Team Member Progression

I think that all of us in children’s ministry, or in ministry in general, have some idea or plan in our heads about how volunteers will progress through our ministry. This is usually some vague sense of where you will put new people and where they will go from there. But, how many of us actually have a thought out, prayed over, written down plan for this progression? I would bet that most of us just wing it. We either recruit people into a specific position, or we put them in where there is a need and then kinda let it roll, deciding arbitrarily how and when we will progress these new team members.

Now, my ministry is no different. Most of the people in my ministry have come in, and I have just put them somewhere. Alternately, I bring them in and just kinda tell them what to do on a week-to-week basis. As I thought about this recently, I wondered what would happen if I developed an actual plan for how volunteers would come into and move through my ministry. I think that having such a plan can have a number of benefits.

1) Lower initial commitment: I am all about expecting a high level of commitment from the people of the church. However, having a progression plan like this will allow you to offer areas of service within your ministry that require a much lower commitment. As a person grows in your ministry, the level of commitment could certainly grow, but in the beginning it could be lower. This could make serving a little less intimidating to the new volunteer and actually increase the number of volunteers.

2) Aids in and formalizes leadership development: If you are like me, the thought of leadership development is somewhat intimidating. I mean, how do I identify those with the potential to be leaders? How can I recruit people into the higher levels of leadership? Having a clear and defined process for leadership development can help with this process. People start in your ministry in the “lower levels.” Then, as they show potential and leadership ability they progress from there. Of course, there will be some people that demonstrate more potential and who will progress through the process more quickly. For this reason, the system should not really outline a time schedule. Rather, progression should be based on the performance and potential of the individual and the needs of the ministry.

3) Helps with recruiting: I know that this is an issue for just about every ministry. Having a clear progression can help with this. Think about it. You recruit people in as helpers, and then you have a plan for how they will progress from there. Then instead of trying to recruit people into the “higher” levels of ministry, you simply have to look at the people in the lower levels and speak with one of them about moving up. Once you have done this, then you go about recruiting another helper to fill the gap at the “lower” level.

4) Helps with clarity and unity: By the time a person has worked through the different levels of your system, they will have developed a pretty good understanding of what your ministry is all about. They should understand the values and priorities of the ministry and the church. This can be a big help.

5) Can make your life easier: If you have a set plan of progression for the people that come into your ministry, it can save you a lot of time and energy. For instance, if you lose a sign in person for your early service and you need to replace them, you already have someone sitting in the level just below that waiting to move into that spot. You’re left simply with the task of deciding who to move up into the space in each level and then to recruit someone into the lower level.

6) This can reveal their heart: I firmly believe that if someone wants to serve, then they will serve in any capacity necessary. They are willing to do whatever is needed. This could be taking out the trash or teaching the lesson. This could be setting up tables or leading worship. This could be leading games or cleaning up after the service. Some people will come into your ministry with a desire and perhaps even a talent for a certain area. However, if they are unwilling to start at the “bottom,” then you may have to take a look into their heart.

I understand that some people will never move into some of the positions. Some people may make great greeters, but will never be able to teach. Some may do a great job of leading worship, but could never greet the kids and parents one on one. For this reason there has to be some flexibility within the system, but at least having the foundation can be hugely helpful.

Certainly there are other benefits to having a defined process for this, but I hope that these help you. I would love to hear from you if you have a process like this already in place. I would also love to hear any thoughts you might have on what I have shared here.

Matt Norman

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Helping Your Preteen (and maybe yourself) Find Their Worth

In life we struggle with many things. One of the things that many of us struggle with at some point in life is self value. What am I good for? This kind of question haunts many of our thoughts and has a negative effect on our lives. The Bible tells us that we have value, no matter what the world tells us.

Confession time, I LOVE DISNEY MOVIES. There, I said it. These days I can blame it on my kids, but the truth is I had a fairly good collection of Disney movies even before I had kids. These movies are fun, feel good kinda movies. I just enjoy them. One of my favorites is Aladdin. One of the main characters is Jasmine, the beautiful daughter of the Sultan.

If you are not familiar with the movie, the Sultan is the king. This means that Jasmine is a princess. That’s almost a requirement for an animated Disney movie. Anyways, because she is the princess she lives in this amazing castle. She has the best of everything. All of her needs are taken care of. People love her. Princes from all over come and try at a chance to be her husband. Time and time again they come and she turns them down because they don’t live up to her standards. What makes Jasmine so special? Simple! She is the daughter of the king. That’s it. It really is that simple. Her value comes simply from being the child of the king.

