Jan 15, 2018

Why Ministry is 24/7/365

Recently, during my devotion time, I was reading Luke 2.
I read a verse I've read dozens of times before, but something stood out to me, that I hadn't noticed or thought about before.  It's in verse 8.

"And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks AT NIGHT."

Didn't these shepherds ever get a break?  Here they are on-the-job at night.  I can see them working during the daytime, feeding the sheep, taking the sheep to fresh water, guarding against any wolves or predators that might attack and tending to any wounds or injuries the sheep might have.  

But apparently, their work didn't fall into the perimeter of a set 9 to 5 time schedule.  Even at night, they had to be attentive to the needs of the sheep.  Ready to protect the sheep against predators that might quietly approach in the darkness.  Ready to help any sheep that might become sick in the middle of the night.  Ready to assist any mother sheep who might give birth in the wee hours of the morning.  

Apparently, it was a 24/7/365 task. 

If you are in ministry, does this sound familiar?

Does it seem the responsibility of shepherding is always on your shoulders?  Do you chuckle when someone asks "What do you do all week?  Don't you just work on Sundays?"  

Do you sometimes find yourself going to the hospital in the middle of the night to pray with a family in the emergency room?  Do you sometimes wake up in the morning with a heavy heart for a volunteer that is struggling?  Have you ever gotten a phone call during your vacation that immediately pulled your mind back into everything you have going on at church?  Have you ever had to cut a meal with your family short so you can help someone in need?  Have you ever dwelt all day on the ministry while pretending you were enjoying your day off?  

Seems like you have a lot in common with the shepherds of old.  The work of shepherding is always with you.  It's not something you can just cut off at 5 pm each day.  It's not something you can drop on Sunday afternoon and forget about until the next Sunday.  

I get it and understand.  You are a shepherd because God has called you to this role.  And He has placed a passion deep inside you to care for the sheep.  He has infused your DNA with compassion and empathy for the sheep.  You work your tail off to make sure predators never get near those in your care.  You are ready, 24/7/365 to help them grow, meet their needs and protect them. 

But in your heart of hearts, you are tired.  This 24/7/365 schedule is draining you.  You don't really enjoy your day off.  You spend it thinking about the sheep, answering emails about the sheep and answering phone calls about the sheep.  Even on vacation, your mind drifts back to the sheep and your spouse or friends have to pull you back.  

Being a shepherd is becoming a drudgery.  You even find bitterness creeping in because of the times the sheep have taken your time and attention away from your family.  You wonder what it would feel like to walk away from the sheep and let someone else watch them.  

You question if the sheep even care about what you do for them.  Even with all the time and attention you give them, they still bite at you, sometimes shun the food you provide them and even run away on occasion.  You ponder if being a shepherd is really worth it.  You sometimes find yourself wanting to hand in your shepherding tools and swap your shepherding schedule for something easier.

I've been there.  Felt that.  Wanted to do that.  

Have you?  If so, there's a passage that has helped me and I believe it will encourage you as well as you shepherd. 

Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God.  Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example.  And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive a crown of never-ending glory and honor.  1 Peter 5

Here are some important, helpful things we learn about shepherding in these verses...

You are a shepherd because of God's call on your life.  

"care for the flock that God has entrusted to you..."

When I get tired.  When I get discouraged.  When I feel like 24/7/365 is closing in on me,  I must go back to why I am doing the work of a shepherd.  It is because I was chosen, ordained and anointed for the job by God.

Stay focused on God's call on your life to shepherd.  It will carry you through the storms, trials, late nights, early mornings, tiring events, long weekends and sleepless nights.

We must shepherd in a way that helps us maintain a good attitude.  

"...watch over it willingly, not grudgingly..."

When I have no margin in my life as a shepherd, my attitude goes south.  When I run on empty as a shepherd, the work of shepherding becomes drudgery.  When I don't come apart, I begin to come apart as a shepherd.  When I get bit by a sheep, I lash back in anger.  When a sheep goes astray, I am too weary to go after them.  

