How to Be a Great Volunteer Part 5: Go to Church

daniel-tseng-155730.jpgSo you just read the title of this post and probably thought “well duh…I’m at church all the time. I serve in kids church every Sunday and Wednesday, lead a small group on Fridays and attend the monthly men’s pancake breakfast.” But that’s not what I’m talking about. I’ve noticed that there are a lot of folks involved in children’s ministry (volunteer and paid staff alike) that never sit in a regular church service. Like, ever. And they try to justify it with things like “my church only has one service” or “I’ll listen to the message on podcast” or “if I’m not there the children’s ministry will implode.” First off, if your children’s ministry falls apart because you weren’t there for 1 week, you had way bigger problems than the fact that you weren’t there. And secondly, there just isn’t an adequate replacement for being at YOUR church in YOUR auditorium listening to YOUR pastor preach the Word of God while you sit with YOUR family.

Here’s the deal: you cannot pour water out of an empty bucket. It’s simply impossible. One of your responsibilities is to keep your spiritual bucket full so that you can pour into those to whom you minister. But in order to do that, you’ve got to keep going back to the well to keep your bucket full. And while podcasts and videos and books and the like are all great resources, they should be treated as supplements–not substitutes.

So how do you do it? If your church offers multiple services then serve at one and attend another. If your church only has one service, find someone who isn’t serving, teach them to do what you do and then let them be you one or two Sundays a month while you go to church. And if you’re the leader, by all means let your people lead while you go and get full–besides, you might just be surprised at what happens when you release others into ministry.

Whatever it takes, make a plan right now with your leader regarding how and when you are going to go to church AND THEN DO IT. You’ll be better, the ministry in which you serve will be better, and those whom you lead will be better because of it.

Handling the Easter Aftermath

As I sit in front of my computer right now I am thankful.  Thankful for a successful Easter weekend.  Thankful for a community outreach event that reached record numbers. 3439280682_abc45d1867_b-622x416 Thankful for four Easter services that saw numerous kids and adults alike come to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  Thankful for all of the volunteers that sacrificed parts of their weekend to make it all happen. Thankful for a delicious meal shared with family and friends. And quite frankly, thankful that it’s all over. (Just being honest.)

As a pastor, Easter can be downright exhausting.  There’s a certain pressure that comes along with this “Super Bowl” of all Christian holidays, and all of the effort that goes into being sure every ‘t’ is crossed and every ‘i’ dotted can drain the life out of you.  And I say all of this knowing that my experience this year was a great one.  But maybe yours wasn’t.  I’ve been there.

Maybe the neighbor or co-worker you’ve been inviting to church for weeks didn’t show.  Maybe the weather didn’t cooperate for your egg hunt and you now have 5,000 pre-filled plastic Easter eggs sitting in the corner of your office and no idea what to do with them.  Maybe some of your key volunteers had to bail at the last minute leaving you in the lurch.  Maybe you didn’t have as many in attendance at your church as you’d anticipated.  Maybe you didn’t have as many decisions for Christ as you’d been hoping and praying for. Maybe you’re comparing all of this to everyone else’s highlight reel being plastered all over social media.  And maybe you’re sitting there wondering what you did wrong, feeling a little like the unfound egg from yesterday’s hunt–alone and forgotten.  Again, I’ve been there.

But here’s the good news.  None of those things are indicative of your character. None of those things are a testament to your competency to serve the Lord and his people.  And none of those things negate the calling that God has placed on your life.  In fact, if you did all you could do, then that’s all you could do.  At some point you have to leave the rest in God’s hands and trust him for the outcome.  You are only responsible for faithfulness, not results.

Easter Sunday is not THE Sunday.  It’s A Sunday.  If it were the only Sunday, maybe you should be a little worried.  But you’ve got 51 other Sundays in this calendar year.  And each one rolls around 6 days after the one that precedes it.  So be encouraged!  Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and step back in the ring and keep swinging.  If you’ll keep being faithful, God will bring about the results.


How to Be a Great Volunteer Part 4: Be Flexible

a4c84d477faa4c258ea4fc24563b6435I’ve held a number of different jobs over the course of my life. Before my professional career as a pastor I worked as a bus boy at a restaurant, at a dry cleaners, at a men’s clothing store, and at an ice cream shop to name a few. At each one of those places I was given a job description which would list a series of expectations and responsibilities that came along with each position. And somewhere, usually at the bottom, on each of those job descriptions was a clause that stated something like this: Anything else deemed necessary by one’s supervisor.

