New day in ministry with a virtual assistant

I have entered a new season of ministry here at First Church DSM. I went from being the family pastor to being the executive pastor of family and ministry operations. For the first time since I started in Full-Time ministry back in 1992, I feel a little out of it as I try to figure out what I am doing now and the best way to do it.

In comes, the greatest tool my church could have allowed me to have. What is that tool you ask? Her name is Laura, my virtual assistant from Belay. Take out the part of her not physically being in my office area at the church and not being able to run an errand or two, Laura has been the best ministry gift from my church to me in this new position.

It has only been 2 weeks so far but Laura and I have really started dialing in how we can work the best with one another. I’ll describe some of the tools and ways we are using them that would benefit anyone working with an admin, virtual or physical. Let’s begin.

Slack is where it all starts for us. We use slack instead of texting. Organize your team conversations in open channels. Make a channel for a project, a topic, a team, or anything—everyone has a transparent view of all that’s going on. For sensitive information, create private channels and invite a few team members. We use Direct Messages just like you would a text. Then in slack you can take a conversation from typing to face-to-face by starting a voice or video call in any Channel or Direct Message. Make one-on-one or group calls right from Slack without needing to open another app or share invite links.

Trello is where we put our projects as we work on them. A Trello board is a list of lists, filled with cards, used by Laura and I. It’s a lot more than that, though. Trello has everything you need to organize projects of any size.

Dropbox is where we will put all finished projects. For example, every year we run an Easter outreach. We will communicate with one another through slack, and add team members into that slack so we will have a one stop talk area for all things Easter that year. We will track all that communication over projects and due dates etc that we keep in an Easter Trello board. Once the budgets, ideas, checklist, vendor information, brochures created, and so much more we will take all of that and place it in our Drop Box Easter folder so that next year we will just go to the Easter folder and have a great starting point.

Evernote is more of our personal file cabinet.Big ideas, little details, and everything in between. Anything that matters to you can be captured in a note, ready for when you need it. Surfing the web and find a great article or blog that you enjoy, web clip to Evernote. get an email you want to file that is from an actual mailing list you want to be part of email it to your Evernote account. Take a picture of something you see that you want to remember later for a possible new stage design for your church, add into Evernote. Want the business card from the person you are meeting with but tired of having all these loose business cards or not having them ready to use when you need them, take a picture and add it into Evernote. Then have all of this and so much more available in real-time from any of your devices. That there is the real kicker for this tool. Available and searchable at any time even with pictures.

Lastly, Laura and I are finding that using doing a weekly zoom call to touch base “in person” keeps us in touch with the tone of what is going on for all week through slack, Trello, dropbox, and evernote. Belay has done a fantastic job of matching me with an assistant that works like I do. Even after they give you one they follow-up over the next couple weeks as well to make sure it is all going well. They interviewed me and found out my personality and made sure they gave me an admin that would fit.

Bottom line, it’s a new day in ministry with having a virtual assistant.

The Truth about your capacity

The truth about yours and mine capacity is that we should always be increasing it.

Traveling through a neighborhood recently where when I was a child I use to have a paper route. The homes were always the kind of homes that I dreamed of owning myself someday. Big driveways for many cars, several stories high, well-kept yards and more. I always enjoyed delivering the paper to the neighborhood. The tragic sight that I recently saw during this visit. Those same homes now several years later would not be anyone’s dream homes. Several yards tore up and dead. Driveways have more weeds growing from cracks in the driveways, and so many more changes that it no longer looks the same.

What is the big difference? The capacity of those new homeowners changed.

The homeowners had the capacity to take care of all their yards and homes. They later sold those homes to people who would move in and not have the same high-capacity in taking care of their homes and the result is what is the reality now.

Raise your capacity in whatever you are doing.

Some ways to raise your capacity in today’s world.

1. Read. Reading today can come in many forms. Information in today’s world is not something we have a shortage of.

2. Watch Videos. Plug into Lynda.com, YouTube,  Vimeo etc. Do a search for keywords that you want to raise your capacity in and stand back to be amazed at the number of videos available to grow from.

3. Join social networks. Join Facebook groups or pages, LinkedIn group, and the list goes on.

Bottom line. Today is the day to start raising your capacity. No excuses, there is way too many ways to grow.

 

First day as Executive Pastor and other wonderful firsts

Working in office situation

 

Yesterday was the day. A day that was a day of new beginnings in many ways.

