Wednesday, November 30, 2011

So tell me… Why am I doing this?

How many unfinished projects do you have around your home or office? A book you began to read but haven’t yet finished or a DVD you purchased but still haven't watched? How easily our initial enthusiasm gives way to the pressures and demands of everyday life. It’s not that we don’t want to do it; it’s just the time and priority factor.

Volunteers often start well too! They sign up and are keen to serve. After a while it gets harder as the initial excitement of something new passes and other demands begin to press in. We all know that we could not do ministry without volunteers, yet we also know that each volunteer has their own reasons for serving and these reasons determine the level to which they get involved. Recruiting is one step, but retaining and developing volunteers is something totally different. Volunteers usually need continued inspiration; they need to know that what they bring to the min istry really matters.

I want my volunteers to be connected not only in body but in heart and mind too. You can easily tell the difference between a volunteer who is totally engaged compared with a volunteer who just turns up to serve. They both do the job but only one moves our ministry forward.

We are more likely to engage in activities where we feel like we are making a real difference however it may not be easy for a volunteer to identify the difference they have made, especially if their role is more administrative or repetitive. It is the role of a leader to paint the big picture, telling the story of where we have come from, reminding everyone how they have contributed to the journey and inspiring them that “we are going forward together.”

Volunteers can see that we are interested in their personal development, and their ideas, when we share with them the “next steps” they can take to grow in their leadership. Giving unqualified praise, eg “You are great!”, without saying what you’ve noticed that makes you think that way, is shallow praise and really does not impact the volunteer much at all. Also, take care not to communicate gratitude in such a way that volunteers are left with the impression that their serving is a one way street. Yes we are grateful for their service, however the opportunity to serve through our ministry to kids also does much to enrich them as Christ followers.

This time of the year people are often re-evaluating their volunteering, deciding if they will serve again next year. While the year -end is a good time to “take a break”, sadly some volunteers do not intend to return in the new year. As leaders we need to give our volunteers an extra dose of inspiration at this time, casting the vision and reminding them why we must keep giving our best to our kids. I find this one of the most critical times in the rhythm of our ministry.

So, don’t wait until the new year to honour volunteers; build on the momentum that is already there. Celebrate!! Throw a part y for your volunteers. (Find someone else to set up or clean up!!) Talk about the things you have done together, the tough times where you stood together. Celebrate by telling stories of the kids who have grown in their faith, developed new skills and discovered something fresh about themselves.

Give your volunteers opportunity to share their stories and experiences and explore their dreams. Identify all the different serving opportunities that exist in your ministry and let people indicate where they would most like to serve next year. When you have the right person serving in the right place their impact will be unstoppable!!

Make it a Win - Win - Win situation!

Our ministry wins when we have passionate, inspired volunteers.

Our volunteers win when they are growing and learning on the journey.

Our kids win when they have significant others coming alongside them, sharing with them, encouraging them and demonstrating a real life, genuine faith story.

Margaret Spicer
Children and Families Pastor

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Bed and a Table, a Chair and a Lamp

Room preparers.  The Old and New Testament is full of stories of people who practiced hospitality.  In 2 Kings 4:9-10 there is a story of a well-to-do woman of Shunem who offered the prophet Elisha hospitality.  “She said to her husband, I know that this man who often comes our way is a holy man of God.  Let’s make a small room on the roof and put in it a bed and a table, a chair and a lamp for him.  Then he can stay there whenever he comes to us.”

Likewise in Romans 12:13 Paul instructs believers “to pursue or practice hospitality.”  He urged the believers to “welcome one another as Christ has welcomed them.”  (Romans 15:7) 

Hospitality was a way of life fundamental to Christian identity.  Its mysteries and riches are revealed most fully when it is practiced.  I believe that it is a gift from God to be counted among those who cultivate ‘room preparedness’. 

In Biblical times untold amounts of ministry had been done because people (no matter their status in life) availed themselves to others and practiced hospitality.  Room preparers offered their space without fan fare or expecting praise simply because it was the natural thing to do.  The Gospel spread, churches grew in strength and number – all because ‘room preparers’ expectantly waited for a guest in need.

This ancient practice is being replicated today in order to advance Kingdom efforts for churches, conferences, non-profit business, the arts, etc. 