What does that mean for us? Well, my father is not a king. Actually he is a pastor and school teacher. My mother is not a queen either. She is a nurse. Simply being their child does not make me all that special. Chances are if you are reading this, then your parents are kings or queens. So, what makes us special? Well, I have good news. If you have trusted in Jesus Christ for your eternal life, then you are a child of a king. But, not just any king, the highest of all the kings. You see the Bible says “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.” Romans 8:15. This means that we are sons and daughters of God, the greatest King. This means that we are princes and princesses. This means that, just like Jasmine, we are special.

Many times in this life people will not treat you like a prince or princess. People may not treat you as if you are special. Many people will not look at you and be able to see that you are valuable. BUT, the truth is that you are the son or daughter of THE King. You are special. No matter what you look like. No matter how much money you have, or don’t have. No matter where you live. You see your value comes from being a child of God, not from any of these things that people worry about.

So, when you feel that you don’t have any value, read Romans 8:15 and remember that you are a child of the most high King. This means that you are a prince or princess and no one can take that away from you.

Matt Norman

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Stop Fighting Straw Men

Recently my brother introduced me to a new concept. As I shared with him some things I am struggling with in my search for what God has next for me in ministry and life, he said something about fighting straw men. Do you know what that means? Don’t worry, I didn’t either. So, I asked him to explain. He told me that the idea of fighting straw men is when we, in our minds, create a bunch of “what if” scenarios and proceed to attack these made up problems, as if they were real and here now. He went on to compare it to Don Quixote. If your not familiar with this story, Don Quixote fought a windmill thinking it was some sort of dangerous beast. He then declared victory over it. There was no beast and, therefore, no victory. This is how it is with fighting straw men. We create POSSIBLE issues in our minds and then proceed to dedicate time and energy to fighting something that isn’t even there, and may never be.

As ministry leaders we often do this. When trying to enlist new team members we have the conversation in our heads before hand. This exercise then leads to us convincing ourselves that the other person is too busy, not interested, or for whatever reason says no. So, we never actually have the conversation. Or, we have an idea for the ministry. But, we get so caught up in all the what ifs that we never even present the idea to our leadership.

As parents we do this as well. This can be in discussions we have with our kids, their coaches, or teachers. In our minds we can create an endless list of “what ifs”. We can spend a lot of time fighting these what ifs and never actually getting anything done.

For me personally it was in relation to my future in ministry. You see I am a problem solver. So, when I see a problem my goal is to find a way to fix it, or to work around it at least. And, I’m good at it. While this is a great skill to have when REAL problems arise, it can be detrimental when fighting Straw Men. My aptitude in dealing with problems means I am also good at seeing them, even when they are only just a potential problem. This can be paralyzing, and nearly was for me. You see, I became so concerned with a long list of what ifs that I lost track of what I really should be doing; FOLLOWING AND TRUSTING GOD.

We should strive to be prepared. However, worrying about a bunch of possibilities that haven’t even happened yet, and my not, is not how we get prepared. Consider the military. I remember in Marine Corp boot camp several exercises that were designed to prepare us for what might come. One time they put us in a box about 3 foot by 3 foot. There were two men in each box. They put boxing gloves on us, closed us in the box and then told us to go. Did they do this because they thought that we might end up in a 3 x 3 box with boxing gloves on facing an enemy? No. Another time we worked with pugil sticks. If your not familiar with that term, it is a pole about 6 feet long with padding on each end. You fight with them. In my favorite of the pugil stick exercises they put us on either end of a bridge. When the whistle blew we would approach each other at the middle of the bridge and commence to beating each other with the sticks. Dude, that was fun. But, it was not designed to represent a specific situation that we might face. Both of these exercises were designed to teach us concepts and principles that could help us in any situation we might face.

How do we prepare as parents or ministry leaders? Jesus did say that we should “count the cost”.(1) So, there is some value in considering what may come up, what a given endeavor might involve, what it might cost. But, there is a point at which even “counting the cost” can have us fighting straw men. You see, it is wise for us to consider what something might cost. But, God is our provider and, once we have considered the cost, we need to let God worry about providing for it. Sure there is work to do, but God will handle the provision.

After we have considered the cost there is more preparation to be done. The first thing I would recommend is Bible study. The Bible is our “manual” for life. Contained it in are the instructions for how we should behave in different situations. Sure there will be situations that we encounter that don’t match every detail of what is spelled out in scripture. BUT, just like with the pugil sticks, there are concepts and principles in the Bible for every situations that we will encounter in life. If we “hide His words in our heart” (2) then we will be prepared for what comes up.

