Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Decide to Serve - 7 Decisions of a Woman Pastor

A lot is being said about women empowerment and women in ministry as of late. I could tell a few personal stories of questioning, discouragement, injustice, or dumb things people have said...but I think I'd rather spend time expressing gratitude for those who have inspired and encouraged me to simply do what God has called me to do. There have been soooo, many. Men and women who have encouraged me to try. Men and women who have given me position. Men and women who are willing to follow my leadership. I'm overwhelmed by the love and support I have found.
At the end of the day, my mission is to serve Jesus and to serve others. If I gain influence, so be it...if I do not, so be it. I refuse to make the issue of "women in ministry" my mission. If others (male or female) are inspired to live out their callings by the way I serve, that's a nice additional blessing, but it is not the mission. It's all about Jesus and helping people find and follow Him.
While I have not run a perfect race (not even close). There are a few decisions I make to keep myself humbly on this mission, sometimes I forget to live by these decisions. So to remind myself of how I want to live, here goes...
1. I decide to run the race marked out for me (and everyone else can decide what to do with me).
2. I decide to love, appreciate, and learn from those who don't hold the same view on this as me. (why cut myself off from growth?)
3. I decide that when given opportunities because "a female voice is needed at the table" I will not take offense at that and sit at the table, and speak up and bring my best.
4. I decide I will not fall prey to a comparison trap demanding things be fair everywhere I go, because they are not, and looking for fairness leads me to become pretty self-absorbed. (this can be hard to do, but I like myself better when I don't let my "justice button" get the best of me)
5. I decide the best voice I have towards empowering women is not to be an activist through words, but by action. (that's kind of the meaning of the word). I'm going to live this way and raise up as many men and women leaders as possible, and that's what will bring change.
6. I decide to honor those who have inspired, encouraged, empowered, and equipped me in ministry with sincere expressions of gratitude and by continually bringing my best.
7. But most of all I decide to serve, lead, love and live unbelievably amazed and in awe that "I get to do this! Seriously?!?!" - To God be all the glory.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Process That Has Been 2014

Reading Philippians 1:6 sparked me to reflect on everything God has done this past year, and look forward to what He's going to do in my life in 2015!

Philippians 1:6 - And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

(From my Life Application Bible Footnotes -- Do you sometimes feel as though you aren't making progress in your spiritual life?  When God starts a project, he completes it!  God will help you grow in grace until he has completed his work in your life.  When you are discouraged, remember that God won't give up on you.  He promises to finish the work he has begun.  When you feel incomplete, unfinished, or distressed by your shortcomings, remember God's promise and provision.  Don't let your present condition rob you of the joy of knowing Christ or keep you from growing closer to him.)

Reflecting on this past year, I'm thankful for all of the changes in my life and I am confident that through all of it, God has continued to do a work in me, making me more like Jesus.

  • Leading BridgeWay through Interim - I learned to listen to the Holy Spirit's leading in a deeper way.  I learned to listen to others better.  I became more patient.  I got better at encouraging others.  I learned to just be comfortable with being me at all times.  And I learned all kinds of other leadership stuff.
  • Making the Decision to go to Medford - Anytime you put yourself out there to take a step of faith knowing you are doing exactly what God is calling you to're gonna grow from that step.
  • Watching Chris Sacrifice His Career for Our Call - I've never been so humbled in my life.  Chris willingly laid down his position at his job, his life, in order for us to obey and do what God was calling us to do.  He did it with so much quite strength and poise that I couldn't help but be humbled and overwhelmed by it.
  • Moving to Medford - I don't think I've ever prayed so hard in my whole life, we fasted and prayed about the sale of our home, we encountered one obstacle after another leaving it beyond clear that "God sold our home".  I've never felt so exhausted spiritually, emotionally, physically, mentally ever before.  I am so thankful for those at BridgeWay who sacrificed their time and dollar to send us off well.  God used the church and some time spent with family to rejuvenate us to be able to go.  They sent us off and commissioned us well.  We also clung to the later part of Isaiah 40 where it reminds us that we serve a God who is bigger than anything we face and that He is our source of strength.  I've learned to lean in heavy on that strength and know I'm not even close to the person I used to be.  I used to freak out and worry over the dumbest things.  And now it's like the big stuff doesn't rattle me...or at least like it used to.  I know where my help comes from, where my strength comes from, and there's a quiet confidence, joy, and optimism that comes from that.   
  • Studying Optimism - Speaking of optimism, it's actually been a personal study habit of mine lately.  As I do my devotional time, I've become attuned to stop and pay attention to words like joy, hope, looking ahead, and optimism.  Did you know Jesus was a wild optimist?  Did you know his disciples were wild optimists?  By nature and personality I'm more of skeptic than is healthy for me as a leader and follower of Christ for that matter.  So, I've been on about a 6 month journey of choosing optimism and being attuned to when I'm being skeptical.  I have a feeling I'm going to be on that journey for quite a while.  But I'm finding joy in the process.

