When I was a young boy my dad had a framed sign in his office that he had made himself. It read:
It summarizes the process of discipleship or training it a nutshell. This summer I volunteered at my church to teach the preschool Bible stories for our churches sports camp because my son was attending. (I knew that fit my skills better than volunteering to coach sports!) I used props and objects to illustrate the Bible stories. For my own self-training purposes I video taped the sessions with my flip camera. (I like to watch and learn to improve.) One of the leaders had to teach the same Bible stories a few weeks later for the second week of sports camp when I was off to teach at a camp and couldn’t volunteer. I boxed up all my props and spent a little time coaching her on how to do it and gave her copies of the flip videos to watch and study. She did great!
This week she is on a mission trip to Nairobi and I just got this picture posted on my wall via Facebook:
Imagine my joy to see my “student” using the same technique so many miles away! It brought tears to my eyes! I had used action figures in a boat to teach about Peter walking on water and given all the kids “waves” and had Peter walk out among them “on the water” – and here is Shelly doing the same lesson on a mission trip.
Now she did!
That is what equipping and encouraging is all about. I live for this! It is why my LIFE MISSION STATEMENT since I was age 19 has been:
To reach and teach as many children as possible with the Good News of God’s Love and in the process to Enlist, Equip and Encourage others to do the same.
I have some hard news for leaders. This may come as a shock to some. You may need to sit down. Get a coffee or tea or soda… whatever you enjoy. But you need to hear me on this. There is a Grand Canyon of perception between why you serve in children’s ministry and why most volunteers volunteer.
You? You love kids! You knew long before Barna that there is a 32% greater chance of them coming to Christ if they are reached before the age of 12. You know Jesus said we ought to come as a child, not hinder the children, and blessed the children. You feel called to children’s ministry. You read Roger Field’s The Calling and it gives you goose bumps and you nearly cry because THAT’S YOU. You would serve if no one asked, no one noticed, and no one said thank you. Sure, you’d have your little pity party when no one was looking, and you’d whine to your spouse a little… but you’d never quit. Because, like Roger Field’s also said so well – You are a Special Ops Kidmin. The Few. The Proud. The kids need you. And lets be honest, you need them too.
But this creates a little problem for you.
You see, you assume others are this way. In fact, you are looking for and hoping to find others like this. I’ve got news for you. You may be the only one in your church. Actually, you may be the only one for a hundred miles!
Now, before you despair and cry “Woe is me!” – or get prideful, it’s O.K. I’m not so sure your church could handle two of you anyway. Or even the hundred mile radius around your church. God spaced us out for a reason.
What does this have to do with recruiting?
It has so much to do with it – you’ve GOT to get this! So many children’s pastors/directors/leaders don’t get it, and it is precisely why they have recruiting problems.
Their problem isn’t recruiting – they recruit just fine. But they don’t keep volunteers, so they have to constantly be recruiting, and that gets harder and harder as the pool of potential recruits runs dry. Their problem is misunderstanding what their REAL JOB is and WHY those volunteers volunteered in the first place.
There is a HUGE, and I mean MASSIVE disconnect between WHY YOU THINK YOU RECRUITED THEM and WHY THEY ACTUALLY VOLUNTEERED.
I know this, because I was a full time professional pastor for fifteen years, and now I’ve been a full time unprofessional volunteer for five years. So I’ve now lived on the “other side” and discovered the disconnect. And it’s startling.
People (let’s call volunteers what they really are, PEOPLE) come to church longing for two things, that are really the same thing: a connection with God and friendships. They are both: Relationship.
They complain that the church “isn’t friendly.” Right? So what do the pastors tell them? VOLUNTEER! “If you want friendships, don’t just sit in the worships service,” they tell these folks, “you must get involved.”
So they do!
WHY do they volunteer? Because like you, they want to fulfill the Great Commission and bring little children to Jesus?
Nope. Sorry. ‘Fraid not.
They want friends.
And they will give you MAX three months.
You Want Volunteers. They Want Friendships.
If they haven’t made friendships, they are done. They will volunteers somewhere else, and somewhere else, and then somewhere else, or visit another church – until they make friends.
People are starving for FRIENDSHIP.
You are looking for VOLUNTEERS
See the DISCONNECT yet?
