Your New Ministry Job.

Hand-ShakeThe first month as the ____ pastor/director/minister/associate at a new church I think can be one of the toughest months as you get to know the congregation, learn the culture, and try to figure out how things work. You get all sorts of people coming up to you with smiling faces and firm hand shakes, telling you their names and after a while it sounds like the all familiar teacher from Charlie Brown – “Whon whon wha wha whooon.”

If you’re in worship ministry, you may get tons of emails of people within the congregation wanting to do ‘new’ songs. (Looking at the bright side…your iTunes library will grow with free mp3’s that were attached to all those emails). If you’re in outreach or small groups ministry, you may get phone calls and  ‘surprise’ visits from people who want to know what you’re all about and what makes you the right person for the job. (Questions like: “Why did the other guy really leave?” “Have you ever worked with my type of small group; I just started it” “What is the most exciting mission trip you have been on?”) All questions to get to know who you are. Be confident. Be prepared. If you’re in Youth ministry, you get to meet parents and teens. And you sometimes may get extremely varied responses. Some teens may look at you like you’re their long-lost best friend. Others act like you shot their puppy and then ran over him with your car. Some parents may give you the pleasure of awkward conversations about their teen dealing with [insert issue here]. Some parents will want to be involved with your planning and want to sit in the back every week and meet with you to give you their encouraging critiques [do those words go together?]. No matter what areas you come into, ultimately, you have to learn the rhythm of the church. [Where to put forms, what drawers in the kitchen you must never touch under any circumstances, etc.]

The worst part, though, is that a lot of times you just don’t know what to do! It’s a weird contradiction. You simultaneously have a whole lot to do and very little to do. How? Well, you don’t have a daily routine of things to get done, but you have a lot of “newbie steps” to do that can seem overwhelming.

So, what do you do in the first few months at a new church? Let’s go through some of them so that things can go a bit smoother for you:

1. Get to know people.

This is priority number 1, and priority number 2, and 3, 4, 5…

If you do nothing else the first month at a church, this should be it. If you can avoid it, don’t jump into leading a small group or teaching a Sunday School class. Try to hang back and use the time to meet people and get to know them. Learn names. Learn names. Learn names. [It’s one of the hardest things for me. And the bigger the congregation, the harder and longer it’s going to take to learn names.] If you’re church still has a paper back directory [most churches today use online tools like this] or grab one and study it. Once your first Sunday has passed and you have been able to meet some people…go on Facebook and reach out to as many of those people you met as you can. Identify the people who are the ‘social butterflies’ and ask them to introduce you to everyone! You’ll of course get to know the teens, but you need to get to meet everyone you can. Those little old ladies and the other people who might not come up to you could have a big impact on your ministry so get to know them as well.

2. Learn the culture.

This may be obvious to you but just in case you don’t know…each church is different. If you can, sit down with a staff member or church leader and have them clue you into everything they can think of. You’ll get it all eventually, but whatever you can learn early on will keep you from stepping on a landmine down the road. If there is a way for you to, go back and read old newsletters and bulletins. Those things are filled with clues to the church culture. Most importantly, just be observant. You can learn a lot by keeping your mouth closed and opening your eyes and ears. If you are conscious of how the church operates and try to adapt yourself to its rhythms, you’ll be good to go.

3. Your office.

The first couple weeks, you may find yourself saying, “Hmmm, I’ve got nothing to do…” Use this time to organize your office. You probably won’t have time to do it after the first couple weeks. If there is one thing I have noticed about offices, is that when someone has an organized office…it communicates something about them – that their professional and they take this job seriously. It’s just a good idea to take a couple of days to set it up right so you don’t have to worry about it later.

4. Meet with core people.

You will have a lot of people you need to meet with. Church staff, parents, leaders, students, volunteers, – the list goes on. You may or may not be able to meet with all these groups of people in the first month, but you should at least make plans to meet with them at some point. You are meeting with them to get to know them, of course, but you are also meeting with them to share your vision. They need to know what you’re about, what you’re going to do, and most importantly the role they play in it.

