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Effectively Starting New Ministry Positions will Keep You Out of Trouble

Productive Start

New-season in my life started back in November of 2019. My family and I were hired by a church in Kentucky, Community Family Church. We were very excited to start the new adventure and wanted to start strong but not just pull out our bag of tricks. I turned to a great book titled The First 90 Days – Success Strategies for New Leader by Harvard professor Michael Watkins. When I had first read this book back in the day, it helped me in effectively starting my new ministry position which Kept me out of trouble. 

The First 90 Days can be broken down into 5 main topics; 

  1. Get yourself focused
  2. Learn your new role faster
  3. Choose the best strategy
  4. Make good things happen right away
  5. Build a winning team

I just knew this would be a good idea to break this book out of my library again and brush up on some of the key concepts. I first read this book several years before I started a new ministry. It served me well and helped me define my road-map for the first 90 days of my new role. To build the momentum that I needed and help me get my ducks in a row to provide a clear path to grow the ministry. I figured it would do the same again this time while helping me to stay away from just pulling that bag of tricks out which I see so many pastors do. 

Below I will do my best to summarize the main points of the book. It is good to keep in mind this is a business book and not specifically a ministry book, but as I have said, it is easy to convert the principles in this book to ministry. There is another book that has come out that I now own as well that is directed toward ministry and I think takes inspiration from this book titled: Every pastor first 180 days by Charles Stone.

Focus Yourself

  • Mentally prepare yourself for your new role.
  • Put the past behind you. What worked before won’t necessarily serve you well now. Don’t ignore what you don’t know.
  • Along those same lines; Establish a clear breakpoint. Celebrate the transition and then be done. Do whatever it takes to forget your old role and focus on the new.
  • Hit the ground running. At the 90 day mark, your boss, your peers, your direct reports expect you to be making an impact.
  • Look at your vulnerabilities. Identify your “problem preferences”. That is; the problem you prefer to work on. Make a point not to neglect the activities you do not enjoy or activities that do not come naturally.

Accelerate Your Learning

  • Define your learning agenda. What do you need to learn 1st, 2nd, 3rd?
  • Adopt a structured learning method. This is a favorite of mine! This step has served me quite well in the past.
  • Meet with your new boss and direct reports and ask the following questions;
      • What are the biggest challenges the organization (or team) is facing (or will face) in the near future?
      • Why is the organization (or team) facing (or going to face) these challenges?
      • What are the most promising unexploited opportunities for growth?
      • What would need to happen or the organization (or team) to exploit the potential of these opportunities?
    • If you were me, what would you focus on?

Match your Strategy to the Situation

  • Be sure to correctly diagnose the situation
    • Start-up. Is this a new team (or ministry)?
    • Turnaround. Are the groups in trouble and you need to get things back on track?
    • Realignment. Do you need to revitalize the project, team or processes?
    • Sustaining Success. Is this a well-oiled machine that you simply need to keep moving in the right direction?
  • Understand History. What got the team, ministry, church to the current state. Seek to understand history.
  • Focus your energy. Ask yourself;
    • How much emphasis will I place on learning versus doing?
    • How much emphasis will I place on offense versus defense?
    • What should I do to get some early wins?

