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This week has been a busy week for me, both professionally and personally.

Professionally, this past Sunday was the launch of our new ministry year.  1300 kids and 700 volunteers made for a really exciting day!  I was excited about the number of new volunteers that we have in the Preteen Ministry. 

Personally, this Thursday is our little girls’ 1st birthday.  It doesn’t seem like Maggie should be a year old already, but we’re excited about celebrating that with family.  It’s been so much fun watching her grow and develop over this first year. 

As I think about the way that Maggie has developed over this first year of her life, I can’t help but notice the similarities between her development and the development of new volunteers in their first year of service.  For example…

1. Most of what our daughter learned was learned in the last 4 or 5 months.
Talking, crawling, walking (not there yet), following instructions, eating solid foods…all of these things were learned in the final months of her first year.  This is a good reminder to stay confident in new volunteers.  While they may not completely get it on the first week, they will grow and develop.  Give them time and keep encouraging.

2. Most of what our daughter learned was what we chose to teach her
My wife was intentional about teaching Maggie some sign language.  She consistently taught the signs over and over until our daughter understood and used them on her own.  New volunteers are going to learn what we chose to teach them.  What are we choosing to teach our volunteers? Even if the answer is “I don’t know”, we’re still teaching something and chances are it’s not good!

3. Some of what our daughter learned was through others’ example
Being around other kids has helped Maggie to learn new things.  This is especially true when she is around older kids. I love for Maggie to be around kids who can walk and talk because this models the behaviors that she is trying to develop and master.  It’s important that we give new volunteers the opportunity to rub shoulders with experienced volunteers.  Trust in your experienced volunteers to model the vision and strategy for the new volunteers.  Pretty soon the new volunteer is an experienced volunteer and ready to model for someone else.

4. Our daughter was motivated to learn new things because we rewarded her and celebrated her accomplishments
When Maggie says a new word or masters a new skill, we can’t help but love on her and praise her.  She gets the biggest smile on her face because she knows that she’s done something well.  New volunteers need the same type of encouragement.  As they develop and grow, they’re not sure if they’re doing everything correctly and they are searching for approval.  Spend time each week celebrating and rewarding new volunteers.  If the time comes when you need to correct a volunteer, it’s much easier to do so when you’ve also poured encouragement into their life.

5. Our daughter is not perfect and she has a lot of boo-boos
Part of growing up is making mistakes.  Maggie is learning to stand and walk, and it seems like she falls 100 times a day.  New volunteers will make mistakes.  I don’t know about you, but I definitely make my fair share of mistakes. There will be scenarios that you just can’t train them for.  It is the role of the leader to keep encouraging and helping them to learn through mistakes.

How do you nurture your new volunteers?

Maggie_and_me

Power of Community

August 11, 2011 — Leave a comment

One of my recent prayers has been for God to guide me to opportunities for community with other people working in ministry–particularly children’s or preteen ministry.  The lifestyles we live and the issues we face are unique and complex, and it’s great to be able to talk it out with others in the same position.  I wasn’t sure what it would look like or how that would develop, but God is answering my prayers.

Last month, I emailed several local children’s ministers and just asked if we could all go to lunch. I told them my dream to have a network that we could share ideas, pray for one another, and collaborate on reaching our city.  I wasn’t sure of the response that I would get, but I took a shot. The response was overwhelming. Each of them passionately replied that they were longing for the same type of network.  We were all desiring a place to connect and grow with others who were experiencing the same stuff.  We met for lunch and had a great time.  The discussing ranged from “how can we encourage one another” to “here are the triumphs and trials from my ministry experience” to “where do you buy your crayons.”  It was a refreshing time. We will definitely be making this a regular get-together!

Today, I got a text message from fourfivesix.org about joining a peer group with 5 other preteen ministry leaders from around the country.  We are meeting via conference call every 3rd Wednesday to talk about how God is moving and what is working in preteen ministry.  I am really looking forward to this time of learning and hearing from other ministries.  I think God will use this time to teach us how He wants us to better minister to preteens in Little Rock.  And perhaps what we’re doing here can help someone else in another part of the country.  (If you work with preteens, I encourage you to go to FourFiveSix and sign-up for a peer group! The site is under reconstruction, but keep checking back because it’s worth it.)