I'm sure there are many more attitudes, words, and behaviors that'll surface over the next year that are not yet like Jesus.  I do realize God's work in me is yet to be completed.  Yet I look to this next year with joy and anticipation.  Leaning in towards every challenge ahead.  Knowing if for nothing else, God will use those challenges to make me more like Jesus.  Looking forward to 2015!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Need Leaders...Pamper!

 For me pampering leaders has two meanings.  And it’s important to do both.  So what does pampering mean?  First, it carries this fun meaning, “to change one’s dirty diaper”.  Second, it carries this other meaning, “to indulge with attention and affection”.  And remember, both are important.

What does it look like to pamper the “change diapers” way?  Well, sooner or later people on your team are going to face challenges in their role, challenges among the team, challenges with the people they serve, challenges in their personal life.  Life just happens and things just smell a little funky from time to time.  As a leader we have the responsibility to smell the funk, not ignore it, step towards it and work to remove it.

What does that look like?  A couple examples…Let’s say a leader comes in just really agitated and blowing up about what seems to be little things.  That’s funky.  So you move towards the funk!  You say to that person, “It seems like you are really frustrated, what’s REALLY going on?”  In that conversation you find out that their ex-spouse was fighting with them on custody battles again.  You are able to pray with them, help them calm down for the day and focus on the people they are there to serve.   

Another example…Let’s say a few leaders are experiencing differences of opinion.  You notice they are not talking to each other about the problem.  Instead, they are talking about each other’s wrong opinions.  You recognize that smells funky, so you move towards the funk.  You gather the leaders together to help them agree on a solution to the problem.

Leaders are responsible for pampering their volunteers in this “let’s clean up the mess” kind of way.  When they do, they build teams that are fun, positive, and free of funk.  When morale is high volunteers are also more likely to begin recruiting others to the team to join them in the fun.

The other kind of pampering is obviously a lot more fun to do.  But it’s really easy to neglect if you aren’t intentional about it.  Pampering to indulge with attention and affection.  Oftentimes we can place a leader on the team, and they show up consistently week after week and then leave feeling: anonymous, like they don’t matter, or unsure how they contribute to the team.  That’s a terrible way to live.  Miserable even, as Patrick Lencioni puts it in his book “Three Signs of a Miserable Job”.  We can get so caught up in getting the job done that we forget leadership is more about people than product. 

There’s lots of creative ways to indulging leaders with attention and affection.  Not all of the ways involve money either.  Below, check out this list of ways to pamper, indulge, motivate and appreciate leaders that I recently picked up from a conference workshop by Steve Stroope. 

Ways to Pamper Leaders
1.  Money – Some leaders feel pampered when you take the time to write a thank you note with a gift card.  If you can get a gift card to a place you know they especially enjoy, even better.

2.  Public or Private Praise – Some people feel pampered by being publicly acknowledged for a job well done.  Others would rather crawl in a hole and hide.  Be sure you know if they like public or private praise.

3.  Access – Some leaders feel pampered by spending time getting to know you their leader.  Extra time outside of the norm is gold to them.

