Archives For leadership

The handcuffs clicked tight, we shuffled into the small cell, and the locked door slammed behind us. That was the night our whole children’s ministry staff ended up in jail.

Ok, that’s a little dramatic and definitely not what you think. While the handcuffs were real (and too tight), we weren’t really in jail. We were taking on the challenge of “C-Block,” an escape room from Escape Experience in Nashville, TN.

If you’ve never done an escape room, you’re basically locked inside a small room and forced to gather clues, solve puzzles, and channel your inner MacGyver to escape the room before the clock runs out. It’s intense and challenging, but tons of fun. It advertises itself to be a great team building exercise, so we put that to the test.

Over the last 12 months, our staff team has had multiple transitions. We saw a few staff members change roles in the church and five new staff members join our team. Along with the staff changes, we also changed curriculum and much of our Sunday morning schedule.

Here’s the crazy part: Things are going great! Even with all that change and certainly despite my distracted leadership, our team was more unified in our work and our attitude. By God’s grace, our team was thriving in a season of change. As we prepared to attend the ETCH Conference in Nashville, TN (which I highly recommend and will blog about later), I prayed that God would do something to unify our team even more.

The conference gave us training and more encouragement for our ministry roles, but God did something extra special through handcuffs and the intense pressure of a ticking clock.  Here’s why it was so good to be handcuffed in a jail cell with the Children’s Ministry staff:

It Created a Lasting Memory

After we escaped the jail cell—with 14:41 to spare—the entire team immediately began to recall the experience. We laughed about funny moments. We wondered how we missed clues and found others. And for the next 48 hours, we pretended like every random sign, locked door, or manhole contained a clue to help us escape! I imagine that this experience will be something that we all talk about for years to come because it was such a unique and lasting memory.

It Gave Everyone a Chance to Use Their Skills

Only 42% of groups escape “C-Block” in the allotted time, While the experience was fun, it was also very challenging.  It took the whole team working together and using their unique skills to piece together the clues. There was problem solving, data processing, listening, communicating, dexterity (which I proved was not my strength). Each team member had a chance to contribute and shine as they used their skills.

It Confirmed that We are Better Together

As I watched the team work together so fluidly and effectively inside the jail cell, I caught a glimpse of how God is using our team as a TEAM to proclaim the Gospel to kids. I realized how God is building this team so that each piece compliments the other pieces and at the same time needs the other pieces. There’s no way we would’ve made it out of that escape room if we had been missing even just one person. We are better together, and my prayer is that God will be glorified as this team works together to reach kids and families with the Gospel.

I’m not sure when, but I’m certain that we’ll be back in an escape room. This experience gave me so many ideas for injecting energy into our meetings, working together to solve problems, and just having similar fun to build a stronger team. If you lead a team of volunteers, employees, or a discipleship group, I encourage you to check out your closest escape game and have some fun growing together.

I had an experience yesterday that reminded me of the beauty and the power of having a mentor. By mentor, I mean someone who is older or more experienced to speak encouragement and training over you–like the relationship between Daniel Larusso and Mr. Miyagi.

I had stopped at Wal-Mart to pick up a few supplies for our ministry. As I stood in the office supply aisle, I overheard a conversation between two Wal-Mart employees about 15 feet away. The first employee was a young man, probably early 20s. The second employee was a woman in her 60s or 70s.

As I walked up, I could tell that the young man was talking about a job interview he had recently. I wasn’t sure if it was for a role at the store or elsewhere, but he was sharing very openly about it with the woman. He ended his comment by saying, “I’m just not sure what I should do.”

This is when the conversation got amazing and I didn’t even care if they knew I was listening.

The woman asked if she could share some advice. She proceeded to share about a few times in her life when she was faced with difficult decisions and how she prayed and sought the Lord in those times. She talked about following Christ in obedience even when it was hard. She encouraged him to keep praying and to keep trusting that God was good and in control no matter what.

Her words were as sweet as honey. I glanced over a time or two and could see the young man just soaking in the encouragement this wise woman was pouring over him. He continued to stock shelves but his entire countenance changed. It reminded me why we all need a mentor to share what God has given to them and speak into our lives when we need it the most.

