10 Things to Keep in Mind in a New Ministry Role

Photo by Emma Bauso on Pexels.com

Apple crisp, Pumpkin Spice Lattes, and Comfy sweaters. Fall is my absolute favorite season of the year. I love the predictability of the bold colors on my trees outside my kitchen window. The promise of hayrides and cooler temps are a welcome reprieve after the busy chaos of the summer. 

For those of us that have been in ministry for awhile, we know there are seasons to ministry as well. Heading into the fall is typically a season of growth. Newly christened planners, schedules, and a desire for routine will predictably produce a new crop of kids into our Children’s and Youth Ministries. Typically, this is the time of year new leaders, both paid and volunteer, are brought into our leadership circles of influence. Because of that, I thought it would be helpful this month to look at a couple things that we need to make sure we guard as leaders in ministry. We can get so busy and caught up with fall festivals and busy holiday months that it can be easy to slip into some negative habits if we aren’t careful. It’s also the time of year that new ministry roles are typically hired for.  

Recently, I transitioned into a new ministry role for an international organization after serving for almost 7 years in a local church.  Considering the fact that most Children’s Pastors only last on average about 18 months, I am what is considered a veteran in that arena.  

As I look back over my time in that role, there are some things that I wish I did differently. Here are ten things, in no particular order, that I hope you can use to protect heart and ministry in a new position. 

1.  Stay Positive 

Sometimes Children’s Pastors come on staff because the church is growing and there is a need for a dedicated person in this role. More often, however, you are replacing someone else.  Often times, there were issues that came up that contributed to the reasons why your position was even available. When I first started, I had a tendency to focus on the negative things that were piling up in front of me. My heart was in the right place, because I was so excited to make my ministry awesome. My mind, however, was not. Focusing on the negative put me in a negative place. It took awhile for this to sink in, but as I started focusing on all the awesome things about the families I got to work with, it balanced out my heart and mind.  Finding out that your predecessor did NO background checks on new volunteers?….. Pray over each volunteer as you make your way through the pile of forms that need processed. Lack of communication within the department?….. Have some fun creating a newsletter to send out every month. Low supplies and even lower budget?….. Tell everyone you come in contact with how amazing your kids are and how they can be a part of what God is doing right there in their community.  Find ways to use those things that your flesh might want to complain about as an opportunity to pray and bless someone in the process.  You will be amazed at what this does for your heart.  (And theirs!)

2. Treating Adults Like Adults 

When people serve in ministry, it is a commitment to God, not you or me. However, I used to call every person scheduled to volunteer to remind them they were on the schedule. Then I called them afterwards to see how everything went.  As my volunteer base grew, so did my phone call list. It got to the point where I was spending the majority of my week on the phone. At some point, I realized that I was treating my volunteers the same way I treated my young children. Reminding, worrying, then checking up. There is obviously value in being approachable and valuing each team member. There is also a sense that holding on to things too tightly prevents people from reaching their potential. At some point, as long as you have done your homework by doing background checks and training them well, allow people the freedom to succeed within their roles.  

3.  Talk to God Before You Talk to Anyone Else

My husband says I talk to breathe. He’s not wrong. It’s my default setting. So naturally, when the frustrations of working with broken people leave me feeling overwhelmed, my natural tendency is to want to process my emotions and thoughts out loud.  That is perfectly fine as long as my primary audience is God.  I understand that there may be permissions that won’t break confidentiality if you are sharing things within the staff. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Dumping something on someone else without going to God first does nothing to solve the problem. In fact, it often makes it worse because you are rehearsing the emotions. Yes, there may be times where you need the insight of the staff. More often than not though, taking it to the Lord first will help give you some perspective and peace. 