4.  Input – Some leaders feel pampered by knowing their way was considered.  This means taking the time to ask them for input as you look at making decisions.

5.  More Responsibility – Some leaders feel pampered when you ask them to take on an extra project or to oversee an initiative.  By releasing responsibility to them they feel you know and trust their skills and experience.

6.  Empowerment – Some leaders feel pampered when they feel you know and trust them to make wise decisions in their areas of ministry.  Micromanagement crushes them; empowerment to make decisions builds them up.

7.  Significance – Some leaders feel pampered when you tell them stories of the eternal significance their efforts are making.  It helps them feel you see and know the impact of their efforts.

8.  Perks & Bonuses – Some leaders feel pampered when you give them special gifts or parties at Christmas, Birthday’s, Anniversaries, Graduations, Milestones, Etc.  It helps them feel valued and known.

9.  Knowledge – Some leaders feel pampered when you invest in their personal growth.  Providing books, training, seminars, conferences, and mentoring opportunities you know they would benefit from skyrockets their excitement to follow your leadership.

10.  Adequate Resources – Some leaders feel pampered when you provide the equipment, budget, facilities, and staff to do their job with excellence.  Stepping in with resources tells them you know the value of their work.

By now you’ve probably gathered that all pampering has to do with making sure you know your leaders.  Not every leader feels pampered by these things.  There’s probably one in there that makes them feel especially pampered.  They key is to know your leaders enough to see what pampers them the most.  How do you know that?  The best way to find out is to simply ask.  And you might think “wow that seems like a lot of work” to know people that well.  Yes, yes it is.  But as a leader we are responsible to know those we are leading.  To that point I look to Jesus’ example of leadership.

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep. 12 A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. 13 The hired hand runs away because he’s working only for the money and doesn’t really care about the sheep.
14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me,
(John 10:11-14)

Two questions that come to mind as I reflect on this passage:

·      Do I really care enough about those I’m leading to know them like Jesus does?

·      Am I taking the time to express gratitude to those I get to lead?

I think those are questions I have to stop and ask myself continually, making sure my heart is in the right place.  Reminding myself that my role as a leader is one of a servant, laying my life down for the sake of the “sheep”.  To that end, I must remind myself once again to…”Just Serve”…and do so by pampering them there sheep!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Need Leaders?...Place.

 So in the process of building our team of leaders we’ve prayed, we’ve prepared, we’ve pursued, what do we do next?  It’s time to place them.

Generally during the pursue phase of team building I “make an ask” of the person I’m talking with.  I invite them to join the team or to take a next step in their leadership.  That “ask”, remember, is a soft ask.  Meaning, I allow them time to pray and process this decision individually and with their family. 

I don’t let that “ask” hang out there in space indefinitely.  Generally I’ll say, “I’m going to contact you in a few days or in a week to see where you are at.”  A week is the longest I go without a follow up.  Otherwise things just seem to get awkward.  They know I’ll be following up with them.  It is also quite critical to meet this deadline.  Remember you are still building trust with them as a leader.

So, you have the follow up conversation.  And they are all in.  The next thing to do is place them.

Two keys to placing new leaders properly:

Placing a new team leader – in the right area of service:
In the case of placing a new team leader, I’ve found it beneficial to let them know the area of greatest need.  But in the end let them choose which area they prefer to be placed in.  People serve best where they have the most passion.  When at all possible, let them choose. 

A note of caution:  Each time you place a leader; you should exercise your God-given discernment.  For example, don’t let the guy that gives you the creeps, or the overly emotionally needy lady become a student ministry small group leader.  It just won’t work – and that ministry will suffer for obvious reasons if you ignore discernment.  So, listen to discernment, and suggest a different area for them to start.  Maybe they will grow into that role at another time?  Placing the wrong leader just to have a leader should never be an option.  You DON'T need leaders that bad.  Or if you do, perhaps you should reevaluate if that ministry should continue.