    • I started as my pastors first Executive Pastor. My official title being: Family and Ministry Operations pastor.
    • My first time after 25-ish years of full-time pastoral ministry being a XP.
    • Started with a new VA (virtual assistant) who is from Belay.
    • Started to put in place a communication strategy with tools and reasons for each.
    • Started a new coaching friendship with my new XP coach, Kevin Llyod

How many great starts can a person handle? I say 5 was good for one day. Over the next few days I will continue to unfold these new starts and how they are going. The future is going to be bright.

Here are just a few of the resources, tools and more that I will be writing about due to these great “first”.

 

The Red Book Mark Harper

“The Red Book” by Mark Harper should be on every shelf of every Children’s Ministry leader. It is a great ministry hand/guide-book that is easily digested with practical application steps.

This book covers the important aspects of Children’s Ministry. Mark doesn’t only tell you what those aspects are, He shares his own experiences, insights, and how you can put in place those ideas into your own ministry. Every chapter is short. When it comes to Ministry, there is a ton to unpack even if we’re only considering the most basic elements. Great nuggets of timeless wisdom and knowledge in every chapter. Steps you can follow the next Sunday.

I will admit, I had one part of the book in which I had a struggle with Mark and do not see eye to eye with this comment of his. On page 57 he writes: “In my opinion, too many of us have bought into this philosophy of “teach less for more.” I do agree with the idea of teaching less for more. The way Mark uses this thought is not correct. Mark writes how our kids are starving for the word of God. If you are starving then you feed that hunger. I agree we have people starving for the word of God and that we should feed them as much as possible. The “teach less for more” isn’t people like myself saying we need to teach less of Gods word. Let’s look instead at what we are doing in our services and make sure we have given the word priority over all the extra things. That is “teaching less for more”.

In my ministry, we have made small groups where the word can be shared in a way the kids can flesh it out. The “Word” has such a priority, that it gets more than half our time together each week. This time is what gives us more bang for our investment than anything else we can do.

Outside of this, this was an incredible refreshing book to read. I enjoyed this book so much that I am ordering it for all my leaders and I would urge you to do the same. I am using each short chapter as a stand-alone teaching in my pre-service huddles with my leaders.

Thanks, Mark Harper for such a great book that anyone of any church size can use.

How time management is handled all wrong

I am a task management junkie who continues to strive to be a task management ninja.

One of the many struggles over the years for me has been handling the idea of keeping a separate to-do list apart from my calendar. If the items I would put on a to-do list are to be accomplished, would they not have to be added on the calendar? Yes they would!

This is exactly why I have stopped the madness of trying to keep a separate to-do list. It does mean I don’t get to play with other apps on my phone or in my web browser, but, that has meant more productivity. The simple act of scheduling tasks on your calendar instead of on a to-do list will increase performance. With most calendars., there are places to add notes, reminders etc. to aid in getting said task done, use them.

As this process takes off for you, it may become overwhelming because the first instinct is to fill every time slot with something. Having every time slot filled would look like your being productive, right? Wrong. To a skilled eye looking at someone’s filled calendar, it says they don’t know what they are doing yet. I know, seeing empty places can make you feel like you should be doing more, but resist. It is important to leave buffers in your day.

What’s a buffer? A buffer is a block of time that you schedule to do nothing scheduled. Take a nap, search the web for fun, read a book, take a walk, review notes from a previous meeting, relax. These scheduled buffer times will help you not run from meeting to meeting.

The CEO of LinkedIn, Jeff Weiner, wrote a blog post describing how he blocks time on his calendar. He wrote:

“If you were to see my calendar, you’d probably notice a host of time slots greyed out but with no sign of what’s going on. There is no problem with my Outlook or printer. The grey sections show ‘buffers,’ or time periods I’ve purposely kept clear of meetings.

In aggregate, I schedule between 90 minutes and two hours of these buffers every day (broken down into 30- to 90-minute blocks). It’s a system I developed over the last several years in response to a schedule that was becoming so jammed with back-to-back meetings that I had little time left to process what was going on around me or just think.

At first, these buffers felt like indulgences. I could have used the time to catch up on meetings I had pushed out or said “no” to. But over time I realized not only were these breaks important, they were absolutely necessary in order for me to do my job.”

Here are a few suggestions for this week as you become more of the Task management Ninja that we all desire to be.

  • Move more to your calendar than on your separate to-do list.
  • Find a couple of times a day to put in place buffers. Try to make the buffers at least 10-15 minutes a piece.

Top Blog Post by the end of 2016

“Sporadic” would be describing my blogging for 2016 in the best terms. There has been so much searching for me personally to figure out why do I blog? Where is my voice in blogging? Where do I want my voice to go through blogging?

