My happiest Christmas memory is the time each year that my aunt Nancy directed my cousins and me in a reenactment of the nativity. The youngest among us--a girl--was always baby Jesus, and as Mary, my main job was not dropping her when I placed her in the manger. That and avoiding wayward staffs twirled by the ragtag band of shepherds played by my boy cousins.
When I reflect on those memories, the principal player was my aunt Nancy. The yearly play was her idea, so of course we looked to her for to take the lead and to direct us as to when to proceed solemnly into the living room for our performance. But more than that, we followed her lead because she cared. She was enthusiastic about the story we were reenacting, so we naturally were too.
My happiest memories as a child, and the ones imprinted most indelibly on my heart, typically involve a happy or enthusiastic adult--a teacher who taught my class to dance the Virginia Reel during our Civil War unit, a softball coach who infused fun into every practice, and a band director who loved his job.
But the happiest of happy moments always involved my parents. When my dad laughed or my mom got excited about something, time stood still and my heart threatened to burst. I delighted to see them delighted; their enthusiasm and joy instantly and naturally transferred to me because I loved to see them happy.
Kids learn to love what makes their parents light up. I see it in my own kids now. My oldest son brings me the Sunday comics, points out a good strip, and waits expectantly to hear me laugh. All of my sons are adamantly loyal to my college team only because they know that I am. And when I ask them what they’re thankful for, they’ve learned to add a spiritual element, because they know Who it is that I love.
So what does this speak to me and to all parents during this Advent season?
Sometimes Christmas can feel like pressure to a young mom who wants her children to be well-versed in all things Jesus. There are countless (wonderful) Pinterest pins, blog posts, activities, and books about how to make the most of the season and communicate the meaning of Christmas to our children. This year I have felt this pressure acutely, for I can count down on one hand the years my oldest remains in our home. I want to make Christmas special and say all the right things that will imprint its meaning on each of their hearts.
I imagine, however, that what they’ll remember about this Christmas and all the Christmases of their childhood combined will not be coloring sheets or books or a lit candle on the Advent wreath, although these will certainly hover with warm connotations in the background of their minds. No, if they are like me, I imagine that what will have the most impact are the happy and enthusiastic adults in their lives, namely my husband and me, who have the story of Jesus joyfully tumbling around in their hearts throughout the year and the Christmas season.
Am I happy in the story of Jesus? Am I contemplating what His coming has wrought? Am I looking expectantly for His return? Am I enthusiastically speaking of it as I sit with my children in our house, and when we walk by the way, when we lie down, and when we rise up?
This is what our children will remember about Christmas, long after the presents are opened and the Advent calendar is put away. They will not remember the details of their December experiences, but they will remember what delighted us. And because it delights us, it will delight them too.
What delights you about this Christmas season?
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beginning, now unfolding on the road south from Nazareth.
Mary was “great with child” (Luke 2:5) as they traveled. We can only imagine how uncomfortable, unsettled, uneasy she felt. Where will my child be born, Lord? I am certain he will survive, but will I? Though Joseph has no recorded dialogue in Scripture, he no doubt encouraged his young bride, mile after difficult mile. I heard from an angel too, Mary. I know whose child you carry. I will care for you and keep you both safe.
A few miles beyond Jerusalem, the town of Bethlehem finally came into view. Nine months of expectation were over. Time for the Christ child to appear.
Read Luke 2:1–20
In a grotto beneath the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, a silver star marks the traditional site where Jesus was born. But two thousand years ago, his birthplace looked nothing like this.
Mary labored in a lowly stable, and laid the Son of God in a feed trough meant for livestock. However fresh the hay, there was nothing clean about the place, nothing pleasant, nothing fragrant.
Even so, God came to us. Cast his lot with us. Became one of us.
“She gave birth to her firstborn, a son” (Luke 2:7). A handful of words, as simple and humble as her surroundings. Mary wrapped him in strips of cloth, cocooned him in linen, and held him close.
Surely she wiped away tears of joy and relief, kissed his brow with trembling lips, counted his fingers and toes, then took him to her breast.
Everything about this birth was both ordinary and extraordinary.
The Son of God wasn’t born to a princess; he was born to a poor, uneducated young girl. His first bed wasn’t covered in gold; it was stained with dung. He didn’t come in power; he came as a helpless newborn...
