Children’s Ministry Nightmares

gordon ramsey meme

One of my favorite shows right now is Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares…in fact…I may be slaughtered for this…but I love anything Gordon Ramsey! On my last two vacations I have visited Las Vegas and eaten at two of Gordon’s restaurants there…the Pub & Grill and Steak. BOTH the meals I had were incredible.

For those who don’t know, the premise of the show is that each episode Gordon tackles a failing restaurant and tries to work with the staff to turn it around. Without fail every week there are arguments and fall outs as Gordon Ramsey tells the owners and chefs just how bad the restaurant and food are!

And without fail EVERY episode either the owner or the Chef is in denial…they are often caught saying, ‘I would rate my food 9/10’ or ‘my restaurant is one of the best in the area.’ The truth is the owners of these businesses become BLINDED by their PRIDE.

In fact, although the general staff ALL knew how bad things were, the owners never heard their complaints. They were always deaf and blind to those close by them. Each week it took Gordon Ramsey, an expert from outside, like a bull in a china shop, to force changes and show the owners a better way!

Last year I invited a children’s pastor with tons of experience to visit my children’s ministry and give feedback on what he saw. We were looking at the best way to renovate our facilities and he had experience in this area. What I received was a ‘Gordon Ramsey’ style review of my children’s ministry that knocked me off my perch. In many ways it was like salt was being poured into my open wounds.

Although the critique was harsh and painful I learnt a lot from it and it gave me the kick in the teeth to get things moving!

So here are some things we can do to keep pride outside:-

 

  1. Always ASK questions
  • It is never the ‘learners’ who are full of pride
  1. Be your biggest critique
  • Remember nothing is perfect and changing is always necessary
  1. Remember where you were without God
  • Its hard to be prideful when your thankful.

 

What are some ways you safeguard yourself from Pride?

 

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Lessons from my first year in Full-time ministry…

As I approach the last few days of my first year in full-time ministry I wanted to reflect upon a few of my experiences and the lessons I have learnt from them.

It was a year ago this month that I left my family in England and I jumped on a plane with all my possessions in one suitcase to start a new life in America as a Children’s Pastor in Urbana, IL at Stone Creek Church. I had just finished Bible College, was turning 22 years old and yet I was somehow favored with an incredible opportunity to run the Children’s ministry of a large church with a monthly attendance of around 250 kids!

This has definitely been a crazy year, a rollercoaster of ups and downs. I have had some great wins and yet made some big mistakes too. There have been times I have loved my job and times when I wondered if I was really even called to ministry!  Through it all I have learned a few things; but working along side some seasoned Veterans…I am constantly reminded I have a long way to go and lot more to learn!

Here are my thoughts….

1.    God Equips who he calls!

As you can imagine when I came to America I was taking on quite a role…I definitely don’t think I could be accused of dipping my toes into full time ministry. I was entering a different culture, taking on a lot of responsibility…and entering a Church where I would be the youngest pastor taking on the least healthy and most important ministry in the church. It was a mess and quite frankly I was out of my depth….It was in this mess that I soon realized that God’s grace was made perfect in my weaknesses…I began to see that through my first few months God was equipping me for the task he had called me. He didn’t just call me and leave me high and dry!

2.    Find a Rhythm…doesn’t take 20 years to get burned out!

In Bible College we were often warned of the difficulties of full time ministry…especially the dreaded ‘burn out’.

I always thought it would take years to reach such a place; but in hindsight a year in ministry has been hard enough and there have been a number of times when I couldn’t have even imagined the possibility of lasting 1 more year…let alone another 19!

When I came to America I came with many ideas, plans and strategies…and as a single guy…I had plenty of time on my hands to implement them! I worked long hours 7 days a week and I didn’t bother taking my weekly days off because I was excited and ready to go! My work schedule led to choosing fast food over cooking and relaxing over exercising in my spare time. Although I soon felt the effects in both my effectiveness and my fatigue! Balance and a work rhythm are the key to success!

Slow and Steady might not win you the race…but it will ensure you finish it!

3.    Don’t forget to Love people…

In my first few weeks at Stone Creek we had our annual ‘trunk or treat’ kids event which I helped partially organize…that event over two locations was a huge success drawing around 1700 people…throughout the year we have had some great events and made some great strides forward with the children’s ministry services…but the biggest wins for my ministry have been the relationship I have with my families and my ministry to the kids.

Events are great and improving systems is important…but my primary role is to be a minister to kids.

Some of my greatest moments have been praying for my sick kids in the hospital, talking to my kids whose parents are going through divorce or visiting my kid’s sports games or schools. In essence those are the things I am called to do…in order that my kids will know God’s love…the rest is just a bonus!

4.    Ministry is more than just Loving people…

With all that being said…Ministry isn’t all about loving people…in fact most of your week isn’t spent around people at all…unless your one of the lucky ones!

