Archives For family ministry

books that helped in ministry

7 Practices of Effective Ministry

Strategy. I was handed this book when I was just a part-time intern during college, but I have kept at least two copies in my office ever since. I’m always passing 7 Practices of Effective Ministry on to other ministry leaders! This book is all about strategy—why we do what we do. It has helped me to be intentional in ministry and keep focused on the end goal.

Holy Discontent

Passion. I don’t remember where I picked up this book, but I’ll never forget reading it. Holy Discontent gives some great examples of how God ignites a passion in our hearts that will not go away. It is that issue or cause that keeps you awake at night and calls you into the fight. Hybels labels it our “holy discontent.” The insights of this book have helped me discern God’s call on my life and challenged me to pursue that passion with everything.

Next Generation Leader/Making Vision Stick

Leadership. These two books are made to be read together. Next Generation Leader gives a great blueprint for strong leadership. The tips given in this book are designed to develop a long-lasting leader. Reading this book on leadership with Making Vision Stick really has helped me to survive in ministry and navigate through tough changes.

Let the Nations Be Glad

Perspective. I love John Piper and his zeal for Christ. Let the Nations Be Glad provides a great perspective for any Christian, but especially those in vocational ministry. The book can be summed up from Piper’s quote of the Westminster Confession of Faith: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” Even when ministry gets hard and distracting, it is great to know and understand that God created me to glorify and enjoy Him!

Parent Meeting

No matter what age group you minister to—children, preteens, or students—parental involvement is essential. Parents need to know about your ministry so they feel confident that it is safe and secure. They also need to know how you will equip them and call them to disciple their sons and daughters.

One of the best ways to communicate vision and strategy with parents is to host a Parent Meeting. Bringing parents together in one room can be very beneficial, but it takes planning to be effective. Here is a basic outline for how to plan your next parent meeting.

Step 1—Invite Parents

Guess what? Parents won’t know about the meeting unless you invite them! Send out an invitation (via print or email) at least 1 month in advance. Give them plenty of notice so that they can make the meeting a priority in their schedule. Try attaching some meeting details to the invite. Let them know what the meeting is about and why it is so important for them to be present. Be careful not to give too much away! The best invite will communicate two things to parents: urgency and mystery.

Step 2—Create a “Wow” Environment

You may only have one chance to connect with a parent, so make it count. Use videos, bulletin boards, or testimonies to highlight what God is doing in your ministry. Make the room comfortable and provide refreshments. Who doesn’t love some warm cookies??

Step 3—Keep Content Limited and Focused

A parent meeting is not the time to try to cover everything you’ve ever wanted to tell parents. Try to focus on one topic that is relevant to your audience. For example, you might have a parent meeting that trains parents on how to have a family devotion or how to share the Gospel with specific ages. Other focused topics might be specific to your ministry vision or strategy. If you need to cover multiple topics with parents, it may be better to consider a parent retreat or a parent discipleship class that meets over several weeks.

Step 4—Leave Room for Discussion

Every group of parents I’ve ever met with has requested more opportunities to talk about issues with other parents. Talking with one another helps parents to get ideas and share their stories. It also helps them to see that they are not alone in their struggles and failures. Encourage parents to break into small groups and discuss the information covered in the meeting. Provide some discussion questions for the parents, and ask them to end by praying for one another in their groups.

Step 5—Provide Action Steps and Follow-Up

When the meeting is over, it will feel like a huge success—mainly because it’s over and one with! However, the true test is whether or not the meeting led parents to take action. Give some specific action steps and ideas for parents during the meeting, and follow-up with them 3-6 months later.

Here’s an example of action steps and follow-up. We hosted a parent meeting last spring on the topic of adolescent transition and sexual purity. At the end of the meeting, we gave parents a copy of Passport 2 Purity to use with their child. We asked parents to schedule a purity weekend with their preteen sometime this year, and then send us testimonies about their weekend once it was complete. It’s amazing to read the emails we’ve already received from families that have taken that step. At 6 months (mid-November), we will follow-up with all parents and remind them about the call to take that step with their preteen. Instead of a one-time meeting, we’ve managed to create a year-round conversation. It’s all about the follow-up!