...Mary had treasure on earth: the Son of God, nestled in her arms. We have an even greater treasure: the Spirit of God, residing in our hearts. He is the One who urges us to value what is truly valuable, and let go of things that aren’t treasure at all, but trash. Disposable, unnecessary.
An interesting lesson for the Christmas season, isn’t it? While we spend, spend, spend on gifts that are quickly forgotten, neglected, discarded, the Lord is gently reminding us, “The gift that matters is my Son, who came to earth with nothing.”
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A couple of years ago my mother bought me a planner called the “Do it All Mommy Planner.” I have used a planner since as far back as I can remember. In fact, where most people tend to have social media memes to share how they can’t function without their favorite coffee or latte, I literally can’t function without my planner. And please don’t try to write in my planner because I will find the necessary superpowers from somewhere to zap you.
It’s my life, it’s where I balance our sometimes hectic schedule, create my grocery lists, write important notes, and input things I need to follow up on. A month ago, my 2-year-old toddler discovered my planner and thought it was a great idea to create a scribbled masterpiece of art through the whole month of August. Yes, I could have zapped him. But it was in that moment I realized that is exactly what our schedules and ministry meetings look like to God when he is left on the side lines vying for a place to be penciled into our everyday lives. Scribble.
God is Greater Than your To-Do List
Most of the time my life seems hurried and somewhat mundane. From seeing our son off to school, preparing class materials for our toddler, running an online boutique, scheduling meetings, coordinating family time, cheering at soccer games, bringing dinner to family get-togethers, trying to secure a viable renter for our home in Kentucky to finding time to spend with God alone. Many times, our calendars get filled, and our devotional time with the Lord gets sacrifice or minimized. E.M. Bounds says it best, “We are all in danger of substituting church work and a ceaseless round of showy activities for prayer.” One must realize that our to-do lists can’t be sufficiently accomplished without an ardent devotional life with the Lord.
Luke 10:38-42, gives us a great example of how valuable our devotion is to God. In this scripture, we find two sisters Martha and Mary who opened up their home to host Jesus. One was distracted by all of the things on her to-do list to create the best dinner party she could have for Jesus while the other was unconcerned and captivated with sitting in His presence and listening to Him talk. Martha, obviously frustrated because her sister Mary was not getting anything done or helping her with the preparations, asked the Lord to step in and do something. “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” (Luke 10:40). The Lord tells her He is not going to interrupt Mary’s time with Him because in His eyes her sitting at His feet is greater than what is on the to-do list.
Devotion is a Personal Pursuit
I believe God desires to restore the hearts of His chosen leaders to be hearts of steadfast devotion. Devotion is not a corporate experience, it’s a personal pursuit. There’s so much to be gained when God is allowed on your calendar. What once was scribble becomes direction, strategy, strength, and grace for the task at hand. God gives wisdom and discernment during times of devotion that keeps our hearts grounded on what He has called us to do. Devotion leads our wayward and overwhelmed hearts right where they belong sitting at the feet of Jesus.
Whether it’s developing a study habit of reading His Word, setting a consistent time to pray and commune with God or fasting to usher your heart back to a place of devotion. Just Do It! Because God says it’s greater than all of the other things on your calendar.
"Martha, Martha, the Lord answered, you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed - or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." (Luke 10:41-42)
Larincia and Hervera Hambrick are the Lead Pastors of Real Life Church in urban St. Louis along with their two sons Josiah and Gabriel. Real Life Church will launch in 2018. Along with being a credentialed minister with the Assemblies of God, Pastor Larincia is the successful business owner of I am Destined to Reign Boutique. Larincia founded her jewelry boutique in order to connect women with the latest fashion trends and provide resources to help them grow spiritually with the Lord. Larincia is also in the process of writing a book titled, ” I am Destined to Reign” which is expected to be released in 2018. This article was posted by SMD Church Planting and Development in September, 2017.
I walked away from that conversation completely broken and hurt. 2 situations handled 2 different ways. One life-giving; the other one crippling. Discipline can be difficult to maneuver, whether you are giving it or receiving it.
Hebrews 12:11 says, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained in it.”
As followers of Christ, we are called to gently correct (2 Timothy 2:25) and gently restore (Galatians 6:1); we are not called to criticize and accuse. Harsh criticism is destructive; gentle correction is empowering.