My attitude about shepherding is in direct correlation to how I shepherd.  And how I shepherd is controlled by how much margin I build into my life, how I take care of myself physically and emotionally and how I prioritize my life.

We should be shepherding for the outcome rather than the income. 

"not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God..."

If you are in a paid ministry position, you're probably not in it for the income.  You could be making more money in the business world or another field.  

But you can fall into the trap of coveting the things you could have if you made more money.  Perhaps you have looked at the magnificent house of a church member and wished you had went a different route that paid more money.  Or you walked past an expensive car in the church parking lot and wondered if you could be driving it, if you weren't giving so much of your time and effort to shepherding.  Or when a volunteer tells you they are going on an exclusive vacation, you secretly wish you could afford to go there. 

Yes, we must provide for our families and have a livable wage.  But we must also remember that we didn't get into shepherding for the money.  We got into it to make a difference for eternity.  The income may not put you on a Forbes' list, but the outcome is priceless.
When I first shepherd myself well, I am then able to shepherd others well.

"...don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example..."

The most important person I shepherd is myself.  The hardest person I shepherd is the person I look at in the mirror.  When I shepherd myself well, it enables me to be a good shepherd for the sheep in my care.  

This means I have to find a way to often pull away during the 24/7/365 craziness and find rest.  This means I must guard my heart as a shepherd.  This means I must spend time with Jesus.  This means I must first shepherd my own family well.  This means I must give from the overflow of what God is pouring into my life.

I am not the Chief Shepherd. 

...and when the Chief Shepherd appears...

I am not the Chief Shepherd.  I simply work for Him.  This means I don't have to carry the weight of shepherding.  That's not my job.  When I realize this, I can enter the light burden and easy yoke of the Chief Shepherd.  

I can't change anyone's life, only the Chief Shepherd can do that.

I can't answer a volunteer's prayers, only the Chief Shepherd can do that. 
I must remember that I am responsible to people but not for people.  

As shepherds, we are to do our very best, while remembering that ultimately it's the Chief Shepherd who does the work through us.

We can't completely see it now, but one day we will know that it was worth it all.

"And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive a crown of never-ending glory and honor."

One day, I will be in the presence of the Chief Shepherd and the time I spent shepherding will be worth it all.  One day in heaven,  I'll get to see the full impact I made in the lives of the sheep God allowed me to shepherd and my heart will leap for joy.  

One day, I'll take the crown I receive and will cast it at Jesus' feet and thank Him for using my life for His glory.  The 24/7/365 will fade away into a wonderful, timeless eternity. 

So...if you're a little tired and weary of watching your "sheep by night," I pray you will be encouraged.  Thank you for your heart for the sheep God has entrusted you with.  May your shepherd's heart be refreshed and refilled today.

Shepherd on my friend! 

Jan 12, 2018

The Biggest Need of Every Children's Ministry

Ask any children's ministry in the country what their biggest need is and 9 times out of 10 you'll hear...


From smaller, rural churches to larger, urban churches, ministries never seem to have enough volunteers.

No matter how many volunteers you have, you're going to always need more.  Especially if you want to grow and reach more kids.  And it's also crucial if you want to effectively disciple kids, since discipleship happens through relationships.  Proper ratios are essential to kids being able to establish a relationship with a caring volunteer.

If volunteers is your ministry's biggest need, then it should be your biggest focus, right?  This means building your volunteer team week in and week out.  This means setting your volunteers up for success by giving them the training and tools they need.  This means caring for and shepherding your volunteers well.

This means the biggest priority on your calendar should be volunteers.  This means the biggest percentage of your time should be spent on volunteers.  Volunteers...
volunteers...volunteers is what it's about. 

Why is volunteers the biggest need for most ministries?  Because it's not easy.  Building a volunteer team is hard work.  It takes tenacity.  It takes consistency.  It takes being strategic.  But it can be done.

