Defining A Leading Lady – STRENGTH

 

In college I majored in communications. In all of my studies, there was a repeating theme: give the facts, be honest, but write and speak from a personal place of vulnerability. People connect with authenticity. Today, I’m going to be really honest and very vulnerable.

My husband is currently working four to five days a week in Atlanta, while I manage our household and the inner workings of a life with four children. I also write and consult on the side. We’re finalizing the adoption of our fourth child. My daughter is a competitive dancer (Yes, I’m a dance mom. No, dance moms are not as crazy as television portrays them to be). My boys are active in spring sports, and we’re preparing to move states in two months. My life is hectic on a normal day. This week it was another level, code RED. I already had a few extra errands and appointments when two of my four children fell ill with the flu AND strep throat.

As I sit here, in the parking lot of the dance studio, I’m tired from lack of sleep due to administering meds all hours of the night. I have a headache…again from lack of sleep. I’m worried about the health of my kids, their missed school work, and I’m running out of time in this day to complete all my errands. I have my daughter’s dance competition to pack for this weekend. I really need to start spring-cleaning so we can begin to show the house, and I just received a Powerschool notice that my adopted son is, once again, failing math. I’m wondering if I have what it takes to parent a child that has endured significant abuse, neglect, and starvation, and on top of everything, I’m behind on laundry. I HATE being behind on laundry. The weight of my circumstance FEELS overwhelmingly heavy, but if I allow my FEELS to strip the validity of my KNOWS, I’m setting myself up for defeat. Let me explain.

I FEEL tired. I FEEL like I can’t go on. I FEEL like I’m failing as a mother. I FEEL unproductive. I FEEL lonely and isolated.

I KNOW the Lord is my strength. I KNOW He has given me everything I need to face this day. I KNOW He created within me a mother’s intuition. I KNOW He has given me a grand purpose. I KNOW He has placed Godly influences around me to lean on for support when life gets tough.

Feelings are not truth. When I go to scripture, I find clear direction when I’m weary. “Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.” 1 Chronicles 16:11 (NIV) In my prayer time this morning, I felt a blanket of peace settle over me. God was saying, “I’m here. My strength is yours. You’ve got this.” I don’t know if God speaks in modern-day vernacular, but it’s what I heard, what I experienced. As I mulled the words over in my mind, I came to a conclusion. Strength isn’t a grand show of brawn or might. Sometimes strength is simply moving forward, taking another step, advancing despite the onslaught of emotions that beat us down. Strength is saying I FEEL one way, but KNOW the truth. Here’s the truth. “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13 (NIV). The scripture is clear. Your strength comes from a conscious decision to rely on the maker of heaven and earth. Let’s take a few moments to examine that further.

 

Strength is…DECIDING TO BE OKAY.

Not every circumstance can be changed, not every problem immediately rectified. Sometimes, strength is deciding to look to the heavens, acknowledge your blessings, take a deep breath, and stay the course. I once heard my pastor say, “Your next level may be one praise away.” Change starts with you, with your mindset. When the enemy begins to stir your emotions, tries to make you FEEL inadequate and alone, close your eyes and praise Jesus. Find your steady in the unwavering faithfulness of a God who is always with you.

 

Strength is…DECIDING TO TAKE ACTION.

Sometimes, a situation is out of our control. Other times, there are actions we can take to improve our circumstances. I’m overwhelmed in this season with housework and yard work. I can choose to forgo that new pair of shoes I’ve had my eye on and reallocate those funds for a little assistance around my house. For you, it may be that you despise the negativity of your work environment. Maybe you should invest in a good set of headphones or ask to switch cubicles. Maybe you’re lonely. Find a small group. Choose to intentionally connect with those in your same season of life. Sometimes strength is deciding, “I can do something about this.”

 

Strength is…DECIDING TO SEEK HELP.

