Are You A “Self-Aware” Leader?

“What you can’t see, you won’t change!  What you won’t change will become a habit!  Your habits will become a lifestyle!”

Ever seen a situation like this:  A Children’s Ministry Leader is convinced they have it going on and that their entire team respects them.  However, when you listen to their team and watch how they interact with them, it is obvious that their team has no respect for them.  The Children’s Ministry Leader is convinced things couldn’t be better.  The team is convinced things couldn’t be worse.

Leadership is hard.  If it were easy, everyone would be a stunning leader.  If God has called you to lead others, there is one thing you must be aware of…YOU!  This is called being “self-aware.”

Self-awareness (noun) – conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives, and desires.

As a leader, if you are not aware of what you are doing and how others are receiving it, you can’t learn self-awareness.  Try asking yourself a few key questions:

1.  What habits or tendencies do I fight consistently?
2.  How do people perceive me?
3.  Am I currently growing?
4.  When I make a mistake, what most often causes it?  (you might make different
mistakes, but they might be caused by the same stimulus)
5.  What kind of people/personalities do I most often struggle with?

There is no greater sabotage that a leader can cause for herself than being simply “unaware” of weaknesses and flaws.  That doesn’t mean that to be a great leader you must be without flaws and weaknesses.  It simply means you MUST be aware of them and have a plan for tackling them.

My pastor taught me this:

“What you can’t see, you won’t change!  What you won’t change will become a habit!  Your habits will become a lifestyle!”

Every leader must be self-aware!  Are you?

Is Your Pastor A Private Detective?

Accountability is something we often want from others, but we rarely want to give to others.

On a ministry team, accountability is crucial for things to run smoothly.

We understand this when it comes to those who are under us in the organization, but we don’t always treat it with the same respect when it comes to our OWN accountability.

I made a decision long ago to have a habit of offering accountability instead of forcing my pastor to require it. I don’t know of any senior pastor who enjoys going into private detective mode and tracking down any member of his staff to check on him or confront him when there’s a problem. In my relationship with my pastor, I have determined to offer accountability instead of forcing him to demand it from me.

When I came to my church, my pastor asked me to email him any time I had a problem of any kind that needed his attention.  In my pride and self-protection, I didn’t want to admit that I had any problems (at all), so I didn’t send him any emails about needs or difficulties. One day, he found out about an incident in the Kids Ministry.  He was perplexed to hear about it from someone besides me.  When he called me into his office, he had to be an investigator trying to find out what happened instead of a partner helping to resolve it.  My silence had forced him into this role.

Don’t make your pastor go into “private investigator” mode and have to poke and prod you for answers.  Take the initiative to tell him anytime there’s a problem he needs to know about.  When you’re going to be late, call.  When something goes wrong, tell him.  When there’s a problem that’s going to affect other ministries, give him a heads up.

What are some practical ways you can OFFER accountability to your lead pastor?

Raising The Bar: Expecting MORE From Your Team

“I can’t get my team to come to meetings, so I just don’t schedule them.”   ”I wish my team were more committed.”  ”I want to raise the level of my team, but I am afraid of losing good people.”

I hear statements like these from Kidmin Leaders all the time.  They want to take their team to the next level of commitment so they can accomplish more for the Kingdom, but they are afraid that if they expect more, they will lose people off of their team.  And, they are probably right.

Anytime we raise the standard and expect more of those serving in ministry, there are those who decide they just can’t make the commitment.  They may quit.  Although that is hard to deal with and NEVER something you want to see, I have always observed that it ends up being a healthy thing for the rest of team.

Keep in mind that your team wants to succeed as individuals as well as collectively.  A weak link will demoralize the collective culture and allow for rapid deterioration within the spirit of the team.  That is not good for the team or the ministry.

People want to be a part of something BIG, something exciting, something that is making a difference.  Challenge your team to be committed to growth and excellence.  Some will self-eject, but those who stay and answer the call will be more committed, more empowered, and more effective.