4.  Guard Your Relationships and Realizing Some Change

Leadership is lonely. There are things you just can’t talk about with others. There are events you have to go to, even if they are at the same time as a family event or birthday party. Nights out with friends suddenly don’t involve you because there is a layer of awkwardness now because of your role. Even if nothing changes within the relationship, it will still feel that way.  Seeking out relationships with other leaders will help this. Finding a network of like-minded ministry leaders whether it’s in your community or through social media becomes more important than ever. Don’t allow yourself to become an island. Instead, be intentional about making sure that as you grow and change, so do your relationships.

5.  Only Allow Those That Are Safe Into Your Private Spaces

Three years into my position as a staff Pastor, I had finally saved enough to take our kids to Disney World. Couponing every week and saving any extra funds that came in finally allowed us to take our three daughters on an unforgettable trip. Excited to share pictures of princesses, (both mine and Disney’s) with family, I posted ONE picture on social media of a moment that was a dream come true for my youngest. The response that picture got was not one I was expecting. The ridicule for spending other people’s “tithe money” on our trip cut deep. Yes, I was paid by the church. But I also held garage sales, carefully watched our grocery budget, and shopped second hand. That didn’t matter to those that were watching. Although that attitude was not reflected by our leadership of the church, there were people in our community that felt that way. I didn’t know how to handle that at first. After seeking out the advice of an older and wiser wife of another pastor, I had my answer. “Why are those people even on your social media?” It was a question I had not even considered before. I assumed that because I had a public role in the church that I was required to accept everyone that wanted to follow me. By doing that, I allowed those that didn’t understand my heart and mission to speak into my life, even in a small way. That criticism didn’t feel small. In fact, it stayed with me for quite awhile. Now, the only ones who are able to be in my safe place are those that are, well, safe. Those that love and encourage and support. 

6.  Do What God Wants YOU to Do, Not What He Told Someone Else to Do

When I first took over the children’s department I inherited a curriculum that was not a good fit for our kids. The previous director told me what a fabulous curriculum it was and how much money she had spent on it. Although I could tell it had some great bones to it, every week I had to re-write it in such a way that it barely resembled what we started with. This added a tremendous amount of work to my week. After praying about it, the Lord very clearly revealed to me that I needed to be obedient to what He was calling ME to in that season. The previous curriculum had been used for seven years. After prayerfully considering what God wanted me to do, we switched curriculum and have never looked back. I am thankful for the role the previous director played in our ministry. But she left. God placed me where He did for a specific reason and a specific group of kids. He did the same with you. Don’t feel like you need to keep things the same because that is how someone else did things. In fact, that’s all the more reason it may need to change. 

7.  Littlest Ones Matter

It is rare that a new volunteer will ask to be put in the nursery. Although I love babies, it is always difficult to get consistent volunteers for the nursery. When I consider that in light of our more popular areas to serve in our department, I realize that it’s my fault. Do I ever talk about nursery and how spiritual formation starts before birth? Not really. Instead I talk about what God is doing with Elementary kids doing community outreach or preschoolers learning to worship. It is just as important to talk about what God is doing in the hearts and spirits of our littlest ones. They matter to Him and they should matter to us. 

8.  Prioritizing

There is always a never-ending list of things to do in the Children’s department. It can be easy to feel overwhelmed, especially in the busy seasons. Prioritize what needs done first and allow yourself to walk away at the end of the day. It will be there tomorrow.

9.  Keep Family First

Ironically, this is not first on the list. Because initially, I did not struggle with this. It wasn’t until I was months into my new role that I realized the toll it was taking on my family. Time at home was not necessarily time at home because I was always answering one more text message, finishing one last email, and catching up on one last project. Now, there is at least one day a week that my phone and computer stay off, my family gets all of me, and they know they are my priority. Regularly scheduled vacations and family date days get scheduled on the calendar before anything else does. Don’t allow your marriage or kids become a statistic. 

