Defining A Leading Lady – KINDNESS

 

My life had just been turned upside down. Frank’s company had relocated us to the Charlotte area. I had never lived beyond the city lines of my tiny East Tennessee town. I had three small children, knew no one, and survived solely on GPS. Frank traveled extensively, and I found myself alone and overwhelmed most days. I was still trying to lose excess baby weight and spent most days in the gym. One morning I pushed myself a little too far. I was doing some resistance training and found myself lightheaded and seeing stars. I woke up minutes later on my back staring at the drop ceiling of the YMCA, an oxygen mask held to my face. Frank was several states away, my kids were checked into childwatch, and I had no way to even get home. The staff at the YMCA checked my emergency contact information and contacted Frank. He called a new acquaintance we had recently made at church. She dropped what she was doing and came to my rescue. One hour later, her and her husband dropped me, my kids, and my car at my house. They picked up lunch on the way, and even helped put my toddler down for her nap. When they left my house, I was smiling, despite the rough start to my day.

This one small act of kindness was a defining moment in my life. Until then, I was unsure I was cut out for “big city life.” I was experiencing serious doubt about my solo parenting skills, and I felt isolated and apprehensive. It wasn’t until I realized I wasn’t alone, I had a tribe of people ready and willing to love and support me, that I finally felt at home and able to smoothly transition into the next season of my life. That next season would include volunteering in the children’s ministry at Elevation Church. That season led to the next one, in which both Frank and I took staff positions and began to develop an innovative strategy for family ministry that would soon receive worldwide recognition. And it all started on the floor of the local YMCA when a Christian man and woman came to my rescue.

If I were to ask, “Who is your closest friend? What do you admire most about them?” I guarantee in your assessment, you would include the descriptors, loving and kind. Benevolence is so often lost in today’s culture and when you meet someone who is a reflection of the love of Christ, not only does it stand out, but it draws you in. Love and kindness soothe, console, encourage, and bring hope. In 1 Corinthians 9:22 NIV, Paul says, “To the weak I became weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” Paul is trying to teach us that the love of Christ is most often acknowledged and accepted by those you are ministering to when a relationship is first established. More often than not, relationships begin with a kind word or a loving act. As Leading Ladies we must steward the trust others have placed in us. We must act in a way that takes into consideration the interests of those around us. The greatest kindness we can offer is to lead from a place of love.

Your challenge this week, as a Leading Lady, is to open your heart and your eyes to the needs of those around you. Welcome the opportunity to say hello to the quite cashier at the grocery store. Offer your assistance to the overwhelmed mother struggling to load her minivan. Make time for heartfelt conversations with those you lead. Compliment a coworker on her new shoes or hairstyle. You never know when you might be the vehicle that propels someone into the next season or brings a smile when it seems all hope is lost.

Join me again next week as we continue to Define A Leading Lady or read previous posts here.

 

Jess

Getting FIRST TIME GUESTS to come back: Part 2

Part of Multisite Monday

 

In the first part of this Multisite Monday article, we focused on the first time guest experience, how to make a lasting impression, and compel guests to come back. While that first visit is crucial, a pleasant experience doesn’t guarantee a return visit. Life is stressful, frustrating, difficult, not to mention busy. The experience your guests enjoyed last Sunday fades as days pass. It gets pushed to the back of their minds and what felt like a decision for Christ gets disregarded as unnecessary in the face of a demanding schedule and endless distractions. Unfortunately, there is no way for you to combat those influences. Wait. What? I know what you’re thinking, “Why even write this article if we can’t influence their decision to make church attendance a priority?” The answer…YOU can’t, but HE can. God has a plan for every child, student, and family that walks through the doors of your church. As you follow-up with those individuals, your goal is to remind them of the encounter they had with God, and to make room for the Holy Spirit to move. Put yourself in your guests’ shoes. What would make you feel welcome, accepted and loved? A personal relationship with Jesus is just that…personal. Your strategy to connect people to the love of Christ should be as well. Below you will find several ideas to get you thinking and considering how to do just that.