5. Get to know the community.

This one can be easy or hard, depending on your community. Drive around and get to know the area. Learn where the schools are. See where students hang out. Read the local newspaper or check out online resources about the town. Get an idea about the heartbeat of the place. This is your mission field – study it carefully. Ask questions. This should be something you continually do, but make the first steps in this first month.

6. Evaluate.

You should be observing and evaluating the ministry from the first minute you come through the door. What are its strengths? What are its weaknesses? What sort of things did they do in the past? What curriculum (if any) is used? How are the facilities? Just look at every aspect of the ministry, and see how it works. Again, ask questions. Even asking those you will be working with (staff, volunteers, students and parents, etc.) on how things are. Getting that clear picture will help later.

7. A plan for the future.

You should start laying the foundation of your plans for the ministry. You don’t need to lay out exactly what you want to do, just some general goals for the future. (Example: let’s say in a year you want to have started a special needs ministry. Set that as a goal, and then make some plans on the how to. Or, say you need new volunteers: set a goal that in 8 months you’ll have 4 new volunteers.) Have an idea of what you want to do, but remember to keep it flexible enough so that if it’s not a good idea that’s ok. And in 8 months when you have learned some new things, you can apply them.

The first month at a church can seem a bit overwhelming, but it is also an awesome time to meet new people, make new friends, learn about a new place, and have an opportunity to do some awesome things for God’s kingdom.

Enjoy the first early months, but be sure to use them to your full advantage.

Inspiration.

“…all the beauty of the world, the beauty that calls our admiration, our gratitude, our worth-ship at the earthly level, is meant as a set of hints, of conspiratorial whispers, of clues and suggestion and flickers of light,all nudging us into believing that behind the beautiful world is not random chance but the loving God.”  (N.T. Wright, For All God’s Worth)

Storytelling Rules.

Storytelling is used everywhere! As a church we have the most incredible, life-changing, powerful story to tell and share with the world…the Gospel. Churches mainly use storytelling in testimonies, cantatas, videos, promo videos, etc. Maybe your church has even more things it does when it comes to storytelling. Here are a few tips I grabbed on to on storytelling…from Disney Pixar’s own, Emma Coats. Yea…she’s legit. Although she is now a director in L.A she knows a thing or two about storytelling:

#1: You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.

#2: You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be v. different.

#3: Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.

#4: Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.

#5: Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.

#6: What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?

#7: Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.

#8: Finish your story, let go even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.

#9: When you’re stuck, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.

#10: Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize it before you can use it.

#11: Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.

#12: Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.

#13: Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.

#14: Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.

#15: If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.

#16: What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.

#17: No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on – it’ll come back around to be useful later.

#18: You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.

#19: Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.

#20: Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d’you rearrange them into what you DO like?

#21: You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can’t just write ‘cool’. What would make YOU act that way?

#22: What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.

Emma CoatsTwitter: @lawnrocket

Church Communications – What is that??

Anything people read, touch, or click is considered communications. Maybe there is something to add to that, but I haven’t really found that yet. When it comes to church communications I think this is crucial because:

  • Read would include any written messages communicated from or about the church…be it in print or electronic form.
  • Touch would include a weekly bulletin, newsletter, brochures, mass mailings/postcards, or anything else that represents the church or has the church logo on it…in print form.
  • Click would relate to any form of web or email based technology, as well as new social media tools like Twitter, Facebook, etc.

The role of church communications is changing…it’s no longer about a church secretary typing announcements into a pre-printed bulletin shell. Church communications now involves a lot of planning, strategy and people who are focused on directing the different communications channels of a church. In 2 words, hard work. There are some churches that have started to see the need and importance of having a full time staff member as a communications director. The director of communications is responsible for managing and directing a church’s internal and external communications. They work to create communication strategies and (depending on their role or level of authority) serve as the key spokesperson and media contact for the organization. The director of communications typically reports to an executive pastor and/or lead pastor. They handle all messaging in the church outside of the Sunday morning messages and work to build teams to support all facets of church communications (print, media, web, etc.).  They are passionate about the church’s vision and care about how it translates to people inside and outside of the church. They defend it. They design it. They care about it.