Placing a new team leader – with the right leader to train them:
Also, as a new team leader joins your team, you will want to pair them up with an existing leader.  Don’t just place them in a vacant spot.  Place them with another leader.  Ideally that other leader would be someone you would want “more of”.  Meaning that person in your ministry that you think, “wow if I could just have 100 of him or her”.  Why not let that new person be trained by them?

Side note:  That’s probably a good indication of an existing leader that should be asked to take a new step in their leadership too.

If you don’t have that kind of leader ready to train up this new team member you are placing, then you’ll have to take the time to get in there and train that new leader up.  It’s typically not ideal to throw new leaders into roles without support.  If you do, you can quickly expect there to be significant discouragement in that leader.

Also the right person to train someone may also be someone who exists on your team that you feel this new incoming leader is just going to click well with.  Maybe they have common interests?  Maybe they have common family dynamic?  Maybe they have common spiritual story?  Maybe they have common personalities?  Remember you are building a team.  Team chemistry breeds inspiration, passion, and fun.  Use it to the benefit of the team.  Once you help them find a place you will want to prep them for that first time they serve. 

Six tips for successful entry onto your team:

1.  Set a time for them to arrive and promise them that you will meet with them.

2.  Let that team member who’ll be doing the training know you’ll be introducing them to a new leader.  Let them know that you paired them together because you’d love to see a million more leaders like them in the ministry you lead.  Hopefully your team is healthy enough where this task is seen with wide-eyed expectancy.  Not territorialism.  If it’s territorialism, then you’ve got some work to do when it comes to team culture training.  That’s another talk for another time. 

3.  Introduce the new team member to the current team member you have prepped.  Don’t let that new team member wonder around trying to figure out where to go or what to do.  Help them get connected.

4.  Talk with the new team member immediately following their experience to find out how things went.  Make sure they are honest with you and listen to all feedback.  Those new eyes into your ministry may give you new knowledge you didn’t have about the ministry you lead.

5.  Remind them of when they are scheduled to serve again.

6.  Send a follow up hand written note personal note in the mail as follow up.  Let them know how much you value their time, how excited you are they are taking this step in serving, and that you are praying for them.

That last #6 tip, I don’t always hit this one 100% but it pays each time I do.  It also gets into the final recommendation that I have for those looking for leaders and that is to pamper your team.  I’ll blog about that one next.

Friday, September 5, 2014

I'm Still a Youth Pastor!?!?!

Over the past year I've made the move out of youth ministry.  I started in youth ministry really when I was in college, I assisted our volunteer youth leader in our student ministry...all 5 of them.  It was fun and afforded me the opportunity to serve at youth camps during the summer.  It was at a youth camp where I first understood God calling me to be a pastor.  Naturally, at the time I felt a calling towards youth ministry.  This calling eventually led me to become a youth pastor at Eureka Church of the Nazarene in Eureka, IL in 2001.  To this day I am amazed that I was trusted with this role...I really didn't know what I was doing.

Regardless, I was clear on one thing...the message.  In addition to the gospel I wanted every student to know that God has created them for a plan and a purpose.  Overtime I was allowed the opportunity to communicate this message to students from 2001-2006 at Eureka Church of the Nazarene.  Then 2006-2013 at BridgeWay Community Church in Tazwell Co. IL.  That's 12 whole years!  And it makes me feel old.  Especially knowing that many students have since graduated college, are enjoying careers, and are parents, youth workers, and even pastors themselves...crazy!

In 2013 it became clear that my time in youth ministry would be ending or at least looking different, as I've come to embrace the fact that God has gifted me towards leadership development and such.  Youth ministry wasn't the easiest thing to give up really...but it was time to get out of the way and let some other leaders shine...and boy are they ever!!!

The reason it's so hard to give up is because I really enjoy mentoring students through the "awkward" years trying to figure out who they are, and more importantly who they are in Christ.  To get to be a mentoring voice into that and have students actually come back and thank you later for the time you invested mentoring them is extremely rewarding.  I'll never miss lock-ins but mentoring is the stuff I will miss.