Still skeptical?  Jesus was the Master at raising the bar.  He was constantly calling His followers to a higher level of commitment.  He went from “Follow me” to “You have heard it said…well I say…” all the way to “Deny yourself and take up your cross…”  He NEVER let His followers off easy.  Not because he wanted to make it difficult for them, but because He knew what was at stake – souls in Eternity.  He knew that half-hearted commitments would never get the job done.

“The Status Quo never inspired ANYONE!”

The Status Quo never inspired anyone!  Resist the desire to “make it easy” on your team.  Expect the best from them, and then watch them deliver!  You’ll be glad you did!

Recommended Resource: “Leading A Special Needs Ministry” by Amy Fenton Lee

According to a 2013 report released by the CDC, an estimated 1 in 50 children receive a diagnosis on the autism spectrum. Churches are finding themselves in a place where the need is great, but the answers and resources are few.  Kids Ministry Leaders are encountering an ever-increasing pressure to help parents navigate through these tough waters, but establishing an effective ministry to children with special needs can be a daunting task.

Amy Fenton Lee’s new book serves as a practical “how-to” handbook for the Kidmin Leader who desires to create an atmosphere of inclusion for children with special needs. This incredible book provides guidance for talking to parents who are learning their child has a diagnosis.  It also gives all the tools you will need to develop programs, write policies and educate volunteers working with children with disabilities.  Sample ministry documents are provided throughout this resource guide as well.

Includes:
*  Loving The Family Through the Diagnosis
*  Special Needs Statistics
*  Terms, Laws and Trends
*  Establishing a Mission for the Special Needs Ministry
*  Developing an Accommodation Plan for the Child with Special Needs
*  The Special Needs Ministry Leader
*  Volunteers: Leading, Recruiting, Training and Creating Community
*  Behavior and Participant Safety; and FAQs

I have personally known Amy for a while now.  I have been honored to speak at several events with her.  She is a powerhouse!  What will impress you more than her vast range of knowledge is her deep heart for families of children with special needs.  She blogs at www.TheInclusiveChurch.com – I highly recommend you becoming a regular reader!

Amy and the great folks at Orange are offering my readers a SPECIAL DEAL on this amazing resource.  You can get $2 off the purchase of one (1) copy of of the book “Leading a Special Needs Ministry”  (brings price down to $16.99)

Just use this Coupon Code at checkout (case sensitive):  LSNM2
Coupon good through: 12/31/13
Coupon only good for purchases through the Orange Store.
Make sure you are logged into your Orange Store account for coupon code to work.  (Anyone can create an account.)

WANT TO WIN A FREE COPY OF THE BOOK?
Amy has offered to give away a free copy of the book to one of my readers!  All you have to do is leave a comment in the comments section of this post if you want to win!  We will pick a winner and send you a copy of the book!

More about Amy Fenton Lee:

Amy is the special needs consultant to The reThink Group, Inc.  Amy has written extensively on the subject of special needs inclusion in children’s ministry environments and has been published in dozens of in-print publications, journals, and on the web, including her own blog, www.TheInclusiveChurch.com.

Do People Trust You?

Trust is critical and is the foundation of any relationship.  Whether that be in your family, ministry, church, or work – trust is what makes every relationship work.  Often, we assume that others should just NATURALLY trust us, but it rarely works that way.  You have to do your part to build trust.

If you want to build a strong level of trust with your team and others, here are several practices you should put in place:

*  Keep your promises – do what you say you will do.

*  Tell the truth – the whole truth, all the time, even when it is painful.

*  Admit your mistakes – when you blow it, admit it.

*  Give away credit – don’t sing your own praises, sing the praises of others.

*  Willingly offer help – when you see a need, offer your assistance.

*  Listen – as James 1:19 puts it, “Be quick to listen, slow to speak…”  People trust those who have their best interest at heart.  Nothing demonstrates that better than sincerely listening to others.

*  Value others – demonstrate that value by showing appreciation to them both publicly and privately

*  Tell the WHY as well as the WHAT – when people understand WHY you are taking a certain action, they begin to see your heart and values.  This helps them to trust who you are.