The local church is the hope of the world. I believe it has the greatest message that’s out there, the message of the Gospel. And with that, the greatest message deserves the greatest marketing, creativity, and storytelling. If there is one thing I am learning from school is that marketers spend millions of dollars every single year to tell us that our lives would be better or enhanced with the products, services, or ideas they are selling. I know that we are not about selling salvation as a product. The goal of the church is not to try and woo people to our ‘services’ (haha) or trying to convince them to convert or whatever….we are about seeing the trajectory of people’s lives changed. Seeing hearts surrendered to Jesus. Being a young person, I have the privilege and curse of being part of the generation that has made it harder and harder to communicate with. The cool thing is…with that comes the challenge of communicating the unchanging, timeless message of the Gospel in way that is relevant and compelling to the culture of its time.

Watch this video:

That commercial was for a WEB BROWSER. Google Chrome. What? Wow. Why didn’t they focus on the features and explain why Google Chrome is better than the rest or the best for you to use? Because Google understands the power of storytelling. They focused us on the story of Sophie and her Dad. They wanted us to watch it, get attached, say a few “aww” and “how sweet!” and emotionally connect with it. Less product. More story. Well, it worked for me.

What message are the experiences people have with your church communicating?

What does your marketing say about you and your church?

Is there a disconnect between what you say and what people experience?

What if Starbucks marketed like churches do? Watch this video:

Leadership & Reflections.

  My reflections from 21 most powerful minutes in a leaders day by John Maxwell.

 The Law of THE LID — Leadership ability determines your effectiveness:

 1. In your leadership, have you been more like David or Saul?

As much as I would love to say that I am more like David, I can’t. I think I have been more like Saul. Because leadership ability determines a person’s level of effectiveness, I know my leadership ability is lacking in lots of ways, due to not only lids in my life but my lack of understanding the nature of leadership…just like Saul.

I have always thought leadership was just something you were born with and if you weren’t born with the right personality and attitude, there was no way you could ever become a great leader. But I am learning that this is totally a false way of approaching leadership, I have to want to change and grow in who God has called me to be, no matter what I think or feel; its time to improve myself consistently towards the next level…just like David did.

2. What lids exist in your life?

I am not a fan of this question. But I am sure that if I am truly honest, I could make a list the length of a football field but I will list the ones that have been floating around me for some time.

Fear. (…the unknown)

Insecurity. (…what others think about me and my leadership ability.)

Discipline. (…disciplining myself to learn and grow spiritually and demand improvement of myself.).

Initiative. (…being confident in creative ideas and taking the ‘dive’ whether others agree with me or not.)

Inexperience. (..my lack of experience because I am young.)

Denial. (…being confronted about a shortcoming or issue in my life and without confessing and praying about, deciding it’s not true about my life.)

Contempt. (…getting to a place where I don’t want to learn and grow as a leader.)

3. What lids can you lift?

I can lift all of the lids listed. For me, it’s going to have to start with my attitude and truthfully answering the hard questions to myself.

I cannot be a lid lifter if I am not willing to grow personally first.

4. Who are the lid lifters in your life?

I can feel that the list of lid lifters in my life is growing and I pray that I always have people to lift me up despite my shortcomings. I know that I can’t lift my lids on my own. I pray that I can be a lid lifter in their lives too.

5. Which one leadership concept, insight, or practice that you’ve learned this week will you pass on to another leader in the next two days?

Every leader has lids regardless of title, position, or achievement. I am going to lift the lids that I can on my own and be courageous and humble enough to grow through the encouragement and Biblical wisdom of those in my life who are lid lifters.