Now why did that have to be included on the job description? It’s really quite simple. It’s because people are, by nature, inflexible. Our innate bent is to do only what is required and nothing more. You’ve worked with that person–you know the one that is always refusing to do something or complaining about what they are doing because, as they often put it, “It’s not my job!” Maybe you are that kind of person yourself.

The truth, though, is if you are going to be truly valuable to your organization or team over the long haul, you have to get rid of that mentality and, instead, adopt a mentality of flexibility. Flexibility is when one is able to be easily modified to respond to altered circumstances or conditions. In short, it’s having a can-do attitude. When you are flexible, you adopt the mantra that you will do whatever it takes to get the job done, even if that falls outside the realm of your job description.

Some of the greatest leaders that I have served over the years have been those that adopted this kind of attitude and were willing to go over and above to do whatever it took to get the job done. Sure, they may have been scheduled to serve in the elementary class that morning at church, but we needed an extra set of hands in the nursery that day. All I had to do was ask–and in some cases I didn’t even have to do that–and these people gladly stepped up and got the job done.

You see, when you are flexible, you realize that WE is more important than ME. And when that happens, the team on which you serve will be better and more efficient, the people you serve will be better cared for, and the leader you serve under will be happy. And you will be more fulfilled to boot, knowing that you have done everything possible to help your team reach it’s potential. It’s a win-win-win-win situation. So be flexible and sit back and watch how the Lord blesses you, your leader, and the team on which you serve.

Critical Thinking Question: What are one or two areas in your life in which you could stand to be more flexible? What are you going to do about it?

What I Learned from the 2017 Masters

170410020744-sergio-garcia-ballesteros-exlarge-169Seventy-three.  That’s the number of times Sergio Garcia had entered the field in a PGA major and failed to win.

Five.  That’s the number of feet that stretched out between Sergio’s ball and the cup on the eighteenth green at Augusta National.

One.  That’s how many strokes Sergio would win the tournament by if he could sink the birdie putt.

Two.  That’s the number of putts it took Sergio to sink his ball on the eighteenth green, forcing a sudden-death playoff with fellow tour member, Justin Rose.

It was at this moment on Sunday afternoon the Twittersphere roared to life with memes and .gifs all related to choking in some form or fashion, many alluding to Sergio’s statements from only 5 years prior in which he said, “I’m not good enough … I don’t have the thing I need to have. In 13 years, I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to play for second- or third-place.” 

Do you ever feel like that?  I know I have.  Sometimes we face things in life that seem insurmountable, and no matter what we do we just cannot seem to rise above it and claim our victory.  But as I sat glued to my television set on Sunday evening, watching a bunch of men take metal sticks and hit little white balls into holes cut into the grass I was reminded of something life-altering: failure isn’t final.

(For those of you that are golf fans, you know how this story ends, but please humor me for those that aren’t.)

Many had given up on Sergio, expecting him to choke this one away like he had so many times before.  But when Justin Rose hit his tee shot into the pine straw beyond the rough off the right-hand side of the fairway, that opened the door just a crack for Sergio who striped his drive right down the center cut.  With a terrible lie and tree limbs in the way, Rose was forced to punch out of the pine straw, laying two nearly side by side where Sergio’s tee shot rested.  As cool as the underside of the pillow, Sergio hit a magnificent approach shot landing the ball mere feet from the cup, flinging the door wide open and ultimately giving himself an opportunity to two-putt for the outright win of the 2017 Master’s and his first-ever major championship.  But it would only take one, as he holed-out for birdie, quieting his nay-sayers–including himself–and finally laying his demons to rest.

His failure wasn’t final.

Consider Peter, a committed follower of Christ and one of Jesus’ twelve disciples. If there’s a common thread woven into the narrative of Peter’s life it was that of failure.  In Matthew 14 we see Peter, though having the courage to step out of the boat and onto the sea in an attempt to walk on the water, sinking in the waves and crying out to Jesus for help. FAILURE. In Matthew 16:23 we find Jesus reprimanding Peter by saying, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me because you’re not thinking about God’s concerns, but man’s.” FAILURE. In Matthew 18 Peter is reprimanded by Christ once more for cutting off the ear of a Roman centurion. FAILURE. In Matthew 26 we read how Peter denied his association with Jesus three times on the night of Christ’s arrest. FAILURE.

