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It’s recruit and train season for ministry workers.  And as we are prayerfully seeking those that God has called to serve, we need to be evaluating the expectations that we’re placing on our leaders.

The trend has been to lower expectations and commitment levels to attract more volunteers.  I’ve definitely done it, and I’m sure you’ve at least thought about it doing it.  Take it from my experience, IT DOES NOT WORK!

Lowering the expectations will lower the quality AND the quantity of volunteers.

Don’t believe me?  Have you heard of the Pygmalion Effect?

The Pygmalion Effect is based on research of Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson.  The Pygmalion Effect says, in short, that if you believe someone is capable of high performance, then that person will perform highly.  The reverse is also true.  If you believe that someone is incapable of high performance, then in subtle ways you encourage & facilitate the lower performance. The conclusion of research by Rosenthal and Jacobson found that simply believing in the individual’s potential could raise performance. 

The reality is that it’s not just “belief” in potential, but the development of that potential.  If we believe someone has potential, then we spend more time with them and focus more on their development.  If we think that person is incapable of meeting our expectations, then we tend to compromise and lower our expectations to a mediocre level.

Tom Shefchunas had a great line in his breakout at Orange ’11.  He said over and over, “You can’t drive people to do something but the culture can.”  What I took from that statement was that we create a culture of excellence through our expectations.  If we expect great things, then we create an opportunity for our volunteers to rise to that level.   If we celebrate the wins in our ministry and communicate a strategic vision, we can ask great things of our leaders.  And research has proven that if we will ask more from them, we be pleased with the outcome.

This one is hard for me because it’s just hard to ask for more from someone who is “working for free.”  But I when I consider the eternal outcomes that are at stake, I realize that we must call our leaders to do whatever it takes to introduce kids to the Savior.

What are you doing to “raise the expectations” of your leaders?

Are there certain requirements or personal development things that you require of leaders?  (required readings, training events, mentoring, etc?)


I’ve been looking through mounds of research on Generation Z, which encompasses pretty much all of the current participants in children’s and student ministries.  The research on this age group is fascinating and jaw-dropping.  I’m going to try to blog more on this in the coming posts.  But that’s another day.  Today is a fun, interactive day.  

As we talked about this research, my wife and I began to think about the things from our childhood that our daughter will never experience. This led to the top 5 things that a preteen will never experience.  Feel free to comment and add others that you think of.  I’m working on a prize for the best comment, so make ’em good!

Top 5 things that a preteen will never experience

Preteens will never have to…

#1–Wait a week to see pictures because the film needs to be developed
Remember dropping off a canister of film and coming back a week later to find photos that you had taken 9 months before.  Remember taking the picture with you 8 lb camera and thinking everything looked great only to find out after “development” that everyone’s eyes were closed.  Or worse, remember opening the back of the camera before rewinding the film and losing everything…Epic Fail!

#2–Get information for school projects from Britannica, World Book, or Funk and Wagnall’s
Come on, you remember encyclopedias. I recall that all my school projects were on eskimos, the Emancipation Proclamation, England, volcanoes, Venus, or Venezuela.  Why?  Because my older brother and sister had lost every volume except “E” and “V” of our Funk and Wagnall’s Encyclopedia set.

#3–Purchase their favorite music on something called a cassette tape
My 16 year-old nephew just got a 1994 GMC Sierra.  This truck baffled him because it had a tape deck.  The poor kid is going to miss out on the devastation of having your favorite tape eaten by the cassette player.  (Side note: Sony stopped the manufacturing of the Sony Cassette Walkman because of the rise in digital downloads of music.  When did they catch on and stop production? OCTOBER 2010!)

#4–Turn on the computer, connect to the World Wide Web, go eat dinner with the family, and return an hour later to find that it is still dialing-up a connection
If you lived through dial-up then you probably can still hear the screech and ping of your dial up connection.  If you are one of the fortunate ones and happen to live in California, New York, Washington, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, or Rhode Island–you can still get unlimited free access through a dialup connection.  Well…what are you waiting for?  Go sign up for that free internet! 