God is reminding me of the power of community–to be doing life together. Whether you work in ministry or in another field, take the initiative to make some connections and start developing community.  It will help everyone to grow in their field/job, but it also provides encouragement and friendship that we need to stay passionate about what we’re doing.

Is it ok to use your smartphone’s Bible app in church?

This may or may not be a hot button issue with others.  It seems to really ruffle the feathers of some who believe that cell phones and other “gadgets” have no place in church.  I can remember a time in the 90s when electronic Bibles were released and had mixed reviews, and it seems to be the same today with smarthphones.  So my question is this:

Should preteens be allowed to use their cell phones in your ministry or should they have to check them at the door?

I’m not sure if my stance is majority or minority, but here it is.  For our ministry, we’ve decided to stop trying to fight against technology and use it to our advantage.  I realize that there must be boundaries and guidelines setup to prevent this from becoming a social media hotspot, but these tools and the appropriate apps can be very beneficial for Bible study.  Here are some reasons why I’ve taken this stance:

1. Children mimic the behaviors of their parents
Look around you at church, at small group, or at work–you’ll see adults (parents) using their mobile devices as their Bible.  Kids also see this behavior and they mimic it.  A Bible app is convenient and always nearby, so why not encourage them to use it.  I think there is something amazing about reading and studying a physical copy of God’s Word.  And it’s even more awesome for a parent to model that behavior for their children.  But why are we trying to fight for one over the other?  Why can’t both exist?

2. Bible apps are easy to use and encourage further reading
The Youversion mobile app is said to be on over 20 million devices.  20 MILLION!!!  That means most of your students have the app on their devices.  That particular app offers various reading plans, keyword searches, related passage searches, and other study tools.  This techno version of Bible study is attracting younger students to go deeper in the Word.  Instead of making preteens throw their cell phones in a box when they get to church, maybe we should teach a whole lesson on who to use them for our daily devotionals.

3. Mobile devices as “Bibles” can encourage preteens to more actively share their faith
Learning to interact with God’s Word on their cell phones can be a perfect avenue for preteens to share their faith with friends.  They can quickly navigate from passage to passage in the Bible app, and share the Gospel with a friend.  I encourage preteens to bookmark passages like the Romans Road in the app, so that they can easily share the Gospel at any point in their daily schedule.

What is your policy on using mobile devices in your ministry?

Considering the prevalence of mobile devices amongst preteens, what are some other ways that we can infuse God’s Word into their daily use of these devices?

Unclesamwantyou

Most of our churches follow the school calendar, which means a new year is right around the corner. The first part of that process is recruiting volunteers–hopefully we’re all done with that part.  We had great success this year with recruiting new volunteers and getting recommitments from existing volunteers.  Don’t get me wrong, we still have spots to fill but we are very thankful for the number of great leaders that we have.  If you’re struggling with recruiting or would just like to hear what we did, I’d love to share details.  You can email me or tweet me @Pastor_MattMo

The second part of the process is much more fun.  This is the time of year when we get to lead, inspire, and train our volunteers.  We are gearing up for a huge volunteer training event next week.  For those that joined the FellowShip Kids “TEAM”, they will get to take part in a huge pep rally style training event.  We will meet for a general session with all volunteers from nursery up to 6th grade.  This will give us the chance to introduce some across-the-board policies and also to cast a vision for the entire FellowShip Kids ministry. 

Following this session, we will break out into volunteer assignments by age group–preschool, 1st thru 4th Grade, 5th & 6th Grade, Surf Shack, Greeters.  Each staff member will get the chance to cast a vision for their specific area to those that have commited to serve in that area.  I have 80-90 volunteers who have committed to serving 1 year or 2 years with preteens.  I have a lot that I want to say, but I’m working to narrow it down to the “irreducible minimum.”  So, I need your help.  Here are a few questions:

If you were volunteering to work with preteens for 1 year, what would be the most helpful thing to hear/know/have?

or

If you’re a leader, what is the most important thing that you tell your volunteers that work with upper elementary or middle school students?

or

If you grew up attending church, who was the most significant teacher/mentor that you ever had and what made them significant? 

Comment below with your responses or send me a tweet with your ideas.