If you haven’t hosted a parent meeting in your ministry, I strongly encourage you to do so. Parents need to have a major role in your ministry if you want to be effective. Parents have far greater influence and time than anyone in your ministry, so find a way to connect with them and leverage that influence for good!


Have you ever wondered what makes a great leader “great”? It’s the time of year when we are doing interviews and placing volunteers for the new ministry year. As we go through this process, I have been reminded of this quote:

The people in and around your ministry will define your ministry.

Preteens, parents, and other potential volunteers will make judgments about your ministry based on what they see, and what they predominately see are the volunteers that you place in ministry.

Does that make you nervous to think about? It makes me nervous! It also makes the process of enlisting leaders even more important. Here are some qualities that we look for in our recruitment and interview process:

1. Passionate faith
Our expectation is that a volunteer will encourage preteens to grow in their faith. To do so, it is imperative that a volunteer displays a passionate faith. A passionate faith is like a virus that spreads throughout the group and infects every member.

2. Value people and relationships
A volunteer called to build relationships with preteens needs to value relationships. Even more so, we want leaders that can develop relationships with other leaders and parents. These relationships are tremendously helpful to the entire ministry.

3. Teachable
Even the 20-year ministry veteran has room for growth, so leaders need to be teachable. In addition to being teachable, we look for leaders who are “teachers.” Every experience in ministry is an opportunity to learn and share with other leaders to help them grow. Leaders who are teachable and teachers are worth their weight in gold!

4. Balance
The commitment to ministry is not always convenient. Someone who is over-committed in many areas of life will never achieve their full potential in ministry. When enlisting leaders, look for individuals who show balance in their life. They will most likely be able to manage the commitment of ministry and be successful in it.

5. Experience
We would love for every volunteer to have 10-20 years of experience in preteen ministry, but that’s not likely and that’s not really what we mean by experience. Great leaders have experience that is life-based. They have spent time under a faithful mentor, or they have experienced God working in their life in a mighty way. This type of experience is a well to draw from when leading a group of preteens.

What qualities do you look for in potential volunteers?

One of the hardest things for me to do is rest. I can take a day off, and then fill the day with busy work and meaningless tasks. I can come home and be lazy, but not actually relax as God has intended.

It has helped me to read what Exodus 20 says about Sabbath rest. The greatest truth that stands out in these verses is that God rested. He did not rest from weakness or exhaustion. God rested in His creation. This means he took time to sit back and delight in what He created. Then, he “hallowed” the day for us to do the same. His desire is for us to have moments, days, weeks to sit and delight in Him and His work.

I honestly don’t do this enough. It’s so hard for me to unplug from work, family, and everything else. Two weeks ago, I got the chance to take a few days and just rest. My family spent 4 days in a cabin in the Ozark mountains with no tv, no internet, and not a thing to do other than rest and enjoy nature. We take this trip every year, and it is always a highlight of my year.

Enjoying Sunset at the Cabin


This is what I’ve learned about rest:

    1. It makes me a nicer person
    It’s amazing how a little bit of rest can take the edge off. I’ve found that being over-worked makes me a grumpy. When I’m grumpy, I get whiny. When I get whiny, no one likes me. When no one likes me, I don’t like them. Simply put: Rest makes me a nicer person.

    2. It makes me more effective
    When times are stressful, the temptation is to bear down and work harder. I tend to think that I can push through just about any obstacle, but sometimes a restful break is much more effective. After rest, you can re-approach everything with a fresh mind and renewed heart.

    3. It makes me appreciate work
    Serving in ministry has got to be the greatest job on the planet. There are so many parts of my job that I absolutely love, but there are also those parts that could come in a smaller dose. I’ve found that rest helps me appreciate everything I get to do.