Issues and how to deal with them.

“You can tell a person with a true servant’s heart by the way he responds when he is treated like a servant.”

This was a quote I heard during our Sunday sermon this week and it really resonated with me. Our church has been going through a series on Division (you can listen to it here) and this was the last week of the topic. It hit home and I wanted to share some principles here as it pertains to children’s ministry.

As with every ministry – or any area of life when you have to deal with people – conflicts and “issues” arise. Lately, I’ve had a number of “issues” crop up in our ministry, some way bigger than others, and some blown out of proportion by others! This is the case with pretty much anything, though, and is to be expected. The question, though, is how do we as leaders respond when conflict – “issues” – arise?

  • We need to remember who we are. We may be the “leaders”, but as such, we are still servants – and not even upper class servants. The Apostle Paul’s usage of the term “servant” in 1 Corinthians 4 refers to one who is the under-rower of a ship – literally the lowest of the low for servants. Even as “leaders,” we must keep in mind that we are, above all else, servants of others. If I can view myself as my volunteers’ servant as opposed to their authority, I will relate to them – and the issue – differently. Perspective. It’s important.
  • We need to remember Who ultimately has the final say. One thing I enjoy about working in a church is that when issues arise that seem bigger than me and I’m not sure what to do with them, I can go right to Scripture and find the real answer. I don’t need to know everything, but I need to be in touch with the One Who does. I need to refer my volunteers back to Scripture as the final authority on controversial topics. God gets the final say on a matter, not me. It’s not my opinion that I’m touting – it’s God’s Word.
  • We need to remember that we are to be examples. We are servants. We are not better than anyone else. We are to be an example. One of the main sessions in the teacher training material I use talks about being Models – we need to “be” who we want them to “become.” Are we modeling out what we want our staff and our students to be? How do we act when no one is around? What do post on Facebook or talk about with our friends? Are we gossips? Crude? Rude? Vulgar? Or do we show forth the light of Christ in every area of our lives and live lives of integrity?
  • We need to remember to be gentle. Oh, the unfortunate frequency with which others are approached through harsh, insensitive words! Just last week, I was pulled aside so someone could merely “share” something with me and it threw off my whole night. There was nothing I could do about the situation in the moment (the timing was horrid to hear this news) and the news was given so tactlessly, I had to inwardly cringe, sigh, and give it back to God with a shrug of the shoulders and an, “Okay, God, this is bigger me. Handle it for me, will You?” When we, as leadership, need to ever approach anyone on any issue, gentleness and respect need to be at the forefront. Even if the topic is controversial, difficult to handle, with no easy solution in sight, and even when bluntness seems to be the best way to “get the job done” — we are still dealing with people. People who are not less than us, people who are not below us, and people with feelings and emotions the same as us. Those that are insecure in their leadership skills tend to come across as imposing their way and flaunting their authority. If you are secure in your leadership role, your goal should be evident: to bring out the best in others. Seek unity at all costs.

I hate dealing with “issues” and confrontation is so far from my list of things that I enjoy doing that I will shake and cry for hours (literally) before I handle anything. I probably apologize too often and take the blame more than I should. But, I hate disunity. To see my team divided is like seeing my family divided and I refuse to stand for it.

As much as it depends on me, I will live in harmony with my team and seek to bring unity to the team. Will you?

Student Needs.

This coming week, I will be teaching at a children’s ministry training seminar, so I’ve been working on my presentation, which is not material I have written, but material from our mission board. This is a course I haven’t taught yet, so I’m busy practicing, but looking forward to the day.

The course I’m set to teach is “Knowing and Meeting Student Needs.” As I was practicing the other day, I was struck by not only how critical this information is, but how relevant it is to my own children’s ministries.

In another post, I talked about being all here and reaching the children in this area and focusing on them more. Their needs are great and truly do threaten to overwhelm my team at times. We have children:

  • …from single parent homes.
  • …from homes in the middle of nasty divorces.
  • …from abusive situations.
  • …whose home has been foreclosed on.
  • ….whose father is in jail.
  • …who have never held a Bible before.
  • …who have no idea what “prayer” is.
  • …who come from such chaos, they aren’t sure what “order” and “rules” are.
  • …who are relying on their parents’ faith to get by.
  • …who have loads of head knowledge and not an ounce of heart faith.
  • …who can answer every question correctly, but act like the world.
  • …who normally attend Catholic catechism classes and Seventh Day Adventist church services.

The needs are staggering in our relatively small group of children.

If you’re involved in children’s ministry and know your children at all, you are probably faced with some of the same needs we are. Are you overwhelmed? Here’s some help, taken from BCM’s program In Step with the Master Teacher:

  • Don’t try to meet their needs – that’s impossible.
  • Instead, identify their needs and then teach to the need and introduce them to the One Who CAN meet all their needs.
  • Show you care: Even in our marriage, I tell my man frequently, “I don’t want you to fix the problem. I don’t even want advice. I just want you to listen to me and show you care!” Kids need that, too. Someone they can trust, someone who truly cares about what is going on in their lives. You may not be able to fix a thing – but you cared enough to listen.
  • Adapt to the needs you can: Learning disability? Teach differently. Inattentive children? Shorter, more active lessons. Hearing or sight problem? Move them closer, speak louder, use larger visuals. No man in their home? Recruit male leaders. Do what you can to adapt. Again, it’s not about fixing.
  • Know your students so you can teach appropriately. Lately, we’ve had to nix our curriculum and start over in some areas. For example, our older students were not memorizing their verses – or even caring if they did or not. The younger ones were memorizing out of necessity, not because they knew what they were doing or cared they were doing it. So, we nixed the idea of a verse per week and decided to do one collective verse per month. We use this verse in our materials as often as we can, we memorize it together – including the leaders – and we refer to it often. We are showing them how it applies to every area of their life and praying this will make a big enough difference that memorization will become more of a priority in the years to come. In the same token, if you see a specific need or theme in your class, but your curriculum doesn’t touch it – ditch the curriculum! Write your own and teach to your audience. You know them better than the book you bought does. Teach to their needs and let Jesus meet the needs.
  • Pray for them. I ask my volunteers to come at least 15 minutes early so we have time to pray. It’s crucial. Vital. The only way we can continue. If I talk with a student and they share something with me, I ask if I can pray for them right at that moment. They have yet to turn me down. 🙂 If they mention something during a lesson, stop and pray for them. Show them that prayer is important and rejoice with them – make a BIG deal out of it – when God answers prayers for them. Prayer works. 

Work on one need at a time. If you tackle everything all at once, you’ll get overwhelmed.

Love on these kids. You might be the only one who does.

If you think your children’s ministry could benefit from some training, contact me – we’d love to help you out! Check this out for more information.

March 2014
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