Here are some ways to offer discipline gently:
1. CHECK YOUR MOTIVES.
Phil 2:3 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.” Is your motive to discipline someone self-serving or team-affirming? Is it to make you look good, and prove that you’re the leader and they’re not? Is it to prove you’re “Parent of the Year” by disciplining your kid in the middle of a meltdown at the grocery store, or is it to help shape your child’s heart and character? Before we correct someone, let's make sure it's to help shape their success and not simply to expose their faults.
2. COME FROM A PLACE OF HUMILITY.
Proverbs 22:4 says, “Humility and the fear of the Lord bring wealth and honor and life.” The best leaders don’t lead from pride of a title, they lead from humility of a servant’s heart. Phrase your words in a way that makes the other person feel encouraged, not discouraged.
3. CHANGE IF NEEDED.
Proverbs 12:18 says, “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Are the results of your discipline positive or negative? If the person you disciplined seems like the wind has been knocked out of them…find out why and improve the situation. If they seem like they have fresh wind in their sails…you did it well. When I discipline my children with anger and accusations, they walk away defeated with temporary behavior modification. When I discipline my children in love, they walk away with good attitudes and a true heart change. The same applies in the workplace, ministry, and relationships. Let's be wise and kind, not reckless and mean.
If you’ve been broken or hurt from being disciplined harshly, I am so sorry. Here are some ways to turn that criticism into something positive:
1. CHOOSE TO NOT CARRY OFFENSE.
(I know; easier said than done.) Proverbs 12:1 says, “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.” Even if you were incorrectly or unjustly criticized, choosing forgiveness allows healing and restoration. Turn the harshness that was meant to destroy you into a platform designed to empower you.
2. CHOOSE FLEXIBILITY.
Proverbs 19:20 says, “Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise.” If someone flags an area where you can improve, listen and take action. Redirect the destructive comments against you into constructive results for you.
3. CHOOSE TO LEARN FROM IT.
Proverbs 15:32 says, “Whoever ignores instruction despises himself, but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence.” Improve your leadership skills by not repeating your mistakes.
Mishandling discipline by either criticizing or carrying offense can cripple our purpose and calling. Let’s be leaders that create and foster healthy environments versus toxic ones. Let’s be leaders that encourage and challenge others to be the best they can be. Ultimately, it’s all for the advancement of God’s kingdom and the demonstration of His love through our lives, relationships, careers, and ministries.
One of the reasons I love and trust the Bible is that very few of the “heroes” always do it right. In fact, most of the main characters are deeply flawed.
I love this. It speaks to the authenticity of the Scriptures. I mean, who in their right mind, if they were trying to create a religion would make all the characters as messed up as the characters in the Bible?!
Secondly, because the heroes in the Bible are a tangle of brilliance and bumbling, I feel like I can relate and learn from them. In fact, I think one of the greatest lessons in leadership comes from the Bible.
So, today I want to share a leadership lesson from one of the leaders in the Old Testament. I realize none of this will be new or ground-breaking but hopefully this will redirect us and keep us from slipping into unhealthy patterns of thinking and behavior.
So here we go…Remember that crazy story from the book of Numbers where the people are complaining again? That’s pretty much the entire journey from Egypt to Canaan, but in this particular story, they are complaining about being thirsty.
And then, if you remember, God tells Moses and Aaron to speak to the rock and water will pour out. Instead of speaking, Moses strikes the rock and then God disciplines him by barring him from entering the Land of Promise. Ouch.
What’s the point of this story? And what can we, as leaders, learn from it?
Here’s the simplest way I can think of summarizing this story: As a leader, God cares more about your heart than your results.
Whether he spoke or hit the rock the results would have been the same… water. It’s what the people needed and what they demanded. But, God took issue with the “how” and it had everything to do with trust and obedience.
For me, the trouble in this area started in Bible College. My personal Bible reading morphed into my required Bible reading. This began a merger between my professional spiritual life and my personal spiritual life.
The results of my ministry, from an external perspective were right on track but at the same time, my heart was not fully engaged with God. This is a dangerous place to be. Thankfully, I was able to correct this behavior by reprioritizing my personal relationship with God.
