Friday, April 29, 2016

Layers of Leadership - from the archives

My new friend Anthony Coppedge read a post of mine (“Day Camp“) regarding whether it’s ministry or childcare and asked me to write a follow-up post here on his blog as a guest author. I am excited that Anthony’s saw my passion for developing leaders and volunteers and gave me a chance to speak to you, his friends in ministry.

Day camp for my staff is a fun summer of getting paid to play and minister to children. Often times resulting in children being saved and whole families coming to Christ as a result. I have come to the conclusion that day camp is an opportunity to build a ministry of leadership, outreach, mentoring, spiritual growth and development. I was recently asked how I came to that conclusion, which I love to have the opportunity to explain.

One thing I have learned from this program is how to begin to build leaders. In Children's Ministry, Pastoral Leadership, or business management we need people who understand, value, and own our cause or vision and can continue to make it happen. Let's face it leaders, you won't be sitting in that chair forever, and if you truly believe in what you are doing, your ministry should thrive even after your exit.

 If ministry leadership was simply a matter of having tasks completed and lining up people to do them, it would be easy. But a volunteer who sees that at the end of the day, every moment with this child can shape their spiritual growth, will make every moment count. So where are these people located? I need to order more please! Well, they aren't ordered, or even found, they're built. (for the lack of a better word)

Why is something as simple as a 10 week summer program seen as an opportunity to build these leaders?  Our counselors are usually college age students that have a desire to have a future in ministry. These counselors were at one time (most often) campers. I believe every moment is a moment to teach. For example, a camper has several opportunities to learn while in camp and even do service projects. Once in high school they can return as a CIT (counselor in training) where they learn how to teach the stories, lead the music and games, and run things alongside an established mentoring counselor. Once they're 18 they can join staff, these kids have proven to be amazing leaders when they come of age. In children's ministry I get to serve kids that have their whole life ahead of them. Yes, my ultimate goal is to introduce them to Jesus and teach them how to have a relationship with Him. However, serving our saviour is part of our relationship and I believe I would be failing them if I didn't teach and give them opportunities as well.

Part of my passion comes from my own layers, when I was 6 years old I was picked up by the church bus every Sunday. I sang songs and learned verses. Once my parents started attending and I no longer needed to ride the bus, our pastor offered me the role of "bus captain"! I was 10, and my job was to make a list of songs and verses to lead as we picked up kids on the way to church.  At the age of 14 I began teaching little lambs with an elderly woman who knew she didn't have many more years of chasing three year olds. I taught with Miss Evelyn for a year before she stepped down, she taught me every piece of that class from crafts, to preparing a lesson for kids that small, to talking with parents. For this reason, we pair new volunteers with someone who has been at it a while. Lastly, all the mentors I have ever had gave me freedom or ownership. As a natural control person this can be difficult to let projects go, but your workers will usually be more dedicated and passionate if they have creative freedom within the support you provide. Many years of people adding "layers" to me came in handy when I married my husband who was a pastor of a small church. This church could be seen as a small country church with nothing for kids, I saw a fresh canvas!

The opportunity for adults, teens, and kids to learn as they go, and grow as they learn is a necessity. Jesus was constantly on the move as he taught, usually on His way to do something else. Life didn't stop for training. Which don't get me wrong, I love a good conference but give me a mentor who has been at it for fifty years and wants to add some more layers to me day by day and I believe that's a goldmine! So for this reason I pass you the following 5 questions to consider...

1. What are you doing every day that can be a teachable moment for someone willing to learn?
2. Are you giving your ministry kids (or adults) an opportunity and the skills to serve?
3. Do your leaders feel like they have freedom within your support to own their projects?
4. Can you spot your future leaders? That 10 year old tech savvy kid, are you adding layers to him?
5. Who are YOU learning from? There's no limit to your layers.

I hope your mind is buzzing with ideas of how to invest in people who will someday take the reigns and effectively communicate the gospel to future generations.  As always, I love to hear your thoughts and bounce ideas. Join me on twitter or cmconnect!

Blessings for your day,

Heidi M Hensley

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Leaders touch a heart, before they take a hand.

Reading in 1 Kings this morning, and studying a bit about connection. 

It's so interesting the parallels that jump off the page in reference to leadership today. While Rehoboam had much different circumstances, many are like what today's leaders face as we make transitions and continue to grow where we are. Here's my three parallels from this morning, enjoy! 