 

First Time Guest Gift

This is a t-shirt, mug, water bottle, or even a tote bag with your church or ministry logo. The goal of this gift is to make your guests feel special, anticipated. “We were waiting on you to come and now we’re celebrating your arrival!” If your logo is present, it will not only remind your first time guest of his or her experience at your church, but also serve as a walking advertisement for your ministry each time he or she uses the gift. For kids, think of something fun and entertaining, a slap bracelet, custom frisbee or sunglasses, even neon shoelaces with your kid ministry logo.

 

Second Time Guest Gift

Not only does it make for a great second experience, but letting your first time guests know in advance there is another gift awaiting their return, provides additional incentive to come again, ESPECIALLY FOR KIDS. It’s why once every three or four months parents reluctantly forfeit a Saturday morning to Chuck E. Cheese. Kids beg and plead to visit the mouse’s den, knowing they are leaving that place with loot. If you could ensure a prize on the second visit, kids would no doubt drag their parents to your church. While I do believe in the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, we’re talking about kids. They’ll do just about anything for a prize, and if a secondary gift allows for another chance to minister, my next question is, “How many should I order?”

 

Email

Keep it brief, no more than three or four sentences thanking them for coming and giving them contact information should they have questions. The more personal you can make this the better. If it feels like a form email, the reader won’t get beyond the first sentence. The best emails come from those who personally greeted the family at the door, or the volunteer that spent time teaching or caring for their child.

 

Phone Call

In the day and age of messaging, a phone call stands out. This may seem like a waste of time. You might be thinking, “No one picks up their phone anymore.” And you would be right, but that’s not the point. It would be great to have a one-on-one conversation with each guest that attends your church, to answer questions and possibly get feedback, but even if it’s just a voicemail, the energy expended isn’t wasted. Time is a hot commodity. When you dedicate a portion to a first time guest, a virtual stranger, it communicates value and esteem. The call doesn’t have to come from the Senior Pastor or Children’s Director.  If your church is large and has multiple locations, it may be wise to assemble a team of volunteers who can communicate well and are familiar with the heart of the house. Let those individuals own this part of the follow-up process.

 

Text

So much can be done through a simple text. Think beyond words. Pictures, links, gift cards for coffee, series promo videos, even voice memos can be a great resource if done well. Technology makes the world smaller. Remember to keep it brief, relevant, and personal.

 

Letter / Card

A signed form letter is ok. A personal hand-written card is better, and before you say, “Where would I find the time?” let me assure you, it can be done. eKidz at Elevation Church ministers to nearly 6,000 kids every weekend at more than a dozen locations. Following a first time visit, every child receives a hand written post card from the volunteer who led his or her small group or cared for them as a baby or toddler. The card is often adorned with stickers or written with colorful gel pens. The more personal, the better. It’s not complicated. It’s a system, thoroughly thought through and put into action. A letter is better than nothing, but always think of your actions through the lens of impact. The effort expended is directly related to the impact it will have. If you want guests to feel welcome, honored, and loved, a personal touch is essential.

 

Pizza

Following our first visit to Elevation, the church sent my family a pizza on Tuesday night. I remember opening the door and there before me was a pizza delivery guy. He said, “This is for the Bealer family. Elevation Church just wanted to set you up for success this week and invite you to join them again next Sunday.” I was floored. Literally, mouth hanging open. I nodded, like a zombie, took the pizza, and closed the door. Within minutes, I was on the phone with every friend and relative raving about this amazing church that had just sent us PIZZA! I’m not suggesting you should add a line item for pizza delivery into your church budget for next year. Well…maybe you should, but that’s not the point. Your follow-up process must evolve. Elevation doesn’t deliver pizzas anymore, but the strategy for first time guest follow-up is just as effective as it’s ever been. Think big, but stay personal. Be willing to try new things, but stay true to who you are as a church or ministry.

 

Your strategy should be multifaceted. Just as we repeat a hundred times the bottom line of every Bible lesson to preschoolers, we must also reiterate our welcome to our guests. It takes repetition to make an impact. Your visitors expect you to send them a letter or call them and thank them for attending. It’s just what churches do. They are not expecting to receive a call, an email, a letter, a handwritten postcard, a text, and a pizza delivered to their door. That would make an impact. That was why we called Elevation Church our home. They cared about my family and they made it known over and over again.