Life is messy. Things don’t always go as planned. Sometimes you find yourself in a maze of emotions and every turn leads to a dead end. Maybe you’ve experienced the death of someone dear to you, or even the death of a life-long dream. Maybe someone you loved walked away and left you feeling inadequate and vulnerable, or maybe it’s a million things piling up. Seeking guidance and support is also a sign of strength. It shows you are self-aware enough to know a breaking point is near. Sometimes strength is saying, “I can’t overcome this on my own, but I know God wants more for me and I’m going to choose to share my burden and find unity in the body of Christ.”

Just because you don’t FEEL strong, doesn’t mean you aren’t equipped with the strength of a higher power. “It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he causes me to stand on the heights. He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze.”  Psalm 18:32-34 (NIV)

A Leading Lady decides to be strong. She decides to be okay, to take action, and to seek help when she needs it. You may not FEEL capable, but you KNOW a God who makes you strong. Advance, move forward, take another step and be encouraged you are never alone and your backup will never fail you.

Join us again next week here at FamilyMinistry.Church as we continue to define a Leading Lady.

 

Jess Bealer

 

Helping Small Group Leaders Connect

Part of Multisite Monday

Over the years, I’ve taken more than my fair share of budgetary questions, “How should we allocate our funds? Who oversees the budget? How strict should we be about overages?” The question I receive most? “I have a little money left over for the year, what should I do with it?”

My answer is always the same, “SPEND IT ON SMALL GROUPS!”

My mom and dad taught that where you spend your time and money is reflective of your priorities. If small groups are important, then we must devote time, money, and energy to see them succeed.

Parents bring their kids and students to church for different reasons: discipleship, babysitting, guilt, supplemental parenting, boredom, or even curiosity. Kids and students come to church for two reasons, to have fun and hang out with friends. Once we understand the needs and expectations of those we serve, we can begin to strategize. The role of a small group leader is complex. Simplifying the goals allows for clarity. Here are the three objectives of a small group leader:

  1. To CONNECT with mom or dad through meaningful conversations
  2. To ENGAGE with a kid or student in a fun and exciting way
  3. To FACILIATE relationships both as a mentor and with kids’ or students’ peers

Overtime in a multisite model, the quality of small group execution can start to vary from location to location. It’s easy to get frustrated and lay the responsibility square on the shoulders of the campus director. However, excellence starts with a healthy centralized strategy. There are certain elements that must be present or communicated to ensure small group leaders are set up for success. Let’s examine those essentials and consider how to create centralized strategies to ensure their implementation in a multisite model.

 

Coaching

Coaching is not training. Training happens once a quarter in a multi-purpose room with rows of chairs and snacks. Only about 40% of your volunteer-base show up, and most of the time, it’s the 40% that don’t need training. I’m not a huge advocate of training, because it’s rarely as effective as I hope it will be. Coaching, on the other hand, has proven to be a valuable tool. Coaching is hands-on, in the moment guidance. Pair your more experienced team members with those that need assistance and watch magic happen. Put a rotation schedule in place so every small group leader feels supported and encouraged by the coach.

Tip for Multisite Implementation: Coaching starts with a centralized strategy, but often begins with a single location test run. I would advise you to implement this idea at one of your healthiest locations. Select small group leaders who lead the way and communicate well with their teammates. Set clear expectations and transition them to a coaching role. Coaches should split their time between on-boarding new volunteers and evaluating and supporting current small group leaders.

 

Options

If you’ve ever led a small group for kids or students you know things rarely go as planned. Activities don’t always connect. A question that seems benign on the surface may bring unexpected tears. The new kid says something highly inappropriate and a gigglefest ensues. These unexpected twists and turns will lead to honest and impactful conversations. God rarely does what we expect. He works in mysterious ways. We can acknowledge that by offering options to group leaders. For example: “If this doesn’t work, go back to the game.” or “If a conversation is going well, don’t feel rushed to get on with the lesson plan.” Giving small group leaders margin with curriculum transitions allows the group to grow organically.

