Archive for May, 2008

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The Importance of a Personal Support Team

May 29, 2008

(photo by Clearly Ambiguous)

I ran across a post on Scot McKnight‘s blog Jesus Creed by Father Rob Merola, an episcopal priest in Virginia. He shared his insights into being able to thrive as a pastor. He suggests that it is important for pastors to have a personal support team. For him, that is:

  • spiritual director to help spritual growth
  • mentor or coach to help vocational growth
  • counselor or therapist to stay mentally healthy
  • trusted friend to be completely honest with

He doesn’t give this list as prescriptive. He simply states that it is important not to do ministry alone and that it is not selfish to have this kind of team. On Father Rob’s blog, he does talk about how he found a coach without having to fork out major amounts of cash for one.

One of my favourite things that he says in his post is:

If you try and do it on your own, no matter how bright or clever or talented you may be, you’ll wear yourself out. You’ll be resentful of those who aren’t helping.

How many times have I been resentful of people not helping? Wow! This made me think that maybe it’s more my fault and not the people who aren’t involved.

I’ve heard a lot of talk about empowering people to do the work of ministry and the importance of not “doing it all.” There wasn’t much in the way of how to do that. I’m encouraged at seeing more of the how to empower people to do ministry, especially volunteers. But add to that building a personal support team… wow, I can only imagine what that would do for my growth and Kingdom impact. I’ve heard Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, talk about having a personal board of directors and thought it was a great idea but didn’t really know how it translated into my context of being in vocational ministry… this idea of a personal support team gives me better context.

As I look at the people around me, I do have a personal support team. I have a couple of friends I am honest with. I have some peers in ministry that keep me sharp and growing. I have those who I consider mentors that I look to for growth. I think it’s the only way I’ve been able to stay sane. I am challenged, though, to see what might be missing in my support team. Where are some places that I haven’t thought about that need support?

How do you keep from “going it alone”?

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Barenaked Ladies now has a Kids’ Album “Snacktime”

May 28, 2008

The other day I was listening to a CBC radio program called Q. The host was interviewing the Barnaked Ladies about their new kids’ album. I was excited because I like the fun and whimsical style of Barenaked Ladies. On my trip south of the border (that’s to the United States for those of us who live in Canada), I picked up the CD at Best Buy. My friend and I listened to it on the way home and loved it.

It is full of fun tunes and lyrics that kid and adults can enjoy.

Here are some of my favourites and why:

  • 789 – It’s a song about that fun joke “Why is 6 afraid of 7? Because 789!” Oh, so much fun!
  • The Ninjas – It’s about ninjas who speak Japanese and are “unspeakably violent.” What else is there to say?
  • Eraser – Gotta love a song about the great uses of an eraser!
  • Food Party – I never knew foods had personalities.
  • Snacktime – My favourite part of this song is they had some celebreties from Canada call in to share their favourite snacks like Weird Al Yankovic, Jeanine Garofalo, Geddy Lee…
  • Allergies – an ode to the paranoia around allergies
  • Bad Day – I was having a bad morning today, played this song, and I felt better 🙂
  • Things – a touching song for dads… “There are things that make me dad… You seem to be all of them.”
  • Crazy ABCs – one of the funniest and most creative ABC songs I’ve heard in a while (other than They Might Be Giants version called Alphabet of Nations)

This is an album well worth checking out and purchasing!

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Top Toy Trends according to Toys R Us

May 27, 2008

Kidscreen has an article on the top four toy trends that Toys R Us thinks will dominate this summer.

  • Backyard Bands: merchandise relating to the Naked Brothers Band and Jonas Brothers as well as games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band
  • Nature First: environmentally themed toys/products
  • Get Your Move On: products that promote physical fitness, namely the Wii Fit (I got one and it is cool!)
  • Techno-cation: electronic educational toys like the Leap Frog toys

So, it looks like the theme for the summer is interactivity and the environment. It just goes to show that kids are wanting to be more involved in what they do rather than just watching. I plan on taking advantage of some of these trends like making sure I watch Camp Rock starring the Jonas Brothers as well as making sure that we are giving kids opportunities to move around and play quite a bit while learning. Day Camps, VBS and summer camps can really benefit from these toy trends.

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Jon and Kate Plus 8 Go To Church

May 27, 2008

Erin and I have started watching a TLC show called Jon & Kate Plus 8. If you’re not familiar with the program, it follows the Gosselin family of ten: 2 parents, a set of twins and a set of sextuplets!

We’ve been having fun watching them lately because we have realized that they are just a normal family… except with 8 kids! Last night we watched an episode where they went to church and then on a picnic. As I watched them drop the kids off in the nursery, I was thinking to myself… “What would I do if a family with sextuplets arrived at my church? God bless those volunteers!!” Six kids all crying to not leave mom and dad only to have fun as soon as mom and dad left… sound familiar? (That is, except for the six kids…)

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Family Friendly vs. Family-Centric

May 26, 2008

It’s funny how being on a trip with a friend gets you to ponder things you normally don’t ponder…

On my trip to see RUSH, my friend and I were told by our wives to stop at IKEA since there isn’t one anywhere near Thunder Bay. I had to pick up some boxes for shelves that we have.

My wife and I have always been impressed by how IKEA is aware of families in their decorations and the little things they have so that kids don’t get bored in their MASSIVE stores. They’ve got play stations throughout the store. They even have a kids’ eating area in their restaurant.