10. Taking Time for Your Own Walk

This is last because this is the one that I want you to remember. This is the most important one on the list. If you are only opening your Bible to prepare a lesson, then you are not reading the Word for you, you are reading it for someone else. Yes, we need to be in the Word to develop lessons for our kids and volunteers. Don’t allow that to replace the time you are spending in the Word, hearing from the Lord for yourself. This will be the number one thing that will make the most lasting of an impact in your ministry.  

What else would you include in this list?  Drop us a line in the comments to let us know some other important things you would say to someone in a new ministry role. 

Be Blessed, Rachael

Butterfly Box Review and Giveaway!!

Do you need some joy each month? I think we all do! We started getting a couple different monthly subscription boxes during the pandemic…. well, because we needed something to look forward to. Have you heard of Butterfly Box? It’s a faith box! Here is their description:

Life is busy, and it can be hard to find the time each day to connect with Christ. Butterfly Box is here to help! We thoughtfully curate a themed box each month to help reclaim those quiet moments with God, build your intimacy with Christ, and live out your faith in the world around you! 

  • Each month’s box is designed to illustrate a biblical theme and encourage spiritual growth.
  • 5 to 6 items such as jewelry, artwork, books, decor, personal pampering items, faith sharing cards and other specialty items
  • All items are carefully chosen and undergo a rigorous selection process
  • Products are faith-based or support small Christian businesses.

Would you like to see everything that’s in the box? Check out the video I posted on my Facebook page here: She Hears Facebook Page Butterfly Box Video

If you would like to order Butterfly Box, here is a 10% off Code: WELCOME10

Also, don’t forget to enter the giveaway for 6 months FREE! These boxes are so nice that you could use them as a gift. Enter to win here: https://www.blessedfreebies.com/butterfly-box-giveaway.html

Stronger and Blessed

Being a mom of three girls, there are moments in my week that I recognize that I am having the same thoughts over and over. I think them, realize I am too busy in the moment to do anything about them, and then save them for the next week. Usually the thoughts come while I am sitting and watching my daughter’s basketball game, finishing up the dishes, or hurrying through the folding of the last load of laundry for the night. One of those repetitive weekly thoughts is that I am not doing enough.

Of course I am doing enough work… as do most moms. But what I mean is, there is this nagging feeling that I am not doing enough to teach my girls about who God is. Who He REALLY is. Don’t get me wrong, we have always attended and served at church faithfully. We have always participated in small groups, Worship nights, and Sunday School. My children even attend a Christian school. (Well at least they do when there isn’t a global pandemic). But how often am I intentionally investing in the spiritual lives of my children? And not as a side effect of how I am living my life. But as the goal?


If I am honest, not often enough.

This season of rest, as we are calling it, where the world has had to close up shop for a bit, has helped us to re-evaluate as a family. What are we spending our time, our resources, our finances on? Are they the things God has called us to do as parents? Even though it would appear that we are from the outside, this nagging feeling I have in my heart begs to differ.

Hormones. Boys. Grades. College Choices. Friends. Gossip. Insecurity.  

All the things that come with raising girls, all the conversations we seem to have over and over. How are we teaching our girls to navigate these things through the eyes of Jesus? If I am honest, I felt like there would always be time for that later. I needed to deal with the here and now.

In reality, these things are the here and now. These things are the things that our children are living in the age and space that they are in. And it is my responsibility as a mother to teach them how to navigate all those emotions and choices as they face them. Not when I have time. And not when it is convenient.  

So this space. This social distancing, staying at home, depending on each other space. It’s been so good for us. We now have the time to sit down and pull apart verse by verse chunks of Scripture to make sure they understand it. We now have the time to answer all the questions they thought were foolish to ask. We now have the time to pray and worship together after dinner.  

This past week, we started in the book of James. We didn’t have a plan or an agenda or a specific Bible study guide. Just God’s word and open hearts. As we started to read, we found words that encouraged our family and I believe will set the tone as we ride out this Coronavirus wave, however long it may last.  

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  James 1:2-3

Although the girls had heard this verse many times, I never asked them to explain to me what they thought it meant. My girls are ages 10, 13, and 16, and all three had a different thoughts. 

