Trying to upgrade (… I hate technology)

18 Feb

Working on a new site…  Is in progress, so thanks for being patient. 🙂

When Church People Attack

16 Feb

A few weeks ago we had an incident where a volunteer expressed great frustration in an intense and disproportionate way to my awesome, sent-from-heaven interim preschool coordinator.  I hated that she had to see this side of ministry so fresh on the job, but she handled it absolutely like a pro.  It did get me thinking about how we handle conflict situations like this, whether it is the angry parent, the frustrated volunteer, the random church member, or whoever decides to fly off the handle at any given time.

Here are the things my friend did that were top-notch:

1.  She didn’t react back.  She remained polite, calm, and collected, even though she very upset by the way she was approached.

2.  She refused to engage the person in the environment where they were surrounded by kids and other volunteers.  Her number one concern was this situation not upset the children.  She calmly replied that she would be glad to discuss the situation, but not in front of others, especially the children.

3.  She came to me, her supervisor, immediately. I  don’t like surprises and I am glad she found me before the other volunteer did.  I was able to handle it from there.

The situation also reminded me of a few other things about church people conflict:

James 1:19, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”  Enough said.

–  When people are disproportionately upset, generally there are deeper things going on in their worlds. Because of this, it is wise to not respond immediately.

–  When given time, even a few minutes, to cool off people can usually discuss a situation with a more level head. They might even eventually apologize.

–  It is important to address the issue at hand, but our job as ministers requires us to care for the person enough to try to find out what really has them upset.

–  Evaluate what truth you can glean from the situation.  There may be something you do need to fix or make better.  Don’t entirely disregard that because of the person’s approach.

–  Conflict has to be addressed.  Just pretending nothing is wrong or hoping it all goes way is unhealthy.

–  Always keep your supervisor aware of attacking volunteers. If your answers don’t satisfy them, they will go up!

Do you have a good “when church people attack” story?  What tips do you have for handling situations like this?

Our New Baby Dedication Celebration

13 Feb

We have traditionally incorporated baby dedication in our Sunday morning services, which basically resulted in a baby parade and a quick repeating of promises of dedication.  It was ok, but it wasn’t the best for our parents.  In fact, when we were rushing to get to our second daughter’s dedication, we were in such a hurry that we almost left her in her carrier in the kitchen.

We wanted to be more intentional about beginning this partnership with families and providing a quality event for this first milestone in the baby’s life.

So, we stole lots of ideas from Kenny Conley and Kendra Flemming, two of my favorite peeps to steal ideas from.  We also used a lot of the materials provided in ReThink’s Baby Dedication material.

Here’s what we did:

–  Parents chose between one of two dedication orientations to attend.  I love this because I got to really connect with families, most of whom I had never met before. We cast the vision for our family ministry and gave instructions for the dedication.

–  We set the event for 4:00 on Sunday afternoon.  We actually had it at our student building so that we didn’t have to transition the worship center and so that we could have a smaller environment.

–  We did a little worship, our pastor gave a message of encouragement, families shared with each other what they dreamed for this child, and prayer partners from our ministry led each family in prayer.  Then our pastor came back to lead in dedication vows.

–  We had very yummy cake and snacks.  We also had a photographer who took family pictures.

Here’s what I loved:

–  Loved connecting with the families.  We are also big on helping people take “next steps”.   Through the orientations I identified 8 families who were not connected anywhere else.  I’m now going to stalk them for a parenting class I will do with the intent of connecting them.

–  Loved seeing families praying together for these little ones.  Grandpas were crying.  Good stuff.

–  Loved taking time to worship the God who gave us these babies.

–  Loved seeing our preschool leadership team, baby class small group leaders, and staff partner with parents to pray for them.  I had a baby teacher who was “honored” that he was invited.  I was honored he would come!!!

Things to fix:

–  Who would have thought that there are no changing tables in the student ministry building? 🙂

–  We needed kleenex.  I underestimated the emotions of the moment.

–  Because of space, we might need to reconsider our venue.

I’m sure there were more, but overall I am so extremely proud of our preschool team for pulling this off.  They did an absolutely incredible job!!!

How to Make a Preschool Mama Crazy

12 Feb

We have some of the very best preschool volunteers in the world.  We really do.  My girls have grown up at our church and God has blessed us with the cream of the crop.  However…

I will admit that I have been the crazy mama the preschool volunteers talk about.  There is something in all of us mamas of preschoolers that can make us have momentary moments of crazy.  Maybe it is because we spend more waking hours talking to people who pick their nose than we do grown ups.  Maybe it is because since the day our babies are born we are inundated with unsolicited advice from relatives and strangers in Wal-Mart.  Maybe it is because we are always living with some sliver of fear that we are going to do something to permanently mess up this sweet little kid.