Leadership Lesson…Take 2!


I have never been one for taking initiative. I have never been one for taking risks and chances on things. So, I have never been one for remotely considering myself as a leader. And that’s ok…right?

I have been blessed to be part of an organization that has bombarded this extremely Type-B personality with biblical lessons in leadership. I have learned that ultimately anyone can be a leader…because leadership is influence.

Leadership = Influence

Here’s where my habit of over thinking things comes into full force. For me, a definition like that gives me the idea that I, as a leader, should for the most part have the answer. If I am going to influence people, they are going to look to me. Here’s my problem…I don’t have all the answers. But that’s ok because its not about having answers to give others to then influence them.
I think its about seeing something and not just showing others where to go, but taking them by the hand and involving them. I still have a long way to go with this and I’m ok with that too. God sent Jesus as the ultimate example of what it means to lead others and I pray I can learn through His word what it means to be a leader for His glory.

___________________________________________________________


Am I going crazy?


Ok, this guy is crazy.
Why is he playing clarinet? I would’ve liked to seem him play a Sousaphone.

Anyway, I have figured out that leadership is hard. Balancing getting work done and leading a team can be frustrating at times. I think it’s easy for potential leaders (like me) to feel like a total failure or even burn out. I know I have felt this way and are still having moments of feeling this way too. Here’s where I think my problem is…and it may be the same for you. I thrive on doing my job alone. A better way would be I thrive on individual accomplishment. But I don’t like being alone in my accomplishments. I love working with teams and impacting others.
Am I going crazy? Is this normal? By working on what I am doing individually, am I focusing too much on being a “me” player instead of a team player? Am I owning all the pieces or just mine? This is frustrating.
I have 3 things working alongside me that is making this more difficult:

#1. Perfection = ?

I’m somewhat of a perfectionist. I’m not on medication for OCD or anything like that, but I do struggle with letting go. I find I often say to myself “Geez, it’s so much faster if I just do it myself!” Please tell me I’m not the only one out there that says things like this. ☺ Ultimately, I know replacing myself is necessary if I am going to be effective to my organization.

#2. Rut Row. (Scooby Doo)

I have tasks, deadlines, goals, etc. and I plan to finish them. So, I begin my race and go, go, go until it is finished. Once I cross the finish line, I start immediately on another race. No time for anything else because I am constantly at a starting or finishing point. More of a never-ending cycle.
The problem is if I’m here to long…I feel jammed. Stuck. Rut Row!

#3. Good Stress. Bad Stress.

If one of our senses is damaged or lost, the others are heightened. If we have a whacked out muscle or group the others jump in and help the rest of the body. Something sacrifices attention from its job to serve and help the others. This is both good and bad stress in my opinion. It’s great because it is demonstrating the example of teamwork. That’s the good stress. Overtime though, it can pull the life out of the team. That’s the bad stress.

So am I alone in this? I pray that I am not. I have a feeling I’m not. But in the meantime, I will be looking to what God’s word has to say and will be sharing that with you all soon. Don’t be discouraged. Learn to understand that these issues are normal and work through them. We will all end up better people and better leaders not just for others, but more importantly ourselves.

Rethinking My Purpose.

I’m one of those people who thinks a lot. Sometimes…well most of the time, about some really random things.
My recent thinking has brought to surface some things that I am dealing with when it comes to what my purpose is as a young, single, Christian woman. One word comes to mind…waiting.

Now, this word waiting is not a new thing in my life. I’m a 24 year old graduate student who has never been in a serious relationship. I’m at the point in my life where all my friends are getting engaged and married within the same calendar year…and let me tell you, it’s not easy.

Please don’t feel sorry me, just hear me out. Our Christian culture, I believe, places a great deal of emphasis on relationships. I have prayed for God to write my love story and have cried many nights over my lack of even experiencing a love story.