Over the years, I've learned how to build a volunteer team by first learning how to not build a volunteer team.  I've made about every mistake you can make in this.  But the good news is this.  Because of all the trial and error, I've been able to come up with a formula that really works.

In my most recent local church ministry, we were able to build our volunteer team from 300 to over 2,600 in 8 years by using this formula.

I'd like to share that formula with you and help you succeed in building your team.  That's why I wrote "The Formula for Building Great Volunteer Teams."

In this book, I share...
  • Enlist Your Team:  How to bring new volunteers on your team on a weekly basis.
  • Equip Your Team:  Create a solid process for on-boarding new volunteers and then continue equipping them with on-going training. 
  • Engage Your Team:  Building solid relationships with your volunteers so they stay long-term.
  • Endorse Your Team:  How to show your volunteers you value them by helping them discover and maximize the gifts and talents they have been given by God.
  • Encourage Your Team: How to show your volunteers you appreciate them and keep them motivated. 
  • Empower: How to invest in your volunteers and empower them to own the ministry as leaders.  
This book has helped ministries across the country build a strong volunteer team.  If you haven't gotten the opportunity to go through it yet, I want to encourage you to do so.

So, from today through Sunday, I'm going to discount the book from the normal price of $12 down to $10 and the ebook version from $7 to $5.  All you have to do is go to this link and enter the coupon code VOLUNTEERS for the discount. 

The best thing you can do for your children's ministry this year is build up your volunteer team.  When you do this, you'll see the ministry thrive at a whole new level.  Let's partner together to make it happen.

Jan 11, 2018

How to Bring the "Wow" Factor to Your Guest Services Ministry

What is the "wow factor" in guest services?  I believe it's when you go above and beyond to meet the needs of a family.  It especially becomes a wow factor when you do it in a creative, unexpected way.  

The wow factor must emanate from the desire to be the hands and feet of Jesus.  Just as Jesus went above and beyond to meet people's needs, so we are called to embody that same attitude today.

Yes, there are costs involved in the wow factor.  It involves attention, time and sometimes a financial investment. 

The normal factor is what people expect and yes, it must be done with excellence.  But it's the wow factor that really impacts people.  Here are some examples.

Normal factor - providing enough parking.
Wow factor - providing guest parking in a prime location.

Normal factor - having signage that shows guests where to go.
Wow factor - walking guests to their destination.

Normal factor - having a good check-in program for guests.
Wow factor - having a check-in area that is just for guests.

Normal factor - sending a follow-up email to guests.
Wow factor - sending a handwritten follow-up note to guests with a gift card to Starbucks.

Normal factor - giving kids who are first-time guests a piece of candy.
Wow factor - giving kids who are first-time guests a ministry t-shirt.

Normal factor - asking guests to fill out an information card.
Wow factor - inviting guests to a reception after the service with food and an opportunity to meet the staff and key volunteers.

Normal factor - finding the coat that a family left and calling to tell them it will be in lost and found.
Wow factor - finding the coat that a family left and delivering it to their house.

Normal factor - having greeters to open the doors for people on a rainy day.
Wow factor - meeting people at their cars on a rainy day and holding an umbrella over them as they walk to the doors.

Normal factor - seeing someone accidentally drop their coffee and sending someone to clean it up.
Wow factor - seeing someone accidentally drop their coffee and bringing them a new cup to drink while you clean up the mess.

Normal factor - greeters welcoming people and shaking their hands before the service starts.
Wow factor - greeters welcoming people before service and then holding the doors again as they leave and saying goodbye.

Normal factor - calling a locksmith for a single mom who is locked out of her car in your parking lot after church.
Wow factor - calling a locksmith for a single mom who is locked out of her car in your parking lot after church and paying for it.

The reason this type of customer service impacts people is because everyone tends to relate their experience at a church with how they were made to feel.  Normal customer service is expected, so it doesn't trigger an emotional memory.  