But despite all of this failure we read Jesus’ words in Matthew 16:18 where he says, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Peter’s failure wasn’t final.

And your failure doesn’t have to be final, either, but the choice is yours.  You can throw in the towel and give up, considering your cause hopeless.  Or, you can keep plugging away, failing forward, pressing on until you achieve your victory. Your past doesn’t matter, nor does it preclude you from being used of the Lord.  The only thing that matters is how you choose to live from this day forward.

Will it be easy?  Nope.  And I think both Peter and Sergio would agree.  But I also believe that they’d both agree that even though it won’t be easy, it will be worth it.  So be encouraged, and keep on keepin’ on.  Your failure isn’t final.




Boss Baby: Some Family Talking Points


Peyton and Eli Manning. Chris and Liam Hemsworth. Fred and Ben Savage. Joe, Nick and Kevin Jonas. Alec and those other Baldwins. Those blonde kids that sang “MMMMM Bop”.  What do they have in common?  All famous brothers.  Enter Tim Templeton and the Boss Baby–the next dashing duo to join the aforementioned club.

I’ll be honest: I just wanted to be a good dad and surprise my kids with a trip to the theater, put my brain in “neutral” and enjoy some hot, buttered popcorn.  I wasn’t expecting much from Boss Baby, but I left the theater having thoroughly enjoyed it.  And, boy, did I laugh. Hard.

While I will not giveaway any of the major details or plot of the movie, I will say that it’s not quite what I expected from having seen the previews.  That said, if your crew isn’t offended by the occasional bare baby bottom and can’t help but giggle when someone poots/farts/toots/breaks wind, then this is a movie I’d highly recommend. Couple that with some pop-culture references and throwbacks that mom and dad will love (Voltron, Lord of the Rings and MouseTrap to name a few) and throw in a popular Beatles’ tune for good measure and you’ve got yourself a recipe for a seriously fun hour-and-a-half for the whole family.

There’s also a great message to discuss with your kids, which actually ends up being the theme of the movie: there’s plenty of love to go around. And yes, the movie ends just exactly how you’d expect it to, and how I found myself wanting it to, which led to these thoughts that I hope will add value to your family’s moviegoing experience.

  1. If you have a child that is transitioning into puberty (like I do), and you are navigating the “where do babies come from?” talk with them, this movie contains some material that could serve as a launching point for that conversation.  While it doesn’t present things in the traditional “stork delivery” manner, it does take some rather creative (and cute) liberties in that regard to explain child birth outside the realm of standard physical biology.
  2. I mentioned famous brothers earlier, and this movie definitely opens the door to discuss sibling relationships as well as the importance of love, trust and forgiveness within the family dynamic.  One could easily couple this idea along with stories from the Bible such as Cain & Abel, Jacob and Esau, or even Joseph and his brothers, etc… to jumpstart a conversation regarding healthy family/sibling relationships.
  3. With the above said, my main takeaway from the film was the concept that there is enough love to go around.  It reminded me of Romans 8:38-39:

Yes, I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor ruling spirits, nothing now, nothing in the future, no powers, nothing above us, nothing below us, nor anything else in the whole world will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (NCV)

Isn’t that how you feel about your kids; that no matter what they do you’d never stop loving them?  What if you told them that? And if that’s the case for us as parents, then how much bigger than that is God’s love for his children? Have you or your kids ever actually thought about this?  And if God loves us with that kind of love, then how should we respond to this command from 1 John 4:7-11, 21:

Dear friends, we should love each other, because love comes from God. Everyone who loves has become God’s child and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love to us: He sent his one and only Son into the world so that we could have life through him. This is what real love is: It is not our love for God; it is God’s love for us. He sent his Son to die in our place to take away our sins…Dear friends, if God loved us that much we also should love each other. And God gave us this command: Those who love God must also love their brothers and sisters. (NCV)

What does this kind of love look like within our family dynamic? What if we let this idea change the way we parent our children? What would that look like?  What if our kids put this into practice with how they treat their siblings and friends? What would the result be?  How could God use our family as an example to show his love to the world around us?   What kind of impact do you think that would have on the lost in our community?

