Illuminate 2013 Recap

Illuminate was not your ordinary Kidmin conference as it was stated on the tag line.  It was fantastic! Sue Miller knocked it out of the park during the General sessions by sharing how important Volunteers are to the kids.  She shared 12 ways for volunteers to show kids they care and much, much more.  They were all very simple truths we tell our teams.

We had fantastic breakout speakers who where amazing! It was a great investment for our volunteer team.  Everyone I talked too said it was amazing, incredible, and inspiring!  Several people said, “Thank you, this is what I needed!”  Another person said, “This was great for our team, let me know when you are going to do this again.”

Thank you to Kenny Conley and his team for partnering with us to make this a great event for our Volunteers and the volunteers around our community! It was an opportunity to pour into them and to recharge their batteries. We as leaders need to make time to pour into our team.  If you get an opportunity next year, I want to challenge you to bring your team to Illuminate.  They will not be disappointed.  Everyone left wanting more!

My prayer is that everyone who attends will  leave renewed, refreshed, and recharged to do all that God has called them to do!  We have an opportunity to change the way children and families experience the love of Christ! What are you willing to do to make that happen to the next generation of leaders God has entrusted you with today?

If you came to Illuminate Nashville, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please leave a comment and share!

The Ice Cream Maker

The Ice Cream Maker: An Inspiring Tale About Making Quality The Key Ingredient in Everything You Do

The Ice Cream Maker by Subir Chowdhury is a great book about making quality the key ingredient in everything you do. As a Children’s Pastor who is passionate about the details, this book was a great reminder of why the quality of our church and what we offer is so important.  Chowdhury takes an example of a local ice cream maker,  Peter Delvecchio, the manager of a regional ice cream company, who is determined to sell its ice cream to a flourishing national grocery chain, Natural Foods. In conversations with the Natural Foods manager, Peter learns how the extraordinarily successful retailer achieves its renowned high standard of excellence, both in the services it provides its customers and in the foods it manufactures and sells. Quality, he discovers, must be the mission of every employee; by learning to listen, enrich, and optimize, he can encourage and sustain the highest levels of quality in everything the company does who continues to try to invent better kinds of ice cream but can not sustain the market because he has not been taking care of the small details.  His boss basically tells him if things don’t improve everyone could lose their jobs.

 

Many times we think we know what the criteria is to sell our product but we are not willing to listen and ask our customers what they are looking for in our products.  In the church we have the greatest gift we can give someone, a relationship with Jesus Christ, yet many times we assume we know the criteria that will bring people into our church.  However what we need to do is take a deep look and listen to what their needs are so we will know how to meet them when they arrive.

Peter continues his search and learns to listen and realizes he needs to take care of those who matter to him most.  He learns that his family should come first and then those who are working for him.  Many times we get so caught up in striving to be the best that we forget to see what is most important.  Your family, staff, and volunteers need to know that you care about them.  They need to  share their input on things that are happening in the church and what they see that is working or not working.  If they are not heard or feel like you don’t care for them they will jump off the wagon pretty quick and will not follow you wherever you may try to lead them.

What we do in the church is not just a job, it’s a spiritual battle that we are up against.  Some of us maybe working in the church out of necessity, but you are not really giving it your all unless you fully invest and love what you are doing.  The same is true for your team.  Your team needs to love what they do or they will not follow.  What can you do to get them to strive to love what they do to see the greater impact for the kingdom?

We all need to strive for perfection from the time someone enters our church or business until they leave.  But in order for them to come into our church or business we have to know what they want and how to meet their needs when they arrive. We want to have the best Children’s Ministry and be an example to others of how to reach children and families.  This book has helped me to see what details we need to work on as an organization to be sure everyone knows what the end result can look like when we are all on the same page.  I highly recommend this book for any church staff or business.  It is a must read to learn and grow and be all the God intends for you to be.