“How can we have joy when we are being tested?  That doesn’t make sense.”

“I thought God didn’t test us?”

“I thought endurance was for like running and stuff.”

It quickly became clear that we needed to spend some time explaining how God can use our trials to grow us. The result of the discussion on that section helped us land on one word: stronger. By the end of this season, this test and trial, we would have the endurance to trust God in a new way. Our faith would be stronger.  

The other half of the discussion that night focused on James 1:12.

12 Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. 

Could it be that there was a blessing on the other side of this season? Looking around the room at our family, our forced rest, our renewed sense of who God was, we already were experiencing God’s hand of blessing. Yes, we are incredibly blessed.

So as we hit hard moments…….volleyball is canceled for the season and summer camp is closed: Stronger and Blessed.

As we have to get creative when the store is out of toilet paper: (Flushable wipes to the rescue) Blessed and Stronger and Blessed.

When we are cooking from the freezer for the third night in a row because it still seems unsafe to go to the grocery store: Stronger and Blessed.

And when we realize that this time has brought us closer together, that we have time for long and meaningful discussions about God’s word: Stonger and Blessed.

I am realizing that this season, when it passes, will have changed us as a family. It has opened our eyes and hearts as parents to realize that there is only one thing that matters when we are raising our kids. Jesus. Teaching them to love Jesus, and how incredibly much they are loved by Him. So much more important than basketball or laundry. Not that I mind. I have always hated the laundry.

Remember: Stronger and Blessed. You can do this!

Rach

This post was originally written by Rachael for her publisher. You can read that on their website found here: https://www.warnerpress.org/blog/post/the-hidden-blessings-of-pandemic-life

Disney Dad

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Disney World.

 

I couldn’t believe it. I was being asked to speak to and work with other Children’s Pastors at a conference in Disney World. For someone like me, this felt like the epitome of a “perk” at work.

 

As a child, I had wanted to go my entire life. I remember watching the TV commercials, longing to watch the fireworks in front of the castle. My parents could and would never be able to take me. Between finances, priorities, and mental illness, there would never be a time that there would even be an option in our family.

 

When I was a teenager, I started working at a Christian bookstore. I loved working there because I got to speak and minister to people, as well as feed my love for a good read. Imagine my disappointment when my parents announced that they were taking my younger brother to Disney. Seriously? Not even an option for me to go with?

 

No. I had a job. And responsibilities. And besides, he had always wanted to go. My heart sinking, I thought about all the times I had come in early for my curfew, only to be scolded for “pushing it” too close to the time I was supposed to be home. My brother, on the other hand, came in all hours of the night, often breaking a window to get into the house because he didn’t have a key or was too drunk to figure out how to use the doorknob. I thought about how hard I worked to maintain above a 4.0 in my AP classes, my role in the National Honor Society, and all the extracurriculars I was involved in. Those things were never celebrated or even mentioned. Meanwhile, my brother, who was and is very intelligent, barely squeaked by with D’s. I thought about how he stayed home, watching TV and playing video games, while I served in the community. To my young mind, this decision, to take him to Disney without me, was the proof of what I always felt… they loved him more than me.

 

It wasn’t just my brother, it was my parents. They were not in attendance at even one concert, play, or performance (and there were many…..). They did not take me shopping for a prom gown or new school clothes. Let’s not even get into the fact that I worked three jobs just to pay for those things. There was always a sense that I was on my own, often being parented by my grandparents. At a certain point, my parents just stopped, well, being my parents. I may have been with them physically, but emotionally, they decided for me that I didn’t need them.

 

Oh, but I did.

 

Sighing, I was shaken back to the reality of the email in front of me. Disney World. An opportunity to speak and teach people I love in a place that I love. Of course, I would do it. Of course, I would invest in the people who were investing in the next generation. Of course, I would have some “after parties” with them, watching fireworks at the castle. (Eek!). Of course, I would. As I giggled to my self, I sensed not only that my heavenly Father was proud of me, but that He had his hand in some healing for my heart with this event.

