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.

Young People are the future of the Church

For over 20 years, Youth Minister have been arguing that the youth are not the future of the Church, they are the Church of today. Frankly, it hasn’t worked, young people are still leaving the Church, youth ministry budgets are still low and staff levels have either declined or stayed the same. The “Church of today” mantra hasn’t worked. What if we return to the motto of “young people are the future of the Church” would it work any better?

Here are a few questions we might ask our Parish Council, Vestry or Elders board if young people are the future of the Church:

  1. Senior Minister:  if you had to recruit your next Senior Pastor, Minister or Parish Priest from within your own people, are you developing future leaders?  Do you have enough good Christian young people entering theological education so that your next Senior Pastor is a great God honouring leader?  Who is your Senior Minister personally mentoring to take over their job in the future?
  2. Youth Pastor: if you had to recruit your next Youth Pastor from within your own people are you developing young people who have had a positive experience of youth ministry?  Do you mentor young adults so that they feel supported enough to take on a leadership role in future years as the Youth Ministry Coordinator?  If young people drop out of Church between the ages of 10-14, perhaps the 14 year old who just gave up on your church was your future Youth Pastor walking out your back door.
  3. Parish Council: if you had to recruit your next Elders board, Vestry or Parish Council member from within your own people would it be possible?  Are there young adults coming through your church who honour God with their lives and in the future could stand for leadership in your parish?  If you are not forming young people in your church today then the future of your Parish or Church leadership team is not looking good.  Perhaps the young people sitting in your church today who are bored and making paper aeroplanes out of the bulletin are thinking the last thing they want to do with their life is serve the Church.
  4. Financial Partners: nobody likes to mention the fact that the Church has always needed, and will always need, people who earn income in the world and donate it to the Church.  Are you investing in young people teaching them to go into the business world and be the best they can?  Because one day those young people will earn a pay cheque and make a decision on how much they give to the Church.  If they skip youth ministry and stop coming to Church, pretty soon your church will have fewer and fewer financial partners.  Perhaps the 14 year old who walked out your back door never to return was going to become the key financial partner in the future of your parish.

If we truly believe that the young people are the future of our Church wouldn’t we do things differently?  If your church had to recruit all its future leaders and financial partners from within your church wouldn’t you take the young people more seriously?  It is my opinion that many churches don’t think the young people are the future or the present of the Church, they are someone elses problem. Many churches are doing nothing hoping that someone else is forming great leaders they can steal/employ years down the track.

Absolutely we should see young people as the Church of today, but if we are serious about them being the future of our Church then let us invest far more into youth ministry than we currently are too.  Please a comment or share your thoughts below.

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Sometimes in ministry we need to “Pay it back”

Have you ever heard the term “pay it forward“? It is a term that often gets used in ministry circles to encourage us to sow the blessings we have received from mentors into the next generation.  We receive so much from the mentors who formed us and we pay it forward to those that we mentor.  But do we ever pay back those who have mentored us with a thank you?  Ministry can be such a thankless task that occasionally we need to thank those who mentored us along the way.

Recently I was working with a great young leader, asking him about his journey of faith.  He had a great outlook on ministry so I asked him about his role models and he was able to list four or five men who had mentored him.  These were youth group leaders or young pastors in his Church.  It happens that I know some of these men and I bet they would love to know the fruit of some their work.  More importantly that experience made me reflect on the people who I needed to thank for sowing into me.

St Paul talks about watering seeds that other have planted and to recognise that God does all the work.  Sometimes in ministry we seemed to be doing a lot of sowing and watering without much growth.  In many cases we never see the fruit of our labour because God plants the person in another ministry or another church.  We can go for years without knowing what we have achieved.  If you find yourself in this situation here is three things to do:

  1. Create a culture of Gratitude:  instead of waiting for someone to thank you for your ministry, start thanking those who serve  with you in ministry.  Thank the volunteers who serve every week, thank those who pray for the ministry and thank those who financially support your ministry.  Don’t forget to thank the people above you, your Senior Minister, Parish Priest, Vestry, Elders board or Parish Council.
  2. Thank your Mentors: think of all the people who have mentored you and sown into your development. Write them a little thank you note, message them on Facebook or email them.  Whilst it is nice to send them a card, just thank them any way you can.  Often we still look up to our mentors and forget that they are real people who get disheartened just like we do.  If you appreciate your mentors by thanking them it will help them stay strong in their ministry too.
  3. Love your Family:  often our family are the forgotten heroes of our ministry.  Perhaps your parents took you to church as a child, supported your faith or paid for you to go on camp.  Maybe your relatives encouraged your development as a teenager.  Maybe your wife, husband and kids have allowed you to go to one more ministry event.  Love your family first and thank them for the support they give you.