The bottom line for me in 2016 was to figure out is blogging hitting my reasons for doing it or has it just become one of those things I do because I have always done it over the last few years? There are way too many changes that have happened in my life and ministry to allow me to do anything for long at all just for the purpose of doing it. To aid in my blogging I have asked a friend by the name of Brandon Cox to help coach me in making the blog even better in 2017.

So as I continue to find my answers I went through my stats of those who read, subscribe and have interacted with my blog through social media channels and have put together the top 16 post (in comparison to views, interactions and how long the post has been active) according to you since I have been blogging.

Enjoy. Feel free to interact with this post as well because I do pay attention.

16. Are you worth following

15. Productive morning routines part 2

14. It is still empty.

13. Kids do see differently

12. Are you hired for your children’s ministry to be a leader or a manager

11. Made 2015 Top 100 Kidmin blogs

10. Unlock a new level of your children’s ministry

9. What success looks like

8. Effective meetings can happen

7. MBWA Management by walking around

6. Happy birthday iPhone. How you have changed the game.

5. One method to create children’s ministry object lessons

4. The habit of scheduling time to think

3. 7 questions to hitting your target

2. What’s your day look like?

1. Difference between front and back of the house.

Time to P.P. in your ministry

Time to “Partner with Parents” in your ministry!

Those of us who say we minister to the family need to really stand back and ask ourselves, “Do we really minister to the family or are we more about being successful on just the weekend?”

Look at our prep times. Are we prepping to mainly show off the wonderful and creative ideas that flow from our choice of a curriculum? Or, are prepping resources to go beyond just the weekend?

Do we know what the needs are of not just the kids or the students, but what about the needs of those guardians who spend more time carrying the weekend experience further? What tools do they need? Guardians of those kids and students are looking to the church to help them do a better job at being the priest of their families. They need more than just a take-home paper (or should we call it a floor mat?).

Time to ask some real questions. Here are just a few to get you started.

  1. What are the parents “real” needs?
  2. What do we offer at this time that really address these needs?
  3. What do I have in my tool box of ministry goodies that I could easily bring out and make available for families?

Sometimes we try to offer up just an explanation of what we taught on a certain day and call it good. We expect that the parents will take that 1-2 minute explanation given at the door on their way out and build on that throughout the week. Wrong!!

  • Are you providing daily ways through social media, email, snail mail, quick videos etc. to continue to set the parents up with quick ideas that would be age appropriate for them to use?
  • Have you created a Facebook group or some connection spot for parents to network with other parents and receive encouragement and creative ideas to being the priest of their families throughout the week? Through a group like this, you also have access to their thoughts, troubles, struggles, and questions. You also have access daily to pour into families vision of what it can look like to live a Deuteronomy 6 family lifestyle.
  • Providing information over age appropriate children’s phases. I do this through Kidology Coaching.
  • Have you ever hosted an open house to show off your leaders who pour into the families but also opens up a communication time to hear what families are needing?

This post is to only serve as a starting point. The important thing is that you will start to ask the questions and then design your churches plan to execute on the ideas and needs of your families.

Families want to be successful, will you truly help them do exactly this?

Ministry lessons learned from Underwear and a Toybox

When I was younger I can always remember that dreadful time when I had to go shopping with my mom and she would tell me how she had to go get some new underwear. Please no, not the new underwear time!!

Off we would go into the women’s underwear aisle we would disappear too. The whole time all I could do as a young 6-year-old boy would be look down at the floor and wish we could get out of there. Everything there made me feel uncomfortable. I knew I would never find anything that I wanted while we were in those aisles. I had no conversation that would be joined, thoughts or opinions to give, basically, I knew I was about to be as miserable as a 6-year-old boy could be for the next 15 minutes or so.

Now come with me to this toy box I have in my office.

Every time, I meet with families in my office and they have younger kids as they enter my office those kids will lock their eyes upon this toy box that I have and immediately go to it and start to play. I have yet to really have to tell any child that the toys are for them to play with, they just know. While they play, the parents and I will meet. I love watching the kids play with their imagination being set free build new worlds, conquer territory, cook at the fanciest restaurant in town, entertain Kings, and Queens and so much more.

What lessons did I learn from these experiences? The lesson of an atmosphere. In all of our ministries, and churches we are creating either an underwear type experience for kids, students and yes even adults or we are creating a toy box time for each.

When visitors come, do they feel miserable? Uncomfortable because they can’t give anything or that everything around is irrelevant for them?

Let us all try to strive for those toy box experiences for people. People will know as soon as they come into your ministry if there is anything for them or not.

