Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Children in the Midst of a Disaster

After the recent disasters within our church family we all need to be aware that children handle disasters differently than adults. I don’t take any credit for this information but I do support it. Please take some time and read through this post and remember to keep those affected in your prayers.
Bear in mind that a disaster is a disaster. There's no quick and simple way to recover from the wounds and losses you've sustained. It's one thing to deal with the normal strains and stresses of life. But the very meaning of the word trauma can be summed up as "too much too quick." So keep your head on straight and be patient with yourself. It's going to take time, determination, and perseverance to get past the pain and devastation that seem so paralyzing and all-encompassing at the present moment.

This is especially true where children are concerned. You have to be prepared for ups and downs and emotional setbacks. Meanwhile, there are some things you can do to help your kids face their immediate situation with courage and confidence:
  • First, try to keep them in a routine as much as possible. Difficult as it may be under the circumstances, work to create an atmosphere of normalcy, balance, and predictability. For example, take a walk every afternoon or share a story at bedtime every night. This will counteract feelings of confusion and disorientation. Help your children understand that you are there for them. Make a conscious effort to have fun together whenever you can.
    Let your kids know that it's good to be honest about their feelings. Hurts are healed when emotions are aired and pain is squarely faced. Model this truth by facing your own pain and dealing with it in healthy, constructive ways with other adults or caregivers. 
  • Accept a child's emotions as they are. Whatever reaction he may be experiencing is "normal" for him. Validate his feelings. Enter into them with him. Let him know that it's healthy and normal to feel sad when bad things happen. Be aware that younger children may respond by acting out. Teens, on the other hand, may display a tendency to withdraw. Some teens may also act out by becoming involved in self-destructive behavior (i.e. drugs, alcohol, rebellion). Be prepared for every eventuality. 
  • Don't avoid discussing the tragedy, but don't obsess over it either. Don't overwhelm your children with a barrage of questions. They may find it easier to express themselves openly while sharing an activity with you side-by-side. 
  • If for some reason a child can't talk freely with you about the disaster, encourage and enable him to talk to somebody else. Make sure that the somebody else is a safe, familiar person. Sharing feelings verbally is an important part of the healing process. Give your child opportunities to meet other kids who are going through the same thing. He needs to know that he's not the only one who is suffering in this way. 
  • Help your kids explore non-verbal ways of processing the tragedy. This can be done through drawing, painting, games, drama, writing poetry, or keeping a journal.
When tragedy strikes, parental guidance and input are crucial to a child's recovery. Personality, age, and past experiences also play a vital role. You know your own children best. Observe their behavior and moods carefully. Keep an eye out for any obvious signs of distress, insecurity, and confusion. You can help bolster their sense of security and counterbalance negative emotions by adopting some of the following strategies:
  • Children under five probably won't understand the significance of this event. Sometime around age six, they begin to process some of the harsher realities of human life. With your help, they should learn to the deeper meaning of these experiences. Make up your mind to "be there" for them when the time for such a discussion arrives.
  • Be aware that trauma may cause your children to regress. It can even make them lose trust in you. These are normal reactions, so don't take it personally. Be patient and give them space. Allow adequate time for healing. The more consistently their needs have been met in the past, the sooner they are likely to recover.
  • Protect your kids from media overload. Read a book together instead of watching the evening news. The younger the child, the more damaging the exposure to graphic images will be.
  • Tell your children that you love them. If these words are difficult to say, write them in a note. If you have little ones, spend time holding them. Allow them to experience the warmth and security of your touch.
  • Assure your kids that trained people are on the job doing everything possible to fix the damage and meet the needs of the victims. Children find comfort in knowing that someone is in charge. Pray together for the families of the victims, the rescue and medical workers, civic and political leaders, and the military as they deal with the fallout of the flood.
  • The more directly your children have been impacted, the greater the need for intervention. If after three months or so they still seem overwhelmed by the event, think about getting some help from a professional counselor. Watch for signs such as sleep loss, nightmares, loss of appetite, long-term behavioral changes, withdrawal, disconnection, or emotional numbing. Focus on the Family's Counseling staff can help you locate a qualified Christian therapist practicing in your area.
  • Create new dreams for the future. No matter how much pain your family has endured, you can still face tomorrow with a hopeful attitude if you take time to discuss and write down new goals that you can pursue together.
Originally posted on:

Adapted from Parenting in the Midst of Tragedy and Understanding and Coping with Trauma. Copyright © 2008, 2011 Focus on the Family.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Danger of Apathy

Apathy… it is as one of the most difficult things for a leader to overcome.  It can start small and inconspicuous but if not managed, it can quickly take over its host. In doing so apathy will make the host ineffective at any task that could that requires the host to engage in a potential life changing activity. It will tear apart families, destroy potential academic achievements, stall professional careers, and drive a wedge between the plans of God for the host. Apathy is also contagious, especially among those who are in positions of leadership. This is the reason why husbands and fathers who are infected with apathy often have families and subordinates who are also suffer.  Churches that have pastors and leadership who suffer with apathy often lead churches that are riddled with apathy.

Leaders need to treat apathy aggressively. The best way to protect yourself and others from being effected by the grip of apathy is to embrace passion. Passionate people will not succumb to the pull of apathy. They are constantly pushing themselves and others to take the next step in their professional, relational, and spiritual development. Fathers who are passionate many times will have families that have high standards and are heavily engaged in the activities that they are involved in. Passionate people often find their identity in their passion. Passionate people get things done.

Apathy is detrimental to spiritual growth. Apathetic people have a hard time looking at their lives and seeing any deficiencies, whereas passionate people constantly analyze their life to find where they are falling short and addressing those areas. God has commanded that Christians love others and God. Apathetic people will make excuses for why others are more qualified or why they just are not up to the task. Passionate followers of Christ may make mistakes but those distract them from the commands of God.

Today we need to look at our lives and identify where we are between completely apathetic and totally passionate. Then we need to be committed to become more passionate about the things that would honor God. Passionate people are the catalyst for change and our world needs more God honoring change!

"God created us with to live with a single passion: to joyfully display his supreme excellence in all spheres of life. The wasted life is the life without passion. God calls us to pray and think and dream and plan and work not to be made much of, but to make much of him in every park of our lives.(1)" - John Piper

 1. John Piper, Don't Waster Your Life (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2003), 37.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Words Of Advice To A New Minister

Very few things make me more excited than to see someone developing in their relationship with
Christ. Several times in my ministry I have had the opportunity to be a part of someone realizing a call into vocational ministry. That led me to thinking about what advice I would give a person who has accepted the calling to serve in vocational ministry. This article is in a personal letter format to the person who has been called to vocational ministry. What advice would you add or what was something that was told to you when you decided to become a vocational minister? As a lay person in the church what advice would you give?


The call to the ministry is universal. All Christians have been set apart for some sort of ministry. However, occasionally God places a special calling on someone’s life. This special calling sets them apart to serve him vocationally.  It could be in a local church, as a missionary, at a non-profit, or one of the other great parachurch organizations.

God calling one into full time service is not a call to be taken lightly. The call to the ministry is one of humility and service. It is days that are filled with situations that will make you feel unable or unqualified to meet the needs of those who have been put under your care. People will come to you with their deepest burdens, place them at your feet, and seek your counsel. No matter how difficult the situation, your congregation will expect you to be the voice of reason that is grounded in biblical truth. Their trust brings with it incredible burden and liability.

Many people will expect you to be their rock and foundation. That is why it is of the utmost importance to be above reproach in all areas of your life. Vocational ministry brings with it a life that is lived in a glass bowl. Everything you and your family do will be seen and sometimes scrutinized. You cannot hide your personal activities so you need to be careful about the decisions you make. People need you to be that rock in all areas of your life and people will look for areas where you falter and may use those to discredit your calling. Never make a decision or participate in an activity that could even be perceived as questionable. Your calling holds you to a higher standard. We all know it is impossible to be perfect. However, when you mess up use the opportunity to show what it looks like to ask forgiveness in a way that honors God.

All this being said there are some important things that you must establish as early as possible in your ministry. These are critical and to waver on any of these will lead to a series of serious ramifications or the complete loss of your opportunity to minister vocationally. This higher standard of living is not only to protect you as a minister but also to protect others serving beside you. In the recent past, we have seen what happens when a minister falters. The Catholic Church has had to take serious measures to protect their churches because of clergy misconduct. This did not only hurt the Catholic Church but the church as a whole.  When one minister becomes a victim to ungodly desires, it affects all ministers and holds ministry back. Many churches today are victims of clergy misconduct and their misconduct has rippled into future generations at the church.