Have you ever been to Disney World? My family has gone a few times since my kids came “of age,” and every time I recall the mouse ear memories I smile outwardly and cringe inwardly. There are two words I feel adequately characterize the happiest place on earth, FUN and EXPENSIVE. Whenever my daughter mentions it, I hold my breath and anticipate her next words, “When can we go again?” I immediately think of all the sacrifices my husband and I had to make the last time we took her and the rest of our children to the infamous WDW. It cost a lot of money! We had to use our treasured vacation days to traipse around a muggy park just to hear my children say time and time again, “How much longer is this line?” Inevitably, we broke the Mickey ears we purchased and lost a hat or two on Space Mountain. We lived on PB&J sandwiches all week because park food costs an arm and a leg, and every single time we made it to the front of a character line, he or she needed a potty break. Ugh! Why would we ever want to go back? Inevitably though, every few months I get a piece of promotional mail from Walt Disney himself (at least I pretend it’s from him). I look at the pictures of the smiling children, the beautiful princesses, and the fireworks over the castle and I can’t help but long for those sweet moments with my family, the squeals of excitement when it’s finally our turn on the roller coaster, the groans of delight when we each take that first bite of a churro, and the cool breeze of the ferry boat shuttling us back to the transportation center at the end of a long day in the Magic Kingdom. It only takes a bit of nudging and I’m reminiscing about our last trip to Disney World, vacation days well spent, expense forgotten.

Your first time guest follow-up is similar. To a family whose routine doesn’t involve regular church attendance, it was a sacrifice to even show up. They set an alarm, forfeited sleep, and put off those plans for Sunday brunch and the dog park. They probably didn’t immediately regret their decision, or at least I hope they didn’t. I hope your church was friendly and inviting, the message was relevant and the worship was moving. Regardless, when Monday evening rolls around they may wish for those hours back. By Wednesday, they desperately need a break and those dog park walks are looking mighty tempting for the upcoming weekend. By Saturday, they’ve already decided on the restaurant for Sunday brunch. But what if you could remind them of the powerful encounter with God that awaits them? What if you could help them recall how they felt during that worship song that spoke directly to their heart? That’s why a strategic follow-up plan is not only important for the growth of your church, but essential to the life-change that awaits your first time guests.

In a multisite model, your first time guest follow-up strategies have to be in synch. They must be universal across all locations. When someone visits your church, they will inevitably review his or her experience with friends and colleagues. Word of mouth is the best advertisement, but if your first time guest experience varies, the hype may not live up to the reality for those visiting a different location. Unmet expectations is the proverbial deathblow to a first time experience at your church. Systemize and standardize. Make plans and make them universal. A great experience doesn’t conclude with dismissal. It doesn’t conclude at all because the point is to connect people to the love of Jesus Christ and the support of the local church body. When you adequately fulfill that calling, you successfully transition first time guests to active participants. Remember, your goal with follow-up is to remind them of their encounter with God and make room for the Holy Spirit to move in their hearts.

I hope you will join me again next week for Multisite Monday!

Jess Bealer

 

Defining a Leading Lady – FAITH

By Jess Bealer

Let’s be clear. As passionately as I feel that FAITH is a requirement for a Leading Lady, I feel equally as unqualified to suggest I set an example for those to follow.

In Matthew 17:20 Jesus explains, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

FAITH the size of a mustard seed? Have you seen a mustard seed? Hold it in the palm of your hand and you’ll barely be able to distinguish it from the flesh of your palm. It’s microscopic. The fact that I’ve never moved a mountain, not a single tree or even a pebble, is telling. Yet, I’ve seen God move despite my lack of FAITH. I’ve felt his comforting presence when waves of doubt threatened to capsize. God has never been and will never be intimidated by my uncertainty. He can and will work despite me. However, my trust in Him facilitates strength, endurance, and opportunity. Here are a few examples from my own life.

At 13 years old, my dad was told he had cancer and given a terminal diagnosis of eight months. My family was in tears, devastated by the weight of such horrific news. Three days later, I had an experience with God that forever changed me and redefined what it meant to have FAITH. I was getting ready for school, curling my hair, when God audibly spoke to me. He said, “Your dad will live, just trust in me.” I announced it to my family and believed wholeheartedly the words God spoke to me. 22 years later, my dad still lives. He stands in the pulpit and ministers to families each Sunday.