We should take the blessings sown into us and pass it forward to the next generation.  But don’t forget to pay back the mentoring, love and attention that you received from others.  Learn to pay it forward and pay it back.

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Would you do what you ask your workers to do?

There is a WorkSafe campaign on Victoria television at the moment with the slogan “would you do what you ask your workers to do?”  In each of the seven 20 second commercials a supervisor asks a worker to do something that is obviously unsafe and the worker agrees.  The point of the campaign is that workers are asked to do unsafe things all the time, just not that obvious.  Of course a worker would never do something unsafe if it was that obvious but what if it wasn’t obvious.

Check out the adds: Worksafe victoria


Whilst the campaign is frightening it drives home the point that we can’t ask people to do something that we know is unsafe.  One supervisor asks the young worker to work on a broken machine, another asks them to work in an inappropriate desk, another to fall off the back of a motor bike on a farm and another to work on a roof without a harness.

So it got me thinking about the situations which we ask our young ministry workers to go into.  Here might be a sample add:

Church leader: Will you work in our church unsupervised with no support but with all the responsibility, you will receive complaints from parents and church members, you will burn out after 18 months and probably hate the church for a while?

Young Leader: Sure

Church Leader:  Oh and we will pay you less than you would get at a fast food restaurant but work longer hours

Young Leader: Sure

If you think this is a far fetched situation then why is it all too common?  Why do we ask people to take on children ministry or youth ministry for 8-10 hours per week?  Many young people take on jobs in ministry for low pay with little supervision because we take advantage of their interest to serve the Church.  My hope is that we reduce the turn over rate of young ministry workers by putting into place support systems for our youngest leaders.   I know some churches can’t pay any more but lets give them the best mentoring and supervision available, lets disciple them like Jesus would.

Would you do what we ask young worker to do?

What I have learned about discipleship from Grand Designs

Some of you may have seen Kevin McCloud hosting the TV show Grand Designs.  Whilst the program shows off some amazing houses renovated or built by British people in Europe, it was the style of the host that impressed me.  Kevin McCloud has hosted over 90 episodes of the show, which in the TV industry is a big deal.  In the eight seasons, Kevin has witnessed many building mistakes, challenges and failures.  Yet Kevin McCloud has also been there when 90 home owners have showed off their Grand Design success.

When I watched the show recently, it taught me something about being there to support someone as they undergo a journey through something.  What interested me the most was how the style of Kevin McCloud could be a style for mentoring future ministry leaders.  Kevin McCloud is an expert in his field and yet supports the home owners who are going through the build or renovation for the first time.  As ministry leaders we may have seen it all before but the people in our ministry are often going through issues for the first time.  How can we support these people through mentoring and discipleship?

So here are four things that I learnt from watching Grand Designs:

  1. Allow the person to share their vision – there is always a segment in the show where Kevin asks the home owner to share their vision for their project.  This is makes the show as much about the people as it is about the house being built or renovated.  In a ministry context, we should allow the people we are discipling to share their grand design for their life.  The process of mentoring and discipling should be on the individual, not what we can do for them or what we can teach them.
  2. Ask probing questions– Kevin McCloud would have seen every mistake in the book yet he never gives the home owner all the answers he asks probing questions:
    1. Why are you doing it that way?
    2. What problems do you see a few steps down this path?
    3. What other options do you have?

In the ministry context this reminded me that we need to let people discover things for themselves.  It is tempting to give away all the answers because we have been there before.  However people need to make some mistakes and have some failures so they develop their own strategies for dealing with difficulties in their life.

  1. Let people surprise you – Whilst Kevin McCloud knows the show will work out in the end, it has for 90 episodes, Kevin is still surprised by how many home owners attack problems and overcome challenges.  In a ministry context allow people to surprise you and learn from the way they overcome challenges.  Rather than “lording” your experience over the people that you mentor and disciple, allow yourself to learn from them.
  2. Celebrate their success – Each episode of Grand Design finishes with the home owner showing off and celebrating their new home or grand renovation.  Many people have gone way over budget and taken much longer than planned but they are happy with the result.  Kevin McCloud celebrated their success with them.  In a ministry context we should celebrate the successes of the people in our ministry rather than reminding them of how much they still have to learn.  Learn to celebrate the small steps that people in your ministry make.

If you ever get the chance, what Kevin McCloud host an episode of Grand Designs.  You can see many of the episodes online.