However, this week as my oldest daughter began 7th grade it's really hit me - I'm still a youth pastor.  The same things I mentored other students through, I now get to do as a parent.  In one short week we've navigated issues like finding a group of friends you can hang with, feeling paranoid people are talking about you, being nervous you won't make the team, figuring out who to sit with at lunch, being faced with religious differences of opinions, and gasp finding out someone might like you.  I knew these days would come but all in one week?!?  Is she ready for this?  Am I ready for this?  This youth pastor thought especially hit me today as I sent Anna this text for her to read on her bus ride to school.

Me:  "I love you.  Did you make it to the bus in time?"
Me:  "Have a great day!  Make a friend.  Smile a lot.  Make others better and you will find friends.  Love who you are because you are amazing!  Regardless of what anyone else thinks.  It's the truth!!!  You are made by God for a plan and a purpose.  #bam #truth"
Anna: ":)"
Anna: "I just had to take a screen shot of that"
Anna: "And yes I'm on the bus"
Anna: "I love you so much"

Words I've shared with tons of students, I now actually get to speak into the life of my 7th grader.  In that one text was the realization I had when I held her for the first time "I'm responsible for directing this child towards relationship with her creator".  And I don't want to screw this up - because parents really are the ultimate pastors to their kids.  I'm choosing not to fear parenting in the teenage years but enjoy them for all that they are because in a way, I get to be a youth pastor once again.  And not just anyone's youth pastor, but youth pastor to my most favorite 7th grader on the planet.  All the while being totally amazed that I have been trusted with this role...I really don't know what I'm doing.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Need Leaders?...Pursue.

Need Leaders…Pursue.

So we’ve prayed for leaders, we’ve prepared to receive them, what’ next?

Pursue simply means to go after.  There’s nothing passive about the concept.  In fact it’s quite active.

A leader will get in mind someone they should ask to join them in ministry for the first time or to move to the next level of leadership.  However, instead of pursuing they hesitate and wait.  Oftentimes too long, and at great cost.

Innovative leaders by nature aren’t good at sitting still.  They want to make a difference and if they can’t find the on ramp into leadership, they’ll just go create their own.  Which there’s nothing wrong with that, other than missing the opportunity to have that leader innovating on your team, making it better.

There are other leaders who may not be able to innovate as quickly on their own, so they need your team in order to help them become a growing leader.  This type of leader left untapped over a period of time can become comfortable, complacent, and crippled in their leadership.  Simply because no one pursued them. 

Which greatly costs the individual and costs the team. – Probably one of the biggest ministry fails is around this issue.  I confess that there are times I did not steward the leadership resources God had entrusted me with.  It hurts to know that I played a role in crippling someone’s leadership.  Because I didn’t have the guts to pursue them as a leader.

Some reasons I didn’t pursue a leader when I should have…
·         I was afraid of rejection.  – Honestly, this is a pride issue, thinking ministry depended upon me and not upon God.  When I depend on God I gain the courage and confidence to do all kinds of things that stretch and grow me. 
The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped (Psalm 28:7)

·         I felt “they were probably too busy”. – Weather someone is too busy or not isn’t really for me to decide.  I learned over time to “never say people’s no for them”.  I had people saying no before I ever gave them a chance to say yes…and that’s just dumb. 

Now, that being said, I do think leaders do have a responsibility to coach leaders to focus their time serving to no more than one or two areas.  And through pastoral care, help them make those though choices to focus their ministry for effectiveness, leadership development, and so they don’t’ crash and burn.

·         I glorified myself by proving “I could do it all”. – Well, that’s just a pride thing too that I had to learn to let go of.  Thinking I was raising my level of leadership by “doing it all” actually shrunk my leadership. 

I was the “lid”, the cap at which the organization I was leading could grow.  Which is particularly sad to me, because lack of growth in my ministry meant lack of growth in the church, which meant less people were coming to know and follow Jesus because of my pride.  OUCH!  John Maxwell gives a talk on “The Law of the Lid”.

