“A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression.” Proverbs 19:11
If you are in ministry or other type of leadership and you get easily offended, you will be offended all of the time. People say goofy things and do goofy things. People sometimes choose to let the church be the place they express frustrations and stress from other areas of their lives. Sometimes people just disagree with us. Sometimes people just forget their manners. In other words, people are just people and as leaders, we catch the good and the bad.
The key here is to remember who you work for. God is who you are ultimately responsible to. And He has got your back. When you are insulted or frustrated, give those over to Him. By faith in Him, give people the benefit of the doubt that they didn’t mean to sound as mean as they just did. By faith in Him, choose to believe the best in people. By faith in Him, choose to let offenses go rather than dwell on them.
God still calls us to have a soft heart towards others. Even when we are in a season of ugly.
“And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”
How do you develop tough skin but maintain a soft heart? The good news is that God provides it for us. He tells us that we have the whole Armor of God available to us to protect us. Remember, our struggle is not with flesh and blood. Though it may be a person who hurts your feelings, treat it as a spiritual issue. Remember the things that He provides to protect us:
- Belt of Truth – surround yourself with the truth of His Word and choose His truth over others’ words.
- Breastplate of Righteousness – protect your heart by being who Jesus has called us to be. Live your life and make decisions based on His leading. And remember that ultimately it is His righteousness, not anything that we can do on our own.
– Shoes of Gospel of peace – seek His peace over hurt feelings. Choose peace over resentment. Seek the purpose of His gospel over the offense.
– Shield of Faith – Believe in God. Believe that He is in control and in the grand scheme of His plan, the person’s offense is not even a blip on the radar.
– Helmet of Salvation – Protect your mind by remembering that your value is not determined by your popularity of the moment. Your value is in the fact that Christ died for you and that your salvation is secure in Him.
- Sword of the Spirit/Word of God – People’s opinions are not truth. God’s Word is truth. Line up others’ opinions with what Scripture says. Fill your heart and mind with His word so that there isn’t a whole lot of room for people’s negativity or unrequested opinions.
Yesterday we began a new series focused on personal qualities strong leaders have. You can read the post about having a servant’s heart here.
The next quality is that of being a good listener. I also recently posted about how we talk too much. The opposite side is that we need to open our ears and learn from those around us.
Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. James 1:19
Take advantage of time with others to listen to their:
– Stories - Where have people been? What has God done? How has He brought them to where they are today? People have fascinating stories!
- Feedback - Seek out and then really listen to how others feel about what is happening in your ministry.
– Hearts - What are people passionate about? What is God saying to them?
– Complaints – No one really wants to hear complaints. I know I don’t. But when we listen with open ears and an open mind, there are things we can learn.
Good listeners also listen instead of…
- prepping what you’re going to say next.
- trying to give grand advice.
- trying to defend yourself.
- Getting angry
There are plenty of skills and tips and tidbits that leaders can incorporate into their repetoire. There are lots of things we can learn to do and not do. But then there are also some core qualities of who we need to BE. In this last pre-baby blog series, we will explore several of those.
My number 1 would be a personal and active relationship with Jesus, which I just blogged about not too long ago. So instead of repeating myself (which I do alot these days), feel free to go back and read that one. :)
After a true devotion to God, my next number 1 quality would be that every leader needs a servant’s heart. This should not be a surprise and many people smarter than me have written lots of words about it. But I think there are too many minutes that we forget to live it out. We get caught up in volunteers who don’t keep their commitments or what someone did not do for us or what the pastor didn’t announce from the pulpit. I see too many leaders, especially in kidmin, get caught in more of a victim’s heart than a servant’s heart.
“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45
If anyone could feel entitled, if anyone could play the victim card or if anyone should be allowed to focus on what others should do for Him, it could have been Jesus.
But He didn’t.
He took off his robe and washed stinky feet. And then He allowed Himself to be mistreated, beaten down, and put on a cross. For others. For me and you.
1. Serve your pastor. Stop making a list of all of the ways your pastor could better help your ministry. Repent of any resentment you feel. Instead, look for ways to serve him and make his world better and easier.
2. Serve your volunteers. They are not your employees. They are people who give up their time because they love Jesus and love kids. Look for ways to serve them, help them, and make their worlds better.
3. Serve parents. Yes, parents do goofy things and sometimes make our kidmin worlds a little messier. What can you do differently to better meet the needs of parents? How can you serve one of your ministry’s parents this week?
4. Serve kids. Model servanthood for those in your ministry by seeking to serve them. Set the example of considering others better than yourself and looking for ways to help.