Tip for Multisite Implementation: Once you’ve established a coaching model this technique can be demonstrated through hands-on training. In the meantime, clarify your expectations through central curriculum emails.

 

Notes and Nuggets

Have you ever read a lesson plan and imagined its execution in your mind. You probably began to think about what you would do and not do, how you would divide kids or students into teams or how you would celebrate a correct answer. Experience leads to expertise. You know how to make it happen, but don’t assume every small group leader operates as you do. It’s important, as you put your lesson plan together, to provide helpful execution tips along the way. These little nuggets of informational gold set your leaders up for success and teach them how to begin to think as you do. I would also encourage you to leave space on your lesson plan, whether below each activity or in the margin, for notes. The goal is for small group leaders to fully engage with the kids and students he or she is leading. Giving leaders space to work out details encourages them to take ownership and spend additional time in preparation. It won’t be long before they too are executing run-throughs in their mind.

Tip for Multisite Implementation: At the beginning of every activity provide helpful advice for execution. Tips like, “This activity works well when kids or students are sitting on their knees” or “Have your group stand in a circle before placing the blindfold on” can help with flow, limit distraction, and save time. This will promote excellence and consistency across all locations.

 

Nourishment

Great small group leaders create a welcoming and exciting atmosphere for the kids or students in their groups. They facilitate friendship and fun. They can discipline with a smile, and make everyone feel as if they belong. If you read that statement and thought, “I just want mine to show up and know the lesson plan,” maybe the issue isn’t commitment, but rather health. Healthy small groups are lead by healthy small group leaders. When was the last time you checked on the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health of your team? The roll of the small group leader is the most important, and you must treat it as such. Handle those volunteers with great care. Meet with them regularly to assess their well-being. Provide leadership development books, devotionals, and prayer journals, and make sure those individuals are sitting under the preached word every week. A spiritually starved leader feels inadequate and unable to do that which has been asked of them. Inadequacy leads to departure. Not only will those individuals produce less than stellar environments, but it’s likely they won’t be around for very much longer. No one enjoys feeling like a failure. You can avoid that by prioritizing the health of your small group leaders and providing a steady stream of nourishment to your teams.

Tip for Multisite Implementation: Make room in your central curriculum budget to purchase a leadership book or prayer journal for every small group leader 2-4 times a year.

 

Examples

Whatever curriculum you choose to use, it’s important to make it easy to read and understand. If instructions aren’t clear, execution will be less than mediocre. Consider providing step-by-step instructions for each activity or conversation, as well as diagrams or pictures of the resources he or she will use. You can even provide example statements for them to say at the beginning of each activity. When you take the guesswork out of lesson prep, you ensure consistency and build unity among your teams.

Tip for Multisite Implementation: When preparing small group supplies centrally or on the campus level, offer clear visuals to group leaders by including a completed sample of each craft or activity.

 

Conversation Starters

Kids and students don’t walk in the doors of your church ready to learn about Jesus. Wouldn’t that be amazing? They come hoping to have fun and see friends. If they walk straight into a Bible study upon arrival, you’ve already failed to meet their expectations. Whatever your curriculum selection, it’s important to provide small group leaders with conversation starters. The foundation of a healthy small group is trust. Trust takes time, but starts with authentic conversation. Set your small group leaders up for success by offering a “Would you rather…” or “The grossest thing I’ve ever seen is…” fill in the blank.

Tip for Multisite Implementation: If conversation starters are not included in the curriculum you select, make sure to provide 3-5 questions or discussion topics in your central curriculum email to help break the ice.

 

Timeliness

It takes time to prepare a lesson that will both engage and connect. Honor a small group leader’s commitment by providing the lesson plan to him or her in a timely manner. Passion is smothered by lack of preparation. If you don’t “get around” to emailing out the lesson plan until later in the week, you shouldn’t be surprised when leaders shows up and read from the script. You haven’t made it a priority, so why should they. A 5-7 day preparation window allows leaders to read over it, consider what they will say, memorize key parts, and apply Biblical truths in their own lives. A healthy small group environment starts with excellent preparation, and that starts days in advance.