At 29 years old, my husband looked at me and said, “I know you don’t feel ready, but God has chosen us for a life of ministry.” I remember physically shaking my head and saying, “Are you sure? I just don’t know if I’m cut out for it?” Despite my hesitation, I obeyed God’s calling. Over the next five and a half years, God would use me to personally lead more than 200 children to Jesus and launch 15 Elevation locations.

At 35 years old, the Holy Spirit, once again, began to urge my husband and I to take a step of FAITH and go in a direction we never could have imagined or anticipated. It hasn’t been easy, but God is taking us on a journey that, no doubt, will conclude with his exaltation and my astonishment. That’s just how God works. His plans are always bigger and better than my own.

We all face seasons that are more difficult than others. When this happens, my FAITH tends to ebb and flow. I don’t always get it right. So many times I’ve tried to exert control over a situation I should have placed into the hands of a Savior who’s never failed me. Just like the song I sang in Sunday School as a child, “He’s still working on me, to make me what I ought to be.” I believe that FAITH is nothing more and nothing less than a surrendering to God’s will. Trusting He has a plan and a purpose that while unseen, is also unfailing and true. FAITH is a journey that lasts a lifetime, and while it may be frightening at times, we can find reassurance by recalling God’s past faithfulness in our lives. When we remember the miracles he’s performed on our behalf, we are able to anticipate the blessings and find peace in His promises.

Becoming a Leading Lady of FAITH means we do what only we can do, trust and obey, and God will do what only He can do, part the Red Sea and gift us with the promised land. It’s not always a grand gesture on our part. It’s more often a listening ear, a willing spirit, and a step in the right direction.

Check back here, at FamilyMinistry.Church, for additional Defining a Leading Lady articles in the upcoming days.

Getting FIRST TIME GUESTS to come back: Part 1

Part of Multisite Monday

 

Churches all over the nation welcomed first-time guests this past weekend. The only difference between churches that are growing and churches that find themselves stagnate or in decline is the retention of those individuals. You’ve probably heard it said, “You get one shot to make a great first impression.” When it comes to ministry, I would add to that statement, “You get one shot to make a great first impression or you won’t ever see them again.”

The question becomes, “How can you create an experience that has a lasting impact and will compel guests to come back?” The key is PREPARATION. When families make the conscious decision to “try out” your church, they expect you to be prepared for their arrival. There is no RSVP or advance notice. Whether you expect 10 first-time guests this weekend at two locations, or 1000 first-time guests at 20 locations, establishing a plan to receive these individuals is a necessity.

When families feel welcome, understand what the morning holds, know where and how to pick-up their child, and make a connection with one or more volunteers or staff, the likelihood they will return increases exponentially. Excellence is in the details. Let’s spend a few minutes examining the practical aspects of welcoming guests. Below you will find questions to help you evaluate your preparedness.

 

How long does it take a first-time guest to check-in their child? (From the front door to dropping off at the classroom)

Tip: Schedule “secret shoppers” to time the process and get an accurate evaluation of each location.

Tip: Have check-in volunteers wear ministry logoed t-shirts to help parents easily identify those who will be assisting them.

 

What training have you provided to your check-in teams?

Tip: Volunteers come and go. A quarterly refresher will keep your teams operating with efficiency and effectiveness.

Tip: Check-in systems and database trainings are a great start, but welcome scripts and hospitality coaching is also a necessity.

 

What VIP treatment will you offer to first-time guests to make them feel special?

Ideas:

  • Informational handouts about each area of ministry
  • An assigned volunteer to assist each family from the parking lot to the classroom
  • A number for parents to text to check on their child throughout the service
  • A sticker or lanyard that easily identifies the child as a first-time guest, so he or she will receive VIP treatment throughout the experience

 

Are you conveying a commitment to safety throughout your check-in process?

Tip: Have a security volunteer or police officer present near the check-in area to reinforce your dedication to safety.

Tip: Following child check-in, have the volunteer escorting the new family to their classroom explain safety protocols, including lock-down times and pick-up procedures.

