Archives For leadership

I’ve been living in two worlds lately.  On one hand, I’m establishing a lot of new relationships in my new ministry role.  On the other hand, I’m back living in my home town and so I’m reconnecting with a lot of old relationships that I’ve had for many years.  With this resurgence of my social life, God has really been speaking to me about the purpose of those relationships.  And in those conversations, He has really challenged my heart with one gripping question.

The questions is this…
What if the purpose of every relationship you have was to lead the other person closer to Jesus Christ?

What if I was intentional enough so that every person that I met, talked to, worked with, played softball with, or had a meal with was encouraged to move to a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ?  What if I took the focus off of me and placed it on Him?  I don’t fully know what this would look like if it were played out in my life, but I’m dying to discover what God can do if I will submit to it.  I know that to do so, I need to be walking much closer to Him.  I need to be much more obedient to his calling when he says go or when he says speak.  And I need to have much more boldness and confidence in sharing my faith with every contact I make.  This questions has really stretched me and continues to do so.  My prayer is that God would show me what it looks like to use every relationship to point the other person closer to Jesus Christ.

I’m interested in hearing others thoughts and insight into how to live a life that could answer this question.  What does it look like in action?  What does it take? What would the end result be?

 

When my wife sees an expensive piece of furniture or decorative item for our house, I have a humorous response that always pops out.  I look over the object and quickly reply, “They want $_____ for that?  I could make that!”  This always draws a laugh from my wife because she knows my lack of skills in the craftsman department.  But in the discussion, I always bring up the fact that I could do it if I just had the right tools.  I’m not sure that I wouldn’t fail, but I would definitely have the confidence to try if I just had the right tools.

Parents are looking to the church for the right tools to do their job with confidence.

I’ve never met a parent who didn’t care about the spiritual condition of their child.  But I have met parents who do not feel equipped for the job as spiritual leader.  There is a great opportunity for the church to partner with parents in developing a plan for the spiritual upbringing of children.  But that’s harder than it seems.

According to the 2010 State of the Church and Family Annual Report (Barna & Rethink Group) 72% of churched and 46% of unchurched parents said that the church would be a good helper in developing a plan for raising their child.  This statistic shows great opportunity for the church.  Parents are looking to the church for the right tools.  However, less than half (45%) of parents said that they received “very clear” expectations on parenting from the church.  Only 27% of unchurched parents with recent church experience said that the church clearly communicated its expectations of parents.  We have a great opportunity to equip parents as spiritual leaders, but we are failing to clearly communicate the essentials of Biblical parenting.

It’s time to stop talking about the importance of leading a child’s spiritual development, and start equipping parents with resources that will help them meet that goal.  I’ve been guilty of thinking that I just needed to convince the parents of the importance of their role.  But they already understand the importance.  They are screaming at the top of their lungs, “We understand the importance of our role.  We want to be the spiritual leader for our child.  We want to do it, but we need the right tools for the job.”

The 2010 State of the Church and Family Annual Report says it like this:

Almost half of all parents say they have no plan in raising their kids; they simply do the best they can. And even among the parents who say they have a plan in mind to help their child become what they desire, you might wonder whether their plan is well thought out or cohesive.  This is a great opportunity for leaders to speak into the lives of parents.  If we actually have a clear and compelling approach to helping families, this is a chance to help families realize more is possible. (p. 34)

Some great ways to equip parents with tools might be:

  • sermon series on parenting that highlights the methods/tools your church uses to create a partnership between church and home
  • small groups or discipleship classes for parents that focus on parenting for each stage of development (preschool, elementary, preteen, jr. high, high school, college)
  • regular scheduled meetings for all staff/volunteer leadership of family ministry (preschool—college) to talk about integrated strategy
  • compile a list of books, articles, blogs, sermons, etc that would be helpful for parents
  • shared experiences for parents and children/teens

This list is by no means exhaustive.  It will be different for every church, but it is always better to do something rather than nothing.