Today, Joy Along The Journey, a Christian Hospitality Network, is one example of contemporary practitioners of hospitality.  Providing hospitality has its challenges, but Joy Along The Journey was borne out of a ministry in a local church.  Its mission is to safely and securely connect hospitable Christians with Christians who travel – usually for ministry purposes. 

As Christine Pohl states in her book Making Room, “In God’s remarkable economy as we make room for hospitality, more room becomes available to us for life, hope and grace.”  The most potent setting for hospitality, she adds, is in the overlap of private and public space; hospitality flourishes at the intersection of the personal, intimate characteristics of the home and the transforming expectations of the church.  Practioners view hospitality as a sacred practice and find God is especially present in guest/host relationships.  There is a mutual blessing in hospitality.

Everyday Christians who recover this lost art will find untold joy in welcoming and being welcomed by fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and it all simply starts with a bed and a table, a chair and a lamp.

Karen Frisella

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Gains And Losses

It started a long time ago. First it was keys. Later it was glasses. Once or twice it has been the car. I get a new phone and spend a week (or three) apologising as I cut people off mid-call or accidentally dial them 15 times. I signed up for twitter and linkedin and haven’t worked out what and how to make use of them… yet.

I grunt when I get up off the ground. I danced all night at the U2 concert and spent days recovering. I spend all night writing something and need two days to get the fuzz (and caffeine) out of my head. I am now 50.

Michael (my husband) and I started into ministry life in our twenties. We had tons of energy, loads of passion and determination to follow the Spirit at any cost. We experienced the best and the worst of ministry in those first decades.

People coming to Christ, beautiful encounters with God, growth and engagement with our community.  And we experienced criticisms, demands, betrayals and accusations. We were lonely and we were surrounded by beautiful people. We were rich in so many ways and yet trusting God for money for bills and survival. What a rollercoaster.

As we farewell youth and head into mid life (which I read ends at 67 now) it is on the wings of experience.

“…we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; Perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Romans 5:3-4

Yes, I have traded a little agility of mind and body for great hope that grows. Time following Jesus deepens the knowledge that God is great. We have gained our own story of his faithfulness.

To you guys and girls just starting out: It’s a good life with God and his people, so persevere.

To those of you going through the battles right now, your perseverance will build character. You will find a deep seated hope filling your heart. An understanding - that God is great, and that God is faithful. We are companioned and enfolded by him in everything. Yep, everything.

The losses of age? They are greatly overshadowed by a deepening joy and hope that my words can’t give justice to.

God is so faithful.

Monica O’Neil
Vose Leadership

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Sharpened by the Grind: Part 1

My dad loved pocket knives. He could put a razor’s edge on the blade of his knife with the precision of a master. I knew the blade was sharp when he would confidently roll up the sleeve of his shirt and shave a patch of hair off his arm. With a pleased look on his face he would say, “That should do it.” Even though I watched him numerous times, I could take the same knife and whit rock and quickly put a dull edge on the blade. No use to roll up my sleeve- no hair would be in danger. How could he place the grind of metal and rock together and always sharpen the blade? But as for me, I would always grind it dull. 

This analogy makes me wonder, how do you stay at the grind of ministry day after day and have it sharpen you rather than dull you? 

I served as the senior pastor of a church for over forty years and had the opportunity of seeing the ministry grow from slightly over one hundred in attendance to around four thousand on the weekend. That was a long grind! However, there was a time that I did not do any better at the grind of ministry than I did with sharpening a knife. As our church was booming with growth, I was also being stretched too thin. During one of my talks I realized that I could not continue. I walked off the stage in the middle of my message and a friend drove me home because I was a complete basket case. I had allowed the grind to finally bring me to a complete and dull halt. I was not aware of my dull condition until it ended in a deep, debilitating, depression.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

FOLLOW ME: What's Next For You?

Images-28 There is nothing more difficult to gauge or measure than spiritual growth. However, we must do our best to try. After conducting the REVEAL survey with over 6000 of their own church members and another 300 people who had left their church within the previous year, Willow Creek started involving other churches in the research. Specifically, they surveyed 80,000 people in 200 congregations. The focus this time was extended to include research into what people really want from their church, the barriers they face, and what draws them closer to Christ.

Many insights emerged including one of the top answers to the questions “What’s the most important thing you want from your church?” as being ”Challenge me to grow and take the next step in my spiritual life.”

Interested in an Australian Pastor's opinion of REVEAL? Pastor Mark Conner from Melbourne's CityLife Church has blogged some in-depth reviews and thoughts...