Tip for Multisite Implementation: Have the team or individual that oversees curriculum centrally write the lesson plan email each week. This email should be sent to campus directors no later than Tuesday. Leave a few fill-in-the-blank options for campus directors to personalize. This will ensure curriculum emails are clear, consistent, and sent in a timely.

Coaching

Options

Notes and Nuggets

Nourishment

Examples

Conversation Starters

Timeliness

The point of a small group is to connect with kids, students, and parents and make an impact. Without a connection, influence is lost. Without influence, it’s only a matter of time before your ministry loses priority and is superseded by a million other alternatives.

In a multisite model, it may seem impossible to centralize personal connection. However, strong systems and clear expectations allow for success at the campus level. Ask yourself the following questions as you begin to evaluate your strategy.

How are we growing our kid and student small group leaders as a church? What’s our strategy?

Have we communicated that a connection is more important than a schedule? 

Do we provide margin for group leaders to personalize their lesson?

Are lesson plan instructions clear and easy to understand?

Do we offer execution tips for those harder-to-understand activities?

Are we setting small group leaders up for success with conversation starters and icebreakers?

Is the lesson plan provided to the small group leader with ample preparation time?

I hope you will join me again for Multisite Monday here at FamilyMinistry.Church.

Jess Bealer

Defining A Leading Lady – KINDNESS

 

My life had just been turned upside down. Frank’s company had relocated us to the Charlotte area. I had never lived beyond the city lines of my tiny East Tennessee town. I had three small children, knew no one, and survived solely on GPS. Frank traveled extensively, and I found myself alone and overwhelmed most days. I was still trying to lose excess baby weight and spent most days in the gym. One morning I pushed myself a little too far. I was doing some resistance training and found myself lightheaded and seeing stars. I woke up minutes later on my back staring at the drop ceiling of the YMCA, an oxygen mask held to my face. Frank was several states away, my kids were checked into childwatch, and I had no way to even get home. The staff at the YMCA checked my emergency contact information and contacted Frank. He called a new acquaintance we had recently made at church. She dropped what she was doing and came to my rescue. One hour later, her and her husband dropped me, my kids, and my car at my house. They picked up lunch on the way, and even helped put my toddler down for her nap. When they left my house, I was smiling, despite the rough start to my day.

This one small act of kindness was a defining moment in my life. Until then, I was unsure I was cut out for “big city life.” I was experiencing serious doubt about my solo parenting skills, and I felt isolated and apprehensive. It wasn’t until I realized I wasn’t alone, I had a tribe of people ready and willing to love and support me, that I finally felt at home and able to smoothly transition into the next season of my life. That next season would include volunteering in the children’s ministry at Elevation Church. That season led to the next one, in which both Frank and I took staff positions and began to develop an innovative strategy for family ministry that would soon receive worldwide recognition. And it all started on the floor of the local YMCA when a Christian man and woman came to my rescue.

If I were to ask, “Who is your closest friend? What do you admire most about them?” I guarantee in your assessment, you would include the descriptors, loving and kind. Benevolence is so often lost in today’s culture and when you meet someone who is a reflection of the love of Christ, not only does it stand out, but it draws you in. Love and kindness soothe, console, encourage, and bring hope. In 1 Corinthians 9:22 NIV, Paul says, “To the weak I became weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” Paul is trying to teach us that the love of Christ is most often acknowledged and accepted by those you are ministering to when a relationship is first established. More often than not, relationships begin with a kind word or a loving act. As Leading Ladies we must steward the trust others have placed in us. We must act in a way that takes into consideration the interests of those around us. The greatest kindness we can offer is to lead from a place of love.