The Call to Adopt

Family photo 2Adoption has been a part of me and my wife Sarah’s heart almost all of our marriage.  We’ve been married 15 years now and have 5 incredible children which I like to call my mini basketball team.   When we were about two years into our marriage we took classes for foster care/adoption.  Not because we couldn’t have kids, but because we just had a heart for it.  It didn’t work out (they lost our huge pile of paperwork – yep, lost it, and then we moved to TX for seminary.)  We went on our first mission trip to Africa where we introduced the Bible to hundreds of kids and shared the gospel in the summer of 2000.  We were blown away by the number of orphans and knew God would be calling us to Africa at some point. We originally thought sooner than later.  Our next few years were filled with getting started in ministry and serving in three great churches and having three great kids.  The places we served helped us grow, and prepared us for the right time to adopt.

I know sometimes people don’t get what it means to feel like God is calling you towards something.  But, every time we would hear about orphans there’s just a longing in my heart.  There were kids who didn’t have a mom or dad to love them and care for them.  Why shouldn’t we step in to give them the love they need and to hear about  Jesus?  I work with kids every week why not us?  Its like a stabbing longing where something in your heart is missing.  It’s a constant prompting from the Lord.  It’s a sense of no peace regarding this issue.  Sarah and I began to pray about what God wanted us to do in regard to adopting.  We prayed but we realized that while we were praying we were really disobeying what God was calling us to do. We thought we needed to wait until our kids got older , etc., etc.

He bought into the phrase that we use with our children to mind, “Delayed obedience is disobedience”.  We realized that while we were praying as an act of obedience we were really putting off what God was calling us to do and being disobedient.   Sometimes we do need to keep praying about things.  Sometimes the timing isn’t right.  BUT, we were struck by the fact that one of Satan’s favorite things to hear from Christians must be that we’re “praying about it.”  Because for me, as long as we were praying about it and waiting on God’s timing, I felt like I was obeying.  We’re going to obey, just not now.  That is delayed obedience which equals disobedience in the Underhill house!

So, I believe God had awakened our hearts, but I just wasn’t doing anything with it.  When we got home from a service at church on a series titled, Crazy Love, Sarah and I talked about adopting again.  God had laid it on my heart that now was the time to move forward and Sarah had been thinking the exact same thing.  We knew we couldn’t delay.  God confirmed our desire  with His desire in the verse 2 Cor 5:13 ”If it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God.”   This is CRAZY, CRAZY!  The stakes were high as we began the journey.

We began to find the right agency and started to talk with other folks in our church and outside the church who had adopted to find out as much as we could so we could be prepared for all God had in store for us.  We had a ton of support when we announced that we were adopting.  We held fundraisers, yard sales, and other gifts were given to help us in our adoption.  God was right there with us.  We had people praying for us, sending us messages and encouraging us along the way.

We could see that God was blessing us because of our obedience.  Maybe God is calling you to adopt but you are giving Him excuses for why you shouldn’t . Give all your what if’s to God because He is all powerful and can use you to make a difference in the life of a child that otherwise wouldn’t have a mom or a dad.  He may be calling you to be their mom and dad to share the love of Christ with them.  Are you delaying God in what He is calling you to do?  It may seem crazy but don’t delay because it will bring God glory.

Adoption has been a part of me and my wife Sarah’s heart almost all of our marriage.  We’ve been married 15 years now and have 5 incredible children which I like to call my mini basketball team.   When we were about two years into our marriage we took classes for foster care/adoption.  Not because we couldn’t have kids, but because we just had a heart for it.  It didn’t work out (they lost our huge pile of paperwork – yep, lost it, and then we moved to TX for seminary.)  We went on our first mission trip to Africa where we introduced the Bible to hundreds of kids and shared the gospel in the summer of 2000.  We were blown away by the number of orphans and knew God would be calling us to Africa at some point. We originally thought sooner than later.  Our next few years were filled with getting started in ministry and serving in three great churches and having three great kids.  The places we served helped us grow, and prepared us for the right time to adopt.

