Family Friday Links 12.23.16

Here's what we've been benefitting online lately:

Jill Waltz had a post on building your ministry team. She says, "Building a successful team doesn’t happen on accident, it’s intentional. You are a leader of leaders." She goes on to list 3 steps to how to accomplish this.

Trilla Newbell had a post on the ERLC interviewing Lindsay Swartz on teaching kids about race and reconciliation. It starts out this way, "If we believe that the topics of race, racial reconciliation and the unity found in the gospel are important, then in many ways, the conversation and study of these topics should begin and have prominence at home." This is an important and helpful post for moms and dads.

The Gospel Coalition posted a 7 minute video with 3 different pastors discussing what the Bible says about the discipline of kids. Parents, this is a helpful reminder. 

What have you been benefitting from online lately? Leave us a link in the comment section to check out.

Listen to The Team

A few weeks ago I gathered with some of the teachers and classroom helpers for two of our children's ministry classes. We met at the request of one of the class level coordinators. She had heard frustrations voiced by some of the teachers under her care. As I prepared to meet, my mind raced with possibilities:

  • Will we brainstorm ideas for the classroom?
  • Will this be a whine and complain session?
  • Do I really need to be here?
  • Do these people even really care about the kids?
  • How dare these people question me and the decisions I've made!
I saw that all my preconceived worry and stress was unfounded and unhelpful.

Before we met, I repented of the pride and arrogance in my heart. God brought James 1:19-20 to mind: "Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God." I acknowledged that was not my posture. I was judgmental. I was quick to assume, quick to judge, and quick to justify.

As the meeting started, I saw that all my preconceived worry and stress was unfounded and unhelpful. The team aired constructive criticism about their collective struggles with our current curriculum. It's a curriculum I had chosen. But as I listened to their concerns, I saw that change is necessary. As I listened to the team, I saw something else too. These people truly care for the little ones under their charge.

As I listened to their concerns, I saw that change is necessary.

James 1:19-20 is true for all believers. It is especially important for leaders and pastors. Learn from my experience. Be open and willing to listen to those who serve with you. Don't only be willing to listen. Actually do it. If the team brings critique, there is usually at least an element of truth in what they say. We need others to help be aware of our imperfections. We need a team of leaders to help us see when we've made a bad call. Rather than cling to authority or your first judgment, admit your wrongs. Trust that they pursue the same vision you do: to help kids grow into mature worshippers. Then listen to the team.

Why We Do VBS

At Redeemer Fellowship, the church where I serve as a pastor, has put on an annual VBS during the summer since its beginning 8 years ago. While we've done it at different times and in different ways with a variety of curriculums, we continue to do it for very a very specific reason. We value being intentional with the mission God has given us to make disciples of the kids in our church, their friends, and the kids in our neighborhood. We don't do it perfectly. We still have a lot to learn, but we see God using VBS. Beyond the call to make disciples, there are a few other reasons I'm all for VBS:

People (besides me) are passionate about it

As the Community Life Pastor, I love it when people come to me wanting to do something like this for several reasons. First (and kind of selfishly), they want to do it... not just have me do it. There is a handful of moms (and a few dads) who want to provide this to the church and community and are willing to put a ton of time into it. What they are looking for is support, encouragement, and the resources they need to make this successful. VBS gives them another outlet to exercise and grow in the gifts God has given them.

Our kids get excited about it

The kids of Redeemer Fellowship enjoy it. They enjoy participating. As they get older, there are opportunities for them to start learning the value of serving as well. This gives us leaders another opening to lead them towards maturity.

It's an opportunity to be intentional

While we don't use VBS as the only time to show to Jesus to kids, we do see it as another opportunity to be intentional. Summer is time when schedules are relaxed, and as a parent, I know I have a tendency to relax and rest as well. VBS is another opportunity I have to intentionally pour into our kids.

We do VBS, not because we think we have to or should, but because we value the opportunity. With each passing year, we are trying to do it better. Whether you choose to do it or not, make the most of the time you have to make disciples.

How to Encourage Those You Lead: An Interview with Craig Sturm

I've known Pastor Craig Sturm for a couple of years now. In him, I've found a faithful man of God, willing to go where ever God calls him ... literally. When writing on anything children's, youth, or family ministry related, I've found Craig's experience and wisdom being of great value. Let me show you why:

Pat: Tell me a little about yourself and your ministry background.

Craig: I'm currently the Lead Pastor of Mercy Hill Church, a year and half old church plant in the West Chicago / Winfield area of the western suburbs of Chicago. In the past, I've done a little bit of everything. I spent 10 years with another church plant, spent a year and a half in the Philippines doing evangelism and church planting, and almost 5 years at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis as Pastor of Child and Youth Discipleship; where I oversaw the recruitment, training, and equipping of around 800 volunteers, over 3 campuses, ministering to 1200 students nursery through eighth grade. I often likened this position to that of large school principal.

Pat: In your opinion, why is it important to equip volunteer teachers?

Craig: Well lets back up and start with recruitment. The best way to recruit and maintain volunteers is to equip them. If they aren't equipped, they won't stick. We recruited with high expectations of an every week for a year position. We probably could have gotten away with less people, but our model called for a shared leadership role, where no one or two people were thrown to the wolves. We often had four to six adults in a room, even in the small classrooms. The benefit to having so many adults was a benefit because of this shared responsibility which produced a sense of camaraderie. In addition to all this I was constantly teaching other leader to equip thereby multiplying myself in others.

Children's ministry prayer huddle at The Journey - Tower Grove in St. Louis, MO. Photo by Jeff Hutchings.

Children's ministry prayer huddle at The Journey - Tower Grove in St. Louis, MO. Photo by Jeff Hutchings.

So, in recruiting and retaining volunteers I always tried to keep three things in the back of my mind.

  1. Recruit to a vision, not to fill a need. Within this, there is a showing of the vision through training and mentoring within the classroom.
  2. Equipping and resourcing teachers. Giving teachers everything they will need and making sure the classroom is ready. The goal here is have that teacher leave after teaching excited that they were just used by God.
  3. Appreciation. It's easy to feel unappreciated, so it up to leadership to find appropriate ways to show appreciation. There is an art to it.

Pat: What are some of the best ways to equip and encourage teachers?

Craig: First we have to be intentional, which is hard. In this day and age it's hard to get everyone together for a training session. To overcome this, secondly, use technology, put your training online. And finally, do it well.

Pat: How do we do this well?

Craig: In general, the church hasn't been intentional about equipping, having adopted more of "warm body" mentality when it comes to children's ministry. Some pastors don't seem to care what happens in the classroom as long as someone is there with the kids.

There's a problem when there is a disconnect between the pulpit and the classroom. Children's ministry is where the church is typically ok with the disparity between what the church values and what actually happens. This is probably due to churches feeling easily overwhelmed and give into the warm body mentality.

Pat: How can the church do this better?

Craig: Being a church planter this is really easy for me to say, but; if you can't do it well, don't do it. Let simplicity rule. If people won't take ownership, don't do it. Help people see the value of the vision. Which bring us back to having a compelling vision.

Pat: Any final thoughts?

Craig: Stay vision driven or it will drain your energy and drive you nuts. Maintain your commitment to equip the saints. Be patient, it takes time to take a church from where it is to where you want it to be.

Thanks Craig for your friendship and sharing your wisdom and experience. You've helped us think in categories most of us don't think we have time for.