What if we truly lived as if we believed that there’s plenty of love to go around?

If you’re taking your kids to the theater this weekend, feel free to use these ideas as discussion starters for your family during dinner time, drive time or bed time.  For those that have seen the movie, what were your takeaways?  What discussion points would you add? Have fun, and enjoy the movie!


How to Be a Great Volunteer Part 3: Stay Until It’s Over

veri-ivanova-17904Previously in parts one and two of this series, I’ve relayed my thoughts on the importance of communication on the part of the volunteer as well as showing up on time. In today’s entry, I’d like to share my thoughts on something equally as important: staying until it’s over.

Every 2 years, I love to follow the Olympic Games. This past summer,  I sat with my family each night in our living room watching the olympics in Rio. I always really enjoy watching the swimming races, and what Michael Phelps has been able to accomplish over the course of his career has been amazing. But imagine if you can, sitting on the edge of your seat as Phelps takes the lead after the final turn in the individual medley. You’re yelling at your TV trying to get him to go even faster. He’s beginning to leave the other swimmers behind as he continues to gain momentum. But then halfway through the last lap he just stops swimming. All the other swimmers easily pass him, and he is left treading water in the middle of the pool. Sounds ridiculous, right? Of course it does, because the expectation for any olympian–particularly one as decorated as Phelps–is to finish what they start.

Your leader has no less of an expectation for you. In whatever capacity you serve, the expectation for you is to 1) show up on time and 2) stay until the job is done. For example, I’ve witnessed a number of situations where all but one or two kids will be dismissed from one of our kids’ environments, and a volunteer will go ahead and leave their post while another volunteer stays behind with the children that remain. This is unacceptable.

When we serve others, it should never be based on what is best or most convenient for us. Instead, serving others should always take into account what is best and most convenient for those we are serving. Plus, leaving early communicates much the same things as showing up late–that we don’t respect our leader, those we serve alongside, and those we serve.

So if you want to be a GREAT volunteer, stay until it’s over and finish strong. Your leader will thank you, those you serve alongside will respect you, and those you serve will see that you care about them and are putting their needs above your own. It really will make a difference.

How to Be a Great Volunteer Part 2: Be On Time

tristan-colangelo-39719In part one of this blog series, I discussed the importance communication has in one’s ability to be a great volunteer. In addition to having solid communication skills, if you want to be a great volunteer you need to show up on time.

Now I know what you’re going to say–sometimes things just happen: you get a flat tire, your kids won’t cooperate, you get pulled over for speeding because you were actually trying to make it on time for once. I’m not talking about just isolated instances like these that creep up from time to time. What I’m talking about is when instances like the ones above become a regular and consistent pattern–that’s where the issues arise.

Whether you realize it or not, when you regularly and consistently show up late you communicate three distinct things:

1. You don’t respect your leader. Your leader has set a specific call time on purpose. This particular time has been established so that you will be ready and able to serve once your service/event/etc… begins. And if you find yourself in a position where you simply cannot meet the time constraints, schedule a meeting with your leader to talk about it and see if you can come to a point of resolution. If not, then ask your leader to help you find a different place to serve in which the times will better fit your schedule.

2. You don’t respect those you serve alongside. When you consistently show up late you’re basically telling those you serve alongside that you are more important than them and that your time is more valuable than theirs. Being a part of a team isn’t about you–it’s about the team. So step up and follow the rules and guidelines that have been put in place and set the example for the rest of your team to follow.

3. You don’t respect those you serve. You cannot serve someone if you aren’t present–it’s physically impossible. You can’t lead a small group from “five minutes away.” You can’t receive a baby in the nursery from “I’ll be there ASAP.” Eventually, people will catch on to the patterns you are establishing and will no longer trust you to serve them. And if their needs aren’t being met in one place, they’ll find another place in which they are being met and go there. So be intentional about showing up on time so that you can be ready to serve and meet the needs of those with whom the Lord has entrusted you.

In part 3 of this series we’ll look at a concept that goes hand-in-hand with showing up on time: Staying Until It’s Over.