A few questions I might encourage you to wrestle with as you consider where you’re at:
One secondary temptation here is to believe that all that matters is having a vibrant faith. I do think that our efforts do matter. This is why we talk about strategies, measurable goals and excellence.
These things really do matter. From my experience, we are at our best as ministry leaders when we strike a balance between heart and results. When our hearts are fully committed to God and our efforts are focused on leading with excellence, we are in our sweet spot.
Moses didn’t lose the opportunity of a life-time because of a bottom-line issue. He lost it because of a heart issue.
It is very unlikely that you and I will lose our ministries because of attendance dipping. However, we will be in serious danger of losing our ministries when our hearts drift from God.
The lesson here is heart over results.
This post was written by Aaron Buer on July 6, 2017 for www.breezechms.com.
I was standing at the door after church, talking with folks, when a woman who’d been visiting our church approached and blurted, “Can we be friends?” I knew immediately what she meant: she wanted to connect with other women and with the church, because she was in a time of transition and needed a lifeline of relational security. The surest thing, it seemed, was the smiling pastor’s wife who’d greeted her at the door each week.
I swallowed hard, trying to think of a response to a difficult and uncomfortable question from someone I didn’t know. In the past, I would have immediately answered, “Yes, of course!,” taken down her number, and then invited her to coffee, not so much because I was a bleeding heart but because I felt guilty if I didn’t do it. After all, I told myself, wasn’t that what a good pastor’s wife would do?
I know now that unless it’s prompted by the Holy Spirit, it’s not what a good pastor’s wife would do. Spending time with people to avoid feeling pressure, guilt, or the discomfort of knowing we’ve disappointed someone is not Spirit-led ministry, and it’s certainly not the gateway toward friendship, for either party.
In my last post, I discussed how important it is for us, as pastor’s wives, to have a hearty and healthy perspective on friendship. It’s important because it helps us navigate our many relationships, but it’s also important because we have the opportunity to model for other women how to do the same. We not only need a healthy perspective regarding friendship for ourselves; we have the opportunity to teach others a healthy perspective on friendship.
Talk about friendship and community
When women come to me for counsel, they usually want to talk about issues related to community or friendship. Some are feeling lonely or left out, some are in transition, some need help forming words as they consider approaching a friend who is in sin and some have been hurt by other women.
Pastor’s wives, we are often a type of security blanket for other women in church or group settings, especially if we’re open and friendly. I think this is mostly a good thing, because it offers us an opportunity to shepherd and speak into the lives of women around us. We can say hard things or challenge perspectives because we often have worked to build the relational capital.
In conversations with other women, as I have opportunity, I often speak about the “big picture” in our church, which I can uniquely see from my vantage point as the pastor’s wife. I tell the older women that the younger women desperately want to know them, even though the younger women may not know exactly what to ask or how to approach them. I tell the younger women, much to their surprise, that the older women can relate to their fears and insecurities. I challenge perspectives regarding age, marital status, race and educational choices—all the things that keep women apart because they assume they’ll have no commonalities. I challenge assumptions, trying to teach giving others the benefit of the doubt.
Being a type of security blanket for others, however, can be a bad thing if we think of ourselves as the answer to every problem. If someone is not connecting within the church or has been hurt, it’s easy to slip into “fix it” mode and feel responsible for that person’s well-being. We may began to feel we have to include everyone in everything we do or that we need to constantly be the “giver” and never the “receiver.”
Again, we have opportunities here. The opportunity comes through refusing to be the all-knowing, all-powerful, all-present Christ, because we aren’t and only hurt ourselves and others when we try to be. In other words, much of our opportunity for teaching others comes through disappointing people, and that opportunity is for the person to find their hope and comfort first and foremost in the Lord.
In conversations with women, we can voice these truths in gentle and loving ways. I often have to help people see that hurt in relationships is inevitable, no church is perfect and each person can make choices and take responsibility for pursuing deep community. They need to know that, in fact, friendships and connection within the church takes persistent intentionality over time.
I’m not advocating a cold-hearted approach to women in our churches. Not at all. I am, however, advocating for pastor’s wives to not try to be everyone’s all-in-all. The way we avoid being the all-in-all is to personally connect with those the Holy Spirit is nudging us toward for discipleship and friendship and then, for all others, use our influence to connect other women with one another.