Your challenge this week, as a Leading Lady, is to open your heart and your eyes to the needs of those around you. Welcome the opportunity to say hello to the quite cashier at the grocery store. Offer your assistance to the overwhelmed mother struggling to load her minivan. Make time for heartfelt conversations with those you lead. Compliment a coworker on her new shoes or hairstyle. You never know when you might be the vehicle that propels someone into the next season or brings a smile when it seems all hope is lost.

Join me again next week as we continue to Define A Leading Lady or read previous posts here.

 

Jess

Getting FIRST TIME GUESTS to come back: Part 2

Part of Multisite Monday

 

In the first part of this Multisite Monday article, we focused on the first time guest experience, how to make a lasting impression, and compel guests to come back. While that first visit is crucial, a pleasant experience doesn’t guarantee a return visit. Life is stressful, frustrating, difficult, not to mention busy. The experience your guests enjoyed last Sunday fades as days pass. It gets pushed to the back of their minds and what felt like a decision for Christ gets disregarded as unnecessary in the face of a demanding schedule and endless distractions. Unfortunately, there is no way for you to combat those influences. Wait. What? I know what you’re thinking, “Why even write this article if we can’t influence their decision to make church attendance a priority?” The answer…YOU can’t, but HE can. God has a plan for every child, student, and family that walks through the doors of your church. As you follow-up with those individuals, your goal is to remind them of the encounter they had with God, and to make room for the Holy Spirit to move. Put yourself in your guests’ shoes. What would make you feel welcome, accepted and loved? A personal relationship with Jesus is just that…personal. Your strategy to connect people to the love of Christ should be as well. Below you will find several ideas to get you thinking and considering how to do just that.

 

First Time Guest Gift

This is a t-shirt, mug, water bottle, or even a tote bag with your church or ministry logo. The goal of this gift is to make your guests feel special, anticipated. “We were waiting on you to come and now we’re celebrating your arrival!” If your logo is present, it will not only remind your first time guest of his or her experience at your church, but also serve as a walking advertisement for your ministry each time he or she uses the gift. For kids, think of something fun and entertaining, a slap bracelet, custom frisbee or sunglasses, even neon shoelaces with your kid ministry logo.

 

Second Time Guest Gift

Not only does it make for a great second experience, but letting your first time guests know in advance there is another gift awaiting their return, provides additional incentive to come again, ESPECIALLY FOR KIDS. It’s why once every three or four months parents reluctantly forfeit a Saturday morning to Chuck E. Cheese. Kids beg and plead to visit the mouse’s den, knowing they are leaving that place with loot. If you could ensure a prize on the second visit, kids would no doubt drag their parents to your church. While I do believe in the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, we’re talking about kids. They’ll do just about anything for a prize, and if a secondary gift allows for another chance to minister, my next question is, “How many should I order?”

 

Email

Keep it brief, no more than three or four sentences thanking them for coming and giving them contact information should they have questions. The more personal you can make this the better. If it feels like a form email, the reader won’t get beyond the first sentence. The best emails come from those who personally greeted the family at the door, or the volunteer that spent time teaching or caring for their child.

 

Phone Call

In the day and age of messaging, a phone call stands out. This may seem like a waste of time. You might be thinking, “No one picks up their phone anymore.” And you would be right, but that’s not the point. It would be great to have a one-on-one conversation with each guest that attends your church, to answer questions and possibly get feedback, but even if it’s just a voicemail, the energy expended isn’t wasted. Time is a hot commodity. When you dedicate a portion to a first time guest, a virtual stranger, it communicates value and esteem. The call doesn’t have to come from the Senior Pastor or Children’s Director.  If your church is large and has multiple locations, it may be wise to assemble a team of volunteers who can communicate well and are familiar with the heart of the house. Let those individuals own this part of the follow-up process.

 

Text

So much can be done through a simple text. Think beyond words. Pictures, links, gift cards for coffee, series promo videos, even voice memos can be a great resource if done well. Technology makes the world smaller. Remember to keep it brief, relevant, and personal.