I know sometimes people don’t get what it means to feel like God is calling you towards something.  But, every time we would hear about orphans there’s just a longing in my heart.  There were kids who didn’t have a mom or dad to love them and care for them.  Why shouldn’t we step in to give them the love they need and to hear about  Jesus?  I work with kids every week why not us?  Its like a stabbing longing where something in your heart is missing.  It’s a constant prompting from the Lord.  It’s a sense of no peace regarding this issue.  Sarah and I began to pray about what God wanted us to do in regard to adopting.  We prayed but we realized that while we were praying we were really disobeying what God was calling us to do. We thought we needed to wait until our kids got older , etc., etc.

He bought into the phrase that we use with our children to mind, “Delayed obedience is disobedience”.  We realized that while we were praying as an act of obedience we were really putting off what God was calling us to do and being disobedient.   Sometimes we do need to keep praying about things.  Sometimes the timing isn’t right.  BUT, we were struck by the fact that one of Satan’s favorite things to hear from Christians must be that we’re “praying about it.”  Because for me, as long as we were praying about it and waiting on God’s timing, I felt like I was obeying.  We’re going to obey, just not now.  That is delayed obedience which equals disobedience in the Underhill house!

So, I believe God had awakened our hearts, but I just wasn’t doing anything with it.  When we got home from a service at church on a series titled, Crazy Love, Sarah and I talked about adopting again.  God had laid it on my heart that now was the time to move forward and Sarah had been thinking the exact same thing.  We knew we couldn’t delay.  God confirmed our desire  with His desire in the verse 2 Cor 5:13 ”If it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God.”   This is CRAZY, CRAZY!  The stakes were high as we began the journey.

We began to find the right agency and started to talk with other folks in our church and outside the church who had adopted to find out as much as we could so we could be prepared for all God had in store for us.  We had a ton of support when we announced that we were adopting.  We held fundraisers, yard sales, and other gifts were given to help us in our adoption.  God was right there with us.  We had people praying for us, sending us messages and encouraging us along the way.

We could see that God was blessing us because of our obedience.  Maybe God is calling you to adopt but you are giving Him excuses for why you shouldn’t . Give all your what if’s to God because He is all powerful and can use you to make a difference in the life of a child that otherwise wouldn’t have a mom or a dad.  He may be calling you to be their mom and dad to share the love of Christ with them.  Are you delaying God in what He is calling you to do?  It may seem crazy but don’t delay because it will bring God glory.

Balancing Stress from All Sides

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Definition of Stress- constraining force or influence

As leaders called by God to reach those for the Gospel we are in a war.  That war is between our families, our volunteers our supervisors and other outside distractions that may come our way.  If we don’t balance stress well it can lead to physical issues, mental issues, and eventually to a depressing state of life. Real exciting huh.  I believe we have to keep ourselves in balance which is hard to do with the pressures that come from the volunteers we work with, our families, and our supervisor.Many times we have to do a gut check to see where we are.

Stress is a part of life. If you don’t have any stress in your life, you are probably dead. You need a certain amount of stress in your life to accomplish anything. Stress is what gives you the energy, the effort, the ability to actually accomplish things.  If you take a violin, you have to put stress on the strings to make music. If you stress it just the right amount, it creates beautiful music. On the other hand, if you tighten it too tight, the strings snap. We all know that too much stress is bad for you and causes us to snap at times in our own lives.

There are 5 things I try to practice that help keep me in check that I have to do as well when life becomes stressful.

1. Release your stress
Stress creates anxiety, worry, fear, guilt, shame and depression.  It can also creat frustration.  How many of you have been frustrated because of a volunteer, your spouse, your supervisor, etc.? I know I have but you can’t let the negative emotions that come effect what God wants to accomplish. God wants you to release those frustrations to Him.  The best way I have learned to release the stress is by exercising. There is something about exercise that releases the tension that you may be dealing with.  For me exercise is a great time to release things to God during that hour to hour in a half time.  I can talk to Him and let off some steam at the same time.  I’ll Bike harder or lift harder as I let out those frustrations.  What I find however is the way God speaks to me and gives me clarity as I release those things to God.  Psalm 62:8 says” Pour out your heart to God, for He is our refuge.”
So what do you do, to release your stress to Him?  There are times when I rehearse in my mind over and over how I feel.  When I do that and don’t release those feelings the stress gets bigger and bigger. When I catch myself being short tempered I realize my feelings are showing and I haven’t released them to God for Him to help control me and to show me what is best.  Psalm 31:22 says, “In my alarm I said, I am cut off from your sight!’ Yet you heard my cry for mercy when I called to you for help.” I can’t see God but  hears my prayer when I cry out to Him.  Have you ever been so stressed you wondered if God could be found?  I want to challenge you to know there will be times where you feel that he is not there but God has never left your side. He sees and knows everything thats going on.  Release your burdens to Him.