But when you deliver the wow factor, it sparks an emotional response that people won't forget.  People feel important, valued and cared for.  And this is what inspires them to return.  And...this is what causes them to tell their friends, family, neighbors and co-workers about the great experience they had.  It's the wow factor that turns people into fans of your ministry, which can lead to them becoming fully engaged in your ministry. 

Sometimes the wow factor can be planned and sometimes it can't.  You can plan providing prime parking for guests, but you can't plan someone spilling their coffee.  The important thing is to have a "watch for wow opportunities" mindset and be ready to respond.  It also means infusing your entire team with this attitude and then empowering them to act on it.

I remember helping a new family check in.  They had a son who was around 8-years-old.  As we were walking to the classroom, I was making small talk with them.  I asked the son what his favorite sport was.  He told me it was basketball.  After we dropped him off and got the parents to the auditorium, I had an "wow factor" idea.

I jumped in my car and drove to a nearby Target.  I bought a basketball.  After the service was over, I met the family as they were picking their son up.  I handed them a gift bag with the basketball in it and a handwritten thank you note.  The expression on their face was priceless.  The son was thrilled.  It's an experience they will never forget.

One thing I learned from this experience was that the "wow factor" usually comes from making the act of service or gift very personal.  The reason the basketball made such a big impact was because it was a gift based on what the son loved. 

I believe if we bring the wow factor to our guest service teams, we will see families' lives impacted and see much more fruit in our ministries. 

Your turn.  The floor is yours.  What are some things you do to bring the wow factor?  How can we increase the wow factor on our teams?  Share your insight in the comment section below.

Jan 10, 2018

Safety & Security Live Webinar Coming...3 Keys to Protecting Your Children's Ministry

Safety and security is one of the most important issues facing the church.

Attacks and abuse can strike at any time and place.

As Christian leaders, we are called to be "wise as serpents and harmless as doves."

Churches must be prepared to protect the kids and families in their care.  That's why we are hosting a live webinar about Safety and Security.  We can help your ministry have the knowledge and training you need to be prepared and stay safe.

You'll gain the keys you need to keep your ministry safe in these 3 sessions:

Key #1 - Why Safety & Security Must Be a Priority in Your Church
Keeping kids and families safe at your church starts with making it a priority.  I'll give you steps to elevate safety and security at your church.  You'll also be able to help your church understand why safety and security is not only vital to keeping people safe while they are in your care, but for reaching kids and families as well.

If you want to see your church grow, then parents must know that their children are safe in your care.  Learn how you can do this and as a result keep more guest families who visit.

Key #2 - Predator Proofing Your Ministry.
Angela Lawson will be leading this session.  She is a child safety expert and part of the KidCheck team.  KidCheck helps churches and other organizations keep children safe.  They provide check-in software and equipment.

We know the enemy will try to send predators into your ministry.  Angela will share the keys to keeping predators out of your ministry and keeping kids safe.

Key #3 - Safeguarding & Security Your Ministry. 
Tim Miller will be leading this session.  Tim is a former secret service agent who coordinated security for the president of the U.S.  He has also served as the senior dept. of homeland security rep to the FBI.  Tim is the founder of Lionheart Group, which provides security training for ministries.  He also leads the security at his home church, where over 26,000 people attend each weekend.

Tim will share how you can be prepared for terrorism, active shooters, crisis situations, dealing with unstable people, taking care of medical issues and other crucial issues.  He'll equip you to train your team.

The live webinar is happening on Wednesday, January 24th from 2 to 4 pm EST.  Dozens of church leaders from across the country are joining us and I'd like to personally invite you to be part of it as well.  In each session, we will also have live Q &A, so you can ask for personal input about safety in your ministry.

You can register today at this link.  Registration includes 2 ebooks - my book "The Formula for Building Great Volunteer Teams" ($7.00 value) and "Technology Spotlight."

Register today and join us for this event.  Let's partner together to keep kids and families safe and secure