The secret? Stop looking for volunteers. Start making friends. And you’ll have all the volunteers you need. I look back over my ministry and now realize why I never lacked for volunteers. I had friends. Tons of them! I took ‘em out to lunch. I used to fill Culvers almost every Sunday. The owner finally printed for me a BOX of 20% off on Sunday coupon business cards just to make sure I kept coming there. I partied with them. I visited them. I went camping. I played mini-golf. I had movie nights at my house. I forgot they were volunteers. They were my friends.
I hardly recruited. Of course, I had to at times, but I just made friends at every turn, and had all the volunteers I needed.
Now, I go to church looking for friends. I volunteer to find friends. If I serve and no one talks to me, no one greets me, no one asks me my name, or shakes my hand, or treats me like a person – if I’m just a volunteer, I lose interest. Even though I’m one of those Special Ops with all this passion and the biggest Kidmin website on the Internet. Without a friend, I’m outta there. Sorry, but that’s just reality. People need friends like a plant needs water.
If a lack of friendship can make ME lose interest – imagine someone who doesn’t have any passion for kids ministry? Someone who is just a normal everyday non-Kidmin wacko like me?
What’s to keep them around? They’d rather be an usher or fold up chairs after service if it means laughter and friendship and an invitation out to lunch after church.
DON’T MISS THIS: The ministry with the most volunteers will be the ministry where people connect and make friendships. If you don’t connect volunteers to yourself and each other, you will always be recruiting, over and over and over. Because you won’t be meeting the real need.
The need isn’t to staff your rooms - it is to help the people who come to your church to connect with God and each other. Do that, and your classrooms will all be staffed by friends. I dare you to try it.
O.K. – this may sound silly, but it worked. Here was my dilemma. I would meet kids out and about in public, strike up a conversation, and want to invite them to church. Being a man – I had to use caution in talking to children – especially if their parents weren’t present. These conversations happen naturally all the time, at the mall, in a toy store, at the movies, in line at fast food stores. I don’t seek them out, they just happen. Kids talk to ME! But how do naturally and safely invite them to church in a way that is both, wise and practical?
If I give them a business card, we both know where that is going to end up. IF it even lasts long enough to FIND a trash can. Most likely it will go through the washing machine!
If I give them a website URL it will be lost to short term memory. And then I have to add, “ask your parents first,” which sounds lame, like the website is bad or something.
So in my previous ministry I came up with a simple solution. I had thousands of 16 square slide puzzles made up with our church logo on them. Nothing two fancy, but it had a simple message, (our children’s ministry motto) “because Jesus loves children” – as a simple message to parents actually so they know WHY I was talking to their child (I’m not a creep!) as well as to communicate the passion of our kids ministry, and it contained the URL of our kids ministry.
After a friendly conversation with a kid, I would say, “Hey, here’s something you might enjoy playing with. If you can solve the puzzle, it has my church’s website on the logo, you might want to check out some of the videos (perhaps I had strategically talked about toyboxtales.com or me on CBS news as a Jedi or beating Emily Fox at Speed Stacks or my massive Lego Start Destroyer something else as a hook they’d want to go see that used to be on my kids church site) that would get them to actually visit the site.
Here is what it looked like:
This, of course, is just one idea. How YOU answer the question may be different. But I DO believe you need to answer the question. How do you ‘hook’ the kids you meet out in the hiways and biways of life so that you can get them into your ministry? You need some kind of follow up tool or piece that you can give that is a “ticket” or “bridge” to potential follow up ministry.
I had families show up at my church sometimes years later and when asked, “How did you find our church?” The parent’s answer was, “Someone gave my child a slide puzzle.” I loved smiling and saying, “That someone was me,” and shaking their hand.
The fact that I am writing my Yosemite Summit 2011 Report at the end of August that took place in May should tell you exactly WHY I do Yosemite Summit in the first place, though I’ve blogged here about that several times already:
Others have written as well about why they went to Yosemite Summit. I’ll link those another time perhaps, but you can just click through the archives. But the reality is, my life is BUSY. Don’t get me wrong – I’m doing things I love pursuing my life Mission, but if I didn’t schedule Yosemite Summit, I’d never STOP and GET AWAY and enjoy time with some guys who love God like me and just UNPLUG and enjoy nature and fellowship like you just can’t get in the hectic pace of normal life. I’m never “ready” for Yosemite Summit – it just comes, and I have to just GO. And when I get back, I have to dive in and pick up where I left off and getting this report done and a highlight video done can be a real challenge with Kidology.org to run, DiscipleTown to write and other responsibilities all while keeping my family first. (And some new and exciting things in development!)