2. Resist becoming bitter
This is tough. There are times when your frustration leads to bitterness.  Especially when you may have a better idea or thought that doesn’t go your way. Or maybe your supervisor throws something at you that really doesn’t make sense but it’s up to you to do it any way.  Bitterness usually occurs when you’ve reached the breaking point. We are all going to be hurt at some point with the circumstances, things, people, intentionally or unintentionally and your going to get hurt.  There are people who choose to be happy rather than bitter despite the circumstances. Do you know of people like that, surround yourself and learn from them.

Joseph was someone in the Bible who was a great example of someone who could have and deserved to be bitter with the life dealt him and his circumstances.  But never once did he get bitter.  He found a way to have joy and happiness in every situation and because of it God opened up the door to be second in command and was able to save his family and the people of Egypt as well.
Hebrews 12:15 “See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”
1 Thessalonians 5:18 “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Corrie Ten Boom lived in Holland with her family, and during WWII they were Christians who hid Jewish people in their home to keep them from being captured by the Nazis. They had a little attic where they hid them, and it was called the hiding place.
Those of you who have read the true story and even watched the movie know that they were eventually caught. Corrie and her family were shipped off with the Jews to a concentration camp called Ravensbruck. In that concentration camp, Corrie and her sister Betsy began to hold a little Bible study in what some considered the pit of hell, in the middle of a Nazi concentration camp in their barracks. They were talking one day about this verse. “In everything give things for this is God’s will.” They asked themselves, “What can we be thankful for in the middle of this holocaust? What can we be thankful for here in a prisoner of war camp, where we know we’re all going to probably die?” They decided they would be thankful for the lice. Why in the world would they be thankful for the lice? They had lice in their hair, lice in their clothes; the barracks they were in was infested with lice. But they said, “The Bible says ‘In everything give thanks’ so we’re going to thank God for the lice.” A few days later it dawned on them why they could be truly thankful for the lice; none of the German guards would enter their barracks. What this meant was they weren’t abused by the guards and could have as many Bible studies as they wanted. They thanked God for the lice.
You can always find something to thank God for, even in the darkest day, even when you’re stretched to the limit, pressed to the breaking point. Look for your opportunity to thank God for the lice.

3. Receive Help from Others
When you are stressed or to the breaking point I have the tendency to just veg out and isolate myself.  But when things aren’t going the way you think they might you need to seek wise counsel so you can have the right perspective to see the entire picture.  A Small group or an accountability group is huge for you.  Sarah and I were so excited when small groups were put in homes.  In my position we would never been able to have a group of people to study with express our frustrations etc that could help us deal with the things the church brings on us on a Sunday morning.  We sought to choose people we could trust that could also help us be accountable.  A mentor or accountability group of men are helpful to have as well.  They can be your life support when things get tough.  They can help you see perspectives in ways you can’t.  Set these up early so when the crisis comes you know where to go and who to seek for wise counsel and advice.

Galatians 6:2 “by helping each other with your troubles, you obey the law of Christ.”
1Thessalonians 5:11 “Encourage each other and give each other strength “

Everyone needs a genuine friend who can walk in when everybody else walks out!

4. Refocus on Christ
We have to refocus off the problem at hand and focus on Christ.  When we lose our ultimate focus on Christ we begin to allow the stress to overcome what is best for us and the purpose God has for us in our lives.  You become more occupied with yourself and all you can see is the pain that is associated with the stress.  Jonah is a great example of someone who lost his focus because of the challenges and stress He chose for himself.