But even in knowing and having to be reminded daily that God is faithful and loves me more than anyone in the universe ever could…I still have faced, seen, heard, and felt an incredible amount of pressure from the Christian community towards relationships and ultimately marriage. Girls seem to always be praised when they have found their dream guy. But when they still have yet to find ‘’Mr. Right’’ or ‘’Prince Charming,’’ they are told that God’s going to bring a man into their lives —as if the sole purpose of their lives is to get married.

So, here’s the question I have been rethinking in my head…how do I respond to this? I know people ‘mean well’ and they ask because they love me (especially mothers, grandmothers and aunts) but how do I respond without sounding or feeling jealous or bitter?

I mentioned earlier that girls always seemed to be praised when they have found their dream guy and those of us who haven’t…well, we just haven’t.

I feel that Christian communities tend to be sometimes unsupportive of single women. It seems like the very people who should be inspiring us to live a life completely devoted to Christ are the ones who severely lower our self-esteem, which in turn leads us to believe that we need to be married to be complete.

I found a book on Amazon listed under ‘Christian and Religious Books’, entitled, Getting Serious About Getting Married. I was shocked to read,

The belief that remaining single is legitimate and godly is a work of the devil. Read that again: Satan dishonors marriage by fooling us into believing that singleness is okay (page 43).

…men and women who are not connected in marriage are like the mutilated members of a mangled body (page 28).

Wait?! What?! Did that just say what I think it said? This book is saying that there is no way for a woman to glorify God other than getting married.

Are you kidding? Messages like this can lead many Christian women to settle for men who are mediocre and self-centered, just so they can supposedly fulfill God’s will.

Single women should not let their lives be consumed by their apparent “need” to find a guy. We should be concerned with devoting our lives to Jesus and serving Him faithfully. There is a song by John Waller called ‘While I’m Waiting’. Let these lyrics be an encouragement for you:

I will move ahead, bold and confident
Taking every step in obedience
While I’m waiting I will serve You
While I’m waiting I will worship
While I’m waiting I will not faint
I’ll be running the race
Even while I wait.

My purpose is not to fall into a slump of misery if I haven’t found my dream guy yet. My heart should be enlivened and grow deeper in my relationship with God. If I happen to fall in love with a great man, oh how blessed that man will be! Haha! But he will find me as someone who is devoted to her Lord first and foremost. If I don’t, that’s fine too, because my relationship with God is enough and provides me with the everlasting fulfillment that no human relationship can. My singleness is a journey, not a trapped prison. It’s growing in my trust of the Lord and believing and knowing He has a plan for me. Rather single or married, it won’t matter.

Is singleness a blessing in your life? Is it a burden? How will you be rethinking your purpose?

Check out more from an awesome blog called Our Single Purpose

Creativity and its Creator.

One of my absolute favorite things to do is to be near a large body of water at sunset. I think it’s just because I was born and raised in Florida and have always been near water.

I love nature and am baffled by it every time I am surrounded by it. Staring into fields as far as the eye can see, laying on flourishing green grass, peering from the ridge of mountaintops, sitting at the shoreline of distant oceans, and overcome by the beauty of the falling sun beyond the horizon. The detail, precision, and beauty of it all always leaves me
speechless and in awe.

You know I truly believe that God will unleash His creativity within us through a varitey of means. We all have different talents that tap into our God-given creativity. We all have so many different things that make us who we are. Some of us design, paint, write, organize, decorate, plan, dream, build, invent, or can dabble in a bit of it all! Although all of these things and activities that engage this creativity that God has uniquely given us, in these moments we need to remember that creativity is a gift from God, too. (Now, please know that if you do not consider yourself “creative”…well, I’m excited to tell you that everyone is creative. You should read this before you continue. Gary Molander does a fantastic job making it a point that we all know that God is a creative God. So we’re creative too. Our Maker is creative, therefore we are creative.) Profound, huh?