The possibilities for connection are ongoing and endless, and by intentionally connecting others, we move from being the overwhelmed hub of a wheel to being a part of the living, growing body of Christ.
With the woman at the door requesting my friendship, I tried to remember my own advice. I smiled and said, “I’d love to invite you to the small group that meets in our home.” I wrote down the details on the bulletin and handed it to her, and although later I felt a twinge of guilt at not running to rescue her, I realized that instead of accepting responsibility for fixing her situation, I’d put the responsibility for her community where it belonged: with her. I’d opened the door. Then I prayed she’d walk through it.
1. How would you answer the question, "Can we be friends?" if it was asked of you at the next Sunday church service?
2. What is your take on Christine's comment, "We have the opportunity to teach others a healthy perspective on friendship?" Have you ever thought about friendship and the pastor's wife in that way?
3. What is your perspective on friendship and the pastor's wife?
Christine is wife to Kyle Hoover, mom to three energetic boys, and the author of The Church Planting Wife: Help and Hope for Her Heart and From Good to Grace: Letting Go of the Goodness Gospel. In 2008, their family planted a church in Charlottesville, VA. She enjoys encouraging ministry wives and helping all women apply the gift of God’s grace to their daily lives. Christine offers fresh doses of biblical truth and grace on her blog, GraceCoversMe.com.
More from this author
“Are you saying no because of your weight?”
Those words caught me off guard and stung. I’m always amazed at the freedom some feel to say what they do.
Rather than respond with a full-frontal attack, I used gentle words so I could hide the hurt. “No, I just don’t want ice cream right now. Thanks, though.”
In that moment—at a dinner with old friends that should have been filled with joy and celebration—I found myself in a very tangling situation. I put on a brave face and pushed through. The last thing I wanted to do was ruin the evening for everyone else. But honestly, I’m so tired of just pushing through. Even more, I’m frustrated that my self-worth is still so easily tangled.
Isn’t there a point in our lives when insecurity shouldn’t knot us up anymore?
The shaming voice inside tells me I should be able to overcome it. And so often I agree:
The struggle to see the truth of our worth isn’t new. Chances are you’re intimately aware of the places you don’t feel like you “measure up.” And dare I say it’s a battle we’ll most likely carry to the grave because part of the human condition is wondering if we’re good enough.
Those insecurities cause us to take a sobering look at our life to see if we’ve been a success. We want to know we made a difference—our lives, our words, our actions—during our time here. We need to know we matter.
So we wonder… Am I raising my kids the right way? Have I been the kind of wife my husband needed? Am I doing enough to create healthy community and love on others well? Am I a good friend? Have I volunteered enough hours? Am I nurturing my relationship with Jesus enough? Do I handle our finances like I should? Am I as encouraging and affirming with my words as she is? Do my opinions and ideas matter?
We want to know we’ve contributed to the world in significant ways. Our hope is to know we’re beautiful in our own way, and others see it too. And we need to know that no matter what, we are valuable.
So when a careless comment tightens the tangle of worthlessness, it hurts so deep.
In my naivety, I thought I’d eventually grow out of insecurities. I assumed being an adult meant the craving for worldly acceptance and approval would stop. But for many of us, we are still getting tangled by the same ole people and the same stupid situations.
But here is what I’ve learned. Victory doesn’t mean we’ll never struggle with insecurity again. Victory means that when we feel the knot begin to tighten, we are quicker to see it and faster to take our tangle to God.
And even more, God never measures our value by the way we look, what we’ve accomplished, the money we have made, the health of our body, or any other worldly measuring stick. God values us simply because we’re His.
“You are the ones who make yourselves look right in other people’s sight, but God knows your hearts. For the things that are considered of great value by people are worth nothing in God’s sight.” (Luke 16:15 GNT)
What a beautiful reminder that God’s scales are not the same as the world's. And this scripture offers a powerful warning not to allow the world’s definition of success and beauty be the judge of our value and worth.
So how can we learn to see ourselves through the eyes of God?
Because when we do—when we truly untangle—words won’t hold the same power over us anymore. And when someone questions why we’re skipping dessert (or we get triggered in some other way), we’ll remember that God sees the beauty and complexity of our heart… and delights in His creation!