Jonah 2:7 “When my life was ebbing away I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple.”
When you are engulfed with with problems and are overwhelmed you need to do what Jonah did, pray.  Sometimes it takes something big to get our attention to refocus us toward Christ.  For Jonah it was getting swallowed up by a huge fish.  Hopefully it’s not a huge fish that swallows you up before you realize you’ve lost your focus. But when we crash it brings us to repentance and back to the heart of God.

3 Things that can help you refocus on Christ
Refocus by reading Gods word Psalm 119:143
Remember God’s Goodness Psalm 27
Rely on God’s Power 2 Corinthians 1:9 “Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death.  But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.

5. Refuse to give up
You have to fight the fight and never give up. God may be telling you there is more He wants you to do and moves you to another ministry. He may be telling you to stay put and finish the job. No matter what direction He takes you never give up on what God has for you.  Never allow the stresser to take over what God’s best is for your life. You may need to change the way you talk to volunteers or restructure your time with your spouse and kids but the one thing you can never do is give up.

Now see Paul’s perspective and I challenge you to read 2 Corinthians 4.

God has so generously let us in on what He is doing, we’re not about to throw up our hands and walk off the job or say goodbye to our marriage just because we run into occasional hard times.   We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do but we know that God knows what to do. So we’re not giving up. How could we? Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on the inside God is creating a new work in our heart.  There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. Those are the problems and the pressures. But the things we can’t see our relationship to Christ and our character are going to last forever.”
Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-29 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
Life is full of heartache and challenges that will try to stress you out. You have the choice of how you handle that stress. Does the stress get placed on a shelf or at the foot of the cross? You decide.

All Pro Dad!

All Pro Dad By: Mark Merrill
All Pro Dad is a great book to get you started for being a better dad and a better husband in life.  As a father of five, I am always wanting to learn from other dads on how to be a better father to my own kids.  Mark Merrill shares seven ways you can be a hero to your kids.  He calls them the 7 Essentials.  Each chapter gives you practical ways to improve yourself as a man and to improve yourself as a father.  Mark gives great examples of his own life as a father and the challenges that he has experienced being a dad.
Our kids look at us as a dad each day and they want to be like us.  In a child’s eyes, “Dad” is their hero!  When I look in the mirror and I begin to watch my own children growing up they tend to mimic my every move, speech and even behavior.  As I watch my kids grow I begin to realize how little time I really have as a father to spend with them and make an impact on their life.  The Bible teaches us that our kids are a gift from God and that we are to teach and train our children to leave and go on their own.  I want to be sure that when my kids have grown and have their own families that I have done all that God has equipped me to do with my kids so that I will leave a legacy that will outlive my own children and grandchildren.
If you are a first time dad or a dad of 30+ years I would encourage you to pick up this book and read it.  Mark gives you practical tools to help you become a better husband to your wife and a better dad to your children.  We will never be fully equipped but we can always strive to be the best Dad we can be for our children and give them the love they need that will impact them forever.
To find out more about All Pro Dad you can visit the website at AllProDad.com.
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A Walk of Love

As I look back and reflect on the last couple of weeks in ministry, I can’t help but be overwhelmed with the message that our kids presented in the Kidz Choir Production, “A Walk of Love.”  It was an incredible night for parents, grandparents, and siblings to hear the story of Christmas from the children’s voices.  They sang with gusto, and it was magnificent.  The kids had been practicing for over 4 months as our Treehouse Minister, Robyn Collins worked with other song writers to put together an incredible program.  Our volunteer Choir Directors Carol Goad and Dianne Schneider were fantastic and had the kids poised and ready to perform.  They spent countless hours with the kids rehearsing the songs and preparing them for this special night.  I can’t thank them enough for what they have done with these children.  The kids that were in the video drama were tremendous.  They memorized their lines and were fantastic.  It is something that people continue to talk about each week.