Whatever it is, there are things that we should give our preschool volunteers a heads up about.  There are things that we can inadvertently do that can turn a mama into crazy mama. Even the best volunteers need a reminder about some of these things…

If you want me to be a crazy mama, then by all means…

1.   Make entry into the classroom as difficult and stressful as possible. My child may or may not be excited to come and play in your room.  I need you to be excited to see us and to do everything possible to get my child in the room.  Greet me pleasantly. Make a fuss over my child.  Make the process where I can quickly give you my child and all of his/her belongings and escape.

2.  Make me feel like I’m inconveniencing you by bringing my child. You may already have a lot of kids in your classroom and  several of them may be criers.  Or maybe mine is a little too hyper for you.  Or maybe you’re just sleepy this morning.   Or maybe you just didn’t smile at me and I misinterpreted it that way.  Please don’t react like it is a burden for my child to be there.

3.  Give my child someone else’s cup/passy/bottle. I know I’m supposed to label everything before I come.  But, honestly, there are some days when I am just happy to have shoes on.  Have a back-up plan for labeling everything and triple check before germ-sharing.

4.  Don’t change diapers. I know there are a lot of babies in the nursery and you are very busy.  However, a leaking diaper at lunch after church can certainly make a mama crazy.  Please make sure you check everyone’s diaper before you send them out the door!

5.  Offer unsolicited advice. I really do know that you are just trying to be helpful.  But telling me what diapers I should be putting on my child or how they really should be potty trained by now or anything else that  I should be doing differently is really going to just come across as you suggesting I don’t know what I’m doing.  I really know that’s not how you mean it, but that’s how a mama hears it.  That and we haven’t slept through the night since we were pregnant.  Have a little mercy on us.

6.  Talk about my child to other people. Probably the only thing worse than telling me what I should be doing differently is telling other people what I should be doing differently.  Please don’t talk about my little one unless you are talking about how they are obviously a genius and the most precious child ever.

7.  Give me zero information. As much as I have enjoyed my “break” from my little one while I went to church, at least 75% of the time I was gone my brain was wondering what she was doing.  When I pick her up I want to know what she did, how she acted, and if she pooped.  Sorry, that’s just how a mama is.  My favorite nursery class ever gave me a little sheet that gave me a report of what she ate, how she acted, and what diapers were changed.  Information for a preschool mama is good stuff.

What would you add to the list?

Confession #1 of a Fulltime Mama/Fulltime Children’s Minister

7 Feb

Confession #1:

My house is a wreck.  All the time.  There are not enough hours in the day and I don’t choose to use enough of them cleaning.  I’ve tried the Fly Lady stuff and reading blogs from “life coaches” about how to organize your home.  And they made me tired.  The blogs talk alot about delegating many tasks to your kids.  Obviously they weren’t writing these with a 5 year old and 3 year old in their house or if they were, they weren’t my kids! 🙂

From where I am sitting right now I can see randomly in our den a wii remote, Mr. Potato Head glasses, a squinkie (anyone else get these goofy things for Christmas?  They are everywhere!), an exercise mat, a Santa Claus and a flip flop. : )  Our dishes are piled up in the sink and I can guarantee not one bed is made.

Maybe one day I will get it together.  And I want to do better.  But, a very wise friend once told me that if Jesus came back today He would not be checking on dirty dishes.  While I know it is important to be a good steward of my house and to have a happy environment for my kids and hubby, I am not going to sacrifice all the moments when my girls are little enough to be at home making sure everything is perfect.

Some of you are able to do it all and have a clean house too!  I want to be you when I grow up.  For now, I keep trying to do better and try not to let it make me nuts. 🙂

Conviction from a Not-Quite 5 Year Old

3 Feb

My sweet (and mostly crazy) firstborn will be 5 in nineteen days.  We are filling out her app for kindergarten and just registered her for softball.  How did she get so big?  She is brilliant like her daddy.  Her brain – and mouth – never stop.  She is currently obsessed with playing wii or computer games.  She reads like a champ and either torments or adores her sister (depends on the moment).  She has approximately 5,637 stuffed animals that seem to appear in every corner of our house.  She always has a plan or story going on in her head.  I am beginning to see how much we are alike and so we often drive each other crazy. I love her more than the planet.

And today, God used her before I had barely even opened my eyes to convict me.