This blog post was written by Carey Scott for Propel Women in June, 2017. She is an author, speaker, and life coach, honest about her walk with the Lord…stumbles, fumbles and all. She is the author of Untangled, a book where she bravely shares her story of abuse, the insecurities birthed from it, and offers practical advice on how to live in freedom. Carey lives in Northern Colorado with her family. Learn more at CareyScott.org. You can also connect with her on Facebook,Twitter or Pinterest.
No matter how great of a minister, husband, leader or father he is, he’s not immune to adversity.
Church dilemmas erupt, leaving his leadership landscape shaken. Sin happens, either committed by him or against him. A friend that was life-giving awkwardly leaves the church. Exhaustion eventually affects his emotional stamina. The list continues.
Whether his struggle is private or public, as his wife you feel a version of his pain and walk in the aftershocks of his struggle.
How do we walk wisely with our husband in the landscape of his suffering?
Resist reacting with emotional solutions that bring temporary relief.
When he hurts, you hurt. Any path to relief, even if temporary, seems right in the moment. Job’s wife could only think of one thing to relieve her husband from his suffering – quit! “Curse God and die.” Let’s not rush to be too harsh on her. I’ve entertained saying, “quit” to my husband, too. Everything they had built together was gone! She had been the wife to the “greatest man of all the people of the east” (Job 1:3). They both lost children, financial security and reputation in the community. And now she’s watching her suffering husband and probably thinking, “ENOUGH!” Yet, temporary relief doesn’t change reality.
Cling to the reality that God is sovereign in our suffering.
Pain in the present distorts our ability to comprehend anything beyond our present circumstances. Job and his wife didn’t have a clue that a conversation had occurred between God and Satan. While their circumstances were incredibly painful, there was another reality they weren’t privy to. And no amount of logic attempting to answer the question, “Why is this happening?” would have unveiled the real reason. God’s sovereignty shadows our suffering.
Recognize his vulnerability and the value of your strength.
In suffering our husband is more vulnerable than he may admit. He may flirt with quitting or react by isolating. Chuck Swindoll confessed, “Men are weakened when times of affliction hit…In our weakened condition we lose our objectivity, sometimes our stability. We become vulnerable and most men don’t know how to handle themselves in a vulnerable state of mind. We become – hard as it is to admit this – afraid. So in light of all this, hear me – we need your clear perspective, wisdom, and spiritual strength. We need your words of confidence and encouragement. We even find it hard to say, ‘I need you right now.’”
Be present, but don’t always talk.
A loving presence that is courageously resolute and unconditionally available speaks loudly. Sometimes, there are just no words that need to be said. Give him a safe place and space to process. At times he needs be alone. Other times, he needs you near without words. If he speaks, listen. A safe space is comfort to a hurting soul. Your presence in pain creates a deep, unspoken intimacy.
In the shadow of our leader-husband, we often default to his initiation in spiritual intimacy. However, we are in partnership on this journey. When my husband was in his own pit of despair I asked him, “What do you need from me?” His first answer was, “I need you to initiate praying because I just have no words.” Don’t ask if he wants to pray, just start praying out loud with him. Initiate ushering both of your hearts before the throne of God.
Discipline yourself to build-up strength reserve, now.
Adversity will come. You can’t fake strength. Those who possess it have built it from a disciplined conditioning of the heart. Build up strength and you will walk wisely beside him in his pain.
Here's a blog from Breeze Church Management Systems. Their slogan is "We're sharing everything we're learning as we help churches simplify." This is a topic we don't always hear about, but is one of vast importance in our churches. How important are your volunteers to you?
Recently, my team embarked on a project. We asked ourselves:
“What’s the one thing?”
In other words, what’s the one thing that if we focused on it, it could impact everything else in our ministry in a positive way? We wanted to focus. Our desire was greater effectiveness in our ministry.
After some research and a series of team debates, we landed on volunteers. In our ministry, our success rises and falls on the effectiveness and longevity of our volunteers. My suspicion is that your ministry is the same. Whether you lead a children’s ministry, student ministry, hospitality ministry or care ministry, the number and quality of your volunteers is a determining factor in your success. So, here’s a question: How do you inspire volunteers towards greater effectiveness?
This is a question that we’ve been wrestling with and although we’re not completely where we want to be, I think we’re headed in the right direction. Here are a few ideas.
