concerning the coming generations

Fall is here. The routines of the school year are visiting households with children. It seems like an abrupt transition for me this year. With the events of the last few weeks, I have scarcely had time to prepare for the responsibilities of the new season. But prepare, I must. Responsibilities do not abide patiently or with understanding. Nor do some people, frankly. Rather, they demand attention. Leaders understand this. Even during my initial period of shock and mourning I have had to deal with the realities set before me. Curriculum. Teacher recruitment. Staff allocation. Room assignments. The list goes on. And while I have taken a temporary step back, and others have stepped up so very graciously to assist, it sometimes feels as though the weight of responsibility remains squarely on my shoulders. This is not a complaint; it is simply an acknowledgement of reality. But then I remember there is a more profound reality in my situation. Continue reading

apprentice, really?

I am a fan of Celebrity Apprentice. It is one of my guilty pleasures. I watched the first episode of season 9 tonight on Hulu. It is fascinating to watch so many strong personalities attempt to work together. Some are trainwrecks. Others whom we might expect to be trainwrecks turn out to be solid performers. But that is not why I am writing this post now. After having watched several seasons of Celebrity Apprentice, and the regular iteration of The Apprentice, I find myself asking, “Apprentice of what? Or of whom?” Or perhaps the more apt, “Apprentice, really?” Continue reading

Five Characteristics of Key Leaders in Children’s Ministry

Here are five characteristics I look for when I am seeking key leaders for the children’s ministry that I lead. By key leaders, I am referring to people who take responsibility for a significant expression of ministry under the larger umbrella of the children’s ministry. They have greater responsibility and privileges, so it follows that they have greater expectations. Continue reading

when volunteer recruiting produces hints of dread

There is a feeling of dread that can occur when you realize that you have tapped out your resources for volunteer recruiting. You have a shortfall of workers and Sunday morning looms just a day away. You don’t feel panic yet. However, daydreams about life after recruiting responsibility tease the edge of your awareness. But something happens as you go through the list of prospective workers one more time. “Why didn’t I see their name before?” you ask yourself. The couple in question has not yet volunteered their time in their child’s classroom. You make the call. They answer. You explain your need. They respond positively. And the feeling of dread abates as you realize that due diligence and kindness produces encouraging results.

Are you struggling with the weekly grind of finding workers to fill ministry roles? I know the feeling. It is hard sometimes. Honestly, it can be a thankless task. But it can also be joyful. Yes, I said it. Joyful. Connecting with people, communicating clearly with them, following up on their questions and concerns, taking care of administrative tasks like background checks and interviews, and making the need known is all a part of the stuff which makes up due diligence in recruiting. As a volunteer leader in a small church (or large!)  it can seem overwhelming at times. Be encouraged in knowing that God will help you as you do the right things to inspire, equip, and support fellow workers. He will even help you as Sunday morning approaches and the feeling of dread threatens.

After all, he did it for me this evening. I write not in theory, but from personal experience.

Traits to Look for in Volunteer Prospects

Here are a few traits which I typically look for when considering prospective volunteers to be involved in the children’s ministry at my church. For those workers who move into greater areas of responsibility, there are even higher levels of expectation. This partial list is for anyone who helps at any level. I have not included in this list issues pertaining to background checks or in-depth interview questions. Obviously, the interview might go into detailed discussions about such things as character, experience, and issues regarding areas of concern in the application process.

1. Growing Spiritual Maturity: Not that they have arrived–who among us have?–but there should be evidence of a lifestyle of following Jesus which is apparent in their activities, attitudes and conversation. At a minimum, they need to have a relationship with Jesus Christ, demonstrate integrity in their behavior, participate in weekly corporate worship, be in accountability relationships with peers and actively pursue a life of personal discipleship.

2. Genuine interest in ministering to children: I ask them why they want to be involved and to what extent. Their motives must be other-centered, prioritizing the needs of the children and their families.

3. Team player: They should be willing to participate in agreed-upon meetings, fulfill necessary role-related tasks (even the menial housekeeping ones pertaining to their areas of responsibility, and the facilities and equipment they use), accept and offer constructive criticism where necessary, and exhibit positive attitudes toward all others in the ministry.

Do you share these priorities? What would you add? Which ones, if any, do you feel would be secondary in your situation?

Thoughts on Calling to Pastoral Ministry

I recently conversed with a young man who is thinking seriously about pursuing a call to pastoral ministry. I am excited for him and the things that God is doing in his life. He has been deeply impressed by a strong youth pastor who has made a tremendous impact on him. He also was impacted by a recent mission trip to Mexico.

As I spoke with him I shared just a few thoughts from my perspective. I said that pastoral ministry can be one of the most rewarding and fulfilling callings imaginable; and one of the most heart-breaking. There are moments, even seasons, when it seems like God is on the move and the enemy is on the run. Everything seems to fall into place and the ministry is powerful. There are other times when your heart breaks because of the rebellion of hard hearts, the setbacks of unforeseen circumstances, the discouragement of broken relationships without reconciliation.

Yet if you stick it out long enough, taking it one day at a time, year by year, you will begin to experience something very unique to pastoral ministry: perspective. Little children will have grown up into teens and then young adults. Many will marry and have children of their own. There will be times of joyous memories to savor. So rewarding, so beautiful. It is the hope and the reality of those times, along with the assurance that God is sovereign and faithful, that gives me strength to press on, especially in the dark seasons. And make no mistake. While the beautiful mountain top experiences are glorious to behold, they do not consist of the normal everyday realities of life. We live life in the mundane. With contentment, joy, peace and hope we live out the everyday realities (or we ought to), but we cannot possibly sustain a continual feeling of mountaintop ecstasy. We have to come back to earth. And sometimes, that return to everyday reality can disillusion, especially when trials occur.

I looked him in the eye and said I would be praying for him. I asked him if I had scared him off and he laughed and said no. But I think he knew I was speaking from my heart and from my own experience.

If you are considering following a call into any kind of ordained ministry, pastoral, missionary, evangelist, and so on, know this: God knows your heart and your future. Ask God for wisdom and be sure to place people around you who will help you to consider the ramifications of such a vocation. It is serious business worth a prolonged season of prayerful accountability and vetting.

Biggest Children’s Ministry Leadership Challenge: Results of Totally Unscientific Poll

I asked: What is your biggest children’s ministry leadership challenge?

You responded:

Lack of volunteers 3 (50%)
Inadequate facilities 0 (0%)
Lack of support from church leadership 3 (50%)
Lack of finances 0 (0%)
Discipline issues 0 (0%)
Inadequate curriculum 0 (0%)
Other 0 (0%)

Half of you said lack of volunteers is the biggest ministry challenge you face and the other half said lack of support from church leadership. Notwithstanding the completely unscientific nature of this survey, it is telling to me that both sets of responses which received a vote pertain primarily to the human element of ministry, support from leadership and support from the congregation. Hmm. Something to chew on for awhile. If you have some breath-taking solutions, please do feel free to share. In time, I will contribute my ideas as well.

Oh! The newest poll is now posted: What is your church doing to equip parents? Check it out in the right hand column and let me know what you think!

Blessings,

Glen Woods