Make good things happen right away

  • It is crucial to get some early wins. You want to make sure your boss, peers, and subordinates all feel that something new and good is happening.
  • Here are some of the most common mistakes that will prevent something new and good from happening;
    • Failing to focus. It’s easy to take on too much during a transition. The results can be disastrous.
    • Not taking the business situation into account. The definition of an early win will differ greatly based on the situation you are in.
    • Not adjusting to the corporate culture. If you are an outsider, make understanding the culture a high priority. I will blog on this for sure at a later time.
    • Failing to get wins that matter to your boss. Be it right, wrong or indifferent, if it’s not important to your boss, it’s not important.
    • Letting your means undermine your ends. Avoid being perceived as manipulative, underhanded or going against corporate culture.
  • Establish long term goals
    • Be consistent with organizational priorities.
    • Introduce the new patterns of behavior you want to install in the organization (or team).
  • Build your credibility. Your earliest actions with your new team will have a huge influence on how you are perceived.
  • Negotiate success (Part I). Engage with your new boss to establish realistic expectations. Here are a few things to avoid when engaging with your new boss;
    • Don’t trash the past. Nothing can be gained from criticizing your predecessors.
    • Don’t stay away. If your boss doesn’t reach out to you, reach out to him or her.
    • Don’t surprise your boss. Even bad news is OK as long as it is not a surprise.
    • Don’t approach your boss only with problems. Be sure to understand the problem and identify what you’ll (realistically) need before approaching your boss.
    • Don’t run down your checklist. It’s rare that your boss wants to hear every little thing you are working on.
    • Don’t try to change your boss. Adapt to his/her style rather than the other way around.
  • Negotiate success (Part II). Engage with your new boss to establish realistic expectations. Here are a few things you should do when engaging with your new boss;
    • Take 100% responsibility for making the relationship work.
    • Clarify mutual expectations early and often.
    • Negotiate timelines for diagnosis and actions.
    • Aim for early wins in areas that are important to your boss.
    • Try to get “good grades” from those whose opinions your boss respects.
  • Achieve Alignment. You want to make sure your organization or team is all marching in the same direction. Try to avoid some of the common mistakes;
    • Resist changing any structure until you understand whether the restructuring will address the root cause of any problems.
    • Creating structures that are too complex. Don’t over-engineer things.
    • Automate problem processes. If the process is flawed, fix the process first. Don’t be tempted to automate a flawed process.
    • Make changes for change’s sake.
    • Overestimate your team’s capacity to absorb change. Focus on a few vital priorities and make changes gradually if time permits.

Build your team

  • A high performing team can create tremendous value. Avoid the following common mistakes when creating your organizational plans;
    • Some leaders clean house too quickly, but it’s more common to keep people on-board too long.
    • Not repairing the airplane. Molding a team is like repairing a plane in mid-flight. You will not reach your destination if you ignore the necessary repairs.
    • Not holding on to good people.
    • Starting team-building before the core team is in place.
    • Trying to do it all yourself.
  • Assess your existing team. During your first 30-60 days, assess who is who, who are the high performers, who are the sub-par performers. Don’t suppress these early impressions, but take a step back from them and take the time to make a more vigorous evaluation.
  • If your success depends on the support of people outside your direct line of command, it’s important to create coalitions to get things done.
  • I will be blogging on most of this in more detail as I walk you through how I fleshed out each of these items.
  • When starting a new ministry or job, what steps from above are your strengths? Weaknesses? Which ones would you add to this?

Gauges To Measure In Family Ministry part 3

Last day of discussing 5 ministry gauges to help you do family ministry better.

A brief overview of the earlier 3 Gauges:

Gauge 1: Strategy. Take time to strategically put some things in place to focus on the end goal, will lead to better steps along the way.

Gauge 2: Experience Gauge: Craft core truths into engaging, relevant, and memorable experiences.

Gauge 3: Groups Gauge: Self-reliance is one of the greatest threats a church leader can face. It overestimates your abilities and diminishes the impact of your team. So develop your teams!

Now Today, the last 2 Gauges.

Gauge 4: Service Gauge: Are you creating consistent opportunities for kids and students to experience personal ministry?

Here are some things that will begin to happen if you ignore the service gauge.

  • Parents become programmed to see the church as a provider of services for their kids.
  • Leaders never recognize that the discipleship process is also about influencing a student to serve and care for others.
  • Students established a consumer mindset about the church.
  • Communities continue to perceive the church as institutional and insulated.
  • Individual families never experience a sense of calling and mission to make others a priority.
  • Students fail to experience and realize their calling to care for others, and they leave the church without a passion to pursue God’s calling in their lives.


The last Gauge to pay attention to would be…

5. Personal Gauge: Are you taking care of yourself?

  • Be a student. “If you’ve closed your mind off to any learning, you’re not a student.”
  • Be balanced. “No one wins when you lose your family. No one wins when you quit your job.”