Stories that Need to be Told
Over time we’ve come to recognize that nothing inspires like a good story. We’re built to resonate with a good story. This is why we love a good movie or book so much. Because of this we include a segment in each of our staff meetings called, “Stories that need to be told.” During this time, we share stories of impact in our ministry. These stories remind of why we do what we do and they energize us toward our goals. In short, a good story inspires.
Recently, we decided to expand this tradition by also starting each of our volunteer meetings with “Stories that need to be told.” The truth is nothing inspires volunteers like a good story — a good story that reminds them of three things:
If you want to inspire volunteers, you, as a leader have to become a story collector. Everywhere you go in your ministry and everyone you talk you, your job is to collect stories and then retell them in ways that inspire the team.
Most volunteers battle with a nagging question: “Am I doing a good job?” Everyone hates to fail. It’s part of human nature. We want to win. We want to succeed.
The trouble with volunteering is often that the win isn’t clear. In my experience, when the win isn’t clear, human nature often leads us to believe we are failing. Volunteers who believe they are failing won’t last long.
The remedy for this is clear wins. When your volunteers know exactly what it looks like to win, they are very likely to hit the mark.
So, in your ministry, what’s the win? Can you clearly and succinctly state the win for each volunteer role? If not, it’s time to gather your team and create one sentence job descriptions for each volunteer role. The clarity will inspire your volunteers.
Something I’ve learned in ministry that is incredibly frustrating and yet liberating is that people only want to know what they need to know only when they need to know it. It’s the principle of “right now.” What I mean by “right now” is “what is immediately next?” It’s perceived as “right now.”
In other words, your volunteers aren’t going to catch most of the information that you share concerning what they need to know next month or next semester but they will listen attentively to what they need to know next week, or even better, what they need to know today.
For years, I bucked this phenomenon saying things like “people need to plan!” and “people need to care about what is coming!”… and finally, “people are just the worst!”.
And then I found myself ignoring most of the communications from my kids’ teachers that didn’t pertain to right now. Sigh. I am those people.
Here’s what I’ve learned: The way to maximize your communication impact and keep your sanity is to focus on what matters right now. Why? Because that is when people are actually listening and you are serving them well by helping them prepare for and understand what is coming up next.
If you want to inspire your volunteers, adjust your communication and training plan to focus on what is immediately next. Focus on the right now.
Two recent conversations led me to a breakthrough in understanding encouragement. The first conversation was between myself and a co-worker. My co-worker told me that when people write him a letter of encouragement it’s basically a waste of time. He doesn’t even really read them. I was like: “Wow. You’re a horrible person!”
That was conversation number one. Conversation number two involved my entire team as one of our team leaders led us through a conversation about the book “The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace”.
You probably know Gary Chapman from “The Five Love Languages”. The book follows the same ideas but in the work-place. In the course of our team conversation, we all discovered that everyone on our team has one or two languages of appreciation that really speak volumes and one that really speaks nothing.
What I learned from this exercise is that while I may believe I’m appreciating the heck out of one of my teammates, they may not be receiving it at all. Hence, my teammate who could care less about an encouraging note.
One of the best ways to inspire your volunteers is to appreciate them really well. It may be worth your while to explore this book and learn more about speaking the appreciation languages of your volunteers.
The last strategy for inspiring volunteers is the easiest and quite possibly the most effective. Food. That’s right. People love food and when you show up for a meeting and there are great snacks, you know it changes your mindset completely!
If morale is low among your volunteers, you probably have a lot of work to do to get moving in the right direction but quality snacks can provide a quick boost.
Let’s wrap this up. For us, everything rises and falls on the effectiveness of our volunteers. I’m guessing, you are much the same. So, how do we inspire our volunteers towards greatness? Tell stories, provide clarity around the wins, focus on the right now, target encouragement and for crying out loud feed them!
I would encourage you not to become overwhelmed with this list but rather to focus on whatever one thing you believe would create the most immediate impact. Let’s inspire our volunteers!
This post was written by Aaron Buer on June 14, 2017 for www.breezechms.com.