 

What steps do you take to make pick-up easy and efficient?

Tip: Consider giving parents a blueprint map of the building, explaining traffic flow and pick-up procedures.

Tip: Think of ways to make it easier and quicker for first-time guests to navigate pick-up lines.

 

Discomfort, confusion, and uncertainty combined with sluggish check-in or pick-up systems will drive away potential attendees and prohibit growth. Parents’ expectations are high. They walk in your door and expect you will be ready to receive them. If you stumble and fall below the imaginary line of expectation, the gap created is enough to discount your church before you’ve had an opportunity to minister. The opposite is also true. When you exceed expectations, moms and dads will not only notice, but also grant allowances when small hiccups occur throughout the morning. I’ve actually had parents say, “They forgot to feed my child his bottle, but they were so sweet, helpful, and welcoming it wasn’t a big deal.” Parents will excuse small missteps when they know you are committed to excellence. Exhibiting that excellence starts from the moment they step out of their car.

In a multisite model, it’s easy for check-in systems and volunteer training to vary from location to location. I would encourage you to make this a central responsibility, one person dedicated to monitoring quality control, ordering first-time guest gifts, updating and checking weekly database entries, and scheduling volunteer trainings. If that isn’t possible with your current staff org chart, a scheduled meeting-of-the-minds is necessary to examine standards and set expectations.

I hope you will join me again next Multisite Monday as we continue to discuss FIRST TIME GUESTS. Part II will focus on subsequent follow-up and retention.

For More Multisite Mondays Click Here

Jess Bealer

See You At The Orange Conference #OC17

 

Jess and I can’t wait for #OC17. It really is our favorite conference of the year! If you’ve been waiting to register, the wait is over!

If you’ve never been then you should know what’s going to happen.

  • You’ll learn from, share with, and be accepted by those in your tribe.
  • You’ll hear speakers that are innovative, practical and experienced.
  • You’ll have the freedom to set your own agenda with over 100 breakouts.
  • Your team will get back on the same page.
  • And you’ll be reminded that ministry can also be crazy, ridiculous fun! That’s a lot of awesome.

Register for The Orange Conference by February 16 to save $50 off regular rates!

www.TheOrangeConference.com

Frank Bealer

Think Differently About Appreciating Volunteers

Part of Multisite Monday

 

A few years back I wrote an article entitled, Death To Volunteer Banquets. A little blunt? For sure. Truthful? Absolutely. The point of the article was to explain how a once a year dinner designed to cast vision and give direction but branded as volunteer appreciation does little to propel your ministry forward.

Volunteer care and appreciation can only be accomplished through strategic means. It can’t be reactive. It must be proactive. In a multisite model, it’s even easier for volunteers to fall through the cracks. Reduce burnout, isolation, and dissatisfaction by systematically creating routines that enable you to personally appreciate each and every one of your team members. Let’s take a closer look at how to do just that.

 

VOLUNTEER APPRECIATION must be PERSONAL.

Volunteer banquets treat everyone the same. They equalize the volunteer who puts in ten hours at the church office in addition to his or her full time job, with the volunteer who rarely shows up even when you call and offer reminders. Not everyone enjoys getting dressed up or eating in front of other people, and not everyone has another night to give you. What was meant to honor their sacrifice becomes another burden they must bear. Instead, I would encourage you to try a different approach. Think back to some of your all-time favorite presents. I can almost guarantee what set those gifts apart from the rest was how special and unique they were to you. Someone noticed something about you, a problem you dealt with, a preference you had, or an experience that made you feel cherished and loved. I’m not advocating for everyone on your team to get a surprise trip to his or her preferred vacation destination, but I’m sure you see the point. If you truly desire to honor those you lead, you must KNOW enough about them to appreciate them in a way that is special and unique. It must be personal.

Example: A fellow children’s director I know honors graduating seniors with a collegiate mug or water bottle filled with their favorite snack or candy. She matches the mugs to the college or university each will attend in the fall. By recognizing the season he or she is entering the director shows appreciation and support.

Tip: When volunteers sign up to serve in your ministry, have them fill out a favorites form. Ask them to list everything from their favorite restaurant and Starbucks drink to their favorite dessert or hobby. When the time comes to show appreciation, you’ll have ideas of how to uniquely honor them as individuals.