Ministry is actually more to do with leadership than anything else. One of our main roles as ministers is to recruit and equip people to do the work of Christ. Full time ministry has been just as much about managing a team of volunteers as it has been about ministering to children….this is especially true for Children’s ministry! You will organize events, clean up messes, move furniture, organize teaching, arrange volunteers and much more…Pastoring people is important…but to be successful in ministry you have to do a little more than love people…

5.    An open door in difficult times doesn’t equate to God’s will…

My first year in full time ministry has definitely been a rollercoaster. There have been some incredible moments…and some moments I would rather forget. However naturally it has only been in the difficult times when I have questioned if I was really meant to be where I am.

The funny thing is that opportunities only seemed to arrive in the difficult times and never in the successful times. It is easy to think that an open door should be walked through…but its immature to believe every available opportunity is a God opportunity…and its worse to think that just because things are difficult God is moving you on!

I’ve often found that great favor comes when we are faithful to God and his purpose for your life!

Life’s a Happy Song?

It pains me to think how easy my life is and just how smoothly I live through it. I have bumps in my own life, but rarely do they stop me or send me off course. As I drive around and I live my life I see people’s needs but they rarely unsettle me either. But as I think about the World I am slowly exposed to its harsh realities; to the suffering and struggles of people every day. When I contemplate the vast extent of the need in this World; I realize I  should be shaken and it should be difficult for me to live as I do.

I am learning more and more that there is OBVIOUS need and INDISCREET need.

Obvious = We see it & can’t escape it. It slaps us in the face as we live our life; we soon become Numb to it!

Indiscreet = What you can’t see; can’t hurt you! Hidden, rarely thought of and hardly ever considered.

In many ways our role as the Church should be to make the INDISCREET —> OBVIOUS! In the poorest area of our town we are acting to do this; first through our Thanksgiving Big Give and now through ‘Project Angel Tree’. We have identified 30 families (around 66 kids), in one area of the City, where at least one parent is incarcerated and we are seeking to make their life that little bit easier at such a commercial and expensive time of the year!

We are throwing them a Christmas Party; providing them with groceries, Christmas decorations and a gift for each Child. As I rang around and spoke to Parents I began to realize the difference this will make. It’s eye opening to realize that not all people approach Christmas with excitement and not all people expect anything special!

As I asked Parents what their Children would need/want I was shocked when a number asked for ‘sleeping bags’ or ‘diapers’ instead of shiny toys or video games. We rarely appreciate the NEED around us. We are blind and ignorant to what people go through! But we must learn to SEE NEED; not just blind ourselves to it. And we must learn to see the NEED as the CALL.

‘Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed.

Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.’  (Isaiah 1:17)

We must seek to make the NEEDS of this World Famous and we should Fight to do something about them!

BEING BEFORE DOING

I have been in America a month and already I have experienced so much. In a weeks time I will be in Indiana experiencing my my very first All American Thanksgiving. I’m sure it will prove to be a wonderful time but before it comes we have plenty to do!

Thanksgiving is a massive family celebration in America where food is at the center. Yet as I live in one of the most affluent nations of the World the sheer level of poverty continues to amaze me! In order to provide for the poorest area of our City, Stone Creek Church, set out to host a thanksgiving give away…The Big Give. We are aiming to provide thanksgiving meals for 1000 low income families; which would include a turkey and 1-2 bags of groceries.

Almost 800 families have signed up so far with a week to go and this past week I joined a team which hit the local estate to tell its known disabled residents that we would be personally delivering them groceries even though they hadn’t asked for them. People were so thankful and you could tell the small gesture would make a major difference to their holiday.

When we were signing up one woman she suddenly started to sob as she told us that it must have been God who brought us there at just that moment. She explained that her son had just visited and told her that his pregnant wife, who is 5 months gone, is facing complications over her pregnancy and considering abortion. She was devastated and shaken; and after a short chat we were able to pray for her.

I mention this to say that what Stone Creek Church is DOING is unbelievable but I am learning its easy to pass through life and just get caught up in the doing. But in life it’s important to focus on who your BEING not just what you DOING!

I was so focused on what I was DOING for God; that I almost forgot what I was meant to be BEING for God. I find that when we concentrate on BEING…we can’t help but be DOING! I love DOING social action; but I prefer to be DOING it as a product of my BEING! Otherwise you get so caught up in DOING that we miss the opportunities where we need to be BEING!

‘You’re Fired!’

The thought of firing someone in Ministry can often make you feel sick to your stomach.
Outside of ‘moral failures’ we often struggle to see why someone
should be released from what they are called to do.
Most Pastors struggle with this because they never pastor a Church big enough to do this!
Yet over summer I learnt this amazing thing…
‘Those who start with you; can’t always finish with you!’ – Gary Grogan
As time goes on our ministries should develop and grow.
Often ministries can outgrow the maximum potential gifting of their leaders.
There is no shame in this but I have learnt that a decision is needed.
You get rid of the leader or hold onto them, either way;
‘You either hurt the leader, or you hurt the ministry.’ – Ricky Spindler
You do it right, you transition them well. You shower love on them & thank them.
But if you make the right call then a good leader, with time, will recognize the right decision.