#5–Be Kind and Rewind
Long gone are the days of penalties and fines for not rewinding the 7⅜” × 4″ × 1″ plastic box known as the VHS Cassette.  Also long gone are the days of sitting in the movie rental parking lot whittling off the tip of your finger as you try to avoid the 25 cent fine by manually rewinding. 

So there is our top 5.  I’m sure there are some other great ones.  Comment below and share your memory of the past that preteens will never experience!


Let me start by saying that I am no expert.  I fail more times than I succeed, in ministry and in life.  The only thing I can say for certain is that God has laid a great passion for preteens on my heart, and I’m doing my best to find ways to connect with them and share God’s Big Story with them.

I have learned from much wiser people that if you want to connect with preteens, you need to… 

1.  Be Authentic
Increases in technology and social networking means that preteens are “always on”.  They share everything that goes on in their lives—good and bad.  They value this sort of transparency in others.  In ministry, it’s important that we not try to hide our failures from this generation.  Rather, we should be teaching through those experiences and sharing how Scripture is leading us.  Sharing about experiences—good and bad—from a Biblical perspective is a great way to connect with preteens.
How do you share with preteens what God is doing in your personal life?

2.  Be Engaging
Let’s face it; if we try as the church to entertain preteens then we will fail miserably.  Technology is advancing at such a rate that even the top Fortune companies can’t stay relevant.  So if we can’t be entertaining, then what do we do?  We become engaging. Preteens want to be heard.  They want to share their thoughts and ask their questions.  To be engaging means that we will commit time to listen to them and relate to them.   This commitment furnishes us the credibility and opportunity to share what Scriptures says on the subject.  If we want to connect with preteens, we have to go to a deeper level and engage them in these types of conversations.
How do you engage preteens in Scripture-centered conversations?

3.  Be Productive
The scarcest of resources for everyone is TIME.  Preteens are no different.  They are as over-committed and over-involved as any generation in history.  The question for the church is: how do we package the message of the Gospel to be as important as we know it actually is?  I’m admittedly a “fly-by” kind of guy.  This has been a challenge for me.  The reality is that we need to have a strategy for every second we spend with preteens so that we can communicate the truth of Scripture.  If you’re planning an event for preteens or your weekly service for preteens—ask what makes it worth attending and be sure to communicate that to preteens.  The Gospel is powerful and effective, and the message doesn’t need to change.  However, our methods must always be changing to assure that the time we are asking preteens to give us is filled with life-changing dialogue.
What is your strategy to keep your ministry time as productive for preteens as possible?

4.  Be Available
But don’t smother.  One of the reasons that I sensed God pulling my heart towards this season of life is because of their awkward position of wanting space and needing guidance.  Up to this point, faith has been based mostly upon parental influence.  As a preschooler and even early elementary years, kids model and follow the faith of their parents.  For some reason and at some point, kids begin to question everything—including faith.  It is imperative that we establish lines of communication with preteens so that they can feel safe to ask these questions. It is also imperative that we provide opportunities for them to wonder and discover faith for themselves.  A great method is through service.  By serving, preteens develop an understanding of what it means to BE the church and not just go to church.  Will they make mistakes?  Will they think they have answers and be totally wrong?  Yes, probably.  That is why we need to be available to step in and provide guidance.  One of the greatest things we can do for preteens is to provide them with space to take ownership of their faith.
How are you encouraging preteens to take ownership of their faith?

5.  Be an Example
This just goes without saying.  Other than the early years of a child’s life (0-3 years), the preteen years are the most foundational years for personality and faith.  All of the other four points really boil down to this one.  Preteens need to see how Jesus Christ can change their lives.  The best way to communicate this is not with our words, but with our actions.  We need to model spiritual disciplines such as prayer, worship, Scripture study, and service.  Mark Matlock (@markmatlock) spoke at Orange ‘11 on this same subject and he shared a great line.  He said, “We summarize Scripture more than we read Scripture. And when kids tell us about an issue in their life, we tell them that we will pray for them instead of stopping right then and actually praying with them.”
In what ways are you providing opportunities for examples in your ministry environments?
I’d love to hear your feedback and experiences.  Leave comments or questions on the blog. You can also follow the RSS feed for this blog and/or follow me on twitter @Pastor_MattMo