 

Letter / Card

A signed form letter is ok. A personal hand-written card is better, and before you say, “Where would I find the time?” let me assure you, it can be done. eKidz at Elevation Church ministers to nearly 6,000 kids every weekend at more than a dozen locations. Following a first time visit, every child receives a hand written post card from the volunteer who led his or her small group or cared for them as a baby or toddler. The card is often adorned with stickers or written with colorful gel pens. The more personal, the better. It’s not complicated. It’s a system, thoroughly thought through and put into action. A letter is better than nothing, but always think of your actions through the lens of impact. The effort expended is directly related to the impact it will have. If you want guests to feel welcome, honored, and loved, a personal touch is essential.

 

Pizza

Following our first visit to Elevation, the church sent my family a pizza on Tuesday night. I remember opening the door and there before me was a pizza delivery guy. He said, “This is for the Bealer family. Elevation Church just wanted to set you up for success this week and invite you to join them again next Sunday.” I was floored. Literally, mouth hanging open. I nodded, like a zombie, took the pizza, and closed the door. Within minutes, I was on the phone with every friend and relative raving about this amazing church that had just sent us PIZZA! I’m not suggesting you should add a line item for pizza delivery into your church budget for next year. Well…maybe you should, but that’s not the point. Your follow-up process must evolve. Elevation doesn’t deliver pizzas anymore, but the strategy for first time guest follow-up is just as effective as it’s ever been. Think big, but stay personal. Be willing to try new things, but stay true to who you are as a church or ministry.

 

Your strategy should be multifaceted. Just as we repeat a hundred times the bottom line of every Bible lesson to preschoolers, we must also reiterate our welcome to our guests. It takes repetition to make an impact. Your visitors expect you to send them a letter or call them and thank them for attending. It’s just what churches do. They are not expecting to receive a call, an email, a letter, a handwritten postcard, a text, and a pizza delivered to their door. That would make an impact. That was why we called Elevation Church our home. They cared about my family and they made it known over and over again.

Have you ever been to Disney World? My family has gone a few times since my kids came “of age,” and every time I recall the mouse ear memories I smile outwardly and cringe inwardly. There are two words I feel adequately characterize the happiest place on earth, FUN and EXPENSIVE. Whenever my daughter mentions it, I hold my breath and anticipate her next words, “When can we go again?” I immediately think of all the sacrifices my husband and I had to make the last time we took her and the rest of our children to the infamous WDW. It cost a lot of money! We had to use our treasured vacation days to traipse around a muggy park just to hear my children say time and time again, “How much longer is this line?” Inevitably, we broke the Mickey ears we purchased and lost a hat or two on Space Mountain. We lived on PB&J sandwiches all week because park food costs an arm and a leg, and every single time we made it to the front of a character line, he or she needed a potty break. Ugh! Why would we ever want to go back? Inevitably though, every few months I get a piece of promotional mail from Walt Disney himself (at least I pretend it’s from him). I look at the pictures of the smiling children, the beautiful princesses, and the fireworks over the castle and I can’t help but long for those sweet moments with my family, the squeals of excitement when it’s finally our turn on the roller coaster, the groans of delight when we each take that first bite of a churro, and the cool breeze of the ferry boat shuttling us back to the transportation center at the end of a long day in the Magic Kingdom. It only takes a bit of nudging and I’m reminiscing about our last trip to Disney World, vacation days well spent, expense forgotten.

Your first time guest follow-up is similar. To a family whose routine doesn’t involve regular church attendance, it was a sacrifice to even show up. They set an alarm, forfeited sleep, and put off those plans for Sunday brunch and the dog park. They probably didn’t immediately regret their decision, or at least I hope they didn’t. I hope your church was friendly and inviting, the message was relevant and the worship was moving. Regardless, when Monday evening rolls around they may wish for those hours back. By Wednesday, they desperately need a break and those dog park walks are looking mighty tempting for the upcoming weekend. By Saturday, they’ve already decided on the restaurant for Sunday brunch. But what if you could remind them of the powerful encounter with God that awaits them? What if you could help them recall how they felt during that worship song that spoke directly to their heart? That’s why a strategic follow-up plan is not only important for the growth of your church, but essential to the life-change that awaits your first time guests.