One of the coolest things I’ve come to be reminded of is that not only was God the creator in the beginning, but He is still creating! It’s part of His nature, of who He is! After the sixth day, God didn’t just shut down His creating side. He continues to create.

He creates new hope.
He creates new opportunities.
He creates new portraits of redemption in the lives of His people.
He creates new things that we haven’t experienced yet. (Revelation 21:1-5)

In order to make the most of what we have been given, we need to know where it comes from. The source of all that we have and are is God.

What things unleash creativity, a generous and wonderful gift from God,
in your life?

Clear the Stage.


Clear the stage and set the sound and lights ablaze,
if that’s the measure that it takes to crush the idols.
Chuck the pews and all the decorations too, until the congregations few then have revival. Tell your friends that this is where the party ends, until you’re broken for your sins you can’t be social. Then seek the Lord and wait for what he has in store and know that great is your reward and just be hopeful.
-Ross King

I was talking with a friend, in our schools coffee shop, about what I had been learning and contemplating lately and how I blogged about entertainment in church. Well we got into great discussion about it and he mentioned this song by Ross King called Clear the Stage. I had never heard it before and so I went and listened to it. Wow.
I encourage all of you who have never heard this song to stop right now and listen to it.

Well recently, we had a See You At The Pole rally for local youth groups to join together in a time of worship and fellowship. When I got there, I noticed that all the lights were off in the auditorium (we were able to have it at our local high school) The band that would be leading us in worship was doing a sound check but I couldn’t see them. So I went backstage and saw that they were behind the stage curtain. I know these guys because we all go to school together. Anyways, I asked them, ”Do you guys need the lights on? And the curtain up so the kids can see you? I’ll go up and take care of it if you need me to.”

To my awesome surprise they said, ”No. We all felt led to have everything silent tonight. Our focus is going to be on prayer and true worship. We don’t want backgrounds behind the text or lights on or to be seen. We want to worship back here as well and lead the kids to worship God for who He is and what He has done.”

It was so great to here that! 🙂 These guys get it. (I go to a school where there are many aspiring Christian artists/bands. They are all very talented, but none of them have I ever seen or heard mention anything like this. These guys just want to worship and lead others in worship and I’m blessed to call them friends.)

They wanted to have true worship as a band, as well as give the kids an understanding of what worship is and isn’t. We all prayed together backstage for the worship gathering to glorify God and for the kids to truly know that worship isn’t about the stage or singing, but living a life of worship.

So the rally went on with about 5 different prayer topics and songs that went along with them. We had a speaker (or rather facilitator) that was to lead in scripture and prayer. (he was the one who made it flow.) With each prayer topic the kids where given different instructions, the first was to be in alone time prayer, the second topic with 2 or 3 people, third topic with 2 or 3 different people, and to finally end with your youth group to pray for unity and commitment.
The youth were to pray about:

1. Repentance
2. Government
3. Schools
4. Friends who know and don’t know Jesus
5. Unity and Commitment

It was amazing! God worked in the hearts of all the youth groups there. I prayed with and saw kids praying together with such a fervent heart for God. They didn’t need fancy lights, loud music, cool/fast worship backgrounds, or even to see the band who was leading. They truly praised God for who He is and what He’s done for them. And I hope and pray they truly learned something.

I pray they learned that they needed to have a repentant heart.
I pray they learned that anything they put before God is an idol.
I pray they saw that they needed to pray on their knees until they blistered.
I pray they learned that worship is more than a song.

Clear the stage and set the sound and lights ablaze
If that’s the measure you must take to crush the idols.

Stephen Proctor tweeted this earlier this week that was right on with what I felt at that rally, (I asked to turn on the lights and I wanted to get the perfect background for the gathering and set it up right. But these guys already had it right. So naturally, and I retweeted it Proctor’s post 🙂
it said:

Are you willing to die to your artistic pride in order for your community to come along further in the journey of worship? Something to think about…for all of us.