This time around, I realized that there is a big difference between family-friendly and family-centric. IKEA is family-friendly. They are aware that families come to their stores, and they want those families to enjoy their time so they continue to shop and want to come back. They also have many customers that aren’t “families.” They have customers that are singles. They have customers who have no children. They have customers whose children have grown and leave home. These customers don’t in any way feel left out or alienated or ignored by IKEA’s family-friendliness. In fact, their family-friendliness is just there. It’s not “in-your-face.” If you have kids, you notice it. If you don’t, then you probably don’t.

When it comes to family ministry, I think IKEA has got something. When it comes to doing church, we need to be family friendly. We need to do ministry with the thought of how we can equip parents and engage kids and keep families coming back and growing without excluding everyone else.

What I am seeing in current family ministry trends is a push to make church family centric. Families, namely families with young children, are the ones that church is encouraged to program for leaving out everyone else. OK, I may sound extreme, but that is what it looks and sounds like. I am all for encouraging, empowering and equipping parents to be faith models for their children. My fear is, though, that we program so much on the side of “family ministry” that we make everyone else cater to that.

Our efforts need to go towards creating whole adults who realize that they are to be transformed beings created in the image of God. We need to help adults come to a point where they no longer compartmentalize their “spiritual life.” We need to do that in a family friendly way: encouraging people to live out their lives so that children catch what is being modeled, having programming and environments that engage children so that parents can be discipled as well as their children.

Children’s ministry is, and will always be, important. Hey, I’m a children’s pastor and like having a job 🙂 But we can’t make church family-centric and have it revolve around what we are doing in children’s and student ministries. What we do need to do is restructure what we do so that what we do is family friendly: is valuable and helpful to families while not excluding everyone else. I’m concerned that current conversations surrounding family ministry are too weighed towards the church becoming family centric rather than family friendly.

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Leadership Lesson from Target

May 26, 2008

Last week, I was on a trip with a friend to see RUSH. I had not really known music from RUSH, but my friend was a big fan and had requested this concert from his wife as his birthday present. Since his wife doesn’t like RUSH and I am up to adventures, I got to go. It was a lot of fun.

On the way home, we did some shopping. Yes, I know… men and shopping? Anyway, we stopped at Target. I wanted a Senseo machine (best cup of coffee ever!) and my friend needed a toaster. While were were looking for stuff, we needed an associate to help us with something. We used one of those service stations where you pick up the phone and someone gets paged to help you. I like Target’s automated system. It pages everyone with a walkie talkie to come to wherever you paged them from.

Within 20 seconds, there was someone to help us. She was having trouble canceling the page, so there was a second page over the walkie talkies. Withing 10 seconds four more associates showed up! Wow!

Now, I know this might not be true of all Target stores, but for this Target, I know that it is the norm. My wife and I had just been at this same Target days previous and had a similar experience.

The cool thing at this Target is that not only does someone come to help you, but that person is empowered to answer your question and help you in any way they can. I couldn’t help but wonder at the culture that this Target had created. When a page is sent out, people don’t just assume that someone else will get it. If they are near the area, they go. Then with the second page, it seems as if all “senior” associates drop what they are doing and rush to the area that they are paged to. I felt important.

Now, I know that these people are paid to do what they do, but someone had to create that culture of service and taking responsibility for the entire store and not just their little task. It made me think about what I am doing to try and create a culture of volunteers who care about the entire church and not just their class or task that is assigned to them. Not only care but are empowered to do something. I was reminded that I need to keep communicating with my volunteer team. I need to tell them stories of what is happening all over the church. I need to keep the vision of the church before them as much as possible. I need volunteers to hear my heart consistently.

What are you doing to empower your volunteers? How are you creating a culture that cares about the big picture? Creating culture takes time… years of time. Keep at it. It’s worth it.

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My Take on Family Ministry

May 15, 2008

(photo by Patrick Q)
Family Ministry is a buzzword in children’s ministry. I hear people talk about the problem of family ministry. We talk about how we need to partner more with parents. We talk about it as if this is a new and revolutionary idea that we need to find new and revolutionary solutions to. We talk about how things used to be done reminiscent of “the good old days” way of talking.

I do think that it is good that churches are trying to be more intentional in how faith is integrated into family life. My concern, though is that most solutions are still based on an institutional and compartmentalized view of spirituality. We are looking for family programs, partnership initiatives, and shared “worship” experiences to deal with the questions of helping parents share faith with their children.

My concern is that these “solutions” do not help families live out their faith in authentic ways as they live out life. Families are inadvertently told that “THE WAY” to pass on faith to their children is by going to a church service together or by having family devotions that include some sort of learning activity or by following a curriculum they take home to use in the car and at the dinner table.

While these things are not bad, I don’t think we need to focus more on helping families realize that faith is lived out in the day-to-day things they do. Parents need to be encouraged to live out their faith from day-to-day and model what it means to live a transformed and authentic life with all its ups and downs. Parents need to be equipped to use everyday moments – teachable moments – to model faith for their children. Parents need to be empowered to be a faith model for their children.

While family ministry programs and systems and initiatives and whatever else you might want to add are good, I don’t believe they are the answer. We, as ministry leaders, need to model for our community that church is more than just a building… that worship is more than just a church service… that everyone in God’s family is a minister and needs to be doing ministry in the greater community together as families… that all parts of our lives need to be lived out as worship… that wherever we are, we carry the image of God as lives transformed by the Holy Spirit…

What does that look like? I’m not sure. But I’m not convinced that all these programs and solutions that are being talked about are the answer. I think the answer is much more simple and organic.