In a multisite model, your first time guest follow-up strategies have to be in synch. They must be universal across all locations. When someone visits your church, they will inevitably review his or her experience with friends and colleagues. Word of mouth is the best advertisement, but if your first time guest experience varies, the hype may not live up to the reality for those visiting a different location. Unmet expectations is the proverbial deathblow to a first time experience at your church. Systemize and standardize. Make plans and make them universal. A great experience doesn’t conclude with dismissal. It doesn’t conclude at all because the point is to connect people to the love of Jesus Christ and the support of the local church body. When you adequately fulfill that calling, you successfully transition first time guests to active participants. Remember, your goal with follow-up is to remind them of their encounter with God and make room for the Holy Spirit to move in their hearts.

I hope you will join me again next week for Multisite Monday!

Jess Bealer

 

Defining a Leading Lady – FAITH

By Jess Bealer

Let’s be clear. As passionately as I feel that FAITH is a requirement for a Leading Lady, I feel equally as unqualified to suggest I set an example for those to follow.

In Matthew 17:20 Jesus explains, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

FAITH the size of a mustard seed? Have you seen a mustard seed? Hold it in the palm of your hand and you’ll barely be able to distinguish it from the flesh of your palm. It’s microscopic. The fact that I’ve never moved a mountain, not a single tree or even a pebble, is telling. Yet, I’ve seen God move despite my lack of FAITH. I’ve felt his comforting presence when waves of doubt threatened to capsize. God has never been and will never be intimidated by my uncertainty. He can and will work despite me. However, my trust in Him facilitates strength, endurance, and opportunity. Here are a few examples from my own life.

At 13 years old, my dad was told he had cancer and given a terminal diagnosis of eight months. My family was in tears, devastated by the weight of such horrific news. Three days later, I had an experience with God that forever changed me and redefined what it meant to have FAITH. I was getting ready for school, curling my hair, when God audibly spoke to me. He said, “Your dad will live, just trust in me.” I announced it to my family and believed wholeheartedly the words God spoke to me. 22 years later, my dad still lives. He stands in the pulpit and ministers to families each Sunday.

At 29 years old, my husband looked at me and said, “I know you don’t feel ready, but God has chosen us for a life of ministry.” I remember physically shaking my head and saying, “Are you sure? I just don’t know if I’m cut out for it?” Despite my hesitation, I obeyed God’s calling. Over the next five and a half years, God would use me to personally lead more than 200 children to Jesus and launch 15 Elevation locations.

At 35 years old, the Holy Spirit, once again, began to urge my husband and I to take a step of FAITH and go in a direction we never could have imagined or anticipated. It hasn’t been easy, but God is taking us on a journey that, no doubt, will conclude with his exaltation and my astonishment. That’s just how God works. His plans are always bigger and better than my own.

We all face seasons that are more difficult than others. When this happens, my FAITH tends to ebb and flow. I don’t always get it right. So many times I’ve tried to exert control over a situation I should have placed into the hands of a Savior who’s never failed me. Just like the song I sang in Sunday School as a child, “He’s still working on me, to make me what I ought to be.” I believe that FAITH is nothing more and nothing less than a surrendering to God’s will. Trusting He has a plan and a purpose that while unseen, is also unfailing and true. FAITH is a journey that lasts a lifetime, and while it may be frightening at times, we can find reassurance by recalling God’s past faithfulness in our lives. When we remember the miracles he’s performed on our behalf, we are able to anticipate the blessings and find peace in His promises.

Becoming a Leading Lady of FAITH means we do what only we can do, trust and obey, and God will do what only He can do, part the Red Sea and gift us with the promised land. It’s not always a grand gesture on our part. It’s more often a listening ear, a willing spirit, and a step in the right direction.

