DON’T QUIT Interview

Kids Ministry Collective Podcast

Just a few weeks ago, Don’t Quit, the book I coauthored with Gina McClain, released on Amazon. The response we’ve received has been overwhelming. When we started the process, we wanted to write something that would not only inspire ministry leaders to stick with it for the long run, but also give them practical tips to make the journey easier.

Last week in an interview on The Kids Ministry Collective Podcast, Gina and I discussed many of the topics we wrote about in the book. I hope you’ll take just a few moments to check it out.

Click here to listen now.

Click here to purchase Don’t Quit!

Jessica Bealer

How To Unite A Divided Team

If you’ve ever found yourself a member of a united, successful team, you know it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it is that clicks. It just feels right. On the other hand, have you ever been on a team that just couldn’t collaborate? For whatever reason the scoreboard was never in your favor, the project never found completion, or a consensus of strategy was never established. In these instances, it’s much easier to identify foundational cracks: lack of communication, no discipline, no accountability, no vision.

The product of time and consistency is unity. The best teams in the world didn’t start out being the best. It took time to develop trust, to recognize and appreciate team dynamics, and to gain confidence as a group. However, as a leader there are a few steps you can take to hasten unity and accelerate trust.

  1. Communication limits mistakes. When training leaders I often say, “You will never regret increased clarity. Over communicate if necessary, but never assume your teammates understand.” I’m not suggesting a weekly two page informative email is the catch all to your problems, but the more clarity you gain as a team, the more success you will find.
  2. Loyalty must be shown mutually. Have you ever heard someone say, “I’m with you all the way!” Only to have them depart your team two weeks later. It’s incredibly frustrating. In the past I blamed the fickleness of people in general. However, over time I’ve realized most people who walk away do so because they didn’t feel their loyalty was reciprocated. Your team has to believe you will crawl through the trenches and leap over the hurdles alongside them.
  3. Put your team before yourself. When you’re the leader it’s easy to use your position to campaign your ideas, convince others of their validity, and influence strategy. Before you buck around in the china shop, stop, listen, and consider others’ thoughts and ideas. Your personal agenda has to be set aside for the benefit of the team.
  4. Team discipline unifies your effort towards your goal. Set standards, deadlines, and targets. Then hold each other accountable. Without control and restraint, chaos reigns. Disorder breeds confusion and confusion is the beginning of the end. Your team should set clear expectations of one another and be willing to speak up when those expectations are not being met. A disciplined team is a confident team.
  5. Success must be attained and celebrated together. No one is successful independently. There is a reason why award speeches are long. Your team must learn to rely on and rejoice together as victories are attained. Celebrating success creates a winning attitude.
  6. Keep the vision out front. God has placed everyone on your team for a reason. Calling trumps ability every day of the week. The Bible tells us in Romans 8:37,“…in all things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Your greatest tool, your secret weapon, the thing that sets your team apart is a heavenly father who created you and believes in you. Never discount calling when calculating success. Keep the vision God gave you out front at all times.

You may not be familiar with the name Pat Head Summitt, but if you’re from any state within the SEC Conference, you know who she is. Pat Head Summitt holds the record for the most wins of any coach in NCAA basketball history of either men’s or women’s teams in any division. She coached the Tennessee Lady Vols for 38 seasons, won 1,098 games, and never had a losing season. She’s also ranked number 11 on the 50 Greatest Coaches of All Time, the only female on the list. In short…she’s the best. When asked about teamwork she said, “With a combination of practice and belief, the most ordinary team is capable of extraordinary things.”

Your team doesn’t have to consist of all-stars. Hard work, passion, and discipline are enough to achieve most goals. Strategies change, vision does not. Motivate your team with positivity. Speak to their passions. Hold them accountable. Most importantly, keep the vision at the forefront. When your team is confident in it’s calling, they will pursue excellence until it produces the desired results.

For additional leadership articles such as this, click here.