As I continued to shop and process the conversation, I jotted down a few questions to ponder:

  • How can I thank those mentors who have invested in my life over the years?
  • How can I continue to seek out the advice of a mentor in ministry and in life?
  • Who can I encourage and offer the wisdom (limited as it may be) God has shown me?
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For the past two years, I’ve been doing my best to lead our Kids’ Ministry staff team. The team consists of 8 paid staff who are all very gifted leaders. Each of them has their own way of communicating, their own set of needs from me, but one common passion to reach kids with the Gospel.

I cannot even express how humbling this experience has been. In the mixture of wins and fails, I’ve learned a few things that I think are critical to leading any team. Here are my 4 essentials for leading a team:

Take Suggestions & Make Decisions

I’ve learned that leading a team requires me to be a good listener. My natural inclination is to make decisions and move forward. While this is necessary at times, I’ve come to realize that a better way is to listen to others’ input and reach a collaborative decision. Even if we need to make a hard decision, this gives me the opportunity to communicate the how and why behind decision so that everyone can feel confident in the decision. When the decision is made and it’s time to move forward, I feel more energy and excitement because we are all moving together.

Look for Ways to Add Value to Each Team Member

I remember hearing John Maxwell speak on this point about 12 years ago, and it has stuck with me ever since. He says that leading people is really an opportunity to add value to their life. It could be  picking up coffee for the team in the morning, a note of thanks, public praise, or meeting one on one to hear how they’re doing. If I want the team to be growing, then I have to be faithful to water it.

Make Room for Growth, Change, and Failure

I can’t stand to be micromanaged, and I suspect that my team feels the same way. I am not always the best at delegating authority, but I do know that the team needs the freedom to grow in their leadership, question how we could change to do things better, and take risks that might result in failure.

Be a Servant to Your Team

We’ve probably all suffered the effects of a leader who has taken advantage of their position. I know I’ve been guilty of it. But I want to be the leader that doesn’t ask anything of my team that I haven’t already done or am not willing to do myself. I want to use my position to serve them.

I’m learning that I can’t always be in the trenches with my team because I need to be leading in the ways that only I can lead. But I know the power of serving alongside them when I can. Those times help me to see what they do and how valuable it is to our team. When I have to lead from the front, I hope they trust that I care about them and their role on our team.

Unfortunately, I’ve learned these essentials more through my failures than successes. I’m still learning. I hope to continue learning and practicing these essentials for leading a team.

Leadership Lessons

August 7, 2014 — Leave a comment

Follow the leader

Earlier this week, I shared about God opening the door for a new ministry role. The announcement about the change was made to the church on Sunday, but I’ve actually been serving in this role since July 1. Over the past month, I’ve already felt God stretching me and teaching me in multiple areas.

One of my new responsibilities is overseeing our Fellowship Kids staff. This includes 7 full-time team members, 1 part-time team member, and currently 1 intern. I love that I’m getting the chance to lead leaders, but I’ve got a lot to learn. Here are a few leadership lessons I’m learning as I do my best to lead this team.

1) If you want respect from those who follow you, show respect to those who lead you.

The boss/leader sets the tone for a team. When you show respect and submit to the authority over you, the team gets the chance to see the behavior you desire. I love the guys who are leading me, and I hope our team has the same confidence in me.

2) People need to know why just as much as they need to know what

The team needs to know what is expected of them, but more importantly they need to know why it matters. I’m learning that to being a good leader means taking time to help the team understand the why behind the what.

3) Leaders need the freedom to fail

I’m 100% positive that I will make mistakes. It’s only been a month in this role, and I’ve probably made more than I even realize! To keep the team dreaming and pushing forward, there has to be freedom to trying something new, change things up, and be innovative. Sure, it might end in some epic fails, but I always want to be thinking about how we can better reach children with the Gospel.

4) Value and respect go a long way

I’ve had the privilege of hearing leadership-guru John Maxwell speak a few different times. In each of his talks, I remember him stressing the need for encouragement, respect, and value for every team member. I want each team member to know that they are valuable and critical to our mission of making disciples. I’m slowly learning what that looks like and how to apply it to our team.

5) Lead with confidence and humility

This one is tough for me. I’m working hard to find the balance between confidence and humility in leading. I need to be someone who others can follow, this takes confidence. I want to be someone who others want to follow, this takes confidence and humility.


What other leadership lessons would you share with me?