Check back here, at FamilyMinistry.Church, for additional Defining a Leading Lady articles in the upcoming days.

Getting FIRST TIME GUESTS to come back: Part 1

Part of Multisite Monday

 

Churches all over the nation welcomed first-time guests this past weekend. The only difference between churches that are growing and churches that find themselves stagnate or in decline is the retention of those individuals. You’ve probably heard it said, “You get one shot to make a great first impression.” When it comes to ministry, I would add to that statement, “You get one shot to make a great first impression or you won’t ever see them again.”

The question becomes, “How can you create an experience that has a lasting impact and will compel guests to come back?” The key is PREPARATION. When families make the conscious decision to “try out” your church, they expect you to be prepared for their arrival. There is no RSVP or advance notice. Whether you expect 10 first-time guests this weekend at two locations, or 1000 first-time guests at 20 locations, establishing a plan to receive these individuals is a necessity.

When families feel welcome, understand what the morning holds, know where and how to pick-up their child, and make a connection with one or more volunteers or staff, the likelihood they will return increases exponentially. Excellence is in the details. Let’s spend a few minutes examining the practical aspects of welcoming guests. Below you will find questions to help you evaluate your preparedness.

 

How long does it take a first-time guest to check-in their child? (From the front door to dropping off at the classroom)

Tip: Schedule “secret shoppers” to time the process and get an accurate evaluation of each location.

Tip: Have check-in volunteers wear ministry logoed t-shirts to help parents easily identify those who will be assisting them.

 

What training have you provided to your check-in teams?

Tip: Volunteers come and go. A quarterly refresher will keep your teams operating with efficiency and effectiveness.

Tip: Check-in systems and database trainings are a great start, but welcome scripts and hospitality coaching is also a necessity.

 

What VIP treatment will you offer to first-time guests to make them feel special?

Ideas:

  • Informational handouts about each area of ministry
  • An assigned volunteer to assist each family from the parking lot to the classroom
  • A number for parents to text to check on their child throughout the service
  • A sticker or lanyard that easily identifies the child as a first-time guest, so he or she will receive VIP treatment throughout the experience

 

Are you conveying a commitment to safety throughout your check-in process?

Tip: Have a security volunteer or police officer present near the check-in area to reinforce your dedication to safety.

Tip: Following child check-in, have the volunteer escorting the new family to their classroom explain safety protocols, including lock-down times and pick-up procedures.

 

What steps do you take to make pick-up easy and efficient?

Tip: Consider giving parents a blueprint map of the building, explaining traffic flow and pick-up procedures.

Tip: Think of ways to make it easier and quicker for first-time guests to navigate pick-up lines.

 

Discomfort, confusion, and uncertainty combined with sluggish check-in or pick-up systems will drive away potential attendees and prohibit growth. Parents’ expectations are high. They walk in your door and expect you will be ready to receive them. If you stumble and fall below the imaginary line of expectation, the gap created is enough to discount your church before you’ve had an opportunity to minister. The opposite is also true. When you exceed expectations, moms and dads will not only notice, but also grant allowances when small hiccups occur throughout the morning. I’ve actually had parents say, “They forgot to feed my child his bottle, but they were so sweet, helpful, and welcoming it wasn’t a big deal.” Parents will excuse small missteps when they know you are committed to excellence. Exhibiting that excellence starts from the moment they step out of their car.

In a multisite model, it’s easy for check-in systems and volunteer training to vary from location to location. I would encourage you to make this a central responsibility, one person dedicated to monitoring quality control, ordering first-time guest gifts, updating and checking weekly database entries, and scheduling volunteer trainings. If that isn’t possible with your current staff org chart, a scheduled meeting-of-the-minds is necessary to examine standards and set expectations.

I hope you will join me again next Multisite Monday as we continue to discuss FIRST TIME GUESTS. Part II will focus on subsequent follow-up and retention.

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Jess Bealer