I have found over the years that paying attention to these 5 gauges can help all of us as we attempt to get our family ministry on the right page. These five gauges are excellent for evaluating where your ministry now stands, and they will help you continue to grow.

So, what are some other gauges you may use in your family ministry?


Family Ministry Gauge to Measure part 2

If you have not read part one jump over there first.

Now, if you have read it but need a recap of the first 2 gauges we talked about to help all of us to improve, here is that recap:

Gauge 1:  Strategy Gauge: Making sure you have aligned your systems and processes so that your staff, your leaders, and your parents lead with the same end-in-mind.


Gauge 2: Experience Gauge: Craft core truths into engaging, relevant, and memorable experiences. You don’t want people to leave without feeling like they were a part of an experience. It is that experience that people share around the water cooler on Monday.

Now for the third Gauge:

Groups Gauge: Here is where you want to make sure you are creating a culture that truly grows and develops leaders who serve in your ministry. Self-reliance is one of the greatest threats a church leader can face. It overestimates your abilities and diminishes the impact of your team. So develop your teams!

Volunteers matter. A community is formed there. There is an importance in serving in that ministry. There is also an importance of “prioritizing small groups at every stage of life”.

Life examples:
1. Place preschoolers in small groups to connect parents.
– parents want to know the people who keep their kids to know their kids
– in the toddler room, small group leader in the room is connected to 8 kids. Everyone cares for every kid, but that leader has 8 kids to follow-up on and care for. Changes everything about communication.
– small groups help little people understand the big idea of God they can’t see by connecting Him to their concrete worlds
– in small groups, kids learn from leaders how to pray and talk to God.
– with parents, you are working against parents’ sense of apprehension. Relationships take that away!
2. Place elementary kids in small groups to help them understand faith and lead them to take the next steps toward Christ
– most of what we learn foundationally, we learn in elementary school.
– help apply big ideas from the Word to their lives. Never just teaching to teach. Never just covering information.
– relational investments in kids give influence to both parents and kids.
– creates a consistent environment to learn bible skills and spiritual habits
– safe and relational environment for kids to ask questions about trusting in Jesus
3. Middle school: help them personalize their faith.
– a place to belong. they are looking for their pack.
– A safe place to discuss challenging issues
– challenge kids by application of scripture
4. High school: give another adult voice
– the greatest gift for a high school parent is another adult pointing them in the same direction
– in the middle of the crowd, they don’t want to be alone.
– challenge students to put faith in action
If you start small groups in high school, kids won’t be comfortable. That’s why you start in preschool years. Most importantly, start with whatever and wherever you are. This group gauge will look different between small and large churches. The basic difference is: in a small church, you don’t need to break the church down smaller. Use the gathering times you may already have to carry out the group’s gauge. In a large church, you need to break the church down into smaller groups for everything explained above.


I hope you see the importance of this “Group Gauge”. How may you change and improve your group gauge in your ministry? Why do you see this as a valuable thing to do?

Impact a father’s investment has in the lives of others

I ran across this video (from TD Ameritrade) that shares a healthy twist to the classic Harry Chapin song “Cats In The Cradle.” 

It provides a vivid picture of the impact a father’s investment has in the lives of others. I also want to send this out to some friends as a reminder to them being new dads, that there is no greater investment outside of your personal investment into your relationship with Christ or with your spouse that you will make that is more important than that in which you make into your kids.

“My child arrived just the other day.  He came to the world in a usual way but they’re were planes to catch and bills to pay so I moved my meeting (and) saw him walk that day.

He was talking before I knew it and as he grew he said, “I going to be like you dad.  You know I’m going be like you.”

My son turned 10 just the other day.  He said, “Thanks for the ball dad.  C’mon let’s play.  Can you teach me to throw?”  I said, “Right away.  I’ve got stuff to do but that can wait today.”  And he ran outside and smiled ear-to-ear and said, “I’m going to be like you dad.  You know I’m going to be like you.”

