Archives For preteen ministry

One of the challenges that I’ve found in working with preteens is the uniqueness of this ministry.  I’ve learned to borrow from resources in children’s ministry and student ministry, but the most helpful tools have come from other preteen ministry leaders.  That’s what I’m super excited about heading to the Preteen Leader’s Conference put on by the team at FourFiveSix.

Conference_curr

The Preteen Leader’s Conference is designed by preteen leaders for preteen leaders.

This will by my first time to attend the conference, but I’ve heard great stories of the connections and experiences others have had. During last year’s conference, I followed the twitter feeds and blog posts of other leaders as they attended the conference. When the conference ended, I made the decision right then that I would be attending the conference in 2012.

If you work with preteens or have an interest in launching a preteen ministry within your church, you really need to be at the Preteen Leader’s Conference. As a bonus, you can attend for just $137 if you register in the next 10 days. You can register to be a part of this unique experience HERE.

Sooner or later, everyone suffers a period where they lack encouragement or motivation. It doesn’t matter what you do for a living, there will be times when you feel under-appreciated or depressed. These times could be related to your performance, your relationships with those around you, or just to the crummy weather outside your office window!  No matter what the cause, these periods are difficult to deal with unless you have prepared for them ahead of time.  When I face these times, I turn to Scripture and prayer so that I can be reminded of God’s promises. But that’s not all I do. I also turn to what I call my “happy file.”

When I started in ministry 9 years ago, a received great advice from my first boss. He instructed me to create a “happy file” to hold notes, cards, emails, or gifts that were encouraging to me in my ministry efforts. The tendency is to read these items, fill up on the encouragement, and then toss them away.  

After creating a “happy file”, I realized that encouragement is a non-perishable item.

When I face a discouraging moment or a rough season in ministry, I will always go to my “happy file” to be reminded of the things I’ve seen God do in and through me. It may not immediately or completely remedy the funk, but it ALWAYS helps.

Here are some examples of things to put in your “happy file”:

  • Encouraging cards from others
  • Pictures, cards or gifts from your kids or other children
  • Copies of encouraging emails from your co-workers or boss
  • Pictures of people who have influenced you or made a difference in your career
  • Pictures of people who have been encouraged or influenced by your work
  • Quotations, Scripture verses, or lyrics that have spoken to you in other times of need

What will be the first thing you put in your happy file?

As I was walking through the halls of church this morning putting the finishing touches on Sunday’s setup, I ran into a mom who brightened my day.  It was a very brief encounter, but what she said was full of encouragement. As I walked away with wind in my sails, I thought about the power of encouragement. 

Here are a few ideas for encouraging others:

Catch them in the Act
Everyone likes their work to be noticed.  A toddler will bring you a piece of paper that looks like a crayon box threw up on it, just to say “Look what I did!” It’s in our DNA to be recognized for what we do.  If you want to encourage others, try to catch them in the act of doing something well.

Praise Them in Front of Others
The mom that spoke to me this morning shared how she was also talking with another mom…about me!  That’s not always a good thing, but this time it was.  It really encouraged me that they both thought enough of my actions to have it be a topic of conversation.  If you want to encourage others, hold them up as an example of excellence in front of their peers.  This will breed more excitement and determination in everyone because they see that you value their contribution. 

Encouragement002

Use Brief Comments
I typically think of encouragement as being a card, an email, or a gift.  The reality is that personally delivering a few encouraging words is much more effective. The conversation I had was only 1 to 2 minutes long, but her words have given me energy for the day.  It even prompted this post!  If you want to encourage others, take a moment to speak words of encouragement to them.  Gifts and awards are great, but don’t forget the power of your words.

 Use Their Language
This is a tough one because it requires you to really get to know the person.  Our staff has been learning about the differences in personality and how that affects communication.  What we’ve learned is that each person receives encouragement differently.  For example, if you told me that you were proud of how I kept a smile as I stacked boxes, I would not be very encouraged. I would thank you for your comment, but inside I would be thinking, “I stacked 482 boxes and all you saw was a smile??”  This is because my personality type places a high emphasis on dedication and achievement, not so much on feelings or sensory.  A better word of encouragement for me would be, “Thank you for all your help. I saw how many boxes you stacked, and I just want you to know that it means a lot to me.  You worked very hard, and I appreciate that.”  Those words would be like manna from Heaven for me!  The point is, if you want to encourage others, be observant and find out what really motivates them.  Everyone has a root motivator that leads them to do whatever it is that they do.  If you can find that root and speak specific encouragement to it, then your words will always resonate in the heart of the person.

How can you encourage others today?

One of the most difficult parts of preteen ministry is keeping your leaders fresh and equipped for the task at hand. We kick-off the year with a huge training event, and we host periodic training events throughout the year. But I always wish we could do more.

When I read a great article or blog on preteen ministry, I want to pass that on to volunteers to encourage them.  When I read a great book that deals directly with the series we’re doing, I want to pass that book to the leaders to equip them.

But how?

This year, we launched The Library. It is basically just a bookshelf in our preteen area, but on it are books, articles, and other pieces that are designed to encourage and equip our preteen leadership team. We look for resources that will help leaders to grow spiritually, help leaders understand preteens, or help leaders develop skills as a leaders/teacher. We don’t require them to use these resources, but we strongly encourage them to check out at least one resource during the year. The resources are there for their use…at their convenience. They can take any resource and keep it for as long as they need to When they’re done with it, they return it and take another resource. They can also add resources to share with other leaders. . If they read a good book or see an interesting article, they know that putting it in The Library is the best way to share it with others.

The Library has been a great help for our ministry. Our goal is not just to fill the volunteer spots that we have in ministry. We want to build up leaders and equip them to serve at church and at home. That’s a really hard task when people are so busy and can’t make it to tons of meetings. These resources in The Library are helping us meet the challenge.