The value of positive stories

Woman on ComputerLeaders spend most of their time either casting vision or solving problems.  Casting vision involves sharing a positive vision of the future for your ministry even though you haven’t got there yet.  Solving problems means taking a weakness in your ministry and looking for a solution even though it means dealing with negatives.  So telling positive stories from your ministry reminds people of the positive elements that they have already accomplished.

People can’t spend all their time living in the future or dealing with problems.  Our volunteers in ministry need to be constantly reminded that all their hard work and effort is achieving something.  Sharing positive stories helps to remind people of the things the ministry has already achieved in a hope that more success will come in the future.  Positive stories can remind people serving in your ministry why they do what they do. 

Several times a year you should hold celebration nights where people in your ministry share their positive stories with each other.  There is nothing better than hearing people share a story in their own unique way.  Get each person to share a story from their perspective which not only gives a different perspective on the ministry but it also helps you get to know their style and personality. 

So here are five questions to ask at your celebration nights to draw out positive stories from any group:

  1. What are the highlights from our ministry?
  2. When did we have a win? ask people to articulate how they think they have achieved part of the vision.
  3. What have you learnt?  Focus on what you will do better in the future rather than the mistakes of the past.
  4. Who are we proud of?
  5. When did you see someone grow?  This is perhaps the most important question because it is others centred.

In my 20 years of ministry I have witness many times of celebration where people have shared their positive stories.  A few times have been whilst at a conference and our team have shared what we think we are doing right based on the speakers at the conference.  Often the positive stories come out over a meal when the ministry team have more time together.  The best celebration night I have ever been to involve everyone dressing up for a night of awards and storytelling; the night provided an hour of “open mic” time for people to share their stories.

The difficult in ministry is that we get so busy that we forget to share the positive stories until it is someone’s farewell party.  We forget to thank our team members until they leave.  Or we wait until the end of the year Christmas party to thank people for their hard work.  Wouldn’t it be great if we thanked people and shared the positive stories from our ministry once a month?  Imagine how much momentum it would build if we shared the positive stories a lot more than we reflected on the struggles.

So make a commitment to share the good news of your ministry within your church, after all we are meant to be people of the Good News.

Overall presentation at Events matters

Have you ever been to an event that has exceeded your expectations?  Have you been to an event where everything looked perfectly in place, well laid out and everything flowed smoothly?  Sometimes in the rush to get our events ready we overlook the presentation of the event to focus on the content.  Whilst content is important, bad presentation spoils content every time.  For example, imagine a poorly designed website which may have great content but you can’t find it.

Last night I went to a youth ministry event by Mustard that exceeded my expectations.  Mustard is a ministry that runs events in schools here in Melbourne and were hosting a Roundtable event for Parents and Youth Leaders.  After almost 20 years in youth ministry I have seen all types of events from well-done presentations to complete train wrecks.  This event was above the average events I attend, even many of the good events that I have been to.  There were just a few things that caught my eye that were better than standard events that I go to.

Here are a few little things that made the overall presentation at the event better than other youth ministry events I have attended:

  1. Welcome signs – as the event was on a large church campus with many rooms there were signs directing me from the car park to location of the event.  Often event coordinators assume that people will follow the crowd or look for where the lights are on to know where the event is being held.  As an event coordinator help participants find the right room with a few welcome signs.
  2. Greeter – at the main foyer there was a person who greeted me and directed me along the hallway to the sign up desk.  At the sign up desk there was a person greeting people in front of the desk and several people behind the desk taking registrations.
  3. Name tags – I am used to writing my name on a name badge with a marker but these name tags had my name printed on the tag as well as the event logo. 
  4. Event logo – The team hosting the event had designed a logo for the event and printed the logo on the registration form, name tags, PowerPoint slides and handouts.
  5. Button Badge – each team member had a button badge with the ministry name on it.  It was that extra step that impressed me.  Each of the team members were smartly dressed rather than dressing like young people because it was a youth ministry event.
  6. Stage set up – there were a few props on stage that got the crowd talking as they entered the room.  These props were then used at a point within the event to explain a key message.
  7. Skype call to Guest – there aren’t many events that attempt a live feed of a guest from another country.  Mustard had a live feed of special guest Cheryl Crawford from Azuza Pacific University and Fuller Youth Institute in the USA.  This isn’t a multi million dollar ministry either; they were just using skype but had done their homework on how to get working well.  Cheryl had been prepared ahead of time and they had a plan for drop outs, which did happen, to keep things moving.
  8. Hospitality – the coffee and tea were laid out really well and there were nice cupcakes to go with the drinks.  Whilst we drank our tea and coffee there were team members connecting with the crowd.  There was a musician creating atmosphere with some live music.  There were also large posters of other ministry events on art easel’s to create atmosphere.