You must understand that you have a responsibility to keep yourself healthy as a minister. 1 Corinthians 6: 19, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own." Healthy living is easy when you are young, but as you age, it becomes more of a burden. People look to you as a standard. Not just in religious matters but also in the way you take care of yourself and how your handle interpersonal relationships. It is also important that you keep yourself pure. Your stance on living a pure life reflects on your moral character. It is also essential that you always be working to make yourself a better minister. Make a commitment to always be a learner.

You have been called to lead your family. This becomes increasingly important when you have children. People will look to you as an expert in family matters. You will feel like you are failing more than succeeding but remember that the most important thing to do is parent in a way that is honoring to God. Deuteronomy 6:7, “You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” Your family reflects you and you must ensure that you are leading it by example for others to imitate.  To be the best leader in your family make sure that God is the most important priority in every decision you make. When God is the priority in your home, it will be easier to lead your family as the spiritual leader.

You also have a responsibility to your church or wherever God calls you to minister. You must make sure that you lead in a way that honors God. He has set you apart for his service and you must be willing to commit to a continual spiritual development so you can lead in that way.  When you work, do so with diligence and professionalism. If you approach the ministry with passion and determination that flows from your relationship with God, people will want to follow your example. As you lead, be careful because power can bread sin. People will see you in a position of power and power attracts people. Do not be naive in your encounters with the opposite gender. Have someone you trust be accountable for you at all times.  Remember what is says in Proverbs 2:11, “Discretion will guard you, Understanding will watch over you.” Use discretion in all your opportunities of counseling and advice.

God’s calling is an incredible responsibility. You are God’s hand to a particular group of people. Lead those people with passion because passion is infectious. Lead them with a soft heart but speak truth with boldness. Grow thick skin and a tender heart. Remember that as God uses you, the devil will want to make you ineffective by clouding your judgment and perception.  You have been set apart for good work. This good work will bring with it many pains, tears, and frustrations. Just remember that God wants to use you and he will, if you seek his leadership.

Monday, February 3, 2014

How do you thrive in a multi-role staff position?

I was sitting in a seminary class with an adjunct professor. It was the first day of this class and I love classes with adjunct professor especially ones who are currently serving in a position at a church. Regardless of whether the instructor was and adjunct or a “bonafide” seminary professor the first day of every class was the same. The instructor would allow each of the students in the class to talk about who they were, about their family, and their current position at a church (if they were serving). In Matthew 23: 12 its says, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (ESV). This passage of scripture seemed to be totally irrelevant during the time. Students would talk about their families and the amazing ministries they served at. I am naturally cynical and I fight hard to battle this weakness in my life but during this particular day I must have been weak. As I heard people describing their roles and their incredible ministries you would have thought that each of these students was serving at the height of their ministry. I became more and more annoyed at what seemed to become more of an ego trip than an opportunity for us to get to know each other.

Then it was my turn. Let me lay a foundation here. I love my church and I love the position I hold at my church. We average around 415 each Sunday which, as I see it, is a healthy size. The biggest issue we have is that our church struggles with giving.  Our giving is approximately half what most churches our size take in. As a result, we only have two full time pastoral staff positions, the senior pastor, and me. I hold the title of Families and Media Pastor, which basically means I am responsible for all age group ministries and a lot of the administrative needs of the church.

It was my turn, so I turned in my chair and addressed the class. Told them about my family and simply said my job title and where I served. Then the instructor said something sarcastic about my title and asked me to explain what I actually did at the church. Well I did, in great detail and without any semblance of humility. After what seemed like 5 minutes of explanation the instructor looked at me and said to the class, “This is a perfect example of someone whose ministry will never be successful because he is doing too much.” I turned around, did not refute him, and did whatever I could not to show how insulted I was.

The truth is we all wear lots of hats when serving on staff at a church. One moment we have our counseling hat on, then next we put on an I.T. hat as we fix the computer that handles our Sunday media, finally we put on our theologian hat as we prepare our messages and so much more. For pastors who serve bi-vocationally this reality is even more real. Our success in ministry has less to do with our titles and what hat we wear and more to do with how we are honoring God with our lives and are we putting up appropriate boundaries to make sure we are not being pulled to thin.

