I bet you’re busy. I know I’m busy. If you’re in church leadership, you’re a busy person. There’s so much to accomplish and seemingly not enough time to do it.

Here’s something else: I bet you are surrounded by talented people. If you’re a good church leader, you’ve recruited great people.

One more thing. I bet you wish you could delegate some of your tasks and responsibilities to the talented people around you. You’d have more time to focus on your strengths or new opportunities and the talented people around you could grow in experience and expertise.

It’s so obviously a win. In fact, in the words of Michael Scott, it might just be a “win, win, win.”

michael_scott_win_win_win

But of course, there’s a problem.  Very few of us effectively delegate.

It just doesn’t seem to work.

In theory it should speed things up, but in real life it seems to slow things down. That was exactly my experience, until I started to follow some of the principles here. Now, I’m more free than ever to focus on my strengths and my team is growing in expertise, experience and fulfillment.

My hope for this post is that you could learn from my years of trial and error in the art of delegation. I’ve learned 6 important lessons over the years that I think are critical for church leaders. Here they are…

You can read the rest of this post here.

Recently I wrote an article for the Breeze blog on how to run a great staff meeting.  Here’s a snippet:

Let’s be honest.

Most of us don’t love staff meetings.

They are often boring, too long and sometimes even irrelevant. And yet, we all know that staff meetings are a must if our teams are going to have any chance of staying on the same page.

Here’s the good news: staff meetings don’t have to be terrible. In fact, they can be constructive, compelling, and even fun.

The key is building your staff meetings around 5 energizing elements. Here they are…

Click here to read the rest of the post.

This week I have the privilege of writing for the Orange Leaders blog, which is one of my favorite blogs in the world.  The post is about maintaining boundaries in ministry.  Here’s a snippet:

Real questions I’ve been asked by students and parents…

  • So, what’s your real job?
  • Umm . . . what do you actually do all day?
  • So, you just take the summer off then?
  • How was your vacation to Mexico? (It was a mission trip, you Jerky McJerkyson.)

For whatever reason, some people think that family ministries staff don’t work very hard or very often. This of course, is utter nonsense. In fact, it can be incredibly difficult to maintain appropriate boundaries in ministry. The events, problems, conversations, camps, crises, retreats and everything else happen day and night, on the weekends and always on holidays. I mean, always on holidays.

So, how do we keep ourselves from burning out? How do we maintain healthy boundaries so that our families aren’t negatively affected by our ministry? And, how in the world do we keep ourselves healthy?

You can check out the rest of the post here.

Hey Friends,

Today I’m writing about a new approach for training volunteers.  Check it out:

Raise your hand if you are pumped about your volunteer training strategy.

I’m guessing you didn’t.

Most of us don’t feel terribly confident about our training methods. I think this is because most of us have been following a system of volunteer training that, well, doesn’t really work.

Here’s a snapshot:

  1. Recruit volunteers
  2. Provide some sort of orientation for volunteers
  3. Once a month or a couple times a year, hold a volunteer training meeting
  4. Wonder if what we are doing is effective
  5. Repeat

Based on what I’ve seen and experienced, there is a much more effective way to train volunteers. But, it really doesn’t have that much to do with training. It has a lot more to do with what volunteers actually need. Let me explain…

Click here to read the rest of the post.

 

Today, I’m blogging for Breeze Church Management Software on the topic of volunteer retention.  Here’s a sample…

In church world, we’re often scrambling to recruit enough volunteers.  It seems like there are never enough.   Here’s a thought:  What if our volunteers stuck around?  What if we didn’t have to recruit as many volunteers because the majority of our volunteers stayed engaged? What if our volunteers loved serving so much that they stayed involved?  How much more efficient and effective would or ministries and churches become?

I believe this scenario is possible.  In fact, I’ve seen it happen year after year in our church.

I believe any ministry or church can achieve high levels of volunteer satisfaction and retention by answering 6 questions that all volunteers are asking…

Check out the rest of the post here.

My boss likes to ask me hard questions.  It’s his thing.  And, it’s a good thing because his questions often keep me from doing dumb stuff.  He recently asked me to take a week and identify my stress indicators.  In other words, what are the things in your life that when they pop up, you know you are stressed out.  Why did he ask me this?  Because, stress free people don’t burn out.  We burn out in ministry because we ignore stress and act like we can handle it…until we can’t.  And then, it’s too late.

So, what are my stress indicators?  I’m glad you asked.  Here you go:

WEIRD SLEEP

I’m sort of a ninja at sleeping, which is awesome for me and not so awesome for my wife.  You see, we have 5 kids.  She hasn’t had a full night of sleep in 10 years.  Meanwhile, anytime she goes away the kids sleep all night.  Or at least, I sleep all night.  To be honest, I don’t really know what the kids do.  All I know is that when I wake up at 6:00 am they are all staring at me.  It’s kind of weird really.

