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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?

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. 🙂

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!

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!

Identifying Points of Stress for Preschool Volunteers

24 Jan

In my last post I mentioned that we were beginning to work on our preschool world.  In the fall we ran a few surveys for our parents and for our volunteers trying to identify what stressors or perceptions might exist that might deter people from wanting to serve in preschool.  You can read about those surveys here.   We got some great feedback. In addition we spent a considerable amount of time watching, observing, and talking to current and former volunteers.

Here are some stress points that we identified that needed to be addressed:

–  Not getting relieved by the volunteers for the next service, therefore often missing or being late to worship.

–  Not enough volunteers in the rooms/other volunteers not showing up

– Missing some supplies, or confused about what to use.

–  Lack of training for curriculum

Identifying these issues helped us begin a plan of attack for addressing them.  Our number one goal is to create an environment where people want to serve.

What have you identified as major points of stress for volunteers in your ministry?