I am committed to becoming a minister that honors God with the way I serve my family, and my church. At the same time I don't want to neglect my own personal spiritual development. I constantly have to evaluate myself to make sure that the different hats I wear serving the church don't keep me from the most important hat, my relationship with God and my family.

So I guess the question is, what are you doing in your ministry to thrive despite how many hats are hanging on your wall?

Monday, January 6, 2014

Need To Upgrade Your Church Management Software (ChMS)?

About 2 years ago, I was in a staff meeting and it was decided that we needed to move our church database or church management software (ChMS) to a new platform.  Being the “tech guy” on staff, the project was given to me to investigate and submit a proposal for a new ChMS.  Excited about the challenge I dove in and found myself way in over my head. Here were some of the issues I found:
  • The ChMS market is cluttered and confusing

  • Some systems focused on the ability to create endless reports and queries while others wanted to provide a platform for developing more community within the church and had very limited ability for reporting.
  • Some had a financial platform while others didn't.

  • Contacting some companies invited pushy sales people who obviously worked on commission while others were unable to even call you back
  • Very few sites offered non-biased opinions 
I had to create some criteria for what we needed this software to do to help us be better managers of God’s church. Our current ChMS came from a very large company that had been doing ChMS for a long time. They were very large, very expensive, and seemed to be struggling to provide services for a new lighter web based church staff. So the ChMS we were going to switch to needed to do the following:

100% Cloud Based – this was so critical for us. We did not have the money needed to develop a local network infrastructure. Can you imagine what would happen if your church lost its entire database without a good back up! With a limited staff that has multiple staff responsibilities having an IT guy to handle all backups and data management was not going to work.

Easy Moblie Access - The need for a decentralized office is becoming more real. With part time staff and the cost of office space we needed to have the ability to access the features of the ChMS from anywhere on any platform.

Strong Reporting – Many of the ChMS offer some very elegant platforms for developing online communities. I talked to some pastors who used these types of ChMS platforms and they were always a little discouraged that their membership did not seem to utilize the tool as much as they would like. So we decided we would do what most of the world is currently doing and utilize social media sites to develop community. Also, most of our staff are “numbers” people and the ability to process large amounts of records quickly and intuitively was important

Child Check In – We needed a platform that was quick, and easy on both front and the back end . Some systems require you to upload the data from “check-in” into your database. Our goal was to find a package that interacted with our cloud so the support staff in the office would not need to worry about another step on Monday. Basically we wanted a system that when a child was checked-in the were no other steps that needed to be completed in order ensure that the database had record of their attendance.

Online Giving – Many ChMS companies suggested using a third party like PayPal to manage online giving. We wanted a platform that interacted with our cloud and when someone gave online, they would be able to see the transaction instantly in their contributions statement. PayPal just cannot do that and additional steps could lead to mistakes. It needed to be seamless.

I looked and talked to many different ChMS companies for almost 6 months and narrowed the options down to two. One was a large company that had a great product that meet every criteria and more but was very expensive. The other was a small company that developed out of a couple of very largechurches that had most of the same features as the larger one .  After testing out the different platforms we went with the smaller company because their support was more responsive then the large one and the cost was much cheaper because you purchased the entire ChMS and did not need to pay extra for different modules. 

We launched our ChMS a little over a year ago and the process has been good and bad. Training an entire church about how they can utilize the new software was tedious. I found I needed to be the expert on the software and spent many hours learning the entire program so if anyone had an issue I knew how to get the answer. The data conversion process went as smooth as could be expected when you are dealing with over 5000 records. I did spend weeks tracking down different non-critical issues that followed the conversion process.

However, 1 year later, we have a lean ChMS that is intuitive and does what we need it to do. We have started using many of the advanced features within the software that has saved ministry leaders and support staff considerable time and energy.

So, are you happy with your ChMS, or do you find it not meeting your expectations? Pray about switching to something that will help you do ministry better. A ChMS should not simply be about reports or attendance, but rather about managing records in order to maximize ministry opportunities.  If you church does not have a ChMS or is using Excel, Access, or Word to manage your church’s database, you need to consider making a change.  Your church will never grow larger than the systems your church implements. If your system for data management is lackluster you attendance and member retention probably is also.

Have you ever lead your church to switch or implement a ChMS? What advice would you offer to someone about finding a new ChMS?