The kids love the songs and continue to sing them as they cherish each one of them in their heart.  There is nothing better than to hear children lifting their voices to God in worship as they share the message of Christ with others.  I hope you will cherish every moment you have this Christmas season as you have an opportunity to share a walk of love with your own children that only you can share.  Take time to tell your children about Jesus and the walk He took on this earth so that we could have eternal life.

Getting in Tune with Today’s Kids

Today’s kids are the future leaders of tomorrow, and we have been entrusted to share God’s love in a way that is relevant to them. Here are five ways to tune in and build relationships with today’s kids that I hope will inspire and empower you to make a difference in the next generation. We cant afford not to!

1. Tune in to Prayer
Prayer is powerful. The first thing we can do today to tune into kids is pray!  Prayer is the central key to the rest of the relationships with kids. Children today need prayer more than ever.  They need to understand and know that someone cares for them.
Let’s look at a prayer from a mother and see how we can tune in to a child through prayer from a different perspective.

I Samuel 1: 10-20

We see that in vs 10 Hannah wept. As a mom or a dad when we first begin to want a child from God we pray. Many women weep and pray for a child, just like Hannah. How many of you prayed for a child in this way?  When you got word you were having a child how did it feel?

Hannah went to The Lord Almighty to pray. First time in scripture someone acknowledges God as Almighty. She recognizes He is the giver of life.  She called on the name of the Lord 7 times.
When we pray for the children God has entrusted us with, do you pray like Hannah did?  Here are a few things we can learn from this passage to help us tune  into kids today and how we can pray for them.
A. Hannah came to God with respect.  Believing that God would help her in her distress.
B. Hannah also came to God with the right attitude. She came as a humble slave to God in her prayer.
C. Hannah came to God with the proper request. Many times our requests are one-sided. We look at what we want and not what the child needs in many of our prayers. We want to fix it our way instead of God’s way.
D. Hannah prayed from the heart. Are you praying from the heart to truly understand the needs of the children God has entrusted you with?  Many times however we are spiritually blind and emotionally insensitive to hear all God has for the child.
E. Hannah also prayed a prayer of thanksgiving. That is what we can can pray when we see God at work in the lives of children. We have to see the gifts God has given us with these children and realize God has a special plan for each one of these special children and thank Him for it.

2.Tune in to family
Today the family is so different that it is a challenge to get our arms around.  As leaders and teachers we have to tune into the needs of the family to connect in a relationship with the kids.  Here are some interesting facts I found recently about the family today.

A. 51% of children live in divorced homes today.
B. The number of Kids living with Grandparents is 1 in every 14. That is 5.4 million children. Us Census Bureau
C. 41% of births take place outside marriage. Up 17% from 3 decades ago. New york times July 14, 2012
D. 1 in 3 kids live without a father today.  James Dobson

In order for us to meet the needs of families and tune in we have to find out what is going on in the home so we can speak truth at there level. Many kids as you can see are raised without fathers. We have to take into account how we can help that child and family to see God’s love in a real way.
The families we observe in the Bible are totally messed up.  The very first family, Adam and Eve had two son’s one of which killed each other.  Noah’s family got him drunk and did some crazy things to him.  Joseph’s brothers threw him in a hole and sold him into slavery and tricked their dad into thinking he was dead. Jesus’ parents lost him.

Families don’t make good choices. Kids are dealing with death, loss of animals, divorce, single moms,  drugs, sex, etc.  When the church comes along side these families to help them they see them in a unique way
We can’t ignore what is happening. We have to see the family for what it is. When kids see that we care for them they will see how God loves and cares for them despite the circumstances they are in.

3.  Tune into Emotions

Intimate relationships don’t just happen. It’s important to be intentional about truly connecting with our children on a consistent basis. I’m motivated by Chuck Colson’s words:
“As I think back on my own life, my biggest regret is not spending more time with my children. Making family your top priority means standing against a culture where materialism and workaholism are rampant. It means realizing that you may not advance as fast in your career as some of your colleagues — at least for a few years. It means being willing to accept a lower standard of living…knowing you’re doing the right thing for your children, giving them the emotional security they’ll draw on for the rest of there lives.”