Whilst the ministry team had gone to all this effort to get the overall presentation correct, the content delivered as well.  As we connected over coffee and tea the participants were talking about the content of the talks. If you are interested in the content of the night you hear an audio copy of the event on a special website, click here, which again is above average for many events I go to.

Presentation should enhance the content of an event rather than dominate it.  Yet sometimes we rush our preparation, setup and layout to focus on the content and we overlook how important presentation is.  Take the examples about as a guide of how you might exceed people expectations at your next youth ministry event.

Please add a comment about events that you have attended where the presentation exceeded your expectations.

You might also be interested in Creating a Big Impression at Church

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Creating a big impression at Church

Creating a Big impression at Church

Creating a big impression at ChurchThere are occasions in every Church calendar when the leadership team want to create a big impression.  Perhaps it is an outreach event, a new members night, Back to Church Sunday or the first night of an Alpha Course.  Whilst we can’t create a big impression all the time, there should be one or two events every year that really create the big impression to visitors.  Whilst we all look for shortcuts to creating a big impression, the reality is that a big effort creates a big impression.  In a world where everyone is bombarded with excellence, people are still impressed when an organisation makes an effort to impress.

For example this week I have been taking my boys along to our local church holiday program.  As we walked to the church on day one, I was expecting the boys to have a good day with other kids from the area.  When I arrived at the church the entire foyer was decorated with a jungle theme including hand made vines hanging off the rafters.  There was a welcome team that opened the front door for us and showed us how to register.  By the time I had dropped my boys off, they were so impressed by the foyer that they were expecting a great day.  The foyer experience had created a big impression on me and my boys.

Michael Hyatt suggests that the “Wow Factor” is created when an organisation goes beyond our expectations.  In other words to create a big impression an organisation has to go beyond the effort that people are expecting.  But there are some guideline to remember when creating a big impression so that you don’t burn out your team:

  1. Cut back  – it might seem odd to suggest that you cut back on events in order to create a big impression at Church but you can’t do everything.  Your team will have to decide on what they will stop doing in order to create the time and space needed to put in the big effort required to create the big impression.  Perhaps instead of doing 10 events that require a lot of effort you could scale back to three or four big impression events.  Some churches have cut back from holiday programs every term so they can put the effort into one big annual holiday program.
  2. Beg and Borrow – no ministry has the budget to do everything they want to do, so think about low cost ways to create the big impression.  One ministry drove a car into the church foyer to create the wow factor for a father’s day event, another church put a king size bed on stage for an event on Marriage (both items were owned by church members).  Think about items that you can get or borrow for free and then use them in interesting ways.
  3. Centre piece – if you do have the budget for decoration, then spend it on the focal point in the room.  When people are sitting or standing for the longest part of your event where will they be looking?  This focal point is where you can spend your money and biggest effort.  You don’t want to spend money on the foyer if the participants will spend 3 or 4 hours looking at a blank wall behind the guest speaker.  However if you are after positive first impressions then what will a guest see first?
  4. Recruit Volunteers – having lots of volunteers will make it much easier to set up and pack down.  We often forget how much effort it takes to pack up the event at the end, so organise the pack up team before you start.  The more volunteers you have to make things before the event the less you will have to spend on items made by someone else.  For example Conference bags are a standard item that create a big impression if it is full of useful items rather than just a pen and blank paper yet it can take hours for volunteers to stuff 100 conference bags carefully.
  5. Invite people to the event – if you are going to spend time and money on creating a big impression then you want people not just to see it but experience it.  You need to spend as much effort on inviting people to the event as setting up for the event.

