Bivocational Ministry

October 7th – 10th marked Group’s very first KidMin Conference in Chicago.  I was privileged to be part of the Inside Track team for this big event for the past year…  It was great to be able to give feedback on what we would like to experience and gain from the conference since people like me are in the trenches of doing everyday ministry.  The conference did not disappoint!  It was amazing to worship with 1200+ other children’s ministry pastors, directors, and volunteers… to be with like-minded people with the same heart and vision.  And of course, my favorite part of any conferences is seeing old friends and making new ones.  It was really cool to meet some of my facebook and twitter friends in person (I promise, I try to limit my stalking to a minimum.. but some of them have such great insight!)  Another highlight was the honor of leading Bivocational Ministry Connect Group.  There is so much I could say about KidMin Conference, but I want to spend some time talking about Bivocational Ministry.

KidMin Conference General Session: Worship led by Brian Davis

I was in part-time Children’s Ministry for about 14 years… which meant I had to take on other jobs to make sure I can pay all my bills on time.  During that time, i also started a small business, thinking that would give me a lot of flexibility with my time… So even after I finally started working full-time as a Director of Children’s Ministry, I still had a business to run.  So I’ve been bivocational pretty much all of my adult working life!  I think I was only able to survive because I don’t have a family to look after, but the feeling of being pulled in 50 different directions and feeling inadequate was always there… not to mention I always felt the need to catch up on sleep.  Thus, I was super excited to connect with others who felt the same way as I did.

We met four times during the course of the conference, and we were never short of people who just wanted to share and gain some insight into how we can better balance our lives!  Trust me, I don’t have the answers!!!  All I can do is just share from my experience and share what has worked and not worked for me.  I think so many of us were feeling close to being burnt out, it was easy to just vent…  and I think we needed that–a safe place to vent!  But of course, we didn’t want to leave it there… we wanted support, prayer, and a community to walk with us.  We had some in depth discussions about how we can balance our lives and do ministry well… one thing that was evident was that we all needed to evaluate what wasn’t working for us, and make some changes to our lives.  That may mean having a frank conversation with our supervising pastors about the limitations of our lives and ministry, letting go of some responsibilities in our lives, or finding a new system that works better for us.

Bivocational Ministry Connect Group

For me, one of the high points came when Robin, who was considering bivocational ministry asked the group if there were any positives to having a secular job and a ministry job.  Although we had been “complaining” for awhile, we took a step back, and thought about some pros to being bivocational.  One thing resonated–and that was that we were grounded in the reality of this world and interacting with those who may never walk through the doors of a church.  We all valued having relationships with non-church people.  And for me, I was reminded that God places us exactly where He can use and teach us regardless of how “tired” we may feel… and that even being bivocational is a blessing!

I sure have a lot more to say about what I experienced and learned at KidMin, but I think I should break them down.. otherwise, this post will be forever long….

pastors…

After reading my latest blog on church, a friend told me that I need to write a follow-up blog on how church can change.  I am no expert in this subject… and these posts are my mere opinions and thoughts.  Being the practitioner that I am, I started thinking about practical steps that church can take to welcome back those that couldn’t find an authentic place.  It didn’t take long for me to look to pastors and leaders.  I don’t believe pastors are responsible for everything that goes wrong in the church… however, I do believe that the lead pastor and staff will set the tone for the culture of the church most of the time.  From my experience, the lead pastor also tends to attract people who are like him in leadership.

I once served under a senior pastor who told me that laypeople shouldn’t see the way I (a paid staff) live outside of church.  He said that laypeople shouldn’t see me in my casual setting, in street clothes, and me being me…. this is when he told me that I shouldn’t live with a lay person as my roommate.  He believed that pastors should be upheld on a pedestal, and that we shouldn’t ruin that image for the lay.  What in the world????  Thankfully, I didn’t believe any of his ridiculousness… the same pastor also threatened to “black-list” me so I couldn’t work in another church if I didn’t obey him.  Needless to say, I didn’t last long under his leadership… I turned in my resignation 2 weeks after his last threat.  Okay, this may be an extreme… but it really happened to me!!!  But I don’t think his idea of being the perfect christian pastor in the eyes of his congregation is that far from the reality of most churches out there.  Many pastors I know struggle with how transparent they can and should be with their congregation… hmmm… how about totally transparent???  Isn’t that what doing Christian life is all about?  I’m not saying that he should air all of his dirty laundry all the time (there is appropriate time and place to do that)… but pastors, do you know how refreshing it is for your congregation to hear that you also struggle with trusting in God in every day things?  Do you know how refreshing it is to hear that pastors also have flaws and weaknesses that everyday people can relate to?  One of the most refreshing thing I recently heard was when a pastor of a church that I was visiting admittedly said “you guys, I’m broken… I’m just as broken as anyone else here.. but it is by the grace of God that I’m here talking to you.”  People don’t want a perfect pastor… they want a REAL person!  This is something I’m also personally working on… learning to be transparent with people!