It’s truly a gift I give myself every year that I plan to give myself for the rest of my life. AND a gift I am excited to ANNOUNCE that I am going to extend starting in 2012 to ANY MAN IN MINISTRY. No longer will Yosemite Summit be limited to children’s pastors. God has laid it on my heart that I shouldn’t be limiting this event to children’s pastors. I will explain this in more detail in a future post when registration opens and how the application process will work. But I have heard and listened and responded and God has answered your prayers, guys! On to the report.
Yosemite Summit 2011
This was the fourth Summit – and since 4 has been my favorite number since I was a kid, I anticipated it being my favorite Summit so far. I also had the advantage of three past Summits under my belt, so I am able to enjoy them even more now as I am less figuring them out and more just repeating what I’ve done in the past, though every year is unique and has aspects that make it special. This year was no exception. I especially enjoyed that this year we didn’t have to alter plans at all due to weather, which was a treat.
The newest thing this year was I made a photo journal for the guys for them to use throughout the week with color photos from past years, space to journal in and scripture to read and reflect on according to the theme of the day. Our reflective theme this year was P.A.T.H. which provided our focus for each day:
P = Peace
A = Abiding
T = Thankfulness
H = Holiness
We had a wonderful time hiking, enjoying fellowship with each other, and spending some quality time with God, the Creator of this incredible place. If you have never been to Yosemite National Park – you are truly robbing yourself of one of America’s hidden treasures. It remained hidden from the “white man” long after San Fransisco had been founded and the Ahwahnee Indians managed to divert (or at times kill) travelers over the Sierra Nevada mountains away from this this incredible valley in order to keep it a secret. It was not until the time of President Abraham Lincoln that it was finally discovered, and while Yellowstone was the first “official” National Park, Yosemite was the first land protected by a President when Abe himself declared it protected land for the people forever!
Millions travel from all over the world to behold the wonders of this relatively small valley (only seven miles in length) but only mere thousands experience the hikes that take visitors to the truly beautiful locations hidden in this gordeous place, and only Yosemite Summiteers (who stick with me on the hikes) get to see the truly hidden wonders of this magnificent park. I know the trails that many neglect and that the masses miss, and the hidden spots off the trails where one can find solitude and solace and spectacular views of God’s Creation. (I took my family to Yosemite in July and enjoyed showing my son some of “Daddy’s Spots” and Luke created a few spots of his own that we will visit again in future years!)
In case you are wondering what can be experienced on Yosemite Summit, instead of a long detailed report, as I have done in 2008, and 2009, and 2010. This year, I offer simply one word summaries of what can be experienced at Yosemite Summit and suggest if you are not one of the eight men who join me. You are truly missing out. I have no need to twist your arm. Those who join me, are the lucky ones. I already have next year almost full from the e-mails I have been getting already. So if you want to join me, you’d better sign up as soon as registration opens. It’s THAT good. I expect a waiting list in 2012. It can change your life.
Yosemite 2011: In photos and one word summaries: (Don’t Miss the Video at the End!)
DEEP THINKING ;)
Do these images whet you appetite for Yosemite Summit? It is truly an event that is difficult to describe, even with words or images – or even with video, but I’ll try yet again…
Let’s suppose you had to pack for a week of teaching and ministry and all you could pack was a small “Kidmin Toolkit” – what would you pack into YOUR travel kit?
A Bible? Naturally. An iPad? Perhaps. A yo-yo? A small puppet? I’d pack a bag of jolly ranchers and a sling shot! Some action figures? Remember, this is ALL you will have for a WEEK of ministry. What will you need?
I’m gonna mail the best responses in COMMENTS a prize and then I’ll post what I’d put in MY Kidmin Toolkit – and then I’d encourage you to PACK YOUR OWN Kidmin Toolkit and have it READY TO GO, because you never know when you might just need it!
UPDATE:THE $50 PRIZE PACK Very soon… someone in comments, is going to WIN this prize pack I’ve assembled:
(Note: It all packs flat to fit in your Kidmin Toolkit!)
UPDATE: I was overwhelmed by the response to this blog post. Everyone submitted Great Ideas! However, I could pick but ONE winner, and the Kidmin Toolkit Winner is: Joan Eppehimer
SEE ALL THE RESPONSES & COMPILE YOUR OWN KIT!
We have compiled ALL THE RESPONSES into a single list so you can create your own Kidmin Toolkit! Download as a PDF or Word Doc: