Monday, August 24, 2009

Charleston, South Carolina

Recently, I got to spend an entire week with my daughter, K.S. and my sweet grandson, Pumpkin, in Florida. Included in that vacation, was a road trip to Charleston, South Carolina. Charleston is a beautiful city, steeped in history. Downtown Charleston is a step back in time....cobblestone streets, quaint shops, historic hotels. We had a wonderful time roaming the city on foot. One thing, however, was puzzling, and if I am going to be honest, somewhat annoying: we had difficulty finding shops that were actually open. Regardless of the time of day or the hours that were posted, it was not unusual to find the shop closed, either without explanation, or with a hand-written sign carelessly written on a post-it. There was one shop, however, that was refreshingly candid:

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Top 7 Reasons Volunteers Quit

I recently participated in a very good webinar via the Church Volunteer Central website. Church Volunteer Central is a wonderful resource for churches and worth every penny for the yearly membership.

Here's my summation of what I learned:

1. The position is not suited for the volunteer's gifting or passion.

This would be like buying shoes for the style, with no concern as to the fit or comfort. You won't wear them long.

I recently talked with a church member about volunteering in the children's ministry. With a big sigh, she told me in what capacity she was already serving. She said that she hated every minute of it and dreaded when her (once a month) turn would come up. Why? Because she does not feel equipped to do what she is doing. When asked why she did not, instead, volunteer in another area, she sighed again and said, "I'm just one of those people who sees a need and fills it."

It is just a matter of time before she will be completely burned out. Tragic.

Solution: Interview about passions and interests prior to serving, or a spiritual gifts assessment. There are so many ways to serve in a church, it is needless to stick people where they feel unprepared or ill equipped.

2. The volunteer has unclear expectations for the position.

I talked with another volunteer who thought he knew what he was signing up for, but had no access to a written ministry description with clear expectations for the volunteer position. So he felt trapped, with no way out.

Solution: Ministry Descriptions, which include: the title of the position, its purpose, who the volunteer will be responsible to, a description of the duties, time requirements, term of service, training and resources available, and qualifications, skills, and gifts needed.

3. The position no longer excites the volunteer's passion and does not provide growth opportunities.

Even as adults, we grow and change over time, often as we enter a new phase of our lives. What would it look like in a church if we were so connected among ministries, that if I saw that you were no longer interested or passionate about the area in which you were volunteering in my ministry, that I was able to help steer you toward another ministry that might be more suited to you?

Solution: Redirect volunteers to another ministry opportunity. Some churches use a Referral of Volunteer Prospect form which is passed from one ministry leader to another as appropriate. Once received, the ministry leader follows up with contact within two weeks to discuss with the prospective volunteer their interest in exploring a new ministry in which to serve.

4. Volunteer feels a lack of appreciation and recognition.

All too often, churches operate in "warm body mode." We make a general announcement about a need for teachers, which communicates that anyone will do. Then, when some sweet soul offers to help, we quickly stick her in the classroom and with a quick, over the shoulder, "Let me know if you need anything!" scurry away before she can change her mind.

Or, how about the teacher who signs up to teach for a quarter and is left there for years without a break? This demonstrates a huge lack of respect and appreciation.

Solution: Show thanks and appreciation. How often? You can't do this too much. It begins with the initial request. The plea for workers should communicate that what they do matters. It should be one-on-one whenever possible and personal. For example, "I have heard that you are a talented teacher. You are just the person I am looking for to teach 5th grade." It should continue throughout their term of service. It should include private words of appreciation and public recognition whenever possible and appropriate.

5. The volunteer lacks training to be successful in that position.

All too often, teachers are placed in the classroom and left to write their own curriculum, make their own handouts and attendance charts and find their own subs. There is no excuse for placing a volunteer in a position, then not providing the training, equipping, or support for the volunteer to be successful.

Solution: Providing a library of training resources, having in-house teacher trainers, providing on-line training, classes, or resources, providing lesson plans, books, articles, workshops, and conferences. This communicates that the church thinks their service is important. It prepares them to succeed in ministry, and builds their confidence. Trained, equipped, and supported volunteers are essential to an outstanding ministry.

6. The volunteer has over-extended his commitment and no longer has adequate time to do the job as he would like.
"I have so much on my plate the food is falling off!"

Solution: Encourage the volunteer to balance church and home. Provide resources; provide assistance or a replacement if needed. Change the size or the portion of the food on their plate so it fits better.

7. Lack of confidence in church leadership.

Solution: Church leaders need training, equipping, and support as well. They need resources, networking, and continuing education.

You cannot teach what you do not know
You cannot lead where you do not go

Friday, July 24, 2009

Outstanding Children's Ministry

How essential is an outstanding children's ministry to the life of a church and what constitutes an outstanding children's ministry?

When looking for a church home, what priority is placed on the children's ministry in that decision?

Is it more important than the overall climate of the church?

Is it more important than the worship experience?

Does it trump the warmth and hospitality of the members in general?

Is it more important than finding a church with awesome adult Bible classes?