Jessica Bealer

Empowering Your Volunteer Team

Featured on Orange Leaders

Ants. Everywhere. I looked around the classroom and could feel the sting of tears forming. It was going to be a hectic morning.

I had known for weeks today would be challenging and had done everything in my power to set up my teams for success. It was a long holiday weekend, which meant many volunteers were at the beach or in the mountains with their families. (But we were covered; I had called in reinforcements in the form of staff spouses.) Our church building, which was often rented out by other well-meaning organizations, had been filled with tiny ballerinas and tappers less than 24 hours prior, and they had definitely left their mark. Glitter was everywhere. (But again, no big deal. I had hired a cleaning service and brought my own vacuum from home for a final touch-up.)

However, when I unlocked that room (the one room that hadn’t been touched by sparkles and tutus) and saw the trails of hardworking fire ants streaming across every flat surface, my heart sank. “Oh no!” I whispered. The volunteer standing at my back gasped and mumbled quietly, “I noticed them last week just outside the door. I mentioned it to another staff member. I guess they forgot.”

The Problem You Don’t See Coming

Have you ever been so flustered, so angry that you could feel your face heating? That’s exactly what I experienced in the moment. We could have remedied the problem anytime in the last seven days. There was nontoxic ant spray beneath the sink in that very room. How did we find ourselves in this situation? The volunteer’s next words effectively deflated my frustration. “I’m sorry. You’re just so particular and I was afraid I’d step on someone’s toes if I took matters into my own hands. Would you have wanted me to spray or tell you so you could spray?”

Immediately, I realized my failure. We would fall short of the expectations of the families we served because I had neglected to empower team members to identify viable solutions and make critical decisions. I had micromanaged my ministry to the point of malfunction. I had built a shifting foundation. My need for control had robbed my team members of their confidence and limited their capacity. The irony in the situation was how much I trusted my team. I had recruited incredible people with a varied set of skills and aptitude. They were fully capable of executing with excellence, but my fear of making mistakes and being labeled inadequate was stifling our success. Click here to read more.

Refuse to Quit

by Jessica Bealer | Orange Leaders

I started playing basketball in fourth grade. I had hit a growth spurt and everyone kept suggesting I try it out. My dad took me to the community center and signed me up. I didn’t know how to dribble or shoot and the rules were as familiar to me as calculus theorems. I was lost, to put it mildly. In my first game I rebounded 20 balls, which may sound impressive, except that I also walked twice, missed every shot I attempted, and fouled out in the third quarter.

It was around this same time that my teammates and I became infatuated with the Chicago Bulls’ extended stay at the top of the NBA food chain. Led by the dynamic duo of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, the basketball-watching world stood stunned as team and individual records were shattered. Jordan was my hero. If I could shave my head and grow another foot, I knew I could be just like him.

It took me nearly two years before I developed into a contributing player.

I never became the Michael Jordan of women’s basketball, but I experienced two state championships as well as a starting position on my high school team. I was never the best on the court, but I worked hard and found my way. To this day, Michael Jordan is still my hero. In an interview a few years back he said, “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”1

To read more, click here.

DON’T QUIT Book Available Now!

My new book, co-authored with Gina McClain, is now available for purchase on Amazon or at Don’tQuitBook.com.

For years I wanted to quit every Monday morning. I referred to my downtrodden demeanor as the Monday morning ministry blues. Gina and I wrote this book to help others facing the same frustrations. Your ministry can be the journey of a lifetime. It takes perspective and a plan.
Order now from DontQuitBook.com and receive my new eSingle, How to Establish an Effective First-Time Guest Strategy, as well as free editable leader resources.

Reviews are welcome! We want to know what you think and how the book is helping you and your ministry.

Jessica Bealer

7 Keys To Impactful Connections

Part of Multisite Monday

Over the years, I’ve taken more than my fair share of budgetary questions, “How should we allocate our funds? Who oversees the budget? How strict should we be about overages?” The question I receive most? “I have a little money left over for the year, what should I do with it?”

My answer is always the same, “SPEND IT ON SMALL GROUPS!”