1.He was being crowned king, a new leader to an existing group of people.
Much like a move to a new job or church today. 
2. There was a group of people longing to be heard, I don't need to explain that one on today's level. 
3. There was a prior leader who had influenced a core of people still there. In this case, Rehoboam had access to Solomons elders, a great source of wisdom that he chose not to use.

The unfortunate part was that Rehoboam had been set up for success, but his love of power and politics squandered that. When he was crowned king, his servants asked him to lighten their load - his elders clearly told him that it would be an early win if he did. "If you will be a servant to these people today, and serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants forever." His initial action of seeking wisdom from the elders was correct, but he chose not to connect on that level. Instead, Rehoboam opted to seek advice from his peers which told him to add to their load. It was an act of flexing power (the easy way out) rather than taking time to invest in his people. 

Chances are, as a leader you are in this very spot in some form. A decision needs to be made, and maybe there are two paths. The easy road of just "calling it" and flexing your power muscle, or taking the time to invest and gain wisdom. 
Here's my lessons from today:
1. Seek wisom in wise places (that's tweet-able right there!) Rehoboam sought out people with no influence or experience. We are told over and over in scripture to let the previous generations pour into us. 
2. Choose the path that connects you to those you lead instead of the one that creates disconnect. Chances are, that's clear. Guaranteed, you can look at a major decision and know that if you are dreading one route because it's not supported you might want to seek wisdom. (yes, there will be unpopular moments as well, but there should b ether ability to know so won is in your corner. 
3. Get beyond yourself, sometimes it's about using your authority to love others rather than get stuff done. The irony is that you will accomplish so much more by taking the time to develop the personal relationships and care for those you lead. This is a hard concept for task driven people, because it forces you to put the to-do list down and just be present with no agenda for a bit.

Now that I have stepped all over my own toes, it's time for coffee! Praying for an awesome day of leadership!! 

Monday, January 4, 2016

Chasing Christmas - Responding to the Christmas Visitors

I recently ran across a web page I love,! Great name, right? I was actually looking for some statistics for a writing piece, and instead found a new reading spot.

As we wrap up the holiday season, like most leaders, I am debriefing what we did to engage families we see twice a year on a different level. The seeds have been planted, but as we enter the new year how do we get them to take root? How do we let these families know that there is a place for them all year long? In an effort to support my thoughts that we do indeed see an influx of families that are unchurched, not just visiting out of state away from their church home - I found this! Below is a clip from the site mentioned above:

More Stats: More Jesus

  • 79% of Americans think Christmas should be more about Jesus.
  • 63% think Christmas should include a visit to church. (Wishful thinking, since only 47% get there?)
  • “Younger Americans are least interested in church at Christmas time.” 38% of 18- to 24-year-olds say church is an essential part of Christmas, compared to 55% of 25- to 34-year-olds. Across the board, younger people are less enthralled with Christmas than older people. Of course by “younger people” we’re not talking about little kids enjoying the many bribes of Christmas.
  • While people do want religious Christmas songs in schools (86% agree), fewer buy the “War on Christmas”: Only 29% agree that saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” is offensive. 
  • Best way to get those 47% to church on Christmas? Personally invite your family (67%) or a friend or neighbor (63%).

As I sat and read over this material, I realize that we are (as a nation) still marketing and advertising like we are talking to the baby boomer generation. Boomers wanted to invest in something - however generation X and Y are longing to belong to something. Very different engagement points indeed! When you consider that gen X and Y are now showing up with their kids to church, maybe even once or twice a year, we need to be ready with an answer of how they fit in and be able to show them where they belong.  I always find this interesting with this generation, and can only assume that the desire for the church to be prepared for their arrival stems from the "instant information" culture they have always known. These are generations that have any and all information needed at their fingertips in an instant thanks to technology. 