Bottom line: Be willing to do whatever it takes. Less complaining. Less wishing of what others would do for you. Serve. Help. Meet needs. Love like Jesus.
While talking to a great friend, I was reminded of the principle of under promising and over delivering. I don’t even remember where I learned it – someone much smarter than me.
I think lots of times in ministry we over-promise and then end up under-delivering. In other words we say we are going to do something and we don’t. We say we will meet a deadline and are late.
There are lots of reasons we over-promise:
- We are people pleasers at heart. We want to make people happy and think we can do superman (or woman) type feats.
- It is easier to just agree to something or promise something at the moment, even if it is unrealistic in reality.
- Ministry gets busy with tons of distractions. We may have the best of intentions, but something else comes along.
However, there are some serious consequences when we under-deliver:
- We run the risk of disappointing those we are serving.
- Too many disappointments lead to a lack of trust.
- A lack of trust can lead to questions of integrity.
As leaders, we must maintain the trust of those we serve. So how do we over-deliver?
- Don’t set unrealistic deadlines or expectations for yourself. It may sound fabulous to say, but it is meaningless if you can’t meet the deadline. In fact, set a deadline that you can easily beat.
- Surprise people by going above and beyond what they would expect. I think this was Jesus’s idea first.
If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Matthew 5:41
- Only promise what you know you can do.
- When you blow it, apologize and do better next time.
Whether it is for a special kids’ service, an Easter Egg Hunt, or any other Easter event, I know I am always searching for a good and fun gospel presentation for this time of year. Here are a few that I have used in Easter events in the past:
Large Resurrection Eggs
We hid large eggs all around our stage. Each egg was filled with most items similar to the original resurrection egg sets. We had a high energy, funny person race to find all of the eggs while the kids pointed them out. We then opened them in order and talked through the Easter story and the gospel.
I had 5 helium balloons and talked about how we all have a desire to go to Heaven. Lots of people try different ways of getting to heaven. I talk about 4 different ways: being more good than bad, hiding our sin, going to church a lot, and believing in something/anything. For each one I talk about how it doesn’t work… we can’t be good enough… and I pop one balloon. Finally I talk about the gospel and how Jesus died to take care of our sins. Instead of popping the balloon, I cut the string allowing the balloon to fly away and talk about how trusting in Jesus is the only way to go to heaven.
Sin is gross!
We did two versions of this. First, I had a planed volunteer join me. We talked about different examples of sin and for each example we poured something “gross” over his hand. We did syrup, dirt, sand, cottage cheese, and whatever else we could think of that ended up with his hand looking pretty nasty. We talked about that is how sin makes our heart look. God is holy and perfect and can’t hang out with that yucky stuff. The volunteer then gets to wash his hand off as we talk about the gospel and how Jesus died for our sins. When we trust in Him, God cleans up our hearts and makes us right again. The volunteer shows his hand is now clean.
A more dramatic example of the same idea is to have a planned volunteer that you can pour a bucket of slime on his head. This again illustrates how gross sin makes us and separates us from God. The downside is that the slimed volunteer can’t really get clean quick enough, so it is better to have him go out of sight while you share the gospel.
What is your favorite gospel presentation?
Leaders are problem solvers. There are lots of people who can identify problems, complain about them, fret over them, or ignore them. Leaders look for solutions. One great way to grow as a leader is to seek to be better at solving problems. What does this look like?
- Identify what is broken. What is causing stress for you, for volunteers, for staff, for parents? What is a problem that keeps popping up over and over again? Sometimes the roots of problems are deeper than the surface. Identify the root of the problem. Why does that check-in line continue to be slow? Why do the glue sticks continue to disappear? Why does no one sign up for the event? Why don’t volunteers follow that procedure?
- Don’t wait for someone else to solve your problems. If the problem is anywhere in your realm of responsibility, it is your responsibity to fix it. Yes, someone else may be at fault. Yes, someone else may not be pulling their weight. But shifting blame does nothing to solve a problem. And it is not leadership.
- Research. You want to make the best, most informed solution possible. Check with everyone involved with the issue. Ask a lot of questions. Ask other peers in your field who might have encountered similar issues. Ask professionals related to the issue at hand. Google a little bit.
- Make a decision. Sometimes pulling the trigger can be the most difficult part of solving a problem. We are sometimes afraid we are going to make it worse or that we will rock a boat or honestly, we get too caught up in the day to day stuff. Make a decision and go with it.
- Evaluate. Did your solution help? What needs to still be done? Is the problem mostly solved or solved? Some solutions come in steps. Sometimes you need a temporary solution that will make things a little better until a permanent solution is available.