My mom and dad taught that where you spend your time and money is reflective of your priorities. If small groups are important, then we must devote time, money, and energy to see them succeed.

Parents bring their kids and students to church for different reasons: discipleship, babysitting, guilt, supplemental parenting, boredom, or even curiosity. Kids and students come to church for two reasons, to have fun and hang out with friends. Once we understand the needs and expectations of those we serve, we can begin to strategize. The role of a small group leader is complex. Simplifying the goals allows for clarity. Here are the three objectives of a small group leader:

  1. To CONNECT with mom or dad through meaningful conversations
  2. To ENGAGE with a kid or student in a fun and exciting way
  3. To FACILIATE relationships both as a mentor and with kids’ or students’ peers

Overtime in a multisite model, the quality of small group execution can start to vary from location to location. It’s easy to get frustrated and lay the responsibility square on the shoulders of the campus director. However, excellence starts with a healthy centralized strategy. There are certain elements that must be present or communicated to ensure small group leaders are set up for success. Let’s examine those essentials and consider how to create centralized strategies to ensure their implementation in a multisite model.

 

Coaching

Coaching is not training. Training happens once a quarter in a multi-purpose room with rows of chairs and snacks. Only about 40% of your volunteer-base show up, and most of the time, it’s the 40% that don’t need training. I’m not a huge advocate of training, because it’s rarely as effective as I hope it will be. Coaching, on the other hand, has proven to be a valuable tool. Coaching is hands-on, in the moment guidance. Pair your more experienced team members with those that need assistance and watch magic happen. Put a rotation schedule in place so every small group leader feels supported and encouraged by the coach.

Tip for Multisite Implementation: Coaching starts with a centralized strategy, but often begins with a single location test run. I would advise you to implement this idea at one of your healthiest locations. Select small group leaders who lead the way and communicate well with their teammates. Set clear expectations and transition them to a coaching role. Coaches should split their time between on-boarding new volunteers and evaluating and supporting current small group leaders.

 

Options

If you’ve ever led a small group for kids or students you know things rarely go as planned. Activities don’t always connect. A question that seems benign on the surface may bring unexpected tears. The new kid says something highly inappropriate and a gigglefest ensues. These unexpected twists and turns will lead to honest and impactful conversations. God rarely does what we expect. He works in mysterious ways. We can acknowledge that by offering options to group leaders. For example: “If this doesn’t work, go back to the game.” or “If a conversation is going well, don’t feel rushed to get on with the lesson plan.” Giving small group leaders margin with curriculum transitions allows the group to grow organically.

Tip for Multisite Implementation: Once you’ve established a coaching model this technique can be demonstrated through hands-on training. In the meantime, clarify your expectations through central curriculum emails.

 

Notes and Nuggets

Have you ever read a lesson plan and imagined its execution in your mind. You probably began to think about what you would do and not do, how you would divide kids or students into teams or how you would celebrate a correct answer. Experience leads to expertise. You know how to make it happen, but don’t assume every small group leader operates as you do. It’s important, as you put your lesson plan together, to provide helpful execution tips along the way. These little nuggets of informational gold set your leaders up for success and teach them how to begin to think as you do. I would also encourage you to leave space on your lesson plan, whether below each activity or in the margin, for notes. The goal is for small group leaders to fully engage with the kids and students he or she is leading. Giving leaders space to work out details encourages them to take ownership and spend additional time in preparation. It won’t be long before they too are executing run-throughs in their mind.

Tip for Multisite Implementation: At the beginning of every activity provide helpful advice for execution. Tips like, “This activity works well when kids or students are sitting on their knees” or “Have your group stand in a circle before placing the blindfold on” can help with flow, limit distraction, and save time. This will promote excellence and consistency across all locations.