Well he came home from college just the other day, He said, “I can’t thank you enough for paying my way.  What I’d really like dad is to borrow the car keys (and) take you to dinner and discuss my dreams.”

I’m soon retired (and) my son’s well on his way.  He came by with a question just the day, “I need your advice dad with what to do when I become a father just like you.  Become a father just like you.”

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon, little boy blue and the man in the moon.  “When you coming home dad?”  “I’ll be home at 10:00 and we’ll get together then.  You know we’ll have a good time then.”

Jumpstart3 was just here

We just held our yearly Central Region KidsMin Conference and had Jumpstart3 and Joshua Denhart come and share with us.

Jeff from Jumpstart3 shared a ton but some of the reports I am getting back already is how those in attendance walked away with understanding:

  • Don’t overlook opportunity to share Christ with others
  • The importance of teaching scripture to the kids
  • Remember your identity in Christ not in what others may say
  • The importance of staying faithful and consistent in the lives of kids and families

Joshua had 2 sessions here as well and just a few items that he brought were:

  • His great talk over volunteerism. We actually asked if he would bring this back again as he first taught it in a prior year but so many asked for him to bring it back.
  • Then with his wife, he brought the importance of family time.

Bottom line, those who came walked away talking how blessed they were. The practical items they are taking back to their churches. We even had one church here from Texas that is only 15 people total in attendance and a new lead pastor as well. This church recognizes the importance of kids so much that they held 2 fundraisers to help pay for their person overseeing the kids be able to come and attend this conference.


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.

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?

Connect with the top 20 Children’s Ministries


I enjoy reading outreach magazine for many reasons, one of those reasons would be when they compile a list for me where I do not need to do the work.

Here is a list of the top 20 children’s ministries. I would urge you to reach out to them because there are a ton of lessons that they can share with you if you stop asking so much of the “what are they doing” and move more to the “why are you doing this or that?” type questions.

By the way, don’t be intimidated to contact them thinking that they will never talk to you because your ministry may only have 25 kids. You may just be pleasantly surprised to see how nice they are and willing to help the Kingdom grow if you just ask them. Do have your questions in order of importance of what you want to ask them, have a list of 3-5 questions that are the most important to you, do your homework on each church so you may ask them very specific questions that their unique ministry may help give you great advice in a specific area.

1. Waumba Land, Upstreet and Kidstuf at Northpoint
Community Church
2. Highland Kids at Church of the Highlands
3. KidSpring at NewSpring Church
4. Amazing Kids at Gateway Church
5. Saddleback Kids at Saddleback Community Church
6. Promiseland at Willow Creek Community Church
7. CCV Kids at Christ Church of the Valley
8. CFKids at Christ Fellowship Church
9. Southeast Kids at Southeast Christian Church
10. Crossroads Kids Club at Crossroads Church
11. eKIDZ at Elevation Church
12. Kid-O-Deo and Elevate at Eagle Brook Church
13. Second Kids at Second Baptist Church
14. Planet Kids, Gravity, The Edge and The Ride at
Woodlands Church
15. Summit Kids Ministry at Flatirons Community Church
16. Children’s Ministry at King Jesus International Ministry
17. Port Mariner’s Kids at Mariners Church
18. Kingdom Kids at Mt. Zion Baptist Church
19. K12 at 12 Stone Church
20. Family Christian Center Kids at Family Christian

*This list is based on the 2016 Largest Churches in America report by Outreach magazine.

Back to school and Back to blogging

sitting at desk with computer

The summer of 2016, where did it go?

During summer in Take TWO Family Ministries it was a whirlwind of incredible activity, and, a ton of fun.

Here are only a few of the fun times had by all.

Soccer Camp.
soccer camp 2016 503x503

Marriage Scavenger Hunt. (For the record my wife and I won this one with another couple from our church, the Underfers)
Marriage scavenger hunt 2016 503x503

Kids Camp
Kids Camp 2016 500x503

Family Service week with KidzTurn
KidzTurn at First 2016 503x503

Stay tuned as I will be getting back on a regular schedule for posting blog post.

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