Archives For preteen ministry

Hi, My name is Matt and I am a negative person.

Ok, so I’m not negative all the time.  But I can get frustrated and become a real party pooper when things don’t go as planned. What do I mean by negative? I mean that I point out mistakes, gossip, complain, judge, and then I try to justify it. God has really been working on me in this area. He has shown me that much of my negativity and complaining comes from pride.  When things go wrong, I often shift blame to others and feel like I could’ve done their job better myself.  The truth is that’s not the truth.  That’s the deception of pride.

So here are a few things that I’m learning about negativity:

1. A negative plus a negative DOES NOT equal a positive
The truth is that you’re never negative alone.  My negative attitude is always pulling someone else down with me.  The complaining and gossip always involves more than me.  This is the biggest problem with having a negative attitude: it’s contagious.  My conviction is that my negative attitude has damaged others and caused them to sin with me.

2. A positive plus a negative CAN equal a positive
In the same way that one negative attitude can be contagious, so can a positive attitude.  There are certain people in my life that point out when I’m being negative, and they remind me of the positive.  They can change the course of the conversation by remaining positive and not participating in the complaining or gossip.  As I learn to treat my negativity, I’m really grateful for these individuals.

3. It’s always best to cut off negativity before it starts
I’m trying to learn to always evaluate myself first when something doesn’t meet expectations. I’ve found that I can really put things into perspective by starting with the question, “What role did my actions (or lack of actions) play in this situation?” I’m learning that most often than not, the blame rests on me. When I realize the role that my actions plays, my focus turns to reconciling instead of complaining. 

I’ve got a long ways to go, but God is at work. I still fail at this each day, but I’m thankful for how He is changing me and making me new.

Things have been a little crazy over the past month and I’ve failed to really pause and celebrate the thing God is doing. I know it’s Wednesday…days after Sunday…halfway to the next Sunday…I get it. But I figure better late than never on celebrating how awesome God is.

This past Sunday was Launch Sunday for Fellowship. This is the Sunday that all ages begin the new year in their new age-divided class. It’s an exciting time for the kids and a confusing time for the parents. But here’s what God did on Sunday…

1. 1300+ Kids and 700 FellowShip Kids Volunteers
I’m pretty sure that’s more people than the Polish Army. It was awesome to see families reconnecting after summer schedules, and the energy of the kids was out of this world. While I’m thankful for that many kids getting up and coming to church on a Sunday morning, I’m so much more grateful for the 700 or more volunteers that answered the call to serve. God used them in a tremendous way.

2. 250 Preteens and 70 Preteen Volunteers
It was so much fun to dive into a new year with this group of preteens.  They are super blessed because they have 70 leaders that have committed to walking through this phase of life with them.  I’m so thankful for the energy of this volunteer team and the time that they’re willing to invest in students.

3. Relationships are Growing (already)
I wasn’t expecting students and leaders to gel and connect so quickly, but it’s happening.  It’s like planting a seed and waking the next morning to find a fully bloomed flower!  Mentors (what we call Small Group Leaders) are writing cards, sending emails, and making phone calls to connect with their students and encourage them.  When we cast the vision for them to do this sort of thing, we were hoping to see results by October or November but it’s already taken flight. God is so good.

4. We Found a Community Group
We moved from Missouri 8 months ago, but we’ve really been transitioning ever since.  We were renting a house, selling a house, and hoping to buy a house.  It’s an awesome God-story of how all of those worked out.  We (My wife and I) knew that we wanted to find a community group once we had purchased a house.  We purchased a house in July, and so we met with a new community group in our area this past Sunday night. We had a great time connecting with the other couples. Each couple seemed interested in what God would teach us as we moved forward into forming a group. Dana and I are excited about “doing life” with this group. 

There is so much to celebrate as God keeps moving and working.

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.