It is often said that “Excellence honours God and inspires others” and yet this takes a lot of effort.  If you want to create a big impression it is going to take a big effort.  After reading this post perhaps you need to lead your team to think through the rest of  annual calendar to choose one or two events that are going to get the big effort and which events won’t require as much effort.

You might also like to read about creating excellence at Church

Also please leave a comment about how you have created a big impression at your Church.

markoffaith, Mark of Faith, mark of faith

The Excellence debate

“Excellence honours God and inspires others”

Have you ever gone into a church for the first time and seen something that made you think “that is a little out of place”?  Have you ever been to a church or attended a ministry event and thought things looked a little sloppy and could have been done better?  Or on the flip side have you ever been to a ministry event that ran like clockwork and you were impressed?  It seems that we all have our own interior benchmark of what we think is “done well” and what we think is “done poorly”.

Yet I often hear from people that the Church needs to pick up its game in terms of the standard of events, presentation and hospitality.  I have also heard from others who say the Church should never be too slick or fancy.  Whilst some churches are pursuing excellence others are deliberately keeping things low budget so as not to look perfect.  So my two questions for today are:

  1. What level of excellence is appropriate in the Church?
  2. Should the Church worry about excellence?

Let me start by giving you a few examples that I have witnessed from the best and worst of excellence in church and ministry:

Worst

  • I attended a young adult camp where the worship band left plates on stage from breakfast.
  • One church had posters for a youth group that looked like they were designed by a kindergarten class.
  • One church foyer had three different style of notice boards, posters about Christmas at Easter time and a pile of lost property that just looked messy.
  • A guest speaker had to rearrange the stage before he could start speaking because the musicians just walked off without clearing the stage.

Best

  • My church has a well-designed event template for all their posters so they look professional even though the ministry leader drops their event details into the template.
  • A ministry team that turned the cheap hall they hired for a youth camp into an inspiring place for worship.
  • A café night at church that had tasty food with enough for everyone to have extra.
  • A celebration night at church that had proper wine glasses and plates for the food (no plastic forks!)

These are just a few things that I have noticed.  But what have you noticed?  I invite you to leave a comment at the end about what you judge to be the best and the worst of excellence in church and ministry.

  1. What is the right level of excellence in the Church?  The right level of excellence is doing the best you can with the best you’ve got.  Excellence doesn’t mean spending more money; you have to have excellent budgeting skills too.  Excellence is about enabling people to encounter and experience God without any barriers in the way.  If the goal is excellence then we have failed.  Excellence is a tool to help you bring people into an encounter with God.
  2. Should the Church worry about excellence?  The Church should do the best it can to make it easier for people to encounter God, make disciples and join in the Mission.  The Church should be a place that inspires people to see the grandness and greatness of God.  People in ministry should offer the same level of service, or higher, that a person would get if they visited a hotel, restaurant, shopping centre or cultural museum.  I think the problem is that we either don’t inspire people or we go back to “traditional” methods that Christians used last century to inspire people but they don’t inspire 21st century people.

Recently I was listening to a podcast with Louie and Shelley Giglio about the level of excellence at their Church, Passion City Church.  They shared their thoughts about the right level of excellence in two ways:

  • When they get ready for Church or events their team doesn’t pray for excellence, they pray that the Holy Spirit might touch people.  For Passion City Church, it is not about achieving excellence but removing barriers.
  • When the Church is excellent in presenting its craft, services/ministry, then it encourages people to go into their jobs and be excellent at their craft.  Louie said “the best evangelism happens when your lifestyle is so inspiring that people ask you what makes you tick.”

So don’t kill yourself or stress your team or break the budget to achieve excellence in your ministry.  But please don’t be sloppy, unprepared or messy as it doesn’t do anyone any favours.  Could you please leave a comment about what you have seen as the best and worst of excellence in church and ministry?