These are just a few of the questions rolling around in my head. Any and all input would be welcome.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

His Will Be Done

Lord, I have a heavy burden of all I’ve seen and know.
It’s more than I can handle,
but Your word is burning like a fire shut up in my bones.
And I can’t let it go.
And when I’m weary and overwrought with so many battles left unfought,
I think of Paul and Silas in the prison yard.
I hear their song of freedom rising to the stars.
And when the saints go marching in, I want to be one of them.
Lord, it’s all that I can’t carry and cannot leave behind.
It all can overwhelm me,
but when I think of all who’ve gone before and lived a faithful life,
their courage compels me.
And when I’m weary and overwrought with so many battles left unfought,
I think of Paul and Silas in the prison yard.
I hear their song of freedom rising to the stars.
I see the shepherd Moses in the pharaoh’s court,
I hear his call for freedom for the people of the Lord.
And when the saints go marching in, I want to be one of them.
And when the saints go marching in, I want to be one of them.
I see the long quiet walk along the underground railroad;
I see the slave awakening to the value of her soul.
I see the young missionary and the angry spear;
I see his family returning with no trace of fear.
I see the long, hard shadows of Calcutta’s nights;
I see the sister standing by the dying man’s side.
I see the young girl huddled on the brothel floor;
I see the man with a passion come kicking down the door.
I see the Man of Sorrow and His long troubled road;
I see the world on His shoulders and my easy load.

And when the saints go marching in, I want to be one of them.
And when the saints go marching in, I want to be one of them.
I want to be one of them.
I want to be one of them.

This is my favorite song by Sara Groves. It is loaded on my ipod, and there are days when I play it over and over. It speaks to me, for we are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus, yet Jesus promises to carry the load and will not give us more than we can handle. Our God is an awesome God who calls us to partner with Him in carrying out His will on earth as it is in heaven!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Temptation to be Powerful (Reflections on Christian Leadership - Part 4)

The third temptation of Jesus was the temptation of power. "I will give you all the kingdoms of this world in their splendor," the evil one said to Jesus (Matthew 4:9).

Our savior wisely resisted.

Henri J.M. Nouwen, in his excellent book, In the Name of Jesus, Reflections on Christian Leadership writes:
"What makes the temptation of power so seemingly irresistible? Maybe it is that power offers an easy substitute for the hard task of love. It seems easier to be God than to love God, easier to control people than to love people, easier to own life than to love life. Jesus asks, "Do you love me?" We ask, "Can we sit at your right hand and your left hand in your Kingdom?" (Matthew 20:21). Ever since the snake said, "The day you eat of this tree your eyes will be open and you will be like gods, knowing good from evil" (Genesis 3:5), we have been tempted to replace love with power."

Nouwen has an interesting theory about the lure of power:
"One thing is clear to me: The temptation of power is greatest when intimacy is a threat. Much Christian leadership is exercised by people who do not know how to develop healthy, intimate relationships and have opted for power and control instead. Many Christian empire-builders have been people unable to give and receive love."

Nouwen goes on to claim that the most important quality of Christian leadership in the future is not a leadership of power and control, but a leadership of powerlessness and humility in which Jesus Christ is made manifest. This requires the leader to be so deeply in love with Jesus that he is ready to follow him wherever he guides him, always trusting the abundant life that Jesus promises.

To resist the urge for power, Nouwen suggests the discipline of theological reflection, thinking with the mind of Christ.
He explains:
"Theological reflection is reflecting on the painful and joyful realities of every day with the mind of Jesus and thereby raising human consciousness to the knowledge of God's gentle guidance. This is a hard discipline, since God's presence is often a hidden presence, a presence that needs to be discovered. The loud, boisterous noises of the world make us deaf to the gentle, loving voice of God. A Christian leader is called to help people hear that voice and so be comforted and consoled."

Be still and know that I am God......

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Temptation to be Spectacular (Reflections on Christian Leadership - Part 3)

The second temptation of Jesus was to do something spectacular: "Throw yourself from the parapet of the temple and let the angels catch you and carry you in their arms" (Matthew 4:6). His wise response, "Don't put the Lord your God to the test."

I've noticed, since working in ministry, that much time is spent discussing what we can do that is, in essence, spectacular: an especially meaningful worship experience, an awesome VBS, an outstanding women's retreat, etc. Likewise, individual church leaders strive diligently for excellence in their areas of service. However, we spend significantly less time spent sharing the pain, struggles, and mistakes made in our journeys.

This requires trust.

Those who live in glass houses, subject to scrutiny in every aspect of their personal, professional, and spiritual lives, tend to be highly selective in choosing whom they will trust. The tendency is to lean on a close friend, a peer from another church, or chosen accountability partner.

Henri J.M. Nouwen, in his excellent book, In the Name of Jesus, Reflections on Christian Leadership:

"I have found over and over again how hard it is to be truly faithful to Jesus when I am alone. I need my brothers or sisters to pray with me, to speak with me about the spiritual tasks at hand, and to challenge me to stay pure in mind, heart, and body. But far more importantly, it is Jesus who heals, not I; Jesus who speaks words of truth, not I; Jesus who is Lord, not I....Ministry is not only a communal experience, it is also a mutual experience....The leadership about which Jesus speaks is of a radically different kind from the leadership offered by the world. It is a servant leadership, in which the leader is a vulnerable servant who needs the people as much as they need their leader."

Nouwen poses the question: "What discipline is required for the future leader to overcome the temptation of individual heroism?" He suggests that the answer lies in the discipline of confession and forgiveness. "Leaders must be persons always willing to confess their own brokenness and ask for forgiveness from those to whom they minister."

He goes on to say that in actuality church leaders are the least confessing people in the church community. There is so much fear, so much professional distance, and so little genuine listening and speaking to each other that it becomes impossible for leaders to feel really cared for and loved. He is not suggesting that church leaders must regularly bring their own sins to the podium, as this not be a healthy expression of servant leadership, but, rather, that church leaders are called to be full members of their communities, and, as such, are accountable to the community and need their affection and support. We are called to lead with our whole being, including our wounded selves.

Nouwen asks:
"How can church leaders feel loved and cared for when they have to hide their own sins and failings from the people to whom they minister?"

"How can people truly care for their leaders and keep them faithful to the task when they do not know them and so cannot deeply love them?"

Your thoughts?