Anyway, what I mean to tell you is that I’m a ninja at sleeping unless I’m stressed out. In stressful seasons, I have awful dreams and wake up in the middle of the night and then can’t fall back to sleep. It’s essentially the worst.  Here’s a catalogue of the weird dreams I’ve recently had:

  • I’m at church and someone asks me if I’m ready to preach.  I totally forgot that I’m preaching.  I wake up hyperventilating in a cold sweat.
  • I’m at church and someone asks me if I’m ready to preach.  I totally forgot that I’m preaching.  I wake up hyperventilating in a cold sweat.
  • I’m at church and someone asks me if I’m ready to preach.  I totally forgot that I’m preaching.  I wake up hyperventilating in a cold sweat.

As you can see, my weird dreams are directly related to work stress.  It’s a stress indicator.

CRABBY DADDY

I’m not terribly proud of this stress indicator but it is a very clear sign that I’m running on fumes.  I like to think of myself as a fun dad.  I like to make my kids laugh, play with them and patiently listen to their 45 minute descriptions of what happened at elementary school recess.  But, the truth is that when I am stressed out, I’m a total crab.  I don’t listen well.  I get irritated easily.  I lose motivation to actually play with my kids.  Crabby Daddy is a stress indicator.

FORGETFUL JONES

When I was a kid there was this character on Sesame Street named Forgetful Jones.  His game was pretty simple:  forget everything important.

http://vignette2.wikia.nocookie.net/muppet/images/d/d0/Forgetfuljones01.jpg/revision/latest?cb=20140302232539

 

I’ve noticed that when I’m stressed, I drop the ball.  For example, when you get a call asking if you’re still going to show up and speak at the Baccalaureate service in 10 minutes and you totally forgot and don’t even know what you’re going to speak on (obviously, this is a story about someone else), you might be stressed out.

Normally, I have a pretty solid memory, but I’ve found that one of my stress indicators is forgetting important details.

 

STRESS INDICATORS

So, what about you?  What are your stress Indicators?  If you can’t identify them quickly, it might be worth asking people close to you what they are.  You might be surprised by what you learn.

Also, what exactly do we do when it becomes clear that we are stressed out?  My boss simply says, “Don’t keep doing the same thing.  Do something different.”  For him it might be as simple as changing the scenery.  Adding a walk into his daily routine or holding a meeting outside.

Here are a few things that recharge me:

  • Work from a coffee shop (I’m an outgoing introvert so productive alone time is like gold)
  • Go off the grid (For me, a a day or two of not even getting out of my PJs will get me back on the right track)
  • The Cottage (My aunt has a cottage in Northern Michigan.  It’s literally the best.  A weekend on the water cures just about everything for me)

Pay attention to your stress levels.  The only people who burn out are those who attempt to run too long with too much stress.  Pay attention to your indicators and act on them.  Do something different or do something that recharges you.  Your church, your ministry and your family need a healthy you.

 

image credited to Vural G. via Flickr

Hey Friends,

Today, I’m guest blogging for Breeze, which is a pretty amazing church management software, check it out.  Here’s a sample of the post:

 

One of the most frequently asked questions I hear from ministry leaders is:

“How do we get more volunteers?”

The success of our churches and ministries often depend on the quality and number of our volunteers.   The seasons in which we don’t have enough volunteers are both stressful and exhausting while the seasons in which our volunteer teams are full and healthy are often life-giving and fruitful.

So, how do we motive our people to move from sitting to serving? I have four strategies that have proven effective in our church.

Click here to read the rest of the post.

About 12 years ago I innocently walked up to the volunteer table in the lobby of our church and offered to help out with youth group.  I thought it would be a fun thing to do for a while – hang out with teenagers, lead group discussions, and maybe have a sleepover or two.  I figured I’d do it for a couple years and then try something else. I mean, no one commits 12 years to a ministry right?  You’d be INSANE to spend that long in student ministry right?  RIGHT?

Here’s the thing about student ministry; you need to be all in if you want it to matter.  I’m the type of person who jumps in with both feet.  That means that there were times I laughed so hard my sides hurt (and maybe one time I actually choked and threw up.)  Conversely, there were times that I cried, was angry, had my feelings hurt, and wanted to quit.  You really don’t get one without the other.  With the ups and downs, the 12 years I spent as a volunteer and church staff member were the happiest years of my life.