I was sleeping a little later because she had visited in the middle of the night to share a dream that involved a skunk spraying her between her toes.  She has now mastered the froofy all-in-one remote her daddy has configured, so on typical mornings she usually heads to the Disney Channel before I even see her.

But this morning she climbed in my bed and started talking before I really even knew she was there.  “Mama,” she said. “Before I got out of bed this morning I prayed for all of the kids who don’t know Jesus.  I prayed that God would send them Bibles so that they could know Him.”  Then she hugged me and skipped out to watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.


How incredible that lost people were the first thing on her mind this morning?  And I was super convicted that they weren’t on mine.  When was the last time I had prayed for kids who don’t know Jesus and asked God to send His Word to them?  I won’t answer that out loud, because I don’t like the answer.

I’m fully convinced that God will use my girls to change the world.  They’re certainly already changing me!

Our New Weekday Ed Registration Process

1 Feb

We have a great weekday education program.  Like really great for twenty years.  So great in fact, that registration day has become insane.  Like day after Thanksgiving insane.  As in last year, some daddy spent the night in our parking lot to make sure that he was first in line to get a spot for his child.  Or how about the lady who brought a chair and a picture of her face attached to a stick to put in the chair when she had to go to the restroom.  Wow.

Obviously, this caused some problems.  We didn’t really need people hanging out in our parking lot all night.  By the time registration began, we had a bunch of tired and anxious parents.  We had staff members making tough, on-the-spot decisions about filling and closing classes.

We decided to try something different.  Now, let me mention too that this situation had the toughest problem solving element of all time – we had been doing it this way for forever.  Changing would be tough for staff and parents alike!

So here’s what we did:

–  moved all initial registration to online.  We made forms on and set them not to open until 8:00 this morning.  Parents were told that they would start the registration process online by filling out a simple form.  Then someone would contact them by 5:00 pm to confirm their spot or to offer alternatives if a spot was not available.  Registration forms and fees must then be turned in within 24 hours.

–  We over-communicated to parents about the change, sent instructions home, and also put instructions online.  (You can see them here)

–  We double-checked with wufoo to make sure they could handle 200 mamas registering all at the same moment.  They assured us they have handled 9,000 hits in 5 minutes so we were small potatoes.

–  We planned for the weekday staff to meet in an office off-site to process the registrations in peace and quiet. Wufoo sends email notifications for each registration, so we just printed them in the order they came and placed kids in the same order that the registrations came in.

–  I prayed hard until that first registration popped up.  Cyberworld makes me nervous.  I married a tech guy – but I so don’t understand that world.

Here’s what happened:

–  It worked!  Praise God! 🙂  We didn’t have a great “Plan B”, though if we had needed it we would have found one!

–  Parents were happy. They got to sleep in their own beds and register in their pj’s.  Of course, some didn’t get the spots they wanted, but that would have happened whatever the system.

–  Our weekday staff was happy.  They got to make decisions that were not pressured. They didn’t have mad, sleep-deprived parents begging to be put in a class.

I love when problems get solved!  I very much appreciate our team’s willingness to think outside the box and try something new.  Change is scary, but it can also make the world better.  And keep parents from spending the night in the parking lot!

Tell us about the greatest problem solving that’s happened in your ministry lately!

Seeking Wisdom

31 Jan

I think one of the greatest leadership lessons in the Bible comes from Solomon. He has the option to ask God for anything in the planet and he asks for wisdom to lead.  And God was obviously very pleased with that.  Several years ago I memorized most of Proverbs 3.  I don’t really even remember why, but ever since then God has really hit me over and over again with the idea of seeking wisdom.  And though I can no longer quote the passage word for word, I refer back to it often.  Especially on days like today.  Today was a day where leading was not easy and I needed God to pour out His wisdom.

So, how do I not lose my mind on days when significant issues arise?  Here are some lessons I try to remember from Proverbs 3.

1.  Let love and faithfulness never leave you. (Proverbs 3:1) My actions and words must be in love and must reflect faithfulness to God’s Word and to the leaders above me and to the people who I serve.

2.  Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding (3:5) We teach this verse in kidmin all the time.  But when crisis moments hit, I tend to default to what I know and what I can do – and then I panic.  God is not surprised by anything that comes our way.  He is in control.  He is bigger.  Panicking helps no one.  Trusting in God’s sovereignty helps put the situation, no matter how big, into perspective.

3.  Do not be wise in your own eyes, fear the LORD and shun evil. (3:7) I can’t think for a minute that I’ve got it figured out or even worse. be too prideful to admit that I need help.  I need wise counsel from people I trust.  Don’t make any big calls on your own.