So, stopped fighting straw men. Do what you can to be prepared for what might come, but then just move forward. Don’t worry about every little possible problem. There will plenty of times to worry about the WHAT IFS when they become WHAT NOWS.Even then we have to trust that if God led us to it He will lead us trough it.

What Straw Men have you been fighting?

How have you learned to avoid fighting Straw Men?
1.) Luke 14:28
2.) Psalm 119:11

Matt Norman

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Are You Living Life in the Rearview Mirror?

I remember one time the rear view mirror fell off of my car. You know the one that sticks to the inside of your windshield and allows you to see what is behind you. It’s just glued to the glass so sometimes they fall off. Anyways, the repair takes about 5 minutes, but for some reason I just couldn’t seem to find the time. At first it was really annoying. I was so used to glancing in that mirror to see what was going on behind me. After a while it actually became kinda nice. You see I got rear ended several years ago. Since then I tend to watch very closely the vehicles that are behind me. With no mirror to watch them in, I kinda forgot about them. I no longer worried about what was behind me. There were still those mirrors on the doors so I was still aware of what was behind me, but without that main mirror as a constant reminder I didn’t worry about it.

Sometimes our lives are like driving. We can get so focused on our past that we are barely able to move forward or to see what is in front of us. We all have mistakes and bad decisions in our past, but they are behind us. Like with the little mirrors on the doors we need to be aware of our past mistakes, but we can’t dwell on them. Romans 8:1 says, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” There is value in being aware of our past mistakes, but we can not focus on them.

Imagine driving your car looking only into that rearview mirror in the middle of your windshield. Only ever focusing on what is behind you. When you do this you are somewhat aware of what is in front of you, but only slightly. You can’t see the dangers that are in front of you. You can’t see the good things or the bad things that you are coming up on. You can’t see clearly where you are going and can’t, therefore, make wise decisions about direction and route. It’s not a safe way to drive and seems ridiculous when we think about it.

It’s the someway in life. We can become so focused on our past that we can’t see clearly where we are going. We are so busy thinking about the things that are behind us that we can’t see the dangers that are ahead of us. We can’t see the good things coming either. It seems ridiculous to think about driving only looking at the rearview mirror yet many of us live our lives that way. We must be aware of our past mistakes or we are in great danger to repeat them. But, we can not focus so much on them that we can not move forward.

“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Matt Norman

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You Should Just Know.

At my church we have a beach volleyball pit. As you can imagine this requires a fair amount of maintainence to keep grass and weeds from growing in it. This morning I noticed that there was very little stuff growing in it. Last time I looked at it I was talking with a man in my church about just that. He was expressing his frustration that nobody seemed willing to help. He was mad that no one else could see the problem and would show up to do something about it. As ministry leaders we often feel the same way.

  • “Don’t people know how important children’s ministry is?”
  • “Don’t people care about youth ministry?”
  • “Why wont anyone volunteer”
  • “Why can’t I get any help”

As I looked at the volleyball pit this morning I thought, “I wonder if he ever asked anyone to help him with this.” It seemed that he was taking the same approach my wife often takes in regards to dirty dishes or laundry, “You should just know.” Well, my wife is probably right (don’t tell her I said that). I SHOULD see the dirty dishes and know that something needs to be done about it. I should see the overflowing laundry hamper and know that SOMEBODY has to wash them and it can be me. BUT, the truth is that my mind is usually on a million other things and the thought of doing the dishes really doesn’t even cross my mind.

I think the same is true with many people in the church. They probably SHOULD be able to see the needs of the children’s or youth ministry and they probably SHOULD offer their services to help. BUT, just like you and me they have a million other things on their mind and they really don’t see the needs. It has been my experience that many people in the church are willing and even have a desire to help, but just need to be asked.

So, where does this leave us?

Ministry leaders: Ask them. Many are willing to help, but the old pulpit cattle call just isn’t that effective in getting most people to serve. Help them to see the needs. Show them your vision for addressing the needs. Then invite them to be a part of this exciting vision.

Church members: Ok, church people, I’m giving you a little break here. I am excusing you for not stepping up prior to now. But, now is the time. Look around you. Pray that God will help you see the needs that exist within the church. Talk with the leadership of different ministries. Talk with your pastor. Trust me, there are needs and the leaders do want and need you to help. But, be careful. As you look around for the needs that exist around you, remember that you are looking for YOUR part in addressing these needs. As you pray for God to help you see the needs around you know that when He does show them to you it will be for YOU to address them. Don’t take the needs that you see to the ministry leaders or your pastor and walk away expecting them to address these needs. After all God showed them to YOU.

Matt Norman

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