How will you change your environment to be more welcoming to those who just come in?

Ministry Staff Accomplishing More

clock

Often in ministry, we tend to feel we don’t have as much time as we need to carry out what needs to be accomplished. The truth is, you do have enough time to do exactly what you choose to do. We have the same amount of time each day as the greatest leaders that we know or have heard of.

So why does it feel like we never get what we know needs to be done accomplished? Why is it that these great leaders we are thinking of seem to carry out so much more? They have learned to put the right people in the right seats and know what Exodus 18:21 says is true.

Exodus 18:21 it says: “But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens”.

For too long too many in the church have thrown anyone into leadership. The proof can be seen as we continue our dependency on mass recruitment from the pulpit, newsletters, bulletin inserts etc.. We also promote people out of areas of their strengths because we concern ourselves more with the positions we need to be filled over who God has made them. Then we get disappointed when they don’t live up to what we were expecting or needing. It’s not fair to them or those we put them over. We are exactly designed for the results we are getting.

Let’s re-examine who we put over what. Leaders of 10’s will lead 10’s not 50’s. Leaders of hundreds will lead hundreds not thousands.

Fewer Ministry Staff can do more if everyone is in their right places and developing their 10’s, 50’s, 100’s or 1000’s.

Some resources I have enjoyed recently and think you may too.

Carey Nieuwhof – 5 things Every leader should tell their top leaders.

Nick Blevins Family Ministry Podcast. This podcast is one that has a few that had sparked many thoughts, so I am not going to list just one or two. Click on over and subscribe to hear all of them if you work in children, youth, or family ministry.

Tony Morgan and then there is Tony’s Vital Signs book

doing more with fewer podcast.

How do you learn who should be in what seat in your ministry?
Do you have officials of 50’s and your holding them accountable for the 1000’s?

Leave your thoughts, comments and any resources you have found good to further this conversation.

Being Productive NOT for Dummies

not-for-dummies

It never stops amazing me when I meet people and ask them how do they stay productive and then to hear for the next 10 minutes of their very complicated methods and systems that they use.

This was the very reason I was an apple user before it was ever cool to be one. I enjoyed their complete all-inclusive “simple” ecosystem. One of the main draws of using Apple products was how well they worked with each other and made it so I didn’t have to go around to a bazillion other places to get what I needed to do what I wanted to. It felt seamless because everything you needed was already built-in; there was no need to download or install anything. It saved time, was easy and uncomplicated. Now I do understand this may not be as true today, which is why I used all past tense in my statements above. I sadly now watch Apple try to become everyone else instead of who they are. I will stop here as this is a whole other blog post rant that I would go on.

Successful task management (the task is used because I strongly believe no one but God can manage time only the task that happens within the time given) is putting into place systems and strategies that enable you to work at your highest capacity without losing sight of your personal identity or your calling in Christ. Here are some ways that help me manage my task and maximize my impact.

Use Technology. I know some of you once you read that you groaned, and started to tune me out. Please wait and finish reading before you do this. Some of you who read this would also be those who are just like those I started this post off describing, the over complicated system type. Hold in there with me and let’s see if we can’t simplify your system a bit.

“Technology is our friend”, go ahead and say it again. It is about finding the right technology tool for you. Below I will list some of the tools I use that you may want to start with and then branch out to find your own. Remember, K.I.S.S. is important here. Keep It Simple Silly.

Trello for group short project management. This is a free tool.

Evernote for all things filling and serves as my electronic brain. This is also free but can cost.

DropBox for my group collaboration projects that will need to be stored long-term. This can be free but cost.

Kindle app. I first buy a book electronically because they are cheaper and I can read them, highlight them and print all of my highlighted stuff off quickly for free. If the book is good enough then I will buy a paper version.

1Password. This does cost but it is well worth it to me as it stores, fills in and secures all passwords everywhere for me.

Unroll.Me is a web service and app that helps me to mark all email as keep, Unsubscribe or add to roll up. This is a free service.

Hootsuite is for all things social for me. It keeps all my accounts in one place for easy posting and reading.

doodle is for all group calendar setting. It allows me to pick some dates and times and then sends to those I’m trying to pick a scheduled appointment with. They will mar all that work for them and then I pick the one that can be attended by most. It then sends an email out telling of the agreed upon date and time. No more back and forth.

Closing, take a look and see how I don’t use a variety of tools for the same function.Try and keep it all very short and sweet. Staying simple is not really simple after all. If we are left to our own ways we will over complicate everything time after time. Now you have taken long enough reading this post, go and be productive.

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