Many times throughout life, we are called to be still. This call is prevalent throughout the Bible. A very well-known verse, Psalm 46:10, says, “Be still and know that I am God.” I have found this instruction to be one of the most challenging, yet rewarding of the biblical calls; I usually prefer issues to be solved immediately. I find it frustrating and painful to be still, as I would rather not suffer so long. Suffering is overwhelming; prolonged grief, is, at times, almost unbearable. But often, God calls us to inaction during the dark periods. Being still does not imply we stop our daily routine, rather we give our burdens to the Lord, allowing Him to navigate.
During a very stressful time in my life, the Lord impressed a message on my heart. He gave me an image of the two of us on a plane together. Even if you know me, you may not be aware that I did not like to fly. However, my job insists that I fly for 17-36 hours at a time—and often! During this time in my life, I felt so wasted by the stress and filled with such anxiety, the thought of allowing someone else to steer a plane that I must sit on was beyond overwhelming to me.
I became very acquainted with the people next to me on a flight. I had a coping system in place. I would apologize before take-off—letting the person next to me know that certainly during the flight, he or she would be holding my hand (and it may hurt!). I had chest pains; I could not breathe; I could not speak. The terror of that time was overwhelming—indeed, an example of my larger world.
When I received this message from God, I had to laugh—of course He chose an airplane! He has a sense of humor! God revealed this mental image of an airplane to me as a safe place where we could be near one another. In my mind, I needed to find that safe place—to allow my thoughts to rest, and to grieve and heal from the pain. So, God chose a plane.
In my mind, when I crawled into the plane, I was OK, but very weak. All the seats were open; I could choose to sit wherever I wanted. I found myself drawn to a well-worn co-pilot’s seat. I knew the Lord was in the Pilot’s chair. As we flew, God navigated all of the mine fields that appeared in the plane’s path. I sat still, very still, not even able to look over at the Pilot. I knew He was there, that was enough. I was not strong—I was too weak, too worn down by life, and thankful someone was steering. All around the plane, a great battle was underway. Arrows were trying to pierce through the aircraft. We could not see who was fighting off the arrows. God kept flying. I kept sitting—still.
As I sat in my seat, I suffered great pain—yet, God still flew. He was carrying me. He was fighting for me. After what seemed like a long while, I could finally turn my head—and look at my Pilot. That is all I could muster. I continued to be still. He continued to navigate . . . for the navigation we needed was beyond anything I could handle or control. After all, I didn’t know how to fly. I continued to be still. I gave up all control.
The plane—a place that once terrified me became a place for the biggest hand-over I had ever given the Lord. I was at my end, and He took it all for me.
I gave Him myself, my kids, family, others, finances, future, pain, hopes, dreams—and in return, He gave me peace—and the ability to continue to be still. He continues to navigate my joy and pain and carries my burdens as if they are a piece of luggage I can check under the plane. My burdens still exist, but they no longer weigh heavy in my arms. Mind you, I usually pack my luggage to the last ounce!
The verse God gave me through this time:
"I will fight for you; you need only be still." Exodus 14:14, NIV
Eventually, after much healing—we began to have conversations. I was too weak before, when I could only speak in what felt more like groans. I knew He could understand these. Now, after years of healing, we have plenty of chats. You see, we are flying this life together. I make plenty of suggestions. He listens—and even allows me to fly when I want to. I have found it much better to give Him the controls! After all, I want to serve Him.
Through stillness, the Lord works. Through stillness, the Lord heals. Through obedient stillness, the Lord will fight for you. It is as if God says to us, “Sit in that cockpit seat and let Me fly this plane. You can trust me, as I can navigate better than you can. You have an army of angels fighting on your behalf—fending off arrows and flames . . . though you have been—and still are in pain, I am in control.”
Certainly, at times we are called to action—but, sometimes when we hear these calls, they are refined in stillness before the Lord.
Article can be viewed at Her Green Room.
Amy grew up in Lynden, Washington. She attended Calvin College receiving a BA in Biblical Studies and Theology. After finishing college in 1997, she moved to Jerusalem, Israel, to attend Jerusalem University College. While there she pursued her MA at Jerusalem University College. Her area of study was in New Testament Backgrounds/Jewish History of the Second Temple Period. Amy lived in Israel for a total of 6 years, and two of their three children were born while living in Israel. After living in Israel, she moved with her family to Belgium where she taught classes at Continental Theological Seminary. After departing Continental, she moved to Springfield, Missouri, where she now works full time for the Center for Holy Lands Studies as the Director.
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