4.  My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke (3:11) If God shows you something that you have handled incorrectly or something that you are ABOUT to handle incorrectly, don’t ignore it.  Acknowledge it and make it right.  Again, don’t pretend you have it all together. None of us do and we make decisions on the fly.  Sometimes we have to correct our own decisions as well.

5.  Her (wisdom) ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace. (3:17) One of the greatest tidbits that I have learned from Jim Wideman is to always follow peace.  God is the God of peace (Romans 16:20).  When making difficult decisions, I have to follow peace.  That is different from doing what is easy.  When evaluating options, the Holy Spirit may give peace about what is the right thing to do. It might not be the most popular or the most comfortable or have immediate happy results, but it is the wise option that will bring peace.

6.  When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet (3:24) I like to sleep.  There’s nothing worse than being tormented by decisions or situations.  What a kind God to care about our sleep.  When I trust in His wisdom I can rest in knowing that He’s got it.  When I trust in my wisdom, I lay awake wondering about “what ifs”.

I wish I got it right all of the time. I certainly don’t.  But I thank God that He doesn’t leave us to solve problems on our own.  Not only does He offer wisdom, He delights in us asking for it.  What a good God!

Two Adults in a Room Cannot Be Optional

28 Jan

This week I had the opportunity to chat with a friend who has recently planted a church in our area.  As we discussed his challenges of building a church and children’s ministry from scratch, he asked me to tell him again why I was so adamant that there always be two adults in the room.  There were only 3-5 children after all.

This is one of my non-negotiables in kidmin, particularly in preschool ministry.  Safety and accountability is huge on my list in preschool.  I am a little bit of a freak about it.  Here’s what I communicate when I share why I’m passionate about this issue:

–  Basically I don’t really trust anyone.  I’m sure on some level I need counseling, but let me tell you the story that ruined me.  When I was in middle/high school, I had a student pastor who I adored.  He was very foundational in my growth as a new believer.  He moved on before I graduated, but I kept in touch occasionally with him and his wife.  He ended up pastoring a church within a few hours of where we live now.  Imagine my shock when my best friend from home called and asked if I had watched the news.  This pastor (who I would have written you a glowing reference for, by the way) had been arrested for molesting friends of his daughter when they spent the night.  Wow. I remember asking my husband, “If you can’t trust sending your child to your pastor’s house, who do you trust.”  I’ll never forget his response: “No one.”  Again, our response is probably extreme, but that story rocked us.

–  1 Peter 5:8 says that Satan is a roaring lion, seeking who he may devour.  When it comes to our kids, we can not be too careful because all it takes is one moment of stupid and even a great person can be devoured by temptation that devastates lives.

–  It is our responsibility to protect our kiddos, no matter what.  Two adults in the room provides accountability and protection for the kids.

–  This policy also protects the volunteers.  Kids can make up some crazy stuff or  parents can jump to wrong conclusions. If a volunteer is falsely accused, who will help them if there is not another adult in the room.

–  Volunteers will often wave away extra help, insisting that they can handle the class themselves.  I’m sure they can, but we just can’t let them.

–  One of the adults needs to be a lady.  We have been blessed with incredible men volunteers who I love dearly.  And I’m sure it is extremely sexist, but I don’t want a man having to change my little girl’s diaper or help her go to the restroom.

–  Husbands and wives in the same room really need a third person.  A spouse is going to side with a spouse in any situation.

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:  If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

What I’m Learning (again!) About Leading Change

26 Jan

I’ve led a lot of change in my ministry at Westwood.  We’ve changed our elementary ministry numerous times, with the most signifcant change being a campus relocation in 2006.  We’ve added children’s worship, changed formats for Sunday school, and changed our entire Sunday morning programming.  We’ve killed events and added new ones.

So, why do I always forget that leading change is a process?

I am a fixer.  I thrive on solving problems.  So, here is what I’m learning (again) as I am beginning to lead a new group of people in our church through some change:

–  Above all, exist to serve and love the people.  Period.

–   Not everything has to be fixed today.  There are some things that can wait til next month or even next church year.  In fact, waiting is often better.  Even if it is making me cringe on the inside, it probably isn’t making everyone else cringe.

–  Everyone has a different speed of change.  Even different ministries, or groups, within the same church have a different speed of change.  Some groups can handle even big changes with a lot of flexibility. Some groups become stressed by even the most minor of changes.

–  First priorities of change need to be safety issues (whether everyone likes it or not) and anything simple that will make everyone happy (like everyone gets a cupcake when they serve… ok, not really, but wish I could!)

–  You have to earn trust before you can make changes.

Have you had any great and or frustrating experiences with leading change? I’d love to hear your story!