What is your strategy for equipping parents with the right tools to be spiritual leaders?

(2010 State of the Church and Family Annual Report is available at The Rethink Group Store.)

 

We have successfully navigated the graduation season, and now our “6th graders” are officially “7th graders.”  For us, this means that these preteens are introduced into student ministry programming on Sundays.  As quickly as this transition happened (Sunday night for us), it really was not done without some planning and intention.  I have to say that we have not perfected the method, nor have we done everything we actually want to do.  But here some things that we are doing this year to transition 6th graders into student ministry:

 1. Graduation
In the Sunday Celebrations post, I talked about our 6th grade graduation.  This event was held to honor the students’ completion of children’s ministry and to encourage them for the next phase of life.  Marking the rite of passage with a special event helps these students to know that it is time to turn the page.  It prepares them mentally for the coming weeks of a new staff, new environment, and new opportunities. 

2. Assimilation
These “7th graders” entering student ministry will most likely spend the majority of their time with fellow “7th” graders or the grade just above them.  Our student ministry recognizes this and plans a trip for incoming 7th & 8th graders.  These students head out of town and spend the weekend bonding with a dinner theater and amusement park.  The event is a great opportunity for bonding between these students and the student ministry staff.

3. Familiarity
Everything is changing for a preteen.  It’s nice to have something consistent from time to time.  As Preteen Pastor, this is where I really appreciate our student ministry team.  They have invited me to remain in the lives of these students.  I will be attending the fun trip with these students as well as speaking in the student ministry services a few times over the summer.  Our hope is that a familiar face will help to acclimate these students into the new ministry and allow them to worship in this new environment without fear or anxiety. 

4. Cross Contamination
For the past two months, these students have had dose after dose of the student ministry staff in some form.  We have invited them into the 6th grade environment to begin getting face time with the students.  We think it’s important for the students to develop trust in the student ministry leaders prior to their graduation.  This is equally, if not more, important for their parents.  At each parent meeting this past semester, we would speak to the parents about the transition.  We took every opportunity possible to let a student leader speak to the parents about what to expect and how to stay involved.  It was a huge help to have student ministry come into our world and begin speaking to students and parents.

5. Follow the Leader
In this case, we’re actually talking about follow the students.  We encourage our small group leaders to move into student ministry with the students.  It makes our job tougher because we have to refill those positions for the coming year, but we think the influence outweighs anything else.  The leader has earned the trust of the student and the parent, opened lines of communication with both, and learned so much about the spiritual condition of the student.  It just makes sense for them to continue walking through life with their students.  We’re not to 100% in this area, but we are celebrating that we do have several leaders moving up with their group.

 

A few weeks back, I raised the idea of having a “summer reading” with our small group leaders.  It’s been a busy month of wrapping up the school year, but we are finally at a point that we’re ready to launch that idea.

Today, our leaders will receive an email invitation to take part in reading D.A. Carson’s book, The God Who Is There: Finding Your Place in God’s Story.  The book does a great job of explaining Scripture and the foundations of Christian faith. My hope is that it will make our leaders hunger even more for the Word of God as they discover how God has called them to play a part in the story. We have an amazing team of leaders, and I’m really looking forward to this time with them.

As we prepare week to week to minister to preteens, we want our leaders to know why they believe what they believe and why they teach what we’ve asked them to teach.  This knowledge of how we fit into God’s story is what makes their teaching and the Scriptures come alive to the students.  My hope is that walking through this book with them will allow us all to grow in our faith as well as help us to encourage the faith of our students.

Here are some of the things that I want our leaders to contemplate and discuss:

How do we encourage preteens to discover who God is?

How do we lead preteens to discover who God has made them to be?

How does knowing our role in God’s “Big Story” help us to BE the church?

How do we empower preteens to share God’s “Big Story” with the world around them?

I can’t wait to see what God teaches me from this book and the discussions with our leaders.  I’ll definitely be sharing more in the weeks to come.