·        I’m an introvert and beginning conversations with people I don’t know wasn’t natural to me.  But, I began to push through that, I learned, I grew, to the point where now initial meetings are one of my most favorite things to do.  I found a great resource from Amplified Leadership by Dan Reiland and great strength from this passage:

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

Now that's not to say that being an introvert is a weakness per say.  But I had to learn to just be myself and get real comfortable with just being me in front of others.  Withholding authenticity was leading to others not fully trusting me.  I spent a year working specifically on just "showing my heart" with others.  It was a lot of work, that has continually paid huge dividends in pursuing leaders.

So there’s the stuff NOT to do. 
But what DO we do to purse those God leads us to?

1.  Have an “I See In You” conversation.  These conversations often have a “prophetic” word from God in them.  Where you begin to honestly speak to the potential leader about the fruit you see coming from their lives.  Here are a few examples of “I See In You” conversations I’ve actually had with people:
“I see in you this great joy that makes everyone in the room feel welcome”
“I see in you the ability to relate to and mentor students”
“I see in you the desire listen and give great advice to people”
“I see in you the ability to teach”
“I see in you how you take great attention to excellence and detail”

2.  Invite them to meet with you.  After you’ve expressed what you are seeing in their lives, invite them to meet with you about that.  An example might be:
            “I’d love to talk with you more about that and hear your heart”

3.  Meet with them.  This meeting generally has four major parts.
1.  Connecting With Them – How did they come to the church?  How did they begin following Jesus?  What are the passions God’s been speaking to them about.  This requires listening and discernment.  You may have an end goal of asking them to take on a leadership role, but you want to make sure it fits with what God’s been telling them.  So take the time to listen and be careful not to push your agenda...remember they are a person.
2.  Share Your Heart – Let them see my heart for ministry, what is it that God has laid upon my heart for the ministry I'm leading?  Children coming to know Jesus?  People taking next steps towards Jesus?  A place where people can belong and become?  A community transformed for Christ?  How did I get to where I’m at now?
3.  Make a SOFT Ask – Weather you like it or not, pursuing leaders is a “sales call” you are helping people decide how to spend their most precious commodity - THEIR TIME!  Believe it or not, there’s a respectful and honoring way to handle this pursuit.

After listening to their story.  After sharing what it is that you hope to accomplish through the ministry you lead.  If you discern it’s a match, make a soft ask. 

This means you pull out the job description paper for the role you’d like them to consider.  Say, I’d really like you to spend some time thinking, praying, and talking with your family about this role.  I wonder if it might be a good fit for you and the team we are building here.  One of these responses is to be expected:

·      They could say yes on the spot:  If so, make sure they talk with their family about the commitment before you accept their yes and say:  Great lets get together next week to discuss more details.  At which point you can discuss all of the policy, procedures, and details you already prepared.

·      They could be very interested:  If so, ask them to think about it for a week and that you’ll follow up with them in a week.  They shouldn’t feel pressured there on the spot, they may need to think about what they’ll have to say no to in order to say yes to this, there may be some logistical things to work out, and prayer is always recommended. 

·      They could be a little hesitant:  If so, ask them where the hesitation comes from.  Maybe they are overcommitted.  Maybe there’s a stress at home.  Maybe they just don’t see in themselves what you are seeing.  Either way, there is care and coaching you can provide that person.  Not as a prospective team member, but as a human being.  Ministry is people.

·      They could be totally uninterested and flat out say no:  If so, encourage them in what they are doing.  Thank them for their time.  Pray for them as a person.  Then, ask them to pray with you on the role you are hoping to fill someday.  Ask them to let you know if they know anyone who they think would be great for the role.

4.  Always Follow Up.  Remember after an initial meeting there’s always follow up to be had, schedule the follow up call into your planner, send a note of encouragement, still talk to them as a person if they say no.  Remember people are not the agenda to accomplish the ministry, people ARE the ministry. 

Overall I have found this way of pursuing leaders to be encouraging, honoring, respectful, and flat out fun.  Need leaders…pray, prepare, pursue.