 

Nourishment

Great small group leaders create a welcoming and exciting atmosphere for the kids or students in their groups. They facilitate friendship and fun. They can discipline with a smile, and make everyone feel as if they belong. If you read that statement and thought, “I just want mine to show up and know the lesson plan,” maybe the issue isn’t commitment, but rather health. Healthy small groups are lead by healthy small group leaders. When was the last time you checked on the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health of your team? The roll of the small group leader is the most important, and you must treat it as such. Handle those volunteers with great care. Meet with them regularly to assess their well-being. Provide leadership development books, devotionals, and prayer journals, and make sure those individuals are sitting under the preached word every week. A spiritually starved leader feels inadequate and unable to do that which has been asked of them. Inadequacy leads to departure. Not only will those individuals produce less than stellar environments, but it’s likely they won’t be around for very much longer. No one enjoys feeling like a failure. You can avoid that by prioritizing the health of your small group leaders and providing a steady stream of nourishment to your teams.

Tip for Multisite Implementation: Make room in your central curriculum budget to purchase a leadership book or prayer journal for every small group leader 2-4 times a year.

 

Examples

Whatever curriculum you choose to use, it’s important to make it easy to read and understand. If instructions aren’t clear, execution will be less than mediocre. Consider providing step-by-step instructions for each activity or conversation, as well as diagrams or pictures of the resources he or she will use. You can even provide example statements for them to say at the beginning of each activity. When you take the guesswork out of lesson prep, you ensure consistency and build unity among your teams.

Tip for Multisite Implementation: When preparing small group supplies centrally or on the campus level, offer clear visuals to group leaders by including a completed sample of each craft or activity.

 

Conversation Starters

Kids and students don’t walk in the doors of your church ready to learn about Jesus. Wouldn’t that be amazing? They come hoping to have fun and see friends. If they walk straight into a Bible study upon arrival, you’ve already failed to meet their expectations. Whatever your curriculum selection, it’s important to provide small group leaders with conversation starters. The foundation of a healthy small group is trust. Trust takes time, but starts with authentic conversation. Set your small group leaders up for success by offering a “Would you rather…” or “The grossest thing I’ve ever seen is…” fill in the blank.

Tip for Multisite Implementation: If conversation starters are not included in the curriculum you select, make sure to provide 3-5 questions or discussion topics in your central curriculum email to help break the ice.

 

Timeliness

It takes time to prepare a lesson that will both engage and connect. Honor a small group leader’s commitment by providing the lesson plan to him or her in a timely manner. Passion is smothered by lack of preparation. If you don’t “get around” to emailing out the lesson plan until later in the week, you shouldn’t be surprised when leaders shows up and read from the script. You haven’t made it a priority, so why should they. A 5-7 day preparation window allows leaders to read over it, consider what they will say, memorize key parts, and apply Biblical truths in their own lives. A healthy small group environment starts with excellent preparation, and that starts days in advance.

Tip for Multisite Implementation: Have the team or individual that oversees curriculum centrally write the lesson plan email each week. This email should be sent to campus directors no later than Tuesday. Leave a few fill-in-the-blank options for campus directors to personalize. This will ensure curriculum emails are clear, consistent, and sent in a timely.

Coaching

Options

Notes and Nuggets

Nourishment

Examples

Conversation Starters

Timeliness

The point of a small group is to connect with kids, students, and parents and make an impact. Without a connection, influence is lost. Without influence, it’s only a matter of time before your ministry loses priority and is superseded by a million other alternatives.

In a multisite model, it may seem impossible to centralize personal connection. However, strong systems and clear expectations allow for success at the campus level. Ask yourself the following questions as you begin to evaluate your strategy.

How are we growing our kid and student small group leaders as a church? What’s our strategy?

Have we communicated that a connection is more important than a schedule? 

Do we provide margin for group leaders to personalize their lesson?

Are lesson plan instructions clear and easy to understand?

Do we offer execution tips for those harder-to-understand activities?

Are we setting small group leaders up for success with conversation starters and icebreakers?

Is the lesson plan provided to the small group leader with ample preparation time?

To check out additional Multisite Monday articles, click HERE.

Jessica Bealer