There does come a day, though, when you know it’s time to step down.  Contrary to what Def Leppard wants us to believe it’s not, in fact, better to burn out than fade away.  You should know when the time is right to let someone else take your place.   And, if you don’t know, the people around you do and are probably dropping hints like Acme anvils.  I knew it was time for me to go and didn’t want to overstay my welcome.  I wanted to be Derek Jeter, not A-Rod (If you’re not a baseball fan you won’t get that but I’m not sorry because you should be a baseball fan)

So, I said good bye and cried a lot and headed off into the sunset, never to be heard from again.

The thing is though, that didn’t happen.  Let me tell you what did happen.  I led my last mission trip and then unretired like Brett Favre because my students begged me to. Then, I led another trip the next summer, then I hosted a house group.  And you know what else, it turns out students, leaders and parents don’t care that I’m retired and still constantly text and call me.  I meet for coffee and go to college sporting events and talk parents in off the ledge when everything seems to be falling apart.  I run into kids where they work and get quick hugs and I reassure college students that they are smart and strong and are loved by me and their Heavenly Father.  I snuggle the babies of leaders when they watch my daughter play volleyball.  I attend weddings and funerals and graduations.  So much for retirement.

It turns out student ministry is relational…as in relationships…as in with people.  And so, I’m still all in and wouldn’t have it any other way.  These are my people and I love them and those kids are my kids and if you mess with them I’ll break your face.   So, I guess that means I’m semi-retired?  To be honest, it feels like trying to retire from the mafia – a good, friendly, spirit-filled mafia.  You wouldn’t understand unless, of course, you spent 12 years in student ministry, in which case, well, you know all about it.

 

Christina

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christina Thelen has been serving in student ministry for 12 years.  When she isn’t hanging out with students she can usually be found planning epic events or posting photos to her dog’s Instagram account.

Last week was a great week because I spent it at the Orange Conference in Atlanta.  If you are involved in student ministry or children’s ministry and you haven’t been, you really should come next year.  Here are a few highlights from last week:

OC16

RECONNECTING WITH FRIENDS

One of my favorite things about the Orange Conference is hanging out with people who are passionate about the next generation and think like me.  Over the last few years, I’ve made a few great friendships through networking at Orange.  These people are invaluable when I’m feeling exhausted in ministry or when I have a crazy idea that needs perspective.

MAKING ACUFF LAUGH

It might not sound terribly spiritual but I did enjoy making Jon Acuff laugh.  I was attending a bloggers breakfast where they served (of all things) cups of ice cream with those worthless wooden spoon thingies.  Holding one of the spoons, I turned to Acuff and said, “Hey, don’t you have a comedy bit about these things?”  He looked at me like I was a delusional fan.  I came back with, “Oh, that must be Gaffigan.”  He continued to stare.  And I clinched with, “I mean, it must at least make you feel good that I mixed you up with Gaffigan.”  He laughed heartily, sputtering, “That’s good!”  It’s the little things really.  I assure you I’m not actually a stalker.

INSPIRATION

Perhaps the best thing about the Orange Conference is that the speakers and experiences inevitably make me cry, cheer and generally get pumped.  Every year, I bank on the Orange Conference experience as an injection of inspiration.  I walk away with more passion, more focus, more drive, and more tools.  Here’s to you Orange for reminding me of my calling and for filling up my tank so I can keep running after it.

NEW RESOURCES

I am a reader.  It’s my primary method of learning.  The Orange staff was kind enough to give a few of us bloggers a sneak peak at their new resources.  I’m pretty stoked.  Here are a few that piqued my interest:

FUN

I mean, Tripp and Tyler, all the music, laughs for days.  I just love it.

unspecified

If you missed the conference this year, FEAR NOT because the Orange Tour is coming this fall!  Check out dates and locations here.  And, if you’re thinking of attending the Detroit tour stop, DO IT!  because I’ll be there and we can hang out and stuff.

My OC16 Breakout

April 27, 2016 — Leave a comment

Hey Friends!

Perhaps you found yourself so riveted that you couldn’t take notes?  Maybe you were bored out of your skull and fell asleep?  Or, you thought: “That guy sounds hideous, I’m picking a different breakout.” Whatever happened, I’m sharing my content.

Here are the slides, handouts and documents from my Coaching the Best out of Your High School Volunteers breakout at the Orange Conference.  If you’d like to continue the conversation, send me an email.  I’d love to connect.

Here’s the handout:  Aaron Buer Breakout

The slides:  Aaron Buer Breakout Slides

Our leader blog:  lifelineparents.org

And, the expectations docs:  Resource Docs

Stay tuned.  Over the next few weeks, I’ll be blogging about these concepts, including all the genius stuff I was forced to cut out.