Intimacy requires entering into our children’s worlds. One way to do this is to ask our children questions that take us to the deepest places of their hearts and then listen for what God is saying and revealing about their hearts. Consider questions like the following:

What is your greatest fear right now?
What do you worry about?
What do you need more of from Mom and Dad?
What do you get really angry about?
What do you get really sad about?
What are your greatest dreams?
What are your greatest joys?
Jesus was perfect and looked at people’s emotions so He could get to the heart of what was really happening.  Jesus knows our every thought and knows what we are truly feeling. Do you truly take the time to listen to the emotions of the children you are entrusted with?  Listen to their story, does there face change, or the voice change when you talk about something that moves them.  It could be something good or something bad. By tuning into kids emotions we can connect even more with reaching and sharing the love of Christ.  Jesus knew how to draw peoples emotions to draw him to himself. Some examples in scripture are The Death of Lazarus, John 11, and the Woman at the Well. John 8:1-11

4. Tune in to extracurricular activities
Take time to play and visit your kids.  We challenge our leaders to contact their kids at least once a month and for them to visit them in their extracurricular activities.  I help coach baseball to also be intentional with my role as Children’s Pastor. There is no way I could visit every kid but if my leaders are out there and I’m there word spreads to say he really cares.  Take time to spend time with the kids God has entrusted you with.  You have to be intentional.  If you show an interest in things they enjoy you’ve just built a bridge in your church to connect with that child in another way. You not only talk about Jesus, but you will open up the door to other ways of getting to know kids.

5. Tune in to social media
Social media is on the rise.  Just give a child a phone or IPad and they go crazy. They can do more things with these devices than we know what to do. I have to have my own kids help me at times with figuring out how to work them.  Even though my kids don’t personally have one they can pick it up and use it.  Kids today are wired differently. We have to look at different ways to tune kids into God’s word through social media and any means necessary.  Our leaders sometimes use smart boards in the 4-5 grade classes where they can play interactive games, show videos, etc to enhance what they are teaching.  This is there world. If we don’t tune into kids where they are now its going to be to late to teach and train them in the future. The future is now and the time to tune in is now.  We can’t ignore the truth of how kids learn today. There Bibles are now on a phone or Ipad, or kindle.  Its not the Bible we are used to using but they want to know God’s word.  The way it is presented has changed but God’s word is still the same. Some of our teachers have set up private facebook accounts for their class to view and interact. They keep up with the kids birthday etc with the parents. These are great ways to interact with families to let them know what is happening.  Using email to inform parents about upcoming events etc. is also a great tool.  We are creating an app for our parents as well. This will allow parents to have access to any thing we have at the church. Videos, event registration etc., at the tip of their hands. They can talk with their kids about things through media in ways we could have only imagined before.
Learn and educate yourself on the latest media.  Get a twitter account etc. so people can see what you do. It is going to be the new means of information and communication with this generation of kids.  They sit on buses or in the hallways of school talking to each other not by voice but by text. We have to be willing to change in order to reach these kids.

By doing these five things we can tune in and know kids in more ways. Most importantly, we build a dynamic relationship that could change their life for eternity and that is what it’s all about! What are you doing to tune into kids today?

12 Ways Leaders Can Increase Their Leadership

We are all looking at ways to improve our leadership.  As I read blogs, books, and talk to other leaders I’m always challenged with new ideas and things I can improve in my own leadership style.  Here are 12 Ways Leaders Can Increase Their Leadership that I ran across while reading today that I believe can help speak to you as well in any working environment!

