doesn't know that Jan is going to purchase it, he may buy is as well. If Max isn't aware of who is setting up the family rotations, he may send people who are willing to help to the wrong person.  Making sure everyone has all the information is incredibly important and can save all involved a lot of frustration.

We all have to work together in ministry, and the easiest way to do that is to keep the information stream going.  Never assume others know what you are thinking, planning, or doing.   

Until next week! 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

What's in Your Prize Box...

I love giving out prizes to kids.  I don't do it all the time, but every once in a while I get out the prize box and the we'll play a game where the winning team gets to choose something from it.  It's fun and that kids love it.  But I have learned a few things about the prize box over the years.  In fact, I have discovered that there are some definite do's and don'ts when it comes to what should go into it.  Here are a couple rules of thumb that I use to keep the prize box from becoming a problem in my own

No Weapons
This might seem like a little thing, but for some families this is a big issue.  They don't want their children playing even with pretend guns or knives.  Another issue is that some children live in worlds were guns and knives play an all too real role in their everyday lives and so they are not something to make light of.  Just because your child understands that guns are not toys may not mean that the child next door has the same understanding.  So, the best choice is just not to include any sort of weapon type toy in the prize box.  

No Makeup
Little girls love makeup.  But not all parents are okay with letting them even pretend to wear it.  Lip gloss is fine for one child and not allowed for another.  So in my prize box, we don't put any sort of makeup (pretend or otherwise).   

Keep an eye on what your kids choose
There is always a toy that everyone wants, and there is equally always a toy that stays unchosen in the prize box.  Keep track of what is popular so that you don't spend money on things that no one wants.  In one church I was at, I couldn't keep bubbles in the box because they were always taken, in another church, they would sit in the box untouched.  Every place is different, so keep yours stocked accordingly.

Make sure that your box is contains something for everyone.  In my box, I have toy cars, perhaps a stuffed animal, small notebooks, bubbles, puzzles, etc.  I recently found watercolor painting books at Michael's that are a lot of fun and were only $1. Keeping a variety of toys makes it more fun for the kids to choose.

There is rarely a prize in my prize box that costs more than $1, so every few weeks I'll buy 3-5 things to add to it.  Spending $5 a month isn't a huge expense, but it adds a lot to our ministry with the kids.  I just try to be careful about what I spend that money on.

Until next week!       

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

But...We've Never Done It That Way Before

Change is hard.  Ministry is hard.  And trying to implement change into ministry can be incredibly difficult.  One of the biggest mistakes that people can make in ministry is to change lots of stuff all at once.  Even if you've been at the same church for ten years...change it not easy.  People expect some change when a new person comes into the department.  I've talked about that in this previous post.  But you may decide to implement something brand new long after you are no longer "new" and that has it's own challenges.  Below are a few suggestions that you might find helpful.

Why was it not changed before now?
I like trying new things, and if you are talking about something small, then it may not matter.  After all, if you're church has had chocolate chip cookies for snack at VBS for the last 30 years then maybe it's time for a change.  However, sometimes even those small things carry way more baggage than you might realize at first glance.  Perhaps the reason those cookies are always made is because Sister Cook's-A-Lot made them every year for 25 years and when she passed away she left the recipe and the funds to cover the making of said cookies for the next 20 years in her will.  Trying to change that tradition will be more difficult...after all, now there are funds literally set aside for those cookies that you would have to find elsewhere if you decided not to make them.  I know that is an extreme scenario, but it's not really out of the realm of possibility.  I once had someone absolutely irate at me to the point of not talking to me for quite some time over where we were going to purchase chicken for a dinner.  Make sure you know why something has always been done before you change it.  A little research can save you a lot of grief.

Is it needed?
I am not saying that it's not good to change things up from time to time, but if you are making a major change (and the definition of major changes differs from church to church), be sure you can explain why you feel the change in necessary.  "Because I want to" probably isn't going to work very well.  Have a well thought out explanation for what you are trying to change and why it you feel it is necessary. 

Include your Team
Big changes often take a lot of planning and a lot of work.  Don't decide to revamp the entire way you are doing children's church without talking through it with your team.  You may be the one who makes the final call, but they have to help you implement the plan.  If you are adding all sorts of work to their duties, changing what they will be responsible for, or even adding an extra piece to the service structure, make sure you include them in the conversation.  If they are on board, half the battle is over, but if they are not with you, you are sunk before you begin.  Plus, they will have insights that you might not have noticed or thought about in your planning phase.  They are on your team for a reason...include them in the process.   

Cover Everything in Prayer
Make sure God is the center of whatever changes you make.  If it is His plan, it will prosper...if it's your plan and He's not leading, it will fail.  It really is that simple.

Sometimes changes are necessary, but if you use these few suggestions, walking through those changes, it can make the path much smoother.

Until next week!   

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

When Holidays are Hard...

We are coming upon Mother's Day soon after that Father's Day.  Later on we'll have Grandparent's Day.  In Children's Ministry these sort of holiday's can be difficult to walk through because there are such changing dynamics within the families.  Some children don't have just one Mom, but they also have Step-Mom, or Grandma, or Foster Mom, or perhaps no Mom in the picture at all if Mom has died or left the family.  It is often a similar situation when it comes to Dad or Grandparents.   So how do we celebrate these holidays when the situations are so diverse?  Below are a couple of ideas that you might find helpful.

Either no gift or lots of gifts
Too many times anymore our children either have no Mom/Dad/Grandparent or they have many of them.  For those children who, for example, live with Grandma but will see Mom and perhaps even Step-Mom on Mother's Day, to make just one gift makes them choose (in their mind) which one they "love" most because only one can get the gift they made.  So, to alleviate that issue, there are really only two options:

1) Make a gift, but make sure there are enough supplies and time for each child to make as many as they need.
2) Do not make any sort of tangible gift, but encourage the children to do something nice for their Mom/Dad/Grandparent(s). Have them think of something that they can do on their own to show their appreciation, but give examples like taking out the trash or doing the dishes without being told, making a card for them, learn a new game with them, etc.   

Make you celebrations inclusive of all aspects of the holiday
For example, if you are doing a Father's Day lesson with the children, include the importance of Step-Dad's, Grandpa's, Foster Dad's, or even Father figures in general.  There are many people in the Scripture who were given advice from those not related to them, but who cared about them.   Or perhaps this year, we discuss the God the Father and what it means when we call God "our Father." However you decide to celebrate the day, make sure you incorporate all the people who may be filling that role for your children. 

Holidays that hinge on a family member who may or may not be around are tricky, but hopefully these tips make planning for the day a little easier.  

Have a blessed week!