 

VOLUNTEER APPRECIATION must be ROUTINE.

Saying thank you and offering words of encouragement should come as natural to you as breathing. When you witness someone act in a big picture kind of way or notice a volunteer sacrifice time and energy to move your ministry forward offer in-the-moment praise and IMMEDIATELY make a note in your phone or planner to follow up with a word or gift of appreciation at a later time. I once heard a pastor say, “Gratitude is never silent.” Your words and actions should scream gratefulness.

Example: Before the hustle and bustle of child check-in begins, I set aside 15 minutes to walk around and say hello to each member of my team. I offer compliments on everything from a perfectly set up room to a fresh haircut. Knowing my volunteers and making them feel valued and loved is as much my responsibility as ensuring we have enough veggie straws in the cabinets.

Tip: Have a secret stash of spontaneous gifts you can grab to show on-the-spot appreciation to volunteers when you notice them acting in a way that deserves immediate recognition. Keep a variety of candy, gift cards, lotions, albums, books, or even church t-shirts on hand.

 

VOLUNTEER APPRECIATION must be SYSTEMIZED

A life in ministry is busy. The work is never done, and for many of us, we indulge in procrastination far too often. I’ve come to realize if something matters to me, I must carve out a new pattern in my life to help establish habits that are healthy and productive. Volunteer appreciation should be no different. Create systems that force the behavior. Schedule time on your calendar to send thank you notes each week. Make it a habit to swing by Starbucks or Krispy Kreme every Sunday morning and pick up sweet treats for different teams of volunteers. Divide your volunteer appreciation budget into a monthly amount and set reminders to spend that money regularly. If you don’t have money set aside in your church budget to honor volunteers, advocate for it. When you systemize your volunteer appreciation it won’t be long before the practice becomes a pattern.

Example: During the holiday season, Elevation honors volunteers by honoring their children. Each year they create a Christmas clubhouse promising seasonal treats and activities to help kids enjoy the long hours spent at church each Christmas.

Tip: Create a card writing station and encourage leaders to utilize it to show appreciation to their teams. Provide beautiful stationary, colorful gel pins, stickers, confetti, and $5 gift cards. Then ask every leader to write two cards to volunteers they caught going above and beyond. Make it easy by only requiring them to write the volunteers’ names on the envelope. You can always go back and add the stamp and address later.

 

Let’s be honest, all volunteers are not created equal. Some are incredible. They move your ministry forward and you wonder what you would do without them. Others show up and get the job done and while you’re thankful for their service, they may not shine like those showstopper vols you cling to so tightly. Then there are those who you may or may not see during their scheduled service time. They arrive late, rarely smile, and occasionally spout something that has everyone around them rolling their eyes. Their contribution is little more than a ratio met. These types of volunteers are few and far between. They exist, but are definitely in the minority. Over the years, I’ve discovered that almost everyone serving in ministry signed up with altruistic intentions. No matter their “type,” at some point they just wanted to make a difference in the life of a child or student. They wanted families to feel welcome and empowered, and they wanted the personal fulfillment that comes with serving. But ministry is messy. Toddlers throw tantrums. Parents get offended. Supplies go missing. Systems change and then change again. Before you know it, a volunteer is throwing his or her hands in the air and walking out the door, or in most cases, disappearing to never be heard from again.

There are a million different reasons why a volunteer vanishes, but I’ve found more often than not, it’s because they’ve fallen off our radar. For too long in ministry, we’ve relied on a slap on the back or a kind word to keep volunteers energized and moving forward. That’s a great start, but ultimately it’s not enough. Your volunteer base may be the key to execution for your ministry, but it’s crucial to remember these are individuals with interests, concerns, and needs, and one of their greatest needs is to be valued by you, their leader.

In a multisite model, systemizing your volunteer appreciation is essential if you want to build team camaraderie and increase longevity. Whatever system you create must be transferable from one location to another. Systemizing volunteer appreciation doesn’t have to be complex to be complete. Effectiveness is most often found in personal touches and meaningful relationships.

Join me again next Multisite Monday as I talk about First Time Guest follow-up and care.

 

Jess Bealer