What problems have you had to solve recently in your realm of leadership?
I really do believe that leaders read a lot. Good leaders know that there is so much more they need to know.
- Read books in your field. Read everything you can get your hands on that is related to what you do. If you are in kidmin, read everything that is out there.
- Read books that relate to your field. For children’s ministry, this would include parenting books, child development books, educational theory, etc…. The more you know, the better you can lead.
- Read books that have nothing to do with your field but stretch you. These may be books that families in your church are reading or books that are a new subject or will expose you to a different way of thinking. You don’t have to love it, but reading something different every now and then will help your brain and your perspective.
- Read theology books. We want to be solid in what our kids are learning. Reading theology books are challenging to me, but I’ve found it greatly helps me in thinking through how to teach theological concepts to kids and gives a great foundation.
- Read blogs. Find really good blogs that you can learn from and that stretch you. You can see the list of my favorites on the righthand side.
- Find out what other leaders are reading. When you like a leader, find out what they are reading and go get it. Here are recent lists from two of my favorites: Jonathan Cliff and Sam Luce. You can see some of my faves in the cool little Amazon carousel on the right.
- Actually read. We are busy. And sometimes our bookshelf fills up with good intentions, but we never actually read what we have collected. But we do find time to watch lots of tv or linger on Facebook. Read!
My first baby is 7 today.
She is beautiful, which she may or may not know. She has the coolest eyes that are slightly different colors. She has a smile that absolutely lights up a room. And people (who don’t live in this house) describe her as always smiling and always happy.
She is full of energy. Non-stop, always talking, always thinking, always doing kind of energy. She is fiesty and stubborn, which I’m positive she gets from her daddy.
She really is brilliant. She has her daddy’s brain. She reads on a 5th grade level and thinks on a whole other plane. Some days she is too smart for her own good.
She really, really loves Jesus. She puts me to shame sometimes in her desire to stop whatever we are doing to help people. Her heart hurts for those who are hurting. She loves to serve and is extremely generous. She memorizes Scripture like a tape recorder.
As much as she fights with her sister, she loves her even more. I can’t imagine a Kaylie without a Brenna. She is so ready to be the “big big sister” and take care of her new baby sister.
Kaylie Bug, we love you more than the planet and I am so grateful God let me be your mommy.
Many years ago I swore off any object lesson that required an “illusion” or science experiment or demonstration. Because they never worked. Ever. I’m sure they worked for whoever wrote them in the book or site I found them on, and they even worked when I practiced. But not in front of the children. Including one the very first week I was on staff at Westwood. It was some kind of card trick that involved spelling the name of Jesus. And I spelled Jesus wrong. Who does that?
Today I had the opportunity to teach chapel at my girls’ school. This was my anti-illusion lesson.
- I had three empty water bottles that I put some orange juice, coke, and water in.
- I explained to the kids that I was a fantastic scientist and couldn’t wait to show them what would happen when I poured these drinks into a cup.
- I had a kid pour the bottle of coke into a red solo cup. We made a big deal about it and then poured the coke back into the bottle. The kids were expecting something different, but of course it was just coke.
- We repeated this with the oj and the water. The kids thought it was pretty each funny that the same thing came back out.
- After admitting that I was not a fantastic scientist, I used the example to talk about Luke 6:45:
The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.
- We talked about how what goes into our heart is what comes back out. I think it hit home and hopefully the kids will remember it!
The little people who live in my house have a lot of words. A LOT of words. But I have noticed that oftentimes ministry leaders have the same problem. We talk an awful lot and listen very little.
Sometimes I’m entertained at conferences or networking events to hear kidmin people talk alot. We are very interested in sharing about our own ministries and problems. We are not so much interested in hearing what others have to say. Sometimes we even ask for others’ advice but don’t really care to hear it because we already have made up in our minds what we will or won’t do. Sometimes we like to make our ministries sound like utopia and sometimes we like to make our ministries sound like the worst place to serve ever. We like to name drop and hint at the great successes God has given us.
And all the while we are missing the opportunity to really truly learn from those around us.
One easy thing we can do as a leader is STOP talking so much. Whether you are connecting with a hero in the ministry, someone on your staff, a peer, a local kidmin, a parent in your ministry, an elderly church member, a kid… SHUSH. Listen. Listen with only the motive of discovering what God has for you to learn. Ask questions. Try to hear the person’s heart. See what you can learn from that person.
And yes, you need to share too. But only with the intent of sharing your heart and maybe helping the other person learn too. Not because you have it all figured out or to prop up your insecurities.
I believe you can learn something from anyone. Just listen.