  • 1. Truly Embrace The Team Concept: There is no “I” in team and teamwork makes the dream work.
  • 2. Don’t Play It Safe: Be willing to take some risks.  Your risks can be calculated or not, either way you need to get off the shores of playing it safe.
  • 3. Give Credit & Take Blame:  Give credit where credit is due and be willing to look in the mirror and say,”I messed up” or “It’s My Fault!”
  • 4. Don’t Be A Yes Man or Yes Woman:  Be willing to step up and challenge things when they need to be challenged.  This can be the process of leading-up or leading-down.
  • 5. Don’t Lose Your Cool:  Remember the 3C’s in all situations – Cool, Calm & Collected.
  • 6. Empower Your Team:  Release your team to do their job.  Don’t be a micro-manager.
  • 7. Minimize Meetings:  Reduce the number of meetings, the length of meetings, the necessity of meetings and the list of who needs to attend the meetings.
  • 8. Get To Know Your Team Members On A Personal Level:  Know what’s going on in the lives of your team members outside of work.  Know their interests, their children’s interests… To know is to care.
  • 9. Take Time To Develop Your Team Members: Leadership development isn’t a system but rather an on-going act of moving people from where they are to where they need to be. If you want your overall leadership capacity to increase, you must increase the capacity of those around you.  Leadership development isn’t optional, it’s a necessity.
  • 10. Surround Yourself With The Best: Be willing to hire people that may be smarter, sharper, more opinionated and maybe even all around better leaders than you are. Empower and release those people to strengthen your team and compliment your leadership.
  • 11. Listen For A Change:  Don’t be the person who is always talking – Shh, Be Quiet and Listen for a change.
  • 12. Ask The Difficult Questions:  This is where candid evaluation/assessment of everything will make the leader and the team better.

Great ways to to lead and improve your leadership.  Adapted from Scott Williams

Leadership in the Home

Leadership in the Home

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her. Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Ephesians 5:22, 25; 6:1

Contrary to what many teach, leadership in the home is not about power or control. Paul asks for mutual submission and calls husbands to be Christ-figures. And how did Christ lead the Church? He provided, taught, wept, healed, and died on a cross. Spiritual leadership means giving up yourself for someone else. It means assuming responsibility for the health and development of your relationships.

Evaluate your home leadership in each of the following categories:

Initiative – Do I give direction and take responsibility for my primary relationships?

Intimacy – Do I experience intimacy with God and others through open conversations?

Influence – Do I exercise biblical influence by encouraging and developing others?

Integrity – Do I lead an honest life, unashamed of who I am when no one is looking?

Identity – Am I secure in who I am in Christ? Or am I defensive? Inner circle – Do I exhibit the fruit of the Spirit in my life, including self-discipline?

The Maxwell Leadership Bible

Choosing to Cheat

Many times in our life we are faced with a decision to make.  Many times we second guess our decisions.  There is one decision however that should never be taken for granted and that is our decision to spend time with our families.  I love spending time with my family.  I long to be with them everyday. In fact there are some days I miss them more than others.  I love taking family vacations, playing tennis with Sarah,  playing with American Girl dolls with Katie Beth, playing peek a boo with Lyla and Sosie , or playing catch with Everett and Nolan.  I also love my job and there are always challenges to getting the most out of your family and your job.  Usually your job or your family suffers at times because of what is demanded from both.  God has given us clear instruction to help us know that our families should come before our jobs.  There are things we can look at today that can wait until tomorrow to accomplish.  Our families need us today.  They are our priority and each person in the family should know that nothing should take priority over them.
The book, “Choosing to Cheat” by Andy Stanley, presents a strategic plan for helping one resolve the tension between work and family.  Andy gives great illustrations of men and women who have put their careers before their families and what can happen when the family comes second.  He talks about ways that you can cheat in your job in a healthy and biblical way so that you can spend the time you need with your family.  Andy talks about how he had to make a very tough decision when he first started North Point Church and how God blessed that decision with the church he continues to pastor today.

This is a great book that has helped remind me of ways that I can continue to cheat but not to cheat my family in what they need and expect of me.  I would challenge you to read this book.  It is always a battle in our lives that I believe Satan tries to get a foothold of to tear our families down.  But when we put God first in our life and we look to Him to find the areas we need to work on and improve, He will be the one to show us how to cheat in the best way.  He will bless us even more in our families and our job because we have put Him first and stood up to these biblical principles.