Trust is so important.  Many take it for granted and assume it will just happen.  Every action, every word, every reaction is either building or eroding trust.  Let’s work hard to exhibit these traits this week.

What have I missed?  Do you have other practices that build trust?  Leave a comment and share it with our community!

Ten Effective Ways To Show Appreciation To Your Volunteers


Leading a volunteer ministry can be difficult.  Volunteers sacrifice their time away from their families, their jobs, and their other responsibilities and interests.  They are not required to stick with you or your kids ministry, so you want to make sure that you are proactive in showing them your appreciation.

Here are ten effective ways you can show appreciation to your volunteers:

1.  Say it publicly
Every opportunity you have: in a meeting, in front of the kids, in front of the church, in whatever public setting you are in – brag on your team.  Thank them for their tireless efforts in reaching kids for the Kingdom.

2.  Say it privately
Take your volunteers to lunch periodically (keep a list and work down the list in a strategic way).  Tell them honestly and clearly what they mean to you and the kids ministry.  Be specific.

3.  Say it creatively
Leave them a short note on the counter in their classroom or area of ministry with a creative twist.  Example:  a $5 Starbucks gift card with a note that says “Thanks A Latte!”  (For lots of creative ideas like this, check out this post)

4.  Say it sincerely
Sit down and write them a card that details the reasons why they, individually, are invaluable to the team.  Cite a specific instance you have witnessed recently of how they have made an impact in the life of a kid.

5.  Say it digitally
Send them an unexpected text, email, or Facebook message that says, “Just wanted you to know I am thankful to have you on our Kids Ministry team!”

6.  Celebrate their birthday
Send them a card, show up at their door with a “Happy Birthday” singing flash mob, whatever!  People love to be honored on their special day!

7.  Equip them
Buy them a book or resource that you know will make them better at their ministry position.  Write a note in the front cover to let them know you appreciate their commitment to growth.

8.  Feed them
Invite the team over to your house for a BBQ.  Make it a fun game night.  Don’t have a “meeting” or have an “agenda.”  Make your agenda celebrating the team and showing your love and appreciation.

9.  Photograph them
Take a picture of them serving in their area of ministry.  Print it and write a note on the back.  You could even have some of the kids in their class/ministry sign the back.

10.  Pray for them
Spend time praying for them.  Find out their spiritual needs and bring those before the Father.  Then, send a quick text or a note that says, “Just wanted you to know that I prayed for you today.  Thanking our Heavenly Father for sending you to our Kids Ministry Team.”

What about you?  What are some effective ways you have used to show appreciation for your volunteers?  Share some of your ideas in the comments section.  You will help a lot of folks in the Kidmin Community.

Becoming A “SLAM Grandparent”

Kennedy
Anthony Kennedy (far right), his three boys, and me

Yesterday was a very cool day for my wife, Cherith, and I. It was the day we discovered we are now “SLAM Grandparents” at First NLR. We became the Kids Pastors here in 1999 – nearly 14 years ago. “SLAM” is the name of the Elementary Kids Church service we began when we got here. Yesterday, it was an honor to welcome several children into “SLAM” who belong to Anthony Kennedy, one of the kids that were in that original group.

I am about to celebrate my 14th year as Kids Pastor at First NLR. I have been blessed to minister to thousands of kids during this time. It is such a privilege to watch them grow, both physically and spiritually, and ultimately pass on that spiritual heritage to their own children.

In the time I have been at First NLR, I have friends and acquaintances that have been in three and four churches. I am thankful for a church with strong pastoral leadership, a clear vision, and dynamic spiritual health. These are the things that allow me to stay here at First NLR and receive the benefits of longevity in ministry.

In the coming months, I will be performing the wedding for one of the girls who grew up in our kids’ ministry here at First NLR. What a blessing to be able to be a part of the different seasons of life for the same children and families. While we continue to grow as God allows us to reach more and more families, I pray that Cherith and I will see the day when we become “SLAM Great-Grandparents.” (somebody please pass me my walking cane and Depends)