A few ways we as the church can engage these guests came to mind as I continued to study family ministry trends, hopefully you find them useful as you look at all the visitor tags and connections that were made this Christmas season

1. Trend vs Tradition - there are few things that allow tradition to trump trend these days. I believe Christmas is one of them. There needs to be a sign that Christmas is still made of what you knew as a child, even if your church brings in a high demand talent, streamlines decor, and puts on the "wow" factor - make sure it's still about the birth of Jesus. Oddly enough, it is non-Christians who usually notice that the "baby Jesus" they came to see isn't present. The simple Christmas story is a familiar part of Christianity that they connect with.  And after the fact, a simple "thank you for joining us" in the form of a traditional postcard is usually welcome. It reminds them of what they came to and provides a personal touch, it also opens the door when you chase it with an email of what you have for them in the new year.

2. For the younger crowd, finding a way to let them know they can be part of something is key. I once  had a lady tell me that she doesn't attend church because "they don't need her". She stayed at home and watched it on TV. She eventually visited a church that had a clear message in their mission statement that they were all a family on mission together - to change the heart of their city for future generations. This was something she could get behind, and she has now been there 2 years. While Christmas is now over, hopefully you communicated that you do indeed need people and can follow up with them. 

3. As a leader, the first week into the new year is a crucial time. Families who showed up still have a fresh feeling of what they experienced at Christmas in their mind and this is the week to let them know that some of those elements stay all year. This should be a week of reminding people that the community they found during the holidays can be an all time part of their life, surprisingly some don't know that. 

This past Sunday I ran into a young couple that visited during Christmas. They have an 11 month old baby and a 2 year old. During our Christmas services they came and learned that the service was going to be a bit much for their littles and opted to take turns sitting in the lobby. Having sat with them for a few minutes, I offered to stay in the lobby with the kids while our feature talent was performing so they could both see it. Surprisingly they agreed and went inside! (I am the children's pastor, so it wasn't a super creepy move ha!) They came out and were like static electricity with their excitement and the fact that they got to share it with one another. By now I was in the floor with legos and crayons and the kids were great, I told them to go hear the message if they liked and I would text if needed. After the service, the kids were great and so were they. So why am I telling you this?

I knew they needed to belong, they felt at home there and just needed someone to guide them a little. Over the weekend after Christmas I let them know I would be in the building for weekend services and we would love to have the kids - Sunday morning at 9:45 they came walking down the hall with no kids! I excitedly shouted "You did it! You checked them in!....AND LEFT" (anyone in kids ministry understands the value of the "you left" part). Smiling from ear to ear they headed to church, and upon return said they met some friends in the sanctuary they knew. Had they not dropped the kids off, they would have never run into each other. 

I know the seeds are planted, and I know the Holy Spirit will work, but I am so excited that they took the steps to experience the community they were longing for. 

Its a great reminder that we have to be ready in so many ways to respond to the different generations and cultures that will be entering our doors as they seek a crumb of what they found to be nourishing at Christmas.  I pray we find ways to let them know that it's nourishing all year. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Quick Notes for Tim Elmore at D62015

8 Fundamentals we must teach so our kids will be valuable in our world

1. Relationship with Jesus

2. Problem solving skills
- leaders solve problems and serve people

3. Critical thinking / Worldview
- social media has damaged this

4. Emotional Intelligence (self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship management)
- now a greater measure of success than IQ

5. Values and Ethics
- pragmatism has trumped principle in the current generational studies

6. Resourcefulness and Resilience
- they need to know how to bounce back

7. Leadership Perspective

This is an EPIC generation

Experiential - everything offers an experience
Participatory - they have been participating in the outcomes of everything around them
 -students support, but they help create
Image Rich - pictures are the language of the 21st century not words.
Connected - socially and technologically

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Train up a Parent? (from the archives)

Family Ministry

According to Nielsen Media Research's latest report, the average American household watches 8 hours and 15 minutes of television in a 24-hour period. The average amount of time per individual (over the age of 2) is about 4 and a half hours. Something tells me this isn't the bonding type of T.V., if there is a bonding type. As a mom of two, ages 10 and 16 I fully understand that our children are having life piped into them by various objects. Even as I sit here, I am on my laptop, husband next to me is on his phone, 16 year old on his phone and the Olympic games are on T.V.. Our youngest however is outside playing with friends, kudos Jonah! The three of us are in the same space, but there is no togetherness happening. While this is not always the norm for our house, it is for many. 

Let's face it, we live in a world of constant interaction via technology. For companies needing to market a product, this is a beautiful thing, for parents wanting to mold their children into pillars of faith, not so much. I can actually get a faster response for dinner requests via text than asking around! And with an iPhone I can do it in one message, and yes I have! While being a tech savvy family is ok, it must require balance. Even in church we are broken up, kids are dropped off and parents worship elsewhere. I agree that age appropriate worship is essential, but we have got to teach our families to do it together as well. 