Pastors are in the business of studying the Word of God, shepherding people, and teaching people.  It’s kind of part of their job to sit with the Bible open at the desk every day… every pastor should try putting themselves in the lives of their congregation members… One of the biggest blessing in disguise for me is that I had been bi-vocational for over 10 years.  I used to hate that I had to have multiple jobs… but I realize that having to clock in at work at 7 am has helped me see the reality of what an average 9 to 5 working person goes through every day… Trying to live a true christian life isn’t as honky dory as many pastors make it sound in their sermons.  I’ve had some traumatized moments in my conversations with co-workers.

Many pastors I have known admit that they don’t have close non-christian friends because their world is immersed in doing life with other pastors and christians.  They are also very busy with prepping for Sundays, visioning, programming, meetings, etc…  So if I could encourage my friends and my readers to do one thing… develop a relationship with your pastors/leaders and learn to be honest with them about how you’re feeling about the church… You don’t need to attack them for everything that dissatisfies you, but keep an open communication about what’s helpful, what’s frustrating, what’s difficult in the church as well as in your life.  I hate to say this, but a lot of pastors could really use help in this area.  Folks, that’s called relationship and doing life together!

I’ve just scratched the surface when it comes to what I think church is… this isn’t it… but it’s a start!  And I’m afraid if I keep rambling here, no one will ever read my blog ever again! 😀

KidMin Conference: why I’m excited for this one!

I have been to MANY children’s ministry conferences since I started in kidmin 16 years ago.   Most of them were good, and I have learned something from each one.  However, I have always felt couple frustrations from each one:

1.  I always came back overwhelmed because speakers would talk about things that were unreachable for me.  See, I grew up in a mega-church, and because I tend to react to the way I grew up, I have loved serving in a small church.  There are definitely things I miss about a large church–namely, the resources and facility.  But what I love about small church ministry is that I can actually get to know every single one of my volunteers and at least know every child’s name.  Often times, I would attend conferences with speakers that are well known from mega-churches.  They would talk about having a team to write and act out in a different skit every week, putting together professional looking media clips each week, etc.   It sounds like every ministry’s dream, and I get all pumped up.  But when I come back to my small church, I would feel deflated because I don’t have the paid staff to pull off the things they talked about.   When I saw that KidMin Conference was offering 4-hour track on Children’s Ministry in Small Churches, I was thrilled.  It’s not just a 1-hour workshop, but it’s a half-track, something you can dig deeper with others that are in the same boat!  Afterall, statistics tell us that 85% of all protestant churches in America has attendance of 200 or less.  That’s A LOT of small churches out there!  KidMin also has Small Church Connect Group!  This is too cool!

2.  I rarely have time to process everything, and before I know it, I’m back in my church running full-speed.  I’m a process person.  It’s very important for me to sit, think, and talk about what I have learned and have a strategy on implementation.  In my earlier years, I was most concerned with getting as much information as possible.  Now that I’ve been doing this for awhile, I’m more interested in getting information that’s relevant and useful to me, and to be able to implement in my ministry.  I’ve been known to “ditch” workshops because I go into information overload, and I just can’t handle it anymore.  I like that KidMin offers casual and open Connect Groups where we can network and just talk and process ministry together!  Not to mention, the speakers are available to connect with people in a casual, kick-back environment!   When I do workshops, I love connecting with people afterwards.  I make it a point to make myself accessible because that’s when I get most pumped up–when I connect with people!  I’ve been to conferences where the speakers were like rockstars–they do their thing, and they disappear.  How AWESOME that KidMin allows time for the speaker and attendees to connect, talk, process, and network!!!  and you can connect on comfy Sack Chair Pods, and even take naps when you’re tired!!!  gotta love that “Relate & Relax” is one of the values of this conference!!!

As KidMin unveils more info, I’m sure I’ll get even more excited… but for now, these two reasons alone have me jumping up and down!!!   (it’s just ironic that this conference is happening right after I stepped down from my church… but I’m 100% kidmin person, and who knows where God will have me serve next!)