 

“I redeem ALL things.  ALL things, daughter.”

 

Immediately the tears sprung to my eyes. My Abba was taking me to Disney World. My Abba was acknowledging how hard I had worked. And my Abba was celebrating with me.

 

“Thank you, Father.  I love you.”

 

It’s the only thing I could think about all day. All month. All year.

 

We have a good, good, father. One who sees us, who hears us, and longs to mend those broken spaces.

 

I don’t know what your “Disney World” sized hurt is today. But I do know the one that can heal it. I had long ago surrendered that hurt to Him, never expecting Him to take care of it in such a powerful way. But what I know is true for me is also true for you.

 

He’s a good, good, Father.

 

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called

children of God! And that is what we are! 1 John 3:1a NIV

 

As we enter into a season of celebrating love, let’s not forget the only love that can satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts, even the ones we have already surrendered.

 

Be Blessed,

 

Rachael

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beyond Imagination

 

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I felt a chill in the air as I looked outside our picture window, into the cold, gray sky.  It was drizzling rain.  Such a disappointment, since the day before, had been close to 70 and sunny.  It was only February, but the unseasonably warm weather that week had spoiled us a bit.  Turning off the heat, opening the windows, and hearing the peepers seemed to trick our minds into thinking it was spring.  February in Northwestern PA typically had us buried under several feet of snow.  Realizing this, I adjusted my attitude towards the rain, thinking how grateful I was that I didn’t have to shovel.

As I was helping my daughters work on homework, I noticed a distinct patch of grass in our backyard was surprisingly bright green.  Looking up into the clouds, thankful for the peek of sunshine, my eyes met something that created in me a sense of girlhood wonder.  There was a bright, double rainbow, clear and brilliant.  As I called my children over, I realized why it seemed so unusually beautiful to me.  In addition to the typical rainbow colors, ROY G. BIV, as we had learned in grade school, there were three or four more colors past the purple shade.  A brilliant pink, a vivid yellow, and a piercing aqua blue.  It seemed as there were actually a couple more colors in there, but I don’t even know what to call them.  They were not shades I have ever seen before.  “The impossible colors!” my daughter yelled out,  “It’s the colors from heaven!”  We had been talking about heaven in the last couple of weeks since both of my grandparents had passed away suddenly.  We talked about how excited we would be to see them again one day, and imagining what their new home looked like.  My grandparents raised me like their own daughter, so for me, the heavy weight of grief was somehow relieved as I imagined them walking on streets of gold with beautiful rainbows in the sky.  My middle daughter, Adelyne, is a young artist, and her favorite thing in the world is to blend colors in paint.  She and I had long talks about what colors would be in heaven, and how we couldn’t even imagine something we have never seen or made with her paints here on earth.

Here they were, those colors we had just been imagining, right in front of our very eyes.  In addition to that, we realized that there was suddenly a second rainbow above the first one.  Something was off though.  It was brilliant and beautiful, and upside down.  UPSIDE DOWN!  On top of a rainbow with brilliant new colors, there was an upside-down rainbow!  I had never seen anything before like it in my entire life!  My girls and I stood there, speechless, watching the sky….. and then as simply and quickly as it came, it left.

There’s so much more to me than you can even imagine.

I heard the whisper.  “Lord!”  I prayed.  “Thank you for showing me that!”  More than once, at other times in my life, God had used a rainbow to encourage me.  But this time, it felt different.  This time, it was if God was preparing my heart to seek Him in a new way.  With a fresh heart and a fresh view, I realized that God has so much in store for us.  Even things we think are impossible.

 

 

I originally wrote a similar version of this post for my editor, Warner Press.  Feel free to check that one out at: https://www.warnerpress.org/blog/post/impossible-colors