So why did I just take you on that side road? Well, families! This year we added Family Ministry to our church. After our senior pastor approved this addition to my current position, I sat down last November and made a list of things I desire and then asked God to fix my list as He always does. My vision or list was as follows:

1. Cost effective activities for families of all ages 
2.Training for parents - parenting classes
3. One getaway for families - a weekend of family tech free interaction 
4. To see parents and kids praying together and for one another
5. Hands on local mission projects for families to do together
6. Tools for families via our website

I kept this list on the corner of my desk for a while and prayed about it, and am happy to say there wasn't much change. Once we had the first gathering, it was like wildfire! Families are craving something different, and many have no idea where to begin. I started by putting dinner time devotions on our website that were a simple three to five minutes over the dinner table. Which of course causes them to eat together! Pray together! And interact! Score! 

I have come to the conclusion that family ministry is a must, not a program, not a curriculum, and not a token annual date. The current generation of up and coming parents have one of the largest percentages to have never been to church. They need answers, tools, direction, and the Biblical principals to do this. More importantly they are seeking all these things, and are willing to listen. 

So as you plan, plan for families. If you're having a church picnic, find an activity for parents to do with their children. Find ways to have parents and kids serve in ministry together, in the end you will really have trained up two generations at once. 


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Balancing Act

I recently read a devotional that had a great viewpoint on work life balance. Loving it, I promptly copied it down...
I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. 
Remember the parable about the bad servant who spent too many hours at the office and the good servant who had a flexible work-from-home telecommuting arrangement so he could spend more time with his kids? No? Jesus didn't tell any parables like that. You would think the Bible has a lot to say about work-life balance. But it's hard to find passages that speak directly to the issue. In fact, the Bible doesn't make a dichotomy between work and life because in the ancient world, work, life and family life were often integrated.
The problem with the work-life "balance" concept is the image of two competing forces: one always prevails over the other, except for those rare moments when "life" and "work" are in perfect tension. However, in Jesus’ own life, and throughout scripture, we don’t see “balance.” What we do see is rhythms of work, rest and celebration, all centered on loving God and others.
Today, many of us seek “work-life balance” because we yearn to find not just balance in our lives, but also health, wholeness and joy. Millions of us are working so much that our lives feel off kilter, our bodies tired, our spirits depleted, our souls drained, our relationships strained. Our challenge is not how to balance “work” and “life” so much as how to live a balanced, fruitful life that comprises healthy, blessed rhythms of work, rest and play.
(published by: The High Calling) 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Let's do lunch

I read a quote today, on Pinterest of course. That Pinterest, it's a wealth of deep thought, baking addictions, decor, and ministry ideas! ((end Pinterest rant))

As I sit here on my day off I read this quote, which isn't gospel or even fully true, yet got me thinking. 

"Jesus didn't run projects, create ministries, or put on events. He ate meals."

My initial reaction was a smile, an ode to our over complicated life and over programmed churches. I promptly tweeted it, like I do with quippy quotes I love. (yes, I know that's not really a word) But then I got to thinking.

Ministry was the life of Jesus and his followers. They sold all their possessions to follow Him, they were about sharing the gospel in every motion they made. I am sure there was never a harvest carnival, or a family Olympics, but does that mean they aren't necessary? 

While every family ministry person gasps at that last line, I assure you that wasn't what I got from this quote. However it got me thinking, have we programmed our families and churches to the point that we are effectively killing a community that an onlooking seeker would want to be part of? 

Yesterday was Sunday, and I saw several people headed to actively worship and serve in various corners of our church. I will often ask people how they are and today's common response, "busy". This experience followed by a week of work and school paired with sports and maybe a midweek Bible study or a small group. 

I just wonder what a person who is seeking, trying to find God, who is watching the motion of today's church sees. Is the question, "Is there room for me at that table?" or is it "Is there a table?" 

This week I will be more intentional about finding ways for those involved in our children's ministry to experience community. I love that Jesus took something we all have to do (eat) and used it to build